How To Choose the Right Face Mask for Skiing and Snowboarding

Protect your face, extend your days on the mountain.

For skiers and snowboarders, the benefit of a face covering is a no-brainer: keeping frigid necks and faces warm while offering protection from the wind, sun, and snow. Full face coverings (like balaclavas) also wick moisture when worn under a helmet. Although they get less attention than other ski and snowboard gear, face masks are an essential item for staying comfortable on the mountain all season. Here’s how to find a face mask or covering that will work best for you.


There are multiple varieties of face masks, including those that cover your full head and neck (balaclavas) and those that only cover the neck and chin (referred to as neck gaiters, tubes, warmers, or sometimes simply as Buffs due to the brand’s widespread popularity). Full face masks (balaclavas) are better for super-cold days when you want as much coverage as possible, while also adding an extra layer of insulation under your helmet. Gaiter/tube-type masks are more versatile and good for most medium-cold and warmer days. They’re also effective at providing extra sun protection (why lighter versions are a favorite for some anglers). Keep in mind that many options that cover the neck and chin can also be pulled over the head when needed (they usually have extra material and can stretch). Decide how you’ll be using your face covering—for under-helmet warmth, or for UV protection, for example—and let that determine the type. 


Most face masks are made from a mix of synthetic fabrics like polyester, Lycra, spandex, and elastane. These have good stretch properties, offering a snug fit as a result (essential for blocking wind and retaining warmth). Other face masks are made from fleece, which offers a soft feel and effectively stays warm while also wicking moisture, and wool. Merino wool, in particular, wicks moisture well while retaining heat. Avoid cotton. Sorry, old bandana: It retains moisture and won’t keep you warm when wet.


No matter what type of covering you get, ensure that it fits properly. If it’s too loose, it won’t retain warmth and block wind; if it’s too tight, it won’t be comfortable to wear. 

Gaiters and tube-type masks should fit securely around your chin and nose without slipping down, and you should also be able to pull them over the top of your head for extra coverage when needed. When not in use, they should compress down around the neck accordion-style. That way, they won’t block your mouth when eating, for example.

Balaclavas should fit snugly around your head (so they fit under your helmet), but they can fit a bit more loosely around the face and neck.

Goggle Fogging

Your face mask needs to work well with your goggles. Sometimes, tucking your face mask under your goggles will reduce air circulation and cause your goggles to fog up. To combat this, look for face-mask designs that direct your breath outward away from your goggles, whether that’s by contoured fits that keep fabric away from the nose and mouth, or by ventilation holes, mesh or lighter materials around the mouth to aid exhalation.

Other Features To Consider

Look out for these specialty features when shopping for ski and snowboard face coverings.

Wind-Blocking Materials

Some masks are made with dedicated wind blockers such as proprietary nylon blends for additional protection when skiing and riding.

Antimicrobial Treatments

The face-covering fabric is coated with a treatment (such as HeiQ Block) that prevents bacteria from growing, reducing odors after repeated use.

Integrated Magnets

Embedded magnets in the face covering (from companies like North45) stick to your goggles’ midpoint (via a magnet glued and molded to a goggle nose arch) to create an air gap between face and fabric below the goggle frame to prevent fogging while keeping you warmer.

Filter Pockets

Some face coverings include a dedicated pocket or sleeve where you can place a filter for protection from airborne germs (like COVID-19). 

COVID Considerations

Speaking of precautions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many ski resorts may be adjusting guidelines according to reduced infection and hospitalization rates, no longer requiring masks or face coverings outside or on chairlifts. Others may still require them inside and on resort transportation. Make sure to check your resort’s policies before you arrive. 

Ski or snowboard masks are considered CDC-compliant face coverings only if they are constructed with double or triple layers of fabric or if they include a suitable filter (ask your retailer or consult the mask’s product specifications to see if it qualifies). Even so, most resorts accept Buffs, tubes, gaiters, and balaclavas as appropriate face coverings as long as your mouth and nose are covered.  

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.