Everything You Need to Know About Packing for a Ski Trip

Dec 19, 2018

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With snow flying and lifts spinning across the country, skiers and snowboarders nationwide are all thinking about the same thing: traveling for steep slopes and deep powder. But when it comes to packing for a ski trip, things can get stressful.

First, there’s your gear to consider. Unless you plan on renting equipment upon arrival, be sure to pack your boots and bindings, skis (or snowboard) and poles in a single bag, when possible, to avoid accruing extra fees — though many airlines won’t charge extra for a separate boot bag.

Also, carefully consider what airline you choose to reach your ski town of choice. Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United won’t charge an extra fee on top of the checked bag fee for ski equipment, so long as it’s packed according to the airline’s specifications. (Hawaiian, Spirit and Allegiant, on the other hand, have hefty charges for ski and snowboard equipment, in addition to checked bag fees.)

Of course, you need more than gear for a perfect ski vacation. To help you avoid dragging around bulky luggage that contains everything but the things you actually need, we compiled a list to help you pack only the necessities for your ski trip this winter.

The Right Layers

Many people overlook the importance of layering and venting while on the ski hill. Air temperatures can fluctuate depending on the day, time and elevation. Body temperature can fluctuate depending on how hard you’re skiing. Wearing multiple layers makes it easy to regulate body heat throughout the day. When heading out for an active adventure in cold conditions, try to avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture and takes time to dry. Instead, opt for synthetic materials, wool or fleece.

The North Face offers base layer solutions to keep warm during ski season. (Images via The North Face)

Base Layers

Not only do base layers provide an extra insulation, but they are also designed to wick sweat away from the body, keeping you warm and dry. Depending on the duration of the trip, one to two sets should be enough. For men, North Face makes a lightweight and breathable bottom layer as well as a wool crewneck top. Women should consider the brand’s warm tights for a bottom layer in addition to the wool crewneck.

Mid Layers

The mid layer’s main purpose is to provide insulation. However, during warmer spring skiing days, a mid layer may not be necessary at all (or you can opt for something lightweight). Coalatree’s Camper hooded jacket is a midweight layer designed to keep you warm even when wet, and it’s stylish enough to wear around town. If your price point is a bit higher, Patagonia’s Micro Puff hoody provides a great warmth-to-weight ratio, keeping you surprisingly warm with minimal bulk.

Outer Layer

Outer layers are the main protection against heat loss through convection. To put it simply, a good outer layer will keep you dry when it’s wet and warm when it’s windy. While some may opt for a heavier insulated ski jacket, using a waterproof shell for an outer-layer has its benefits. Waterproof shells provide breathable protection from the wind, and allow you to wear as few or as many layers underneath as necessary. The Skyward II Jacket, made by Outdoor Research, is waterproof, breathable and lightweight, and comes in both men’s and women’s styles. Patagonia’s Powder Bowl is a great option for shell pants, and also comes in styles for men and women. Best of all, a shell is going to take up way less space in your suitcase.

The Mount Baker Modular Mits. (Images via Outdoor Research)
The Mt. Baker Modular Mits. (Images via Outdoor Research)

Gloves or Mittens

The quickest way to get cold hands is to wear gloves that make you sweat, so choose your gloves based on the forecasted temperatures during your trip. During the coldest days, consider the Mt. Baker Modular Mitts by Outdoor Research. If you prefer gloves over mittens, the Arc’teryx Anertia Glove will provide the warmth and breathability you need. When spring arrives and you’re ready for balmy days filled with soft corn snow, bring Black Diamond’s lightweight soft shell glove along.

A Lightweight Helmet

Your brain is the most important part of your body, so protect it. Bern has a nice array of stylish and warm helmets, perfect for a day (or hundreds of days) on the slopes. The Rollins is their snow-specific helmet, and it’s fairly thin, giving it a low profile and keeping the weight to a minimum. There is also an adjustable vent system, which allows for full control of ventilation based on conditions and preferences.

Polarized Goggles

No one likes flying down the slopes at full speed, only to realize that the thick fog they just skied into is actually inside their goggles. When choosing a pair, be sure to pick a product with good ventilation and a dual lens to help prevent fogging. Revo’s Wordsmith goggle is polarized and manages the full spectrum of light, making it a great choice for most conditions.

Smartwool’s Merino 250 Neck Gaiter. (Images via Smartwool)

Neck Gaiter

Scarves can be great for a cold evening around town, but they can be a serious hassle on the ski hill. Keep it simple by using a neck gaiter (such as the Merino 250 by Smartwool) to keep your neck warm on a cold day. And on the most frigid days, the Outdoor Research Helmet Balaclava may be the difference between spending the day shredding the slopes and seeing how many hot chocolates you can drink back at the lodge.

Ski Socks

With a single pair of high-quality, knee-high synthetic or wool ski socks, your feet will stay warm and dry all day without having to fill your suitcase with bulky bundles of socks. Darn Tough has an assortment of light and heavy ski socks, and they’re some of the best on the market. Be sure to pack a few pairs, but because they dry fast, you can use them more than once on a single ski trip. Just saying.

Winter Hat

Since you’ll be wearing your helmet on the slopes, you won’t need a hat to keep your ears warm. But when it comes time to walk through the village to grab a bite to eat for dinner, hopefully you won’t still be using your helmet for warmth. Mountain Hardwear’s Micro Dome beanie is made of a soft polyester fleece, and is lightweight and cozy. You may not need it on the mountain, but you won’t lose sleep about packing it either.

Old reliable: L.L. Bean
Old reliable: L.L. Bean’s classic Bean Boot. (Images via L.L. Bean)

Waterproof Winter Boots

Of course, while you’re on the slopes, your ski or snowboard boots will be your footwear of choice. But chances are, if it’s cold enough to ski, it’s cold enough to need warm boots when you’re not skiing, too. And unless you plan on wearing your ski boots out to dinner, you may want to bring a pair of L.L. Bean’s classic Bean Boots along for the trip. Great for men, women and kids, these boots are waterproof, shearling-lined and stylish enough to wear out — so you don’t have to pile multiple pairs of shoes into your suitcase.

Lip Balm

Chapped lips are something all of us have dealt with at some point in our lives. And when the temperatures drop, the wind picks up, and the air dries out, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Keep a stick of Burt’s Bees lip balm with SPF in your pocket, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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