Packing for a winter trip can be a nightmare. Packing for a ski or snowboarding trip in the winter can bring a poor packer to tears. This is especially true for someone that is not used to cold winter conditions and harsh temperatures.
A lot of planning must go into a ski trip packing list.
After all, you are relying on your clothing, gear, and accessories not only to have a good time but to keep you safe as well. Whether it’s your first ski trip, your first time traveling with your own gear, or your tenth trip to the snow it’s never a bad idea to make sure you are properly packed. After spending months gallivanting around Europe, Japan, and North America chasing the winter here are the items we never want to forget.
The Snowboard and Ski Trip Essentials
Before I get into the essentials I want to stress the importance of packing in layers. When dealing with freezing temperatures and snow, wind, and water you should always be wearing three layers.
- A base layer (thermal underwear). Your base layer is the layer of clothing touching your skin. Therefore you will want something comfortable and flexible. My base layer is usually a cotton base layer or polyester. Your base layer doesn’t have to be the most attractive thing in the world as no one will ever see it. This is your private, but essential layer.
- Mid-layer (insulating layer). Mid layers are the next layer and go on top of your base. They act as a base holiday warm air to your body.
- Shell layer (jackets/snow pants). Shell layers are made out of waterproof and usually windproof material. It’s the main layer separating you from the outside world. A good shell jacket should not only keep you warm but protect you from the snow should you fall.
Now that we got that covered, we’ll move on to the things you need. No matter what you are going to want these essentials in your ski trip packing list.
Obviously if you going skiing or snowboarding you’re going to need an outer layer. A good jacket that will last you at least a season is going to be invaluable. You’ll want to look for one that is made out of Gortex or similar waterproof material and see if it’s wind resistant. A jacket also doesn’t hold onto snow should /when you suffer a fall. We both invested in Helly Hansen jackets this year as they provide proper insulation and are completely durable with a good brand name.
The other obvious items for a ski and snowboard trip is snow pants. Snowpants are essential for anyone heading up the mountain. You’ll want to invest in some durable ones as you will put a lot of wear and tear on these bad boys. Look again for waterproof and wind resistant material and a fleece inside will keep your legs warm. I like ski pants with at least two pockets so I can stash lip balm and cash away. Of course, you can always ditch buying the pants and jacket separately and purchase a onesie – we see many of those in the mountains even today!
This year I went with Nikita women’s snow pants while Cameron stuck with Helly Hansen. I’ll be investing in Helly Hansen snow pants next year as they provide better waterproofing.
Underlayers are what will be the closest to your body. They provide your first stage of warmth and will maintain your body heat. These include camisoles for the ladies, long sleeved thermals, leggings, and technical clothing for both sexes as well.
I travel with a few pairs of camis to wear under my sweater, for days our on the town. When I am doing something active like snowshoeing or snowboarding I need technical layers to keep my body warm while still letting any moisture out. My favorite brand for thermals is Kora. Kora specializes in technical underlayers and most of their products are 100% Yak Wool.
What I love most about Kora is that they buy their wool directly from the nomadic Himalayan people. Yak Wool isn’t cheap, but it is proven to be 40% warmer and 65% more breathable than merino. I also find it much softer and great for lounging as well.
If you are a woman and skiing or snowboarding you need sports bras. I would say to wear what you would wear to the gym and remember you’ll be stuck in for the whole day so pick something comfortable, breathable, and flexible. A few of my favorite sports bras are from Alala and Handful.
Heavy duty gloves will be your best friend on the slopes because no one likes when they can’t feel their hands. I personally like mittens because my hands stay warmer when all my fingers are touching one another. I know that many skiers prefer glovers so that they can separate their fingers more easily when dealing with their ski poles.
Depending on how long your ski holiday is I would recommend bringing an ample amount of wool ski socks. I personally travel with five and wear them three days in a row. I say “wool” and “ski socks” because wool is going to keep your feet the warmest and ski socks are tall enough to wear with ski and snowboard boots. Make sure that your socks are on over thermal layers every day and are pulled tight. Crinkles in socks will not only be uncomfortable but can cause blisters.
I don’t wear scarfs when I snowboard because they are long and could get in the way. Instead, neck gaiters are efficient and pack up well in my bag. They allow my whole neck to be kept warm. On very cold days I wear them over my balaclava.
I only wear a balaclava on very cold and windy days, as my helmet keeps my ears warm for the most part. Balaclavas cover the entire face and are a real lifesaver in windy and snowy conditions. Cameron travels with a fleece balaclava while I have a synthetic one. Cameron’s is warmer, but mine doesn’t get wet.
Years ago I never wore ski goggles, but these days I wouldn’t be caught on a mountain without them. They are an essential part of my snowboard ensemble because they allow me to see and protect my eyes. Good goggles should provide you with uninterrupted vision, should be polarized, and don’t fog easily. We both travel with Smith goggles that have interchangeable lenses.
What to pack for a snow trip? The Gear
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, as you know your gear that you will be going to your ski trip packing list. If you don’t own your own gear, then you will be renting or borrowing from a friend and chances are you won’t have much say as to what you are given.
- Ski or snowboard boots
- Snowboard or skis
- Ski poles
- Helmet: Not wearing a helmet is a thing of the past. Do yourself and your noggin a favor and wear a helmet when you ski or snowboard, whether you are a beginner or expert, a helmet should always be worn. The great things about helmets are they keep your head and ears warmer than hats too!
- Snowboard or ski bag: Wondering how to pack for a ski trip flight? If you’re traveling with your gear you will definitely need a high-quality bag to carry your stuff in. Cameron and I have this bag and it fits two of our snowboards both with bindings on, a pair of snow pants, and both of our boots. It’s a tight squeeze, but it’s gone off and on dozens of flights effortlessly and has wheels so we can roll the bag everywhere. Here’s a good ski bag!
Extras for Your Ski Trip
You don’t need any of these things, but they will definitely make your ski trip more enjoyable!
I don’t know about you, but I personally cannot be in the sun without sunglasses. Maybe it’s my fragile blue eyes but I always feel blinded by the sun and snow. A good pair of athletic sunglasses should be in your bag if you want to protect your eyes from the sun while having a beer outside. I like Smith Optics. They are expensive, but if you aren’t prone to losing sunglasses they are totally worth it for active holidays.
Hand and Toe Warmers
I usually have a backup pair of these in my jacket pocket should it get really cold and my hands start to freeze. They are cheap if you buy them in bulk before you get on the mountain. I suggest Amazon! If you’re a skier you may want some toe warmers!
Staying hydrated is important when you are skiing and snowboarding. You may not realize it in the cold conditions, but you are actually burning a lot of energy so it’s important to refuel. There’s always a travel water bottle in my bag.
If you want hot coffee or tea in the morning on the slopes I would recommend packing a thermos full of your favorite brew.
Backpack (with an optional hydration pack)
If you’re comfortable carrying a backpack while you ski it may make your life easier. You’re able to fill it with lunch, water, and survival equipment if you are going off-piste.
Vaseline or lip balm
Quite possibly the most important thing in my coat pocket. Make sure to pack extras for your ski trip as they are easy to lose.
Tiger BalmMuscle reliever is your best friend when you spend all day out on the slopes, especially after your first and second day!
Lotion is invaluable to me when I’m taking part in snow and mountain activities. My skin can get really dry after a whole day on the slopes and some hotels don’t provide you with lotion, or it may not be the kind you like. Always remember to take care of your skin especially in the winter.
Yes, you can get sunburnt in the snow. Especially on a bright day the sun will bounce off the bright snow and reflect right back at you. If you are fair skinned I would definitely recommend packing a travel size bottle for your face.
I recently got ageneric Fitbit and absolutely love it! It tracks my steps, which I love off the slopes but I can also see my heart rate for the day and tune into my sleep cycle. If you want to track your day on the slopes try downloaded the Slopes app!
If you are a beginner and nervous of falling consider getting some protective gear. Because if you are scared of falling, it will hinder your learning and progression. Hip/butt pads are great for snowboarders, as well as wrist guards. And a back brace can do wonders for any skier.
If you’re on a budget the last place you will want to eat is in mountain huts. Bring some protein bars for energy.
Casual winter wear and Apres Ski
For women, I suggest wearing leggings under your snow pants if you don’t have thermals. I personally wear leggings every day of my life, so it’s no wonder they are the answer to my snow gear.
Leggings are warm, flexible, and can substitute as thermals. Plus you can take off your snow pants after a day on the mountain and be ready to go at the bars. I prefer fleece lined leggings and durable leggings and gear from Alala. Their clothes are not see through and I can easily wear them out to Apres Ski. When it’s a really cold day I’ll throw a pair of thermals on over my leggings.
Hiking pants are great for off-piste activities.
Gloves or Mittens
I suggest bringing at least one pair of casual gloves or mittens for just walking around. I personally like the ones that have touchscreen fingertips.
As a woman, I always travel with ear muffs. I wear my hair in a ponytail a lot so a toboggan doesn’t work, plus fluffy ones look cute in photos!
Keep your head warm.
I travel with two pairs of winter boots. One that can handle the snow (ie my Sorels) but still look good when paired with leggings, and one mid-calf pair of leather boots for fancier occasions and dinners out. Cameron travels with one pair of hiking boots for the snow and for nights out.
Sweaters and Fleece
I would suggest at least one comfortable sweater for leisure and one flexible fleece to wear when skiing. I wear this Patagonia almost everyday under my jacket.
Be comfortable when relaxing- enough said. Here are some fitting mountain PJ’s!
The Nonessential (but fun) Stuff for Your Ski Trip
- Heated insoles
- Bluetooth headphones
- Snowboard/ski carrier
- Fun apparel!
- Mountain Flask
- Bluetooth speakers to put in your backpack and ride
- GoPro or some sort of action camera with helmet clip. Check the latest models and prices for GoPro here.
And finally, if you are going off piste or in avalanche risk areas you are going to want to carry avalanche risk equipment. Including avalanche beacons, avalance probes, and an avalance shovel. Another popular life saving device now is the avalanche airbag. The airbag system isn’t cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on your life!
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