Ski Mask vs. Balaclava: Advantages & Disadvantages

Ski mask vs. balaclava advantages & disadvantages

You’re almost through packing for that well-earned family ski trip. At this point, you’ve got some sturdy ski pants for you and your kid, weatherproof mittens for the little ones, and some ski jackets, hats, and gloves for all of you. Your daily ensembles are all set to go.

Except for one thing.

You don’t know if you should get balaclavas or ski masks to keep your face warm in the cold. So, what exactly is the difference? Are they not really the same thing Well, to best prepare for your trip, it’s good to compare ski masks vs balaclavas in more detail.

Of course, they’re both great for chilly weather, but they do have unique qualities that could make you reconsider your choice. So in this article, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of both cold-weather garments. Here’s a quick overview of what goes into each of them.

What is a Ski Mask

What is a Ski Mask

A ski mask is a type of headgear made of fabric that is intended to keep you warm and protected from the elements when performing outdoor winter activities like skiing, snowmobiling, or snowboarding.

Ski masks are made to comfortably fit over helmets, covering the neck and the lower half of the face. It is not known who invented the ski mask, but it is thought to have been around since the late 1800s.

What is a Balaclava

What is a Balaclava

A balaclava mask is a type of winter headwear (very similar to a ski mask) that covers the mouth, nose, and eyes, sometimes leaving only the eyes. It’s made to protect the head and face.

Compared to ski masks, a balaclava is a more functional item that you can convert into a hat or collar in some cases. Balaclavas are often referred to as ski masks, but regardless of the name, a balaclava design keeps your head/face warm in chilly weather!

A balaclava can also protect you against the sun (UV protection), wind, dust, and even bugs. Military personnel occasionally use balaclavas not just in harsh weather conditions but also to hide their identity.

Ski Mask vs Baclavas: Overview

Ski Mask vs Baclavas Overview

Ski masks and balaclavas might have many same key features, but they aren’t the same thing. Well, they are both necessary for covering your face and keeping your head warm. But they have a few significant differences, besides the obvious difference in spelling.

For instance, a ski mask, which is the more common type, is a simple piece of clothing that covers the face. It is usually secured by an elastic band around the back of the head. In most cases, ski masks are made of thinner material and are meant to cover only the face and neck.

A balaclava, on the other hand, is a form of ski mask that covers the head more completely, covering parts like the ears, neck, nose, mouth, and sometimes the chest.

A ski mask is a breathable material that covers your face. It is easy to recognize a ski mask because of the mouth hole and eye holes, which makes it perfectly suited for winter sports. A balaclava, however, is a one-piece head covering that protects most of your face and neck.

As you can see, a ski mask and a balaclava are two different pieces of apparel worn over the face. The intended function of both is to protect the face, but they work in different ways. Let’s now discuss some of the key differences between a ski mask and a balaclava.

Ski Masks vs Balaclavas: What’s The Difference

Ski Masks vs Balaclavas What's The Difference

There aren’t many disparities between ski masks and balaclavas other than the fact that a ski mask covers the lower part of your face, while a balaclava covers the most part of your face.

In fact, the most significant difference between these two headgear garments is the amount of face coverage they offer.

Ski masks will generally have three separate holes/cutouts. Two for the eyes and one for the lips. The nose remains

Ski masks usually have three distinct cutouts, two for your eyes and one for your lips. Your nose stays covered.

However, when it comes to balaclavas, there’s usually just one large opening for the face. The rest parts of your head, including the neck, are kept covered to keep you warm.

For this reason, balaclavas are mostly used in extreme conditions to offer protection against harsh winter elements such as wind, snow, and freezing temperatures.

Balaclavas can be used in a variety of ways, since they can be rolled up to serve purely as a cap, or folded down to serve as a scarf that covers the neck. Balaclavas are versatile too! They can be worn as a complete mask, half mask, or as a gaiter.

Note that the difference in coverage is one of the most important aspects to think through, even though that depends on how much wind and snow you intend to deal with.

Overall, some of the fundamental elements wearers should check out for include breathability, comfort, fit, warmth, versatility, value/price, and the quality of the product.

In spite of that, both ski masks and balaclavas are essentially meant for the same job- to keep your head warm and protect your skin against extreme cold and harsh outdoor elements.

Balaclavas vs ski masks: Similarities

Balaclavas vs ski masks Similarities

Ski masks and balaclavas have traditionally been used as a way to protect the head and face from the chilly weather while out skiing, though there are a few more practical uses.

The most notable similarity between ski masks and balaclavas is that they’re both made for cold weather protection and other related issues you may encounter when skiing. They are all designed to keep your ears and neck warmer and more comfortable under your helmet.

These two headgear items can be made from materials such as cotton, wool, neoprene, polypropylene, and polar fleece.

Moreover, they’re all reasonably priced, making them well worth the cost for the added warmth and comfort they offer on cold days and harsh weather conditions. The most suitable option will therefore depend on personal preferences for comfort and style.

Now, if you’d like to narrow down your choices for a more informed decision, below we’ve covered some of the pros and cons associated with a ski mask and a balaclava ski mask.

This may be helpful, especially for beginner skiers, as you will get to learn how to choose something that best suits your needs and the kind of conditions you anticipate skiing in.

Ski Mask vs Balaclavas: Pros & Cons

Ski Mask vs Balaclavas pros Cons

Advantages of Using A Ski Mask

Whether you choose to cover your face more or less, there are advantages and downsides to consider. A ski mask will protect your face by simply enclosing your nose and cheeks.

Here are some of the benefits you enjoy from using a ski mask:

First of all, every little bit of additional comfort matters when it’s cold outside. With a good ski mask, your face will be warmer since your face and chicks will be covered.

So a ski mask can protect your face from the cold weather.

Next, the wind can harm your skin if you ski too long it’s windy out there. Ski masks are made of special ski clothing that fits comfortably to help protect your face from such blustery gusts.

Another thing is you can speak while wearing a ski mask. You don’t have to take it off completely. Plus, the mouth hole makes it easier to breathe comfortably.

Disadvantages of Using A Ski Mask

Well, a ski mask will wrap your face in cozy warmth and shield it against the elements. However, this item has a few drawbacks or rather considerations that are important to note:

For instance, a ski mask will basically have spaces for your mouth and eyes. Even though these holes make it easy to eat and talk, the severe cold could cause your lips to chafe or blister.

Also, a ski mask means your nose remains covered. Now, imagine having a runny nose, which is more likely to happen considering the freezing temperatures out there. If you’re like most people, it might not be convenient to experience this with the material covering your nose.

Ski masks might be perceived as being a little ominous by some. Of course, the clothing itself is not at fault. However, having this kind of garment in public may still make some individuals feel uneasy.

Advantages of Using a Balaclava

Balaclavas are not that much different from ski masks. But they do have their pros and flaws as well. In the end, it’s up to you to know the best, but it helps to be aware of the positive aspects of each choice. Let’s examine the advantages and drawbacks of this style of headgear:

Unlike the confining feel associated with ski masks’ material, a balaclava offers a more comfortable feel. This is because your face will be more accessible and this opening may also be perfect, especially during those cold days with little wind.

Moreover, there are various methods to wear balaclavas. This gives you the option of how much or how little coverage you want.

For instance, with some balaclavas, you can adjust the cloth to cover your lips and nose and leave just your eyes uncovered. Or just pull the clothing down if you’d like to merely have your neck covered.

Additionally, balaclavas let people see your face. This can easily make you seem friendlier than a full mask might. Contrary the sight of a ski mask in public can be a little unsettling.

The less scary option between these two facial coverings is a balaclava.

Having said that, however, there’re a few downsides to using a balaclava. So let’s look at some reasons why you might not favor this style of mask:

Disadvantages of Using a Balaclava

Your face is more exposed when wearing a balaclava than when wearing a ski mask.

As a result, your face may experience dryness from exposure to the wind, even though your neck may be still warm and weather-protected.

Balaclavas can occasionally be one-size-fits-all, which might make wearing one a bit uncomfortable.

Proper Head Covering For Your Kid

Proper Head Covering For Your Kid

A properly fitting balaclava can improve your skiing or snowboarding performance. Staying warm is important if you were to bring your kids into these extreme winter activities.

Your child should have the right clothing to keep safe when playing in cold weather. After all, you want them to focus on enjoying themselves fully rather than the discomfort of the weather brought about by wearing a balaclava that fits too loosely around their neck and face.

In winter sports, tumbles, falls, and mishaps are all likely to occur. Well, we hope your youngster avoids them successfully. But the point is, you want your kid’s clothing, accessories, and equipment to stay put if they made any unlucky move.

In the event of a fall, their balaclava or face mask, for that matter, should stay intact along with their skiing gear including the helmet. This way, they can easily return to their tricks on the slopes because they won’t have to take all the time re-adjusting the garments to their head.

In the next section, we’ve shared some of the best ski masks and balaclavas for you might want to check. Read on!

Best Ski Mask and Balaclavas

Best Ski Mask and Balaclavas

Unisex Icebreaker Oasis Wool Balaclava

As one of the best ski masks out there, the IceBreaker Oasis features full face and neck coverage. The material that makes up this comprehensive coverage is where this product gets to shine. When the snow is biting, merino wool employed here is the ideal material to wear.

As all wool kinds do, this mask offers excellent insulation, yet it also stands out when it comes to user comfort. Another benefit is that moisture from your skin will be transferred to the surface of the mask. That means your skin will not be irritated even after constant exposure.

Thanks to its moisture-wicking properties.

The seams here are carefully designed to avoid chafing. There’s also a ventilation flap built into the front of the Oasis, which helps to improve aeration, thereby increasing user comfort.

Moreover, Icebreaker made sure that this ski gear worked with the majority of available goggles.

Key Features

  • Coverage: Neck and face coverage
  • Materials used: Merino wool
  • Overall comfortable fit
  • However, there is no warranty


  • Ventilation flap to enhance breathability
  • Compatible with most goggles
  • Prevents chafing at the seams


  • Make sure you choose the right fit, otherwise, the lower half will come off easily

Unisex AcademyFits Quality Winter Headwear

Well, there are actually two different styles of this AcademyFits product. The first is the typical ski mask style, which is quite not the most appealing, with three holes at the front, two for the mouth, and one for the eyes.

Choose the second version if you’re interested in a more modern look. This one offers just one aperture for your nose and eyes. There are many options, of course, but you’re bound to be impressed by these styles, whether you’re riding down a ski hill or engaged in winter warfare.

Whatever style you ultimately choose, this headgear has a fantastic neckline design. The neckline is adjustable; this was done to enable a wider range for skiers to find a comfortable fit.

The neck fits snugly, and will hardly disappoint on those tricky terrains. And since you don’t want to choke, the fabric chosen in the making of this headgear was acrylic.

Note that acrylic fabric does not shrink. Instead, it works nicely with the neckline, even after numerous cleanings. It also dries faster to help remove moisture. Additionally, acrylic is incredibly durable.

Key Features

  • Full coverage
  • The material used: 100% acrylic
  • Expandable neckline
  • No warranty is offered, though


  • Affordable, yet it doesn’t skimp on quality
  • Flexible neckline
  • Ideal even for different skiers
  • Fit is snug and stable


  • The ski mask‘s design might not please everyone

Oakley Backwoods Balaclava

The Oakley Backwoods Balaclava ski mask has been designed to cover your entire head, with the finest and most comfortable fit. Being among the best cold-weather headgear, the Oakley Backwoods Balaclava has been developed from a trio of excellent materials.

These include polyamide for product durability and affordability, Polyester so that the whole thing dries out faster without losing comfort after cleaning and lastly there’s Elastine.

Elastine is known for being highly stretchable and that means you won’t just be dripping a piece of fabric over your head. In other words, the Backwoods balaclava is a collection of every type of fabric and material you could possibly want for a piece of ski equipment.

There’s also a lengthy neck gaiter extending from the Balaclava‘s face part. Depending on the size you select, this gaiter can entirely cover your neck thanks to its high-quality construction.

You might assume that this headgear would be heavy owing to the materials used, but that’s not really the case. Surprisingly, this face-covering gear maintains a weight of close to one pound.

Overall, this is a perfect example of meticulous attention to detail. Certain adjustments will need to be made before your helmet will fit properly over it. However, once you do, what you will be getting here is total protection, snug fit, and extra warmth to combat the cold chill.

Key Features

  • Coverage offered: Full protection
  • Materials used: Elastane, Polyester, and Polyamide
  • Complete coverage of the most delicate areas
  • No warranty is offered


  • There’s an elongated neck gaiter that completely encloses the neck and face
  • Quick drying, thanks to the polyester material
  • One of the most flexible face masks


  • Requires some adjustments until it fits comfortably underneath a ski helmet

N-MENGGE Sun Protection Balaclava Face Mask

The N-Mengge face mask is a genuine microfleece warmer that works with just about any ski goggles and helmet. Like the name suggests, your lips and neck are completely covered in thermal cloth and soft fleece.

This ski gear boasts a flexible drawstring that makes it easy to secure the whole thing to your face. Plus, you can easily pull this drawstring to transform this mask into a hat, which is one of its best features.

It’s a versatile tool too if you needed one. This gaiter can be changed into a hood just by making a simple adjustment. The material is stretchy and permeable. Any way you wear it, you get the same great results.

It can endure temperatures below -10 °C thanks to its sturdy construction. With this resistance, you have a piece of ski equipment that you can count on for just about anything.

Key Features

  • Coverage: Lower half and neck coverage
  • Materials used: Micro-fleece
  • Perfect fit underneath any ski equipment
  • No warranty offered


  • Does not restrict your vision
  • An excellent option for cold weather
  • You can customize your fit
  • Well ventilated coverage
  • Adjustable drawstring means it can be worn comfortably


  • This is a half-face mask and might not provide adequate protection in harsh weather conditions

Final Words

final words

Ski masks and balaclavas are both designed to help you stay warm, but they serve different purposes. A ski mask shields your face and neck only, while a balaclava covers your whole head, neck, and part of your face. It may seem like they’re the same thing, but they’re not.

We also discussed the pros and cons of each option. Ultimately, both are excellent choices for winter, but you’ll want to select the right one for your specific needs. If you’re not sure which you should use, take a look at our recommendations. You’ll be nearly ready to hit the slopes!

Sharing is caring!

Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our NewsLetter!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x