Skiing while using BUFF ThermoNet in Winter
Photo credit: Buff

The Best Face Coverings for Skiing & Snowboarding in 2020

We’ve tested the best face coverings for downhill skiing and snowboarding to keep you warm. Our expert knowledge will help you choose face coverings for skiing during COVID-19.

Skiing in 2020 will look a lot different than in the pre-COVID days. For one, you will likely need to wear a face-covering while in line, on lifts, and riding. Fortunately, we’ve already been using them for years to keep warm!

Skiers and snowboarders are among the most experienced “mask” wearers on the planet. That’s because a good face covering will block wind, protect from the sun, keep your face warm, and even provide a little protection from flying objects.

There are tons of options on the market, but we have some favorites. And check out the end of the article for advice on buying the best face mask for skiing. Keep in mind, most of the products listed below come in men’s and women’s styles and many colors and patterns.

We updated this article on October 30 after receiving new information from ski resorts. At that time, representatives from Vail Resorts and Winter Park noted that any mask that the resorts accept any mask that fully covers the nose and mouth. We will update this article through the winter as further guidance becomes available.

Ski Face Mask Buyer’s Guide

Lightweight Merino Wool Buff

lightweight merino buff

Buff is the original face-covering brand — so much so that most people refer to tube-shaped neck gaiters simply as “buffs.” And while you can still get the original in synthetic fabric, for skiing, it’s hard to beat merino wool. The Lightweight Merino Buff ($29) has the advantage of being naturally antimicrobial, so it doesn’t get smelly.

It will keep your face warm when wet and is easy to breathe through. This one is pretty light, though, so it’s best for moderate temperatures and those who don’t mind feeling the wind on their skin.

Check price at REI

BlackStrap The Tube

blackstrap the tube

The Tube from BlackStrap ($25) uses technical fabric for a highly functional, breathable, and moisture-wicking face covering. It has UPF 50-plus UV protection and is treated with an antimicrobial coating to keep the stink away. The four-way-stretch fabric also gives you great mobility.

Check price at evo

Skida Cloudberry Alpine Neckwarmer

skida neckwarmer

Skida makes a bunch of great face-covering accessories for cold weather. Among our favorites is the Cloudberry Alpine Neckwarmer ($28), which uses a Polartec microfleece for soft warmth against the skin.

The exterior fabric of poly-spandex with a moisture management technology (92% polyester, 8% spandex) is durable and has a tight weave to help block the wind. Simply put, it’ll keep your neck warm. Pull it up over your nose for COVID compliance in the lift line.

Check price at Skida

Smartwool Neck Gaiter

smartwool neck gaiter

A little warmer than most of the neck gaiters here, the Smartwool Neck Gaiter ($30) uses midweight merino 250 wool. The merino wicks away moisture and breathes enough to keep you cozy when the winds howl. But it’s still light enough to tolerate on a bluebird day. This one pulls a 4.75-star rating with more than 100 reviews online.

Check price at REI

Phunkshun Convertible Ballerclava

phunkshun ballerclava

Made in Denver, Colorado, the Phunkshun Convertible Ballerclava ($30) gives skiers and riders versatile functionality through its hinged design.

Move the bottom half of the mask over/off your face to instantly adjust to temperature changes or drink a beverage. Slide it back over your face to help comply with COVID face-covering measures. Made with recycled polyester, this is a good value from a small brand.

Check price at Phunkshun

BlacksStrap The Hood Balaclava Face Mask

blackstrap the hood

The USA-made Hood Balaclava is similar to the Phunkshun, above. But the BlackStrap Hood ($30-32) uses a slightly heavier “tri-blend” synthetic fabric that works well in colder weather. The four-way-stretch fabric also boasts SPF 50 sun protection. It is helmet-compatible.

Check price at evo

Anon MFI Face Masks

anon lightweight face mask

While we haven’t tested this new mask from Anon Optics (founded by Burton Snowboards), it’s definitely a unique one to check out.

The MFI Face Masks ($40-60) have the brand’s MFI (magnetic facemask integration) technology to seal the mask panel to any magnetic ski goggles and provide a seamless and comfortable fit on your face. These face masks come in lightweight, midweight, and wool fabric options.

Check price at Anon

Oyuki Proclava

oyuki proclava

Among the lighter-weight balaclavas, the Oyuki Proclava ($30) has legions of fans. It offers enough head and face covering to block the stinging wind. But it’s light enough to not turn your head into a swampy mess on a warm day on the slopes.

Plus, it easily fits under a helmet and transitions from a balaclava to a face mask to a neck gaiter in seconds. The 85% polyester and 15% spandex garment has racked up a perfect 5-star rating at evo.

Check price at evo

Columbia Titanium II Balaclava

columbia balaclava

This polyester-and-elastane blend balaclava ($45) is made with Columbia’s Titanium moisture-wicking fabric with Omni-Shield technology, which works to repel moisture, snow, and more. If you don’t like the balaclava style (or don’t need maximum warmth), it comes in a lighter neck gaiter style too ($40).

Check price at Columbia

evo Ridgetop Merino Wool Balaclava

Screen Shot 2020-10-30 at 11.16.43 AM

Evo knits its Ridgetop Merino Wool Balaclava from ultra-fine wool for a no-itch contact with your face. It uses 260g Stretch Merino (95% Merino Wool / 5% Spandex) for a warm, cozy, layer to keep your head toasty and mouth covered. Many buyers note that it fits well under a helmet and is fairly thin but still provides significant warmth.

Check price at REI

Outdoor Research Protective Essential Midweight Balaclava Kit

Outdoor Research Balaclava

New for winter 2020-21, Outdoor Research designed this Balaclava kit for the post-COVID era. The midweight garment covers the head, neck, and face. And the kit includes three breathing filters that remove more than “95% of virus, bacteria, and particles in accordance with ASTM test standards,” when worn with the mask, according to the brand.

With customizable fit, UPF 50+, and an anti-microbial finish, this one should be a strong choice for the chairlift this season.

Check price at REI

How We Chose the Best Face Coverings for Skiing

There are a ton of ski masks, balaclavas, and neck tubes on the market. So if you walk into a store to buy one, you’re going to be faced with an incredible number of choices. But here’s how we narrow them down.

Brand: It might seem a little shallow, but after decades of combined skiing experience, our team has come to love certain brands when it comes to face coverings. After using some (like Buff) for literally thousands of outings, we’ve come to rely on them and can count on them for consistency and quality. So we take this into account when making our selections.

Materials: Chose a face-covering made with synthetic fabrics such as polyester and spandex. Other good options use merino wool as the primary material. We love merino for its antimicrobial properties that fight off stink!

Design: We look for comfort first, versatility second, and looks third.

Reviews: We’ve tested myriad face coverings. But we also consider what other consumers say in reviews.

What to Look for in a Great Ski or Snowboard Mask

When buying a ski or snowboard mask, consider if you want a full head covering or simply a neck gaiter or face cover. Remember, you’ll almost certainly be wearing a helmet and goggles while skiing or snowboarding. We recommend trying on your face covering while wearing your other accessories.

Other important factors include fit and versatility, such as the ability to be worn over the whole head or only the face or neck with a transformation.

Due to COVID-19, consumers should be able to cover their nose and mouth completely while on chairlifts, indoors, on busses or while in lift lines.

Ski Mask FAQs

How Tight Should a Ski Mask Fit?

A ski mask should fit loosely around the face with plenty of fabric to move up and over the ears. For balaclavas, you want a snug fit around your head but a looser fit around the face so it doesn’t constrict your movement. Neck gaiters should pull securely around your chin and nose if lifted but bunch comfortably around the neck when worn as a gaiter.

What Is the Best Material for a Ski Mask?

Get a mask that is either a synthetic blend of polyester and spandex fabrics or merino wool. Avoid cotton, as it will retain moisture and be cold against the skin.

Do Ski Resorts Require Face Coverings Due to COVID?

Yes, most ski resorts will require face coverings in certain areas during the 2020-2021 ski season. For example, Vail Resorts requires face coverings in areas such as in lines, when loading and unloading chairlifts, loading and riding in gondolas, and in indoor resort facilities.

What Face Coverings Comply With COVID Restrictions?

We asked representatives of Vail Resorts and Winter Park, and they explained that the resorts will accept most Buffs, neck gaiters, and balaclavas that completely cover the face and mouth. While some balaclavas have air holes over the mouth, those likely would be deemed inappropriate. We will continue to update this article over the course of Winter 2020-2021 as new products and guidance emerge.

Have a favorite face covering we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.

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Sean McCoy

Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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