So Many “Regular” Brands Are Launching Base Layers for Skiing—But Are They Any Good?

So Many “Regular” Brands Are Launching Base Layers for Skiing—But Are They Any Good?

Image Credit: Halfdays
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Yoga and activewear brands have had a strong foothold in women’s fashion for years now—especially in the post-2020 era. Athleisure is undoubtedly in. Now that ski styles have blown up again with resorts back in full swing, these same brands are trying to enter the snow space by claiming their leggings, tops, long-sleeves, and more make solid base layers. Depending on the brand, this can be true—but just as easily can obscure the meaning of what a base layer is supposed to do. (They are not automatically synonyms.)

Which activewear brands function best in cold weather, and for performance? Does it matter that you pick a heritage ski brand—specifically crafted for the mountains—or will anything do? In this edit, we comb through offerings from HalfdaysGuest in ResidenceYear of Ours, and more to evaluate the best base layers for this 2022–2023 ski season.

What should you look for in a base layer?

    1. Insulation — Snow only occurs in cold places. Therefore, you’re most likely chilly while you’re skiing. While your ski jacket, pants, and fleeces can provide apt protection, warmth starts from the inside out. Hence: base layer.
    2. Sweat-wicking — Believe it or not, skiing and snowboarding are activities, meaning that you’re likely to burn some calories and work up a sweat, especially if you challenge yourself to more intensive runs. So although you may want to be cozy, you also want to choose layers that will wick sweat away from you rather than pool it on your skin (ew.) The right base layer will accommodate your athleticism—no matter what that looks like—and provide versatile comfort in most below-freezing conditions.
    3. Full coverage— As a tall girl myself, I always run into this problem: sleeves are too short, or leggings don’t hit where they’re supposed to. Struggling to hold onto your sleeve while you drag your sweater and coat over multiple fabrics? Such. A. Pain. The best base layers accommodate multiple heights, or offer perhaps petite and tall models. 

What’s nice to have in a base layer?

Some people prefer base layers that are straight sweaters or knits—a warm cashmere, perhaps—especially if they prefer lighter activities (cough— “Meet me at après.”) No shame in that either! If you’re not planning on shredding it on the slopes, your base layers can function more like pajamas than athletic gear so you get more use out of them. Think of it this way: base layers should be like a second-skin. Their primary function is to keep you dry. These “base layers” made of finer fabrics are more like thermals—whose main purpose is to keep you “warm.” There’s a difference for sure, but it depends on your activity level.

Base layers also might come pre-heated with an electric component, for those who freeze easily. These might be Bluetooth, or require a battery you charge before heading out to the resort.

Finally, you might choose layers with thumb holes or stirrups that hook over your limbs—so you never have to worry about aligning your base layer, mid-layer, and ski jacket together again. (I’m personally a fan of this variety.)

So which activewear brands work as base layers—and are they any good?

  1. Halfdays Seamless Johnson Top, $95, and Sophia Legging, $95.
  2. Alo Yoga Alosoft Refine Turtleneck, $78, and High-Waist Goddess Legging, $108.
  3. Guest in Residence Base Layer Turtleneck, $195, and Speed Skate Legging, $425.
  4. Houdini Sportswear Desoli Thermal Half Zip, $255, and Desoli Mid Tights, $125.
  5. Year of Ours Thermal LS Ski Onesie, $220.
  6. Sweaty Betty Peaks Half Zip Ski Base Layer Top, $118, and Peaks Ski Base Layer Leggings, $118.
  7. Kari Traa Smekker Half Zip Baselayer, $130, and Smekker Base Layer Pants, $120.


Top: Halfdays Johnson Top, $95.
Bottoms: Halfdays Sophia Legging, $95.

Halfdays is a ski brand made for and by women, so it nails the mix of performance and style (PLEIN AIR favorite intersection.) Those in their community Slack channel have been waiting with bated breath for the famed seamless base layers to restock—in monochrome colors that match their gorgeous pants, jackets, and beanies—and they’re finally here, available in Sage, Alpenglow, Black, and Blue Bird. Better yet, the base layers are made of sweat-wicking nylon and spandex, so many wear the pieces separately or together on spring hikes too.


Top: Alosoft Refine Turtleneck, $78.
Bottoms: High-Waist Goddess Legging, $108.

I love Alo Yoga leggings, and oftentimes an activewear brand can be successful in a base layer if their focus is on sweat-wicking performance rather than warmth—so, they’re a good-to-have on sunnier ski days. An athletic black turtleneck can always come in handy, and you can always use it as a light midlayer if you prefer a more tried-and-true ski brand as your base, but this is a pretty versatile pick. I also love that the high-waist goddess legging is (duh) high-waisted, and has stirrups so they don’t ride up under my ski bib. They have a comfortable, flattering waistband.


Top: Base Layer Turtleneck, $195.
Bottoms: Speed Skate Legging, $425.

Gigi Hadid—have you done it? While we adore the 100% cashmere luxe of her newest brand 
Guest in Residence (um, Aspen vibes?), we can’t help but notice that cashmere “base layers” don’t really work all that well for nervous sweats on the moguls. Bonus points for beautiful colors, like a delectable bubblegum shade, but TBH, cashmere base layers are probably best left for après. That doesn’t mean we won’t add to cart…


Top: Houdini W’s Desoli Thermal Half-Zip, $255.
Bottoms: Houdini Desoli Mid Tights, $125.

So far this season, I’ve been living in my Houdini Sportswear merino wool base layers. While we associate wool with being “bundled up,” its thermoregulating qualities actually make it a prime year-round pick. The jacket is soft-to-touch, and the leggings are comfy without becoming sweltering. Even more incredible, they have a 365-day return policy, so they’re stress-free to buy. The material has natural antibacterial properties that help the garment stay fresh throughout your entire ski trip.


Suit: Thermal LS Ski Onesie, $220.

Year of Ours is always a winner for me in terms of creating activewear pieces that feel like ‘fits on their own. I have been crushing hard on their après ski line. Considering their leggings feel buttery and their bras, sweatshirts, and more are ultra-soft, their one-piece is an easy choice for a one-stop-zip that minimizes your layering so you can get out there more quickly.


Top: Peaks Half Zip Ski Base Layer Top, $118.
Bottoms: Peaks Ski Base Layer Leggings, $118.

Sweaty Betty’s always a winner when it comes to base layers; they offer multiple fun prints and styles that make it a little easier to show some personality from head to toe. Some of their prints even summon the same vibe as vintage ski mugs, or sweaters that our founder Madeleine’s had her mom create. (Uh, follow our TikTok to be in the know.) When you bundle these two together, you can take $71 off the duo.


Top: Smekker Half Zip Baselayer, $130.
Bottoms: Smekker Base Layer Pants, $120.

Kari Traa also has bubbly printed base layers, but these are crafted from that 100 percent merino wool we so love. I find that most printed bases can be slightly unflattering, but the considerate lines and shaping of this set accentuates all the right places, so you’ll always look good even if you’re just lounging in the chalet with helmet hair. Better yet, the layers are available in five different colors.

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