Check out our ski trip packing list for your next trip. Come wintertime we pack up our bags up and begin chasing the snow. In this post, we cover some tips, tricks, and gear that we’ve come to love over time.
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.
Quick Tips To Packing
- When you face freezing temperatures, snow, wind, and water you should wear multiple layers. It’s the basic premise of what to wear on the mountain and what you should think about first. This can also reduce space in your luggage instead of bulky clothes.
- Wear your largest jacket on the plane. Our actual ski wear is in our checked luggage, but we’ll wear our bulky parka for walking around the resort or town on the plane.
- Don’t forget to pack or purchase ski goggles in advance as they’re not readily available for rent.
- Invest in the basics such as thermals and socks if you’re just starting out. They provide the most bang for the buck in terms of warmth. Cold feet suck!
- Remember to pack casual clothes as only half a ski trip is spent on the slopes. You’ll want casual wear to hanging around the resort.
Ski Trip Packing Checklist
What To Wear on The Mountain
- 1 x Top Base Layer
- 1 x Bottom Base Layer
- 2-3 x Wool Sports Bra
- 2-3 x Wool Ski Socks
- 1 x Mid-Layer Jacket
- 1 x Shell Jacket
- 1 x Shell Pants
- 1 x Insulated Jacket*
- 1 x Snow Pants*
- 1 x Mitts or Gloves
- 1 x Balaclava
- 1 x Buff Headwear
- 1 x Goggles
- 1 x Helmet*
Top Base Layer
A base layer (thermal underwear). Your base layer is the layer of clothing touching your skin. Therefore you will want something comfortable and flexible. We strongly recommend a quality base layer made of a natural fiber like wool. We spend five months skiing every year so we’ve invested in yak wool layers from Kora, but that comes at a premium. A great advantage of wool is its odor resistance, I washed my yak wool layer once last year and we went skiing over 50 days.
For the average vacation or if it’s your first ski holiday I would recommend picking up thermals made from a polyester or nylon blend. You can find them on Amazon, at outdoor stores, or any cheap department store carrying winter wear. Do not buy a cotton base layer as cotton pulls body heat away from you when wet. Your base layer doesn’t have to be the most attractive thing in the world as it’s more or less underwear. Consider your base layers one of the top priorities when packing for a ski holiday.
Bottom Base Layer
Make sure to have a base layer for your whole body. The base layer for your legs is probably more important than the upper body. Remember to purchase thermals made from wool or a reliable synthetic material. Base layers for your legs are also great for walking around the town or a resort.
You don’t want to wear your ski pants to the bar, but jeans might be a little cold. However, if you slip on a pair of thermals underneath it makes life a lot warmer. The same size advice for your top applies to the bottom nice and snug. When purchasing make sure to note size charts as top and bottoms sizes can be different. (I wear a size small bottom and medium top.)
The other option is to consider is a 3/4 thermal bottom that stops at the calf. These short thermals are designed to stop above the ski/snowboard boot and reduce the chance of pain from scrunched thermals. It’s a more important consideration for skiers and their stiff boots because as snowboarders we’ve never experienced any discomfort.
If you are a woman skiing or snowboarding you need sports bras, not a cotton pushup bra. Skiing and snowboarding are athletic sports so you’ll want something that is comfortable, breathable, and flexible. Tasha would suggest packing at least two or three, but it all depends on the length of your ski trip.
Most importantly, you should consider it a part of your base layer. While most sports bras are synthetic and will likely get the job done, a good investment if you like sports in cold weather would be a wool sports bra. There are a wide variety of clothing companies that manufacture sports bras from wool. The ones I use are from Smartwool, and they’ve never let me down.
Wool Ski Socks
In reference to ski socks, there are three elements to seek out in a pair of socks. First, you want to select a material such as wool or synthetic, not cotton. Do not wear cotton socks as it will almost certainly lead to cold feet. Wool socks aren’t that expensive and everyone likely has a pair or two in their sock drawer for everyday life.
If you aren’t a diehard ski fanatic any pair of wool socks or warm synthetic socks will do the job. However, an important second element in ski socks is the height. Ski specific socks are cut high up the calf so that they protect the skin from the boot. Many brands also offer dynamic panels on the heel and shin where pressure and abrasion are most likely to occur.
The last consideration is in terms of fit. Try to opt for slim-fitting socks, as loose or bulky sock can bunch up around the shin and ankle. As the sock bunches up it cuts off circulation and results in cold feet, plus general discomfort.
For the average ski trip packing list, I would suggest two pairs of ski socks and if it’s an extended trip (2+ weeks) three pairs of socks. If you’re worried about them getting too dirty just hand wash pairs in the sink and lay them by the heater. One last tip, always always keep your socks dry when you get ready. My socks are the last thing I put on before my boots. I’ve had days with cold feet because I walked into the hotel bathroom to brush my teeth or got sweaty driving to the ski resort… no joke.
This is your insulating layer and where you’ll get the majority of your warmth. They go on over your thermals and also operate as a jacket for when you’re not skiing or snowboarding. Mid-layers come in a wide variety of fashions and we have several different types for different conditions. The most common are down jackets, synthetic down jackets, Polartec jackets, fleece jackets, and synthetic hoodys.
The most affordable option we recommend for everyone is a fleece jacket, as it provides plenty of warmth at an affordable price. It’s not made to hold up to extreme conditions, but the average skier shouldn’t be out in adverse conditions anyways. We both use a synthetic down jacket from Arc’teryx as our mid-layer as it’s lightweight provides great warmth, and handles moisture well. I have the soon to be rereleased Arc’teryx Nuclei (Spring 2020) and Tasha has their classic Proton Hoody.
Shell layer (jackets/snow pants). Shell layers are made out of waterproof and usually windproof material. Premium jackets use a multilayered GORE-TEX. It’s the main layer that separates the wearer from the outside world. A good shell jacket should not only keep you warm but protect you from the snow/moisture.
The jackets we use are the men’s Arc’teryx Sabre AR and Women’s Sentinel AR shell jacket. These are top of the line jackets made with GORE-TEX and built to handle everything ski and snowboard. The tough jackets keeps us bone dry in adverse conditions and the brushed flannel interior feels great to the touch. If you want a more affordable option check out the REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX, Helly Hansen Sogn, or the Outdoor Research Skyward II.
If you have the right pair of pants you need a lot less insulation in the legs than you would think. Robust shell pants will keep you dry and protect you from the cold winter wind. These pants are most commonly a lightweight material like GORE-TEX that is water and wind-resistant. We have a couple of pairs of shell pants, but the big difference in the pants are those with insulation and without insulation.
To compliment our top jacket we went with the Arc’teryx Sabre Shell pants. Similar to the jacket they’re bomb-proof pants made for sending if off jumps and tackling steep lines in the resort or backcountry. They feature things like rear leg zips for ventilation when climbing mountains and kevlar enforced insteps to prevent cuts from crampons or ski edges. However, insulation only comes in the form of a thin flannel brushed interior. They aren’t designed for sitting around in the cold.
That being said there are a plethora of pants that are much more affordable and provide plenty of performance. You can pick up more affordable shell pants from a wide range of gear companies like Outdoor Research, REI, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Helly Hansen.
For the best performance, we suggest the three-layer system. The only problem is this can be expensive and a little cold for those that are just starting out with winter sports. Simply put an advanced skier tends to run hotter than a beginner as they’re moving faster, thus more body heat. If it’s your first ski trip consider picking up an insulated jacket instead of a shell and mid-layer.
An insulated jacket is often considered “resort wear” and it’s a perfect jacket for most to have as it works well in everyday life. Resort wear insulated jackets come in a wide variety of price points and you can even pick up some three-layer options that have multiple detachable layers. Of course, any generously cut insulated jacket can be worn with multiple layers to keep yourself toasty warm on extra cold days.
One of the best value options in the ski jacket world is the Columbia Bugaboo II Interchange Jacket. We’ve been long-time fans of Columbia for their great value with solid products. This jacket combines a decent shell with two detachable layers inside (fleece and down). Outside of that, you have a massive selection of insulated jackets to pick from we’ve personally loved jackets from Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Helly Hanson, The North Face, Stio, and REI. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The other obvious items for a ski and snowboard trip is snow pants. Snowpants are essential for anyone heading up the mountain. If you’re a weekend warrior or take one ski trip a year consider some decent pants like The North Face Freedom pants. They don’t cost an arm and a leg but deliver a heck of a lot of performance with a waterproof exterior and synthetic insulation.
If you want something even cheaper bargain shop around on Amazon or at your local department/sporting goods store. I spent several short weekend trips when I started snowboarding in $50 snow pants from a generic sporting goods store. They kept me happy and warm, enough.
If you plan on skiing or snowboarding in deep legendary powder (like the kind they get in Hokkaido), bibs are not a bad option in lieu of regular snow pants.
Bibs wrap around your entire body like overalls, which may sound restraining when you’re being active but they actually prevent snow from falling down your pants in the event of a fall in the snow.
We just recently started using 686 gear and love their fit, style, and overall durability of the pant. We’ve ridden powder a few times this season and can confirm that we stay completely dry in these bibs still!
Mitts or Gloves
Quality gloves will be your best friend on the slopes because no one likes it when they can’t feel their hands. Seriously, the main reason people don’t enjoy skiing or snowboarding is when they get cold. Many prefer mittens as they keep your fingers together and allow for less surface area to the cold. This means your hands stay warmer in mitts than gloves.
That being said this comes from two snowboarders. We know that many skiers prefer glovers so that they can separate their fingers more easily when dealing with their ski poles. It’s all personal preference, but if you’re prone to a chill I’d suggest some mitts. And at the end of the day gloves are one of the last things you want to forget about for your winter holiday.
We both have gloves from 686 and they have features like GORE warm technology, touchscreen technology, and cuff closures and wrist adjusters.
It’s always good to pack some snow protection for your face. On sunny days we’ll go without anything, but more often than not we expect snowy conditions on the mountain. We generally switch between two different styles of face protection.
The primary for bad weather and cold days is a merino wool balaclava. We’ve tried a bunch of different balaclavas and it’s tough to get one that doesn’t collect tons of moisture before freezing to your face. As for the best warmth and performance we’ve found a wool balaclava can do wonders. Our next choice would be for a fleece one that can be bought for super cheap!
The balaclava is for truly cold days with heavy snow. On most days we get by just fine with a buff that can be worn around our neck or pulled to cover the face when needed.
We always have at least two Buffs and a balaclava in our bag for a ski trip. There is no quicker way to ruin a day than a cold face or frostbite. They make several versions of the original Buff, but we love the merino wool version for only $10 more.
Unless you’re on a budget, don’t care, and taking a short weekend trip with guaranteed sunshine I would strongly recommend packing a pair of goggles. They are an essential part of your ski outfit and I consider it a lifeline. Goggles provide protection for your eyes and aid your vision on the mountain.
The Smith Mag 4D are the latest and greatest in snow goggles and what we’re using for the 2019/2020 season. That being said with that new technology expect to pay a premium at $280. Of course, they are very arguably the best goggles on the market. It’s the second iteration of Smith’s magnet technology in goggles. Magnet technology in google has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until 2019 that Smith entered the market with a pair of magnetic lenses.
Even if you don’t want to drop $200 on goggles, it worth picking up a good budget option. For only $60, you can grab the Giro Roam that includes two lenses for low light and sunny days.
It’s tough to come by ski goggle rentals so opt if it’s your first time opt for the Giro Roams or order a cheap $20 pair off Amazon as it will save you a lot of headaches on the mountain.
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. This applies whether you are a beginner or an expert. The great thing about helmets is they keep your head and ears warmer than hats too!
We rock the Smith Quantum Helmet as it’s considered one of the best helmets on the market. It provides robust protection around our head, plenty of ventilation, and a cozy soft interior. The easy to latch and unlatch helmet buckle is a nifty feature too with gloves on! It also features MIPS technology which allows the interior of the helmet to move independently from the shell minimizing lateral brain trauma in an impact.
After getting a concussion last ski season, wearing a helmet, it’s not something I plan to forgo anytime soon. If it’s your first time traveling with ski gear carry your helmet onto the plane strapped to the outside of your backpack. Don’t worry if you don’t own equipment every ski rental shop should offer helmets.
Ski Trip Packing List 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.
If you are going ski touring you’ll want to make sure you have the best touring skis for the backcountry as well.
- Ski or Snowboard Boots
- Skis or Snowboard
- Ski Poles
- Snowboard or Ski Bag
- Water Bottle
- Edge Tool
- Wax Iron
- Wax Scraper
- Emergency Blanket/First Aid Kit*
- Telescopic Pools*
- Ice Axe*
Ski or Snowboard Boots
This is a common-sense addition to our packing list, but we’d be pretty sad if we left our boots at home. As an advanced rider, I like a stiff technical boot so the Driver X Boots from Burton are what I currently ride. However, what you ride is all personal preference.
If you’re renting boots, spend some time in the shop to make sure they fit comfortably and try at least a couple pairs on before committing. How the boots feel on your feet will make a world of difference for your holiday.
Snowboard or skis
This should go without saying, but to go skiing or snowboarding you need the board or skis. We each have a couple of different boards, but the one pictured here is my United Shapes Orbit board.
If it’s your first time skiing or you’re still learning how to ride don’t worry about having a rental. Generally speaking, top of the line skis/boards are more difficult to ride and less forgiving.
To keep things simple for those that do not know. Bindings are what holds the boot to the ski or snowboard. Possibilities just like boards are endless for bindings, I have the Jones Mercury Bindings on my Orbit snowboard.
These are a necessity for skiers so don’t leave your poles behind! It might not make our packing list, but it certainly does for any skiier.
Snowboard or Ski Bag
Wondering how to pack for a ski trip flight? If you’re traveling with own your gear you will definitely need a snowboard or ski bag. We like to use the Dakine Low Roller Bag this has plenty of space to fit two snowboards with bindings, a pair of snow pants, and two pairs of boots. A lot of stuff!
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. They make several sizes so make sure you get the right size for your ski or board.
Staying hydrated is super important in cold weather. You may not sweat as you do in the heat, but the cold does cause your body to expel water. To save energy from heating all of the water in your body its natural response is to flush itself in cold weather. (This is why you may need more bathroom breaks in the cold.) This can lead to dehydration if you’re not careful.
It’s a good idea to pack a water bottle and be cognizant of your water consumption on the mountain. We love to travel with a water bottle regardless of what we’re doing as it helps reduce single-use plastic waste.
This is not a necessity. However, we bring a backpack for our trip to carry a laptop, book, headphones, camera, and water bottle on the plane.
Once I’m at the resort I also need a bag to carry the camera, snacks, and water on the mountain. Then if we’re ski touring we’ll use a bag that doubles for that as well.
I love to keep a multitool in my backpack. Works great for tightening up a loose binding or making an adjustment on the mountain. Be sure to put it in your checked ski/snowboard bag when you fly.
Wax Kit and Tool Kitt
We wax our own boards when we travel as it’s super easy and saves a few extra dollars. Plus it allows me to fine-tune the boards and repair any dings we pick up along the way. A lot of ski resort hotels have a ski room, so it’s not any hassle.
I listed a lot of the elements above for resort skiing. However, we own splitboards as well and bring a full touring kit with us on our travels. This all includes a beacon, probe, shovel, touring backpacks, skins, splitboards, GPS/Inreach, Emergency/First Aid Kit, and snow study kit.
Apres Ski Packing List
This is everything you’ll need to pack for when you’re off the mountain. What you wear off the mountain varies a lot by region. The three distinct ski regions of the Northern Hemisphere all have different styles off the mountain.
In North America, it tends to be a lot more casual where a simple down jacket, flannel shirt, vest, jeans, and boots are the go-to look. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since most of the skiing takes place out West. However, head to the Alps and it’s a totally different affair.
The outfits worn on the slopes of Switzerland would get laughed off the mountain in America and Canada. Don’t be surprised by fur coats, dresses, sleek sweaters, and metallic down tops and bottoms. Europe tends to be a lot more fashion-forward, relaxed, and flashy than their North American counterparts.
Last you have Japan where the scene is heavily influenced by freeride culture. Here you’ll people off the mountain in powder ski gear. While the Japanese themselves dress modestly in relaxed outdoor gear like down jackets from companies like Montbell or Patagonia.
- Down Jacket
- Soft Shell Pants
- Winter Boots
- Gloves or Mittens
If you want a stylish jacket it’s hard to do much better than a Parka for apres ski. That’s not even getting down to the fact how much warmer a parka is than your typical ski jacket.
Of course, you don’t need a parka, but we always pack one well-insulated jacket for our trip. If you’re worried about how to pack a large coat we just wear/carry ours on to the plane to save space in our luggage.
Consider this an addition or in lieu of a Parka. Down jackets are great as they offer a lot of performance but still, have a trendy look. They come in a wide variety of styles and you can find trendy ones that look very fashion-forward. Down jackets here aren’t worried about minimizing weight so they’re often heavier and much warmer.
Sticking with the Triple FAT Goose brand we both picked up one of their down jackets for the winter season. It’s a less technical version of our mid-layers.
There’s always room for a comfy sweater in our winter travels. Since we live in the mountains we’ve got a nice collection of wool sweaters. Sweaters are all about personal preference, but we love a classic wool sweater. This one from Fjallraven.
A well-fitted fleece can look great in the lodge or at dinner after a day on the mountain. No one expects you to show up in a dress or suit after coming off the mountain. A clean fleece or sweater looks sharp and keeps you toasty warm while walking to dinner or the bar.
If there is one pant I throw in my bag for any trip it’s a versatile softshell or hiking pant. They’re great for winter sports around town or heading out to a nice meal. We’ve found the most versatile pant to be the prAna men’s Brion Pant or the women’s Halle Pant.
The pant is a blend of nylon and spandex that has great moisture and temperature management. They also look pretty good as everyday pants that can go anywhere in the Mud and Dark Khaki colors.
These pants are what you want if you are after a slim fitting pant that can still accompany you to work or on a hike up the mountains when you are back at home. They also happen to be some of the best travel pants.
If you’re skiing in North America it’s pretty tough to beat the style of a pair of jeans. Cowboy culture runs deep and it feels right at home throughout Colorado, Alberta, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.
A stylish pair of jeans are great to wear anywhere in the world. If you’re worried about being cold, wear your thermals underneath. I’ve had a lot of different pairs over the years and have fallen in love with the Bridge Jeans from prAna. It’s a medium weight jean that works well in summer and winter.
Leggings are warm, flexible, and even can substitute as thermals. Plus you can take off your snow pants after a day on the mountain and be ready to go to the bars.
I prefer fleece-lined leggings and found some great ones from Under Armor. They’re made for running and cold-weather sports, but can easily be worn out at night. When it’s a really cold day I’ll throw a pair of thermals on over my leggings. See the best hiking leggings here.
Who doesn’t love a good hot spring or heated pool!? Winter weather might not conjure up an idea of swimwear, but we always pack a swimsuit for a ski trip.
You aren’t going to trudge around town in your ski or snowboard boots. Pick up a pair of a functional, but stylish boot like Sorel’s Caribou boot. Of course, it all depends on where you’re headed. Some places are higher in elevation or receive more snow at the base than others so they require higher ankle boots.
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. It’s also common for many ski-specific mittens and gloves to come with liners that work well for casual use around town.
Tasha always travels with ear muffs. She wears her hair in a ponytail so toboggans don’t work. Instead, she spends most of the time in a headband or earmuffs.
Keep your head warm. Always pack at least one or two toboggans or hats for cold weather travel. I’m not too picking about my beanie as it’s not a technical piece of clothing. I picked an awesome beanie from Patagonia called the Powder Town that I’ve loved for the past ski seasons.
Ski Trip Accessories
You don’t need any of these things, but they will definitely make your ski trip more enjoyable! It’s the easy stuff that you can forget.
- Hand and Toe Warmers
- Toiletry Kit
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.
If you want hot coffee or tea in the morning on the slopes I would recommend packing a thermos full of your favorite brew. We picked up this sweet thermos from Stanley that comes with a cup top.
Hand and Toe Warmers
I usually have a backup pair of these in the suitcase just in case. It’s best not to rely on hand warmers or toe warmers. They are cheap if you buy them in bulk before you get on the mountain. However, if you end up needing them ski resorts love to overcharge because they know you’ll buy them if you’re cold.
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. We like to use natural chapstick like Burt’s Bees.
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.
We couldn’t travel anywhere without a toiletry kit. We include all of our necessities like toothbrush, hair products, deodorant, razors, and etc. Also, it’s always a good idea to bring plenty of balm or lotion as dry cold mountain air can be damaging to your skin.
These are the obvious necessities that we’ll need for a trip like our passport if it’s international or our driver’s license. Also, make sure to check your insurance or travel insurance to see if it covers ski accidents.
Not getting out of the country without our passport. Remember to make sure you have the necessary pages blank in your passport and that it does not expire within the next six months. Also, we always carry ours in a passport wallet to protect from damage.
We rent cars a lot when we travel so always make sure I have my license for the trip. In Europe and Japan, you’re required to have an IDP so I make sure that I have a translated version of my license. Also, when renting a car make sure to pick up a great travel credit card for primary can rental insurance.
We always make sure all of our travel plans are downloaded on our phones with relevant pdfs and dates verified before we land.
Not all plans travel insurance plans cover ski accidents. Make sure that you have coverage abroad or pick up a short term plan.