The Only Ski Trip Packing List You Need
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Between the travel and the gear, skiing is a logistics heavy trip. Andrew Strong shares insider tips to minimize hassle, find value and maximize convenience. We break it down into five categories: essential gear, essential clothing, good-to-have items, luggage and this year, a few things that may make skiing easier during Covid.
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Extra Considerations for Convenience during COVID-19
Here are a few items that you may have not carried with you in the past, but could prove extra helpful for shredding this season.
Backpacks will be essential for hauling extra gear and snacks up the mountain this year to minimize or even avoid time in the lodges. Many packs have straps, hooks, and loops to hold helmets, gloves and poles to free up a hand. For storage and a lightweight pack we like the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 15 or the Osprey Talon 22. The Osprey Talon 44 is a good option for something a little larger with similar functionality. For hauling your skis up the mountain too, try the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25. Before heading to the slopes, test your ability to sit in a chair with your pack fully loaded or your ability to unstrap it so it can sit in your lap on the lifts.
With resorts limiting indoor dining, staying hydrated on the mountain will become an outdoor activity (stay away from the yellow snow!). CamelBak has been a mainstay and they have expanded their hydration packs into full backpacks. If a bottle is more your style, Hydroflask has a great product line with varying sizes, colors and lid designs.
With limited indoor dining comes the need to make sure you can recharge at lunch before heading back out. Ski bums have been bringing their own lunch for decades but the brown paper bag has gotten an upgrade. ZipTops are reusable, dishwasher safe silicone containers that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The sandwich bag is perfect for a PB&J and the zip lid provides easy access on the lift. The nesting design means they will take up little room in your luggage and their re-usability ensures you can use them everyday you are on the slopes.
Critical for protecting your most important asset. In addition to its obvious safety benefits, a helmet provides excellent climate control and prime sticker real estate. Find a helmet that fits, is comfortable, and has a clip or other goggle retaining device. We like the Smith Vantage Helmet. Pro tip, strap it to the outside of a backpack to save space in your suitcase.
Equipment rental packages typically include helmets, but helmets, especially for kids, pay for themselves in a matter of ski days and last for years. My Smith Vantage Helmet is insulated so I don’t need another layer, has adjustable air vents I can open with a ski glove on, and has multiple adjustment straps to ensure fit so you don’t end up with gaper gap!
We recommend purchasing goggles with interchangeable lenses. This way you can switch between polarized low and bright light lenses as the conditions change. We also prefer polarized lenses, and of course, good airflow. Smith's I/O Mag goggle is one of our top picks, though there are cheaper alternatives on Amazon.
Ski boots are the most important piece of gear to own, they can make or break your day on the mountain. If you plan to take at least one trip a year, invest in boots, see our guide to ski boot basics here.
ESSENTIAL CLOTHING (FOR STAYING WARM & LOOKING GOOD)
The ideal jacket will keep you warm, protect you from the elements and be stylish enough to go directly to après ski. We prefer a lighter jacket, some insulation is ok or just a shell works well. Ventilation in the under arms can be huge for temperature regulation. The Patagonia Snowshot is a fan favorite for men and we like the Patagonia Snowbelle for women. For a little more insulation we like the Arc’Teryx Cassiar or Black Diamond Approach. If you run a little hot, or plan on hiking at all, consider a shell jacket. Flylow has great options for both men and women.
Anything with side vents to the outside and zippers that are easy to use with gloves works. Verify they have elastic bands at the bottom to slip over the top of boots and keep the snow out. The Black Diamond Boundary Line is a fan favorite.
Face coverings are essential this year. In general, on colder days, these are a must. Think of it as a seal to stay warm and prevent windburn. We wouldn’t think of boarding the lifts without them. The Blackstrap Expedition Hood Balaclava fits well, stays in place, and never freezes. Moisture wicking, antimicrobial, and rated to UPF 50+, this is the ultimate in face protection. One size fits all adults. Also available in a kid's size!
Gloves vs. mittens is up to you but Hestra’s 3-Finger Gloves are just straight up warm. Their leather palms provide grip, removable inserts are easy to clean/dry and the elastic wrist straps prevent drops from chairlifts. For better value, the Flylow Tough Guy Glove for $40 is made with hand-treated, triple-baked pig skin and is both warm and incredibly dexterous.
Good circulation is the secret to keeping your feet warm. We recommend using warm boot liners with thin socks. We’re big fans of the Smartwool Lightweight Socks, available in both men's and women's sizes. The Navy SEALs wear Darn Toughs — also a pretty great option.
GOOD TO HAVES (FOR MAXIMUM COMFORT/CONVENIENCE)
Put it everywhere on your face (even if it is fully covered). The higher the SPF the better. Find an airplane size bottle at the pharmacy and stash it in a pocket. We like the Neutrogena Sport Face and Sun Bum.
Dry air, sun and wind will dry out any exposed skin. Vaseline is a great protectant and makes a mini-container to stash in a pocket.
Lips are almost always exposed and can quickly become dry and sunburned. Blistex Medex has saved us many times. Lip balms span the gambit in price and use case. Orsden’s Blog lists their top 5 choices.
Specifically, candy that can survive the cold — Starburst, M&Ms and Hershey's are our go to's, great for bribing children down the mountain after a long day at ski school or to satiate those who are deep into the hangry stage before lunch.
Any type of leg massager from a foam roller to a lacrosse ball does the trick. An afternoon stretch or massage session will ensure you are able to get out of bed the next morning.
Absolutely essential. If you don't have access to a hot tub, make friends with someone on the lift that does and bring a bottle of wine or sixer of beer. Plus, no one wants wet shoes so throw a cheap pair of flip flops in your bag for the trek to and from.
Colder temperatures can drain phone batteries so bringing your charger will make you stand out as a pro and could be used to barter for free drinks. For a portable option you can use anywhere, check out the BioLite Charge 40.
Make sure to put this in your wallet, purse or even jacket pocket before you leave. This season especially, it will be much harder to secure a pass in person.
LUGGAGE (WHAT TO BRING IT IN)
Anything with wheels does the trick. If you are not hauling your own skis/board, boot backpacks are convenient and fit in most overhead bins. If you are renting skis, any standard duffel bag should suffice.
Again, anything with wheels but I prefer soft-sided bags as they are typically lighter and fit better in rental cars. With soft-sided bags, be sure to wrap equipment in old bath towels to dry equipment before heading to the airport and provide added protection from bumps and drops by baggage handlers. Combined bags offer the convenience of storing both skis and boots.
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