Best 30 Ski & Snowboard Brands for Clothing and Gear – How to Buy for Less
Surprisingly, some cold weather destinations made our list of the top outdoor vacation destinations to visit on a budget.
But not everyone is a fan of cold weather. Winter brings a host of unique risks and challenges not present in warmer seasons. If you live in a cold climate, you no doubt have a winter preparation checklist that will help you find fun outdoor winter activities. After all, winter is an ideal time to get outside and stretch your legs, as long as you have the right clothing and gear.
And what better way to take full advantage of the cold season than to spend a day on the slopes?
Alpine sports such as skiing and snowboarding aren’t cheap. Even getting to the mountain can be expensive. Equipment rentals or purchases weigh on the wallet too, and for safety and comfort, skiers and boarders should buy the right apparel and gear. The high-end brands listed in this post are trusted for quality, durability, and fit. When properly cared for, they’ll remain useful – and stylish – season after season.
Every dollar you save on clothing purchases is a dollar you can put towards skiing and boarding more often. Fortunately, it’s possible to find items from trusted brands at less than suggested retail price.
For high-intensity days where the balance of protection and breathability is essential, the Aurora Shell Jacket will suit your needs well. If you’re playing in extreme cold or at high altitude, try the nearly impenetrable Backbowl jacket. Full prices for jackets range from around $100 to more than $500, but you can find deep discounts at bargain sporting goods websites such as The House – for instance, a Helly Hansen Loke women’s jacket marked down to $69.95, about 30% off the suggested retail price of $100.
Other notable men’s and women’s winter apparel and gear options from Helly Hansen:
Helly Hansen is actually a year-round brand. Aside from snow sports, it makes high-performance apparel, such as water- and salt-proof jackets, for competitive sailing and other water sports. Helly Hansen also dabbles in general outdoor activewear and lifestyle wear, such as cotton t-shirts and dresses.
You can find Helly Hansen products at its branded retail stores around the United States, online at HellyHansen.com, and at select physical and online sporting goods retailers.
Other notable apparel and accessory options include:
It’s worth noting that if you’re into warm-weather rock climbing, Arcteryx has a high-tech apparel and equipment line devoted to your passion. Check out its flexible rock pants and super-strong harnesses.
Arc’teryx clothing and gear tends to be a bit spendier than Helly Hansen’s. Full-price men’s jackets start around $150 and range north of $600, depending on heaviness, while men’s top base layers fall in the $60 to $70 range. Look for discounts at online retailers such as Sierra Trading Post, which routinely slashes Arc’teryx prices by 50% or more, or check out post-season clearance sales at outdoor sports specialists such as Backcountry.
For even deeper discounts, check out its onsite clearance rack, though keep in mind that selection is limited and tends to be limited to a handful of categories, based on what High Sierra needs to get rid of at any given time.
SmartWool’s signature socks come in a dizzying array of patterns and configurations. They’re not cheap: expect to pay at least $20 for a pair, and possibly more. For best results, they need to be paired with moisture-wicking base socks, particularly if you plan to use them on the slopes for long stretches. That further adds to their cost.
On the bright side, SmartWool socks are incredibly durable. SmartWool’s website doesn’t have much in the way of clearance sales or other discount opportunities, but does offer free shipping on all orders over $50.
Prices vary widely, depending on quality and features – for instance, helmets can cost as little as $50 and as much as $150. Similarly, some high-end Burton boots go for more than $400. However, if you’re a full-grown, frequent snowboarder, Burton’s prices are fair, considering the brand’s overall quality and durability.
Burton doesn’t stop at snowboarding equipment and gear, though. It also sells pretty much every article of clothing an alpine sports enthusiast could want, including snowboard pants, snowboard jackets, fleeces, underlayers, and more.
Unfortunately, Burton’s branded outerwear can be very expensive – some jackets retail for more than $1,000. Still, it’s possible to find discounts of 30% and even 40% in its clearance section. For instance, an Ion snowboard boot, regularly $469.95, goes for $375.96, while a $1,120 Junkers coat is a relative steal at $840. Another option for solid Burton discounts: coupon sites such as RetailMeNot, which offer time-limited promo codes for site-wide or select merchandise deals.
It’s worth noting that Kari Traa’s online merchandise is denominated in Norwegian krone (NOK), which are worth anywhere from $0.10 to $0.20 apiece. Per Seeking Alpha, the krone is not as closely correlated with the price of oil as commonly assumed, but it has fallen precipitously relative to the U.S. dollar since the early 2010s, making Kari Traa’s clothing more affordable for U.S. consumers. For instance, at NOK 1,999, the Tvilde Parka costs about $240 at the $0.12-per-krone mid-2016 exchange rate. In 2012, when the krone was worth about $0.18, the same parka cost about $360.
If you don’t want to convert dollars to krone all day, have Kari Traa’s distribution network do it for you. The brand is available in select stores around the United States and is becoming more prevalent by the year.
The company’s website is probably the best place to find its entire merchandise lineup, though major sporting goods stores (including Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI) carry some items in-store and online. For deals, check Mountain Hardwear’s website first – in-season discounts up to 30% (for instance, a women’s downhill parka, full-price of $380, marked down to $280.90).
Among fashionable skiing and snowboarding brands, Stio isn’t outrageously pricey – full-price jackets are available for as little as $150, though some heavier-duty options range close to $500. Better yet, Stio always seems to be running broad-based onsite sales covering multiple merchandise types. Some discounts, particularly for off- and post-season items, are eye-catching – for instance, a year-old women’s Modis hooded jacket marked down to $71.60 from $179. Free shipping is available on website orders of $100 or more.
Some famous alpine brands only do a few things – but they do them exceedingly well.
Smith also offers reasonably priced, branded apparel items, such as hoodies (full price $50 to $60). However, it shouldn’t be your first choice for high-performance clothing. For discounts, check coupon sites, which occasionally have discount codes good for up to 60% off, or discount outdoor retailers such as Sierra Trading Post, whose discounts often exceed 40%.
Though they’re certainly not cheap, ThermaCELL’s insoles and warmers are literal limb-savers designed for safety and comfort in super harsh environments. Look for discounted items at major sporting goods retailers, including Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also, keep in mind that when it’s time to put away the heated products for the warm season, you can bust out another ThermaCELL product – heavy-duty mosquito repellent.
These items are great for sports enthusiasts who prioritize form over function – for instance, the skiing/boarding jackets are loose-fitting and thus not totally impervious to moisture, so you probably don’t want to wear them in a blizzard. On the plus side, they’re fairly affordable: full-price men’s jackets come in at $250, and end-of-season clearances can drop prices by 50% (for instance, $80 hoodies marked down to $40) or more.
Ahnu’s heavy-duty boot line is most likely to appeal to skiers and snowboarders while getting to and from the mountain, as the brand’s lighter footwear is too flimsy for snow or cold weather. Ahnu’s boots aren’t cheap – for example, the men’s waterproof, insulated Tamarack model costs $170. But when you buy from Ahnu, you contribute to a higher purpose: the young company has donated several hundred thousand dollars to well-known charities since its inception.
On the slopes, opt for the water-resistant Gather Me Slightly jacket ($150) over a windbreaking base- or mid-layer. For onsite deals, check out the “We Made Too Much” tab, which shuttles you to clearance sales and limited-time deals that can confer solid discounts – for instance, a Scuba Hoodie III, originally for $118, on sale for $89.
Chaos Hats makes affordable, fashionable headwear and neck wear for every season. It offers three broad categories: unisex, women, and kids. The beanies, of which there’s a seemingly endless variety priced between $15 and $45 per hat, are snug enough to fit under your helmet and fashionable enough to wear in the lounge after a day on the slopes.
On bitter days, opt for a stylish trapper hat with fluffy fur inserts and long, super-warm ear flaps ($20 and up). And, for an amazingly warm and comfortable experience in any winter setting, check out the affordable polar fleece necktubes – turtleneck attachments that look way more fashionable and cost less than $10 apiece.
You can’t wear Giesswein‘s ultra-comfortable wool shoes while you’re carving up the slopes, but when you’re done skiing or riding for the day, there’s nothing you’d rather have on your feet.
Giesswein makes a variety of indoor and outdoor shoes for men, women and kids from its boiled and knitted wool – a non-scratchy natural fabric that keeps your feet warm and comfortable. Their footbeds (inserts) are ideal for people who need additional arch support, and the shoes with removable footbeds are machine washable. The new kids line starts around $45 to $65. For adults, expect to pay $95 to $165.
Native Eyewear makes two types of exceptional eyewear: sunglasses and goggles.
Native’s high-tech goggles are essential accessories on the mountain. The company’s lenses come in several different color and light-transmission configurations, from SnowTuned Bronze (20% light transmission, ideal for bright, sunny conditions) to SnowTuned Low Light (67% light transmission, ideal for overcast or snowy conditions). If you don’t want to buy multiple pairs, check out the SnowTuned React Rose (10% to 35% light transmission, depending on ambient conditions). Pricing ranges from $99 for the Treeline model to $179 for several high-end models.
Native’s sunglasses are also designed for impact resistance, so they are ideal for light skiing and outdoor apres-ski lounging – especially on long, warm spring days. Durable performance models like Bomber start at $99 per pair.
Shinesty’s designs aren’t for conservative tastes. Its snowsuit designs include Paul Revere American Flag One Piece, Day-Glo ’80s-Style Neon, and ’80s-Style Neon – Tony Montana Edition (all $199), and one of its ski masks is printed to resemble a screaming bald eagle. Shinesty does have a cool refer-a-friend program that earns you $10 for each referral, and all ski suits come with free shipping.
Klattermusen hails from the tiny northern Swedish town of Are, a lonely outpost in the vast subarctic wilderness. Unsurprisingly, the company’s tight-knit crew knows a thing or two about cold-weather recreation – weather that means “hiking to find the perfect trout stream, ski touring to the peaks of the Sylarna mountains or just walking the dog.”
Klattermusen specializes in sturdy men’s and women’s outdoor apparel and gear. If you’re into Nordic skiing, check out their functional backpacks, which are way stronger than they look – and, starting at less than $200, relatively affordable. Their shoulder bags are great for apres-ski activities on the town, and much more affordable too: less than $40, in some cases. Don’t miss Klattermusen’s unisex mid-weight jackets either – you’ll find discounts of up to 50% on select models.
TREW Gear‘s product line overlaps quite a bit with Klattermusen’s. Its center of gravity is heavy-duty gear designed specifically for deep-snow activity: full-body bibs, heavy-duty jackets, and rough-riding snow pants. Just about everything in TREW Gear’s arsenal, including its surprisingly stylish bags, is waterproof or water-resistant.
Look out for free shipping on orders greater than $99. Given the somewhat spendy selection here, that probably won’t be too hard to clear. Just think of your TREW Gear purchase as an investment in snowsports fun for years to come.
Mountain Khakis is a self-proclaimed “pant authority,” and it’s true that the bulk of its selection fits between the waist and the ankles. Its selection runs the gamut from rugged jeans and khakis worthy of the most strenuous hike in Mountain Khakis’ native Tetons, to swank cambers and chinos better suited to the local brewery or cocktail bar. Most pairs range from $40 to $80 – not bad for durable, stylish apparel.
But if you’re all set on pants, Mountain Khakis has plenty more to offer. Its mid- and heavy-duty field boots are ideal for cold-weather trekking and outdoor work, and its hats and gloves work well in the chilly (or downright frigid) mountain air. Don’t miss Mountain Khakis’ selection of miscellany either: flasks, hand-axes, and dog gear aplenty.
Craghoppers has a simple mission: “to create comfortable and practical clothing ranges to help our customers stay on the trail as long as possible.” Its outdoor apparel ranges from lightweight underlayers, to mid-weight shells and fleeces, to heavier-duty jackets ideal for a day on the slopes. If you’re looking for non-snow gear, check out its insect-repellent fabrics – perfect for an overnight camping trip by the lake.
Craghoppers’ list pricing is pretty reasonable by upmarket outdoor apparel standards, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do even better if you hold out for its periodic (but seemingly frequent) seasonal sales. In 2018, Craghoppers’ post-holiday (January) sale featured across-the-board price cuts of up to 50%.
SCOTTeVEST has a memorable name and an unmistakable approach to winter fashion, built around comfortable, high-quality vests and jackets for men and women. Though they’re not rated to stand up to truly frigid weather, SCOTTeVEST’s high-tech jackets are appropriate outerlayers for spring skiing and comfortable, flexible mid-layers for the dead of winter.
Vests and jackets generally range in price from $100 to $200, but their legendary durability ensures many seasons of use. Don’t miss the extensive collection of winter accessories and the stylish women’s clothing line, which includes rugged, all-season skirts and full-length jackets.
DSTLD has a bold mission: to “[disrupt] the $200 billion fashion industry with fairly priced, direct-to-consumer premium essentials.” Unlike most fashion retailers, DSTLD cuts out the middleman and sells directly to its end users, slashing retail prices for its premium denim goods by about two-thirds with no compromise on quality. Thanks to an innovative equity crowdfunding campaign, it’s supported by a numerous (and growing) cohort of like-minded investors, not multimillionaire VCs. And DSTLD refuses to lower its high ethical standards, demanding fair working conditions all along its supply chain and relentlessly pursuing ethical sourcing.
What about its clothing and accessories? Those are pretty great too, with statement-making wool coats starting under $300 and winter accessories (hats, scarves) retailing for $20 or less in some cases. DSTLD is proof that high winter fashion and raw denim doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg – or compromise your values.
Vuori is another eco-friendly brand specializing in high-tech, fashion-forward activewear. Items in its Recycled Series incorporate recycled plastic bottles, while its upcycled coconut fabric transforms coconut husks that would otherwise wind up in landfills into moisture-wicking, odor-fighting threads. All Vuori fabrics are quick-dry, making its lightweight hoodies and pullovers ideal for warmer winter days where any slopeside activity is bound to work up a sweat. Free shipping on orders of $75 or more and a no-questions-asked return policy sweeten the deal for frugal fashionistas.
No bones about it: high-quality alpine apparel and gear can be pricey. Controlling your snow sports clothing spending is all about knowing where, when, and how to buy. Try these tips.
Forgetting to pack the right clothes is a rite of passage for harried vacationers. It can also be a major money pit, particularly when you wait to buy what you’ve forgotten until you’re settled at your destination. Almost without fail, ski resort shops mark up crucial clothing and gear, sometimes dramatically.
In less isolated locations, you may have luck finding a larger sporting goods store or general merchandise retailer (such as Walmart) away from the resort, but within easy driving distance. However, it’s not guaranteed that these stores will have what you’re looking for, particularly at the height of the winter season. Even if your items are in stock, the laws of supply and demand dictate that they probably won’t be deeply discounted.
No self-respecting alpine sports nut wants winter to end, but spring comes with a silver lining: winter gear clearance sales. In fact, late winter and early spring are often the best times of year to find deals on in-style apparel and gear, as retailers and manufacturers need to get rid of their current-year stock to make room for summer sporting gear, and then the following winter season’s gear.
Winter apparel brands love outlet malls. Bigger manufacturers, such as Columbia Sportswear, routinely set up shop in these high-traffic retail complexes, which tend to be located on the fringes of major metropolitan areas and in popular vacation destinations. Though it’s not wise to expect deep, across-the-board discounts on popular merchandise, outlet stores do tend to have more frequent sales, as well as better deals on specific items.
Outlet malls are intentionally located in far-flung areas with cheap real estate, so they’re not ideal for a quick glove or sock run. But, if you need to purchase lots of winter apparel for the coming season, the money you save at the outlet mall is likely to more than offset the financial cost of your trip.
If you miss your chance at post-season clearance sales, the next best time to buy may be during the holiday shopping season – specifically, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the proximate days. Winter apparel and gear, including items specifically designed for alpine sports, are always popular around the holidays. Check a variety of merchants: online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, general merchandise stores such as Walmart and Target, big-box sporting goods stores such as Cabela’s and REI, and apparel brands themselves.
If the glove fits, wear it. Today’s winter sports apparel is far higher-tech than what was available a generation ago, but year-to-year changes are rarely dramatic. That makes used items, which often sell for more than 50% less than comparable new items, attractive to frugal snow sports enthusiasts.
Search Craigslist, eBay, local sporting goods stores, and other trusted sources for good-condition apparel and gear from last season or before. To ensure quality, avoid listings without photographs, and confirm with private sellers that you’ll be allowed to inspect the items before exchanging money. Also, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to find – and wouldn’t want to wear, anyway – used underlayers, socks, and other clothing that’s typically worn directly against the skin.
If you live in coastal California and only encounter snow on occasional trips to the Sierra, your cold-weather gear probably stays boxed up most of the time. On the other hand, if you live somewhere colder, like Boston or Chicago, your winter apparel is presumably in the rotation four or five months out of the year.
Cold-climate shoppers can save a bundle (and reduce clutter) simply by using their alpine gear on a day-to-day basis, rather than keeping separate reserves of high-quality outerwear, underlayers, and accessories. Sure, using your alpine gear for outdoor exercise (or just dashing from your car to your heated destination) wears it out faster. But, unless you’re an avid snow sports enthusiast, you’re still likely to get more use – and more value – out of it.
Alpine sports aren’t cheap. Major ski resorts routinely charge upwards of $100 for single-day adult lift tickets. Getting to the mountain, staying at or near the mountain, renting or buying your skis or boards, and purchasing the necessary gear described in this post all add to the cost.
You can save big time by buying season passes at your favorite resort (or regional resort alliances), purchasing skis and boards secondhand or on clearance, and looking for lodging deals or bunking up with fellow travelers. But, at the end of the day, skiing and snowboarding are still expensive hobbies.
If you’re one of these people, and skiing or snowboarding is a net positive for your emotional health, you’re likely reluctant to put a price tag on the hobby. But it’s sure nice to find great deals on high-end apparel and gear.
For more fun, check out our Top 10 Best Outdoor Adventure Vacation Destinations on a Budget.
What’s your favorite skiing and snowboarding apparel brand? How do you find deals on pricier items?
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
Best 30 Ski & Snowboard Brands for Clothing and Gear – How to Buy for Less
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