Packing For a Ski Trip
Skiing is one of my most favourite activities on the planet. I started skiing at the age of 2 when my mother dragged me out onto the slopes. I have been addicted ever since. If you’re going on a ski trip for the first time I imagine you will be wondering what you should be packing for a ski trip. Worry not, I can really help you with this! We have been on more family ski trips than you can imagine.
Some of the places we have skied include Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Canada, the USA, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, and even Hawaii!
We have also published an Ebook we call ‘The 5 Family Travel Secrets’ that is packed with awesome packing and travelling tips. You can download it here for free, or you could wait until we have it published and go to Amazon to buy it instead. 😉
Withal the trips we have done, we have gathered up a lot of experience about how to pack economically and ergonomically. When you are getting started, you will find that there is a difference between what you need to bring and what you think you need and understanding this allows you to figure out what you should leave behind.
Grab the ‘5 Family Travel Secrets’ for a full guide on the actual packing process and making the most of your luggage allowance when going on any trip.
When you are packing for a ski trip you need to think differently about what to pack. It’s not a normal winter holiday. When skiing, you are going to be really active, so your clothing choices become really important.
You’ll be spending time not skiing as well, and likely going in and out of warm shops and restaurants, so dressing for that is important too, being an alpine sport, the mountain weather may be very extreme, in Canada we skied in temperatures as low as -35c, you really need to dress well for this or lose some skin.
What Should Go into your Bag
This list of what to pack starts with items specific to a ski trip, and then has a number of general items you’ll also want to consider bringing along for both winter travel and general travel. There’s also a checklist at the end you can use for easy reference.
There are basically 3 layers of clothing for skiers and snowboarders:
- Thermals – What the Aussie in me will call undies
- Fleeces – sweaters, jumpers etc
- Outer Shell -Jackets, parkas etc
The names change depending on the part of the world you hail from, but that is the basics. Now on super cold days you will wear all layers, on warmer days, it might be 2 or if you are a bit risky, just the undies (and yes, in spring we have actually done this (but I won’t be sharing any of those photos here!)
This is my favourite layer and a really important one, because it is in contact with your skin. It needs to be a material that is good as absorbing moisture without making you cold, because no matter how low the temperature or what your ability level is, when you’re on the slopes, you are going to sweat, some fabrics actually pull the moisture away and this is a great thing.
The faster drying to the better too. I think it is better to buy the best brands you can afford with this layer and even go a little cheaper (and thicker) on the fleece layer, if you have to. Also make sure you buy two sets, so one can be in the wash while you are using the clean set (see our guide to doing laundry as you travel for tips on that).
Thermals come in all sort of shapes and sizes, some are even full piece, like the old cowboy films! They also come is a range of prices, like everything I guess. Like I said above, buy the best ones you can afford, you will thank me after the first day on the slopes.
There are natural and synthetic ones as well. I personally love bamboo products, the are great at moving the moisture away, are natural and just feel good on. I’m also good with some the the synthetics, they can be just as good. I’m not a fan of marino thermals, they make me itchy and cotton ones don’t dry so well, but they are comfy!
Fleeces, Sweaters or Jumpers
First up, you will need two a thick one and a thin one. They are super versatile too, so you pick ones with a bit of style and you can wear them off the slopes too. These fabrics are super lightweight, and warm, warmer than their natural counterparts.
It’s not common for me to suggest synthetic over natural, but in this bracket, I can’t not! So classic cotton sweaters are not nearly as efficient at keeping you warm and while wooden jumpers are, both ar very bulky and heavy compared to their fleece counterparts, my suggestion is leave them at home and embarrass the skier style spirit.
So the cool thing is you can wear the thin one or the thick one, or if it is really cold, you can wear both, so make sure that you buy a thicker one that is comfortable to wear over the thinner one, with a thermal underneath it. This way you want get too ‘stiff’ when you really layer up to stay warm.
I personally carry a small-ish backpack when I ski so I can shed a layer if I need to. A backpack when you’re skiing needs to fit really well. I’ll mention more about this below.
As with the thermals, fleeces come in all styles and prices these days, so basically you are going pay more for the more stylish designs. Buy in the price range that suits you.
The Outer Shell – Jackets and Parkas
Your ski jacket is an essential part of your gear, I put a lot of time and effort into this choice and for me, the more technical it is the better.
I also like jackets with a striking colour, not to be a show off, but in case I am back country and get into trouble, I want to be easier to find. It helps the kids more easily see where I am too.
Make sure you try it on with both fleeces on so it isn’t too small when you need to rug up against the cold.
A good ski parkas will have a lot of special pockets and features that make your skiing easier. Things like a pocket in your sleeve for the electronic ticket, special pockets for your glasses, an inner waist band to stop the snow from getting inside if you fall, ventilation zips that let you cool down after a run quickly that you zip back up on the lift and other stuff like that.
TIP: It’s essential it is waterproof and breathable with taped seams and zips.
This womens jacket with a fury collar really helps to keep your face warmer.
Ski Pants / Ski Bibs / Salopettes
I still see people out on the slopes in jeans, I find it incredible when you can buy ski pants so cheaply these days. Good ones too!
Invest in a good pair of ski pants, it really makes a world of difference and you will look like less of a novice as well, (if you are just starting out).
When learning to snowboard), get a pair of padded shorts to wear underneath your pants to cushion the blows when you hit the snow.
Ski bibs are pants that aren’t so tight on your waist because they have built in braces, these are pretty comfy actually so check them out. Some girls love to wear them pretty tight, but if you aren’t so worried about showing off your hot body, looser ones are way more comfortable and warmer too.
They keep the snow out better when you have that inevitable tumble. Make sure they are proper ski or snowboard pant with the insulation and padding they need, basically it’s the same as for jackets, sealed seams and zippered pockets, so stuff in there stays in there.
Ski Gear – The Equipment
Don’t buy any actual gear until you have been asking or snowboarding for a while. It’s much much better to rent and get a feel for it all before you lash out and buy gear. All resorts hire gear, but sometimes it pays to hit one of those stores at the bottom of the mountain before you get to the slopes as they are often much better value and may also have equipment to rent that is newer. Most rental shops offer expert gear, it’s not necessarily that expert, it’s more about it just being better quality and newer. So I suggest getting that level of gear, even when you are a beginner.
You really should wear a helmet, many resorts insist these days! Sometimes it is better to buy these, for hygiene and comfort!
The main gear is:
- Skis – easiest to rent as a beginner and you can buy them quite cheaply online if you know what you are looking for
- Ski socks – Trust me on this, get some ski socks, just two pairs will do, you can wash one while you wear the other pair. They will make a huge difference to the comfort of your feet and you really want your feet to be as comfortable as possible. Already having the socks you will wear will help when trying to find the right boots to get. So buy the socks first.
- Ski boots – Don’t buy them online unless you have tried on that exact model and want to get them cheaper online. Making sure the fit is right is essential. It can be really tricky finding boots that fit you properly
- Stocks (ski poles) – Make sure they are a proper fit, when you hold them upside down with your hand above the cup, your arm should be parallel with the ground. So better to test this in a store if you want to buy them online
- Helmet – Yep, you really need to try this on too, but again, if you know what you’re looking for, get them online. It’s almost always cheaper. You can also get beanies you can wear under your helmet, for when it’s really cold.
- Neckband, face mask and/or balaclava – A must have when it is really cold, but even when it is warmer, it makes skiing that much more comfortable.
- Ski gloves (and glove liners) – The liners are really important because you will find yourself taking your gloves off quite a bit and that little layer of protection goes a long way to stopping your hands for getting too cold. Your hands get colder faster than any other part of your body in the snow.
- Ski goggles (glasses) – These are a must you need to be able to see where you are going and sometimes you can’t see a thing without them. Snow hitting your eyes at speed is painful and dangerous. And without good goggles, a whiteout can be an impossible thing to deal with. It’s when there is no contrast at all and everything looks like a white sheet in front of you. Some have interchangeable lenses for different conditions. This is when it really helps to have a dedicated pocket in your jacket for your googles
- Ski lock – This reduces the chance of someone stealing your skis or snowboard while you’re having that glass of Schnapps at the end of the day
- Backpack – As I mentioned above, I take a day pack out on the slopes, it’s somewhere to keep your water bottle, some snacks, that spare layers I mentioned, lip balms, a camera, a backup phone charger, and probably stuff the kids beg you to carry for them too! The water bottle will be a godsend, so don’t forget it. Some, not naming any names, love those little warmer packs, stuff a few of them in your bag and you might end up being someone’s hero!
What to Look For
Ski Boots – these Rossignol boots are a great boot for a wide range of people
Stocks (Ski Poles)
Face Mask, and a bit of fun
Off the Slopes Clothing
So, don’t forget to pack clothing to wear off the slopes! This will be the same as what you will pack to go to any colder place. The ski jacket can double up as an all purpose jacket, but I am not a fan of this because I load up the packets with all the stuff I need on the slopes. So I always take a general purpose jacket.
What you wear off the slopes is basically down to what you feel most comfortable in, just remember that you have packed a lot of other stuff, so you might want to take a bit less on the off the slope clothing so you aren’t suffering from a huge bag during the actual travelling part.
One thing you need to remember is a pair of good snow boots, something with good grip and hat will keep your ankles warm. We love Sorels
Some good things to have when packing for a ski trip are a power bank (backup battery charger). The cold can deplete your phone battery much faster. Especially if you are using a ski tracking app. This way they are always charged and ready for a photo or a call. Sometimes to figure out where you are on the mountain when you get lost. This is a good one being wireless, no need to plug it in. Just put it on the charger and it starts charging.
When you are skiing it helps to use your mobile (smartphone or cell) or a compact camera as they are easier to get it in and out of your pocket
A nice and tough carry case is a good idea too. Along with one of those all in one travel power adapters if you are abroad. We always carry a compact power board to plug into the adapter. It gives us extra plugs so we only need a couple of adapters instead of a bunch of them.
What about the other stuff?
You might think I am mad, but don’t forget to pack your swimmers. You will hate sitting by while everyone else is rolling around in the snow and jumping in and out of the hot tub.
I’m sure I mentioned lip balms. Don’t forget them or be prepared to buy them when you are there. Your lips will be happier if you start using them from day 1.
There is something we haven’t mentioned yet that is important we tell people this all the time. Use packing cubes, they will help you arrange your bags much more efficiently.
Lastly, if you can, wear the biggest jacket you’re taking to save space in your bag.
As an aid to your packing, we’ve put all the above into this quick checklist. As an aid to your packing. You can also download a PDF of the checklist here. It includes what to put in your backpack on the way to the slopes. We also give some suggestions for a first aid kit too. We always cary them for the kids, mostly.
Backpack (plus a stay over bag, we use a packing cube for this)
- Water bottle
- Underwear x 2
- T-Shirts (long-sleeve) x 2
- Rain jacket
- Warm Jacket
- Tooth brush and tooth paste
- Deodorant (you can imagine how important this is on road trips)
- And your ‘stuff’
A stay over bag can be popped into your backpack. You’ll have the clothes and shoes you are wearing as well.
Main Suitcase (small-large carry on)
- Ski Jacket
- Ski Pants
- Neck warmer / Face Mask / Balaclava
- Regular cold weather clothes (at school we called them Civi’s)
- Snow boots
- Your phone
- Backup battery
- Travel adaptors/Power board (if going abroad)
- Tablet/laptop/e-Reader (if you really need them
- Other ______________
- Skis / Snowboards
- Ski Socks
- Ski Boots / Snowboard boots
- Stocks (Ski poles)
- A Ski lock
Other toiletries: Soap, shampoo, conditioner, a hair brush should suffice.
- Bandages of varying sizes
- An antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin
- Children’s fever and pain reducer
- Children’s motion sickness remedy
- Anti-itch cream
- Medicine for children’s allergies
- Children’s medicine for stomach flu and constipation
- Children’s cold and flu relief medication
- Rehydration tablets suitable for children