If you aren't sure how cold natured you are, or what the temps will be when you ride.. its best to go with the 3-layers.
- Essential. Your base layer is usually a skin-tight layer made out of a plastic/polyester material that will wick sweat away from your skin and dry quickly. Popular brands are Underarmour coldgear, Hot chilis, layer 8, etc. It is usually a BAD idea to use a cotton base layer because it will absorb sweat and retain the liquid for the entire day, which means you'll have to endure wet, clammy clothing against your skin the entire day. Expect to pay between $20-$50 for a base layer shirt or pants.
- Optional. The mid layer is used to help keep heat in, while still being 'breathable'. Polyester fleece jackets are the most common types of clothing/fabric used for the torso. Some people like to use hoodies or sweatshirts. Again, it is better to avoid cotton so that the mid layer doesn't absorb and retain any sweat or melted snow. The mid layer doesn't have to be water-resistant, but some people use their mid layers as cold weather jackets when they aren't on the slopes.
Warm-up pants or 'track suit' pants are what are usually used for mid layers on the legs. A mid layer fleece will cost anywhere from $10-$80 depending on the brand.
- Essential. These are the snowboarding (or skiing) pants and jackets that you'll find at a ski shop or on websites that carry snowboarding clothing. The better brands will have ratings for how waterproof the item is and how breathable the item is. See this sticky
for explanations on wind/water resistance. The purpose of the shell is to keep the wind, water, and snow out. Better brands have extra features like zippers that open panels allowing more air to flow in on warmer days, extra pockets, lift pass holders, goggle compartments, built in chamois or balaclavas, etc. It is usually better to NOT buy a shell that has thermal insulation built into it so that you aren't stuck with a really hot jacket on a warm, sunny day (layer up for warmth instead).
As a beginner, you want a jacket/pant shell combination that is at least 15k waterproof with a snow skirt and fully taped seams/zippers. This is because as a beginner you will be spending a LOT of time picking yourself up out of the snow. Nothing is worse than being wet & cold on the side of a windy mountain.
Shells will cost between $50-$120 for a jacket or pair of pants. You can usually save some bucks by buying clearance from last season.
- Do yourself a favor and get a decent pair of waterproof gloves with removable liners. Decent gloves will run you ~$45-$65. I wouldn't bother with the wrist guards unless you are particularly clumsy or plan to spend a lot of time at the terrain park.
- Perfect goggles are hard to find. Ideal goggles seal on your face low without pinching your nostrils (which is annoying when you're breathing heavily), offer good visibility and do not fog up easily (and clear quickly if they do get fogged). Get either an additional lens or additional pair of goggles so that you can swap out depending on whether you ride on a sunny day or a cloudy day. Unfortunately, you probably won't figure out what kind of goggles are best for you until you've put in a lot of time riding. Goggles cost between $40-$200+.
• I would recommend a balaclava to protect your face from the elements (wind, snow, sun). $15-$40
• I would recommend a helmet to protect your head from hard slams (especially on hidden ice patches). 'snow/ski' helmets are ridiculously priced. Even a wal-mart skateboard helmet will absorb enough impact energy to protect you. $30-$180.
Backpack - handy for holding extra goggles, snacks, and a drink/drink bladder. Convenient for at least one person in your party to have one
Those are the basics. You'll figure out the rest after your first trip