Known to brave temperatures that frequently range well below zero (and to pay for the right to do so), skiers and snowboarders have long used neck gaiters and face masks to cover up in the wind and cold. The tendency is particularly convenient this season, as most ski resorts are requiring face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the slopes — ski patrollers are even shaving their beards so that masks fit their faces better. In contrast to travel restrictions and required parking reservations, it's one new rule with which mountain goers are unlikely to take issue.
Mountain-suitable face mask options abound, and while it's tempting to grab whatever old neck warmer has been sitting in the bottom of your boot bag since 2005, it's a good idea to take stock of them. Some things to think about: comfort, warmth, material and sure, style too. You might also weigh whether to go with a gaiter or a balaclava and, with the current season in mind, one that can integrate a filter.
Voormi's take on the neck gaiter includes ear loops that neutralize the style's annoying tendency of falling down. It's one of our favorites for everyday use but will be suitable on the slopes, too, if you aren't looking for massive additional warmth.
Fabric: 72% merino wool, 26% polyester, 2% lycra
Think of this one as a bandana that's actually big enough to fit around your face, no knot necessary. The Snowdana is fleece-lined for warmth and comes in various colors and patterns.
Fabric: 100% polyester
The Eclipse is reminiscent of the old fleece tube neckwarmers you might've worn in the past but has a contoured fit to prevent bunching and an integrated bungee for fit adjustments. Its thick, merino fleece blend provides lots of warmth.
Fabric: polyester, fleece
Buffs are already ski resort staples, but now the company makes one with an antimicrobial pocket that holds an included three-layer filter.
Fabric: 95% polyester, 5% elastane
Outdoor Research adapted its Essential Face Mask, one of our favorites for daily wear, to a full-length gaiter design that includes a bungee cord, ear loops and a nose wire for fine-tuning the fit. It also has a pocket for filters, three of which are included with purchase.
Fabric: 82% polyester, 18% spandex
Synthetic insulation rivals down in warmth and surpasses it in durability and water resistance.
The Apex Balaclava will maintain its midweight warmth when it's wet thanks to its mostly merino wool fabric, which also has the benefit of natural odor control (though regular washing is always a good idea).
Fabric: 86% merino wool, 10% nylon, 4% Lycra
Le Bent's balaclava is ultra-soft thanks to its Rayon-merino blend, and it's hinged design allows you to pull it down and up without the whole thing shifting around beneath your helmet.
Fabric: 66.5% Rayon (bamboo), 28.5% merino wool, 5% elastane
The ThermoNet also features a hinged design that makes shifting its position easy. It also features a moderate amount of insulation for warmth in a highly breathable fabric that works to prevent goggle fogging.
Fabric: 53% recycled Repreve polyester, 43% PrimaLoft polyester, 4% elastane
The Expedition Hood uses a two-layer fabric construction to provide additional protection from wind and snow. It also has a hinged design and is comfortable beneath a helmet.
Fabric: face: 80% nylon, 17% elastane, 3% other; lining: 100% polyester
Smartwool's merino Intraknit fabric is slightly thicker than the other merino balaclavas on this list, so it'll provide a bit more warmth while maintaining its abilities to regulate moisture and fight odor buildup.
Fabric: 100% merino wool
Like the Essential Midweight Ubertube, Outdoor Research's balaclava integrates a face mask design into a product that's more sport-oriented. It has a hinged construction and an integrated nose wire for a close fit, and it comes with three filters.
Fabric: 82% polyester, 18% Spandex
Breathe easy and stay cool with these options.