Whether you are making a bucket-list journey to a big mountain “out west”, or you’re taking a first-time family ski trip at your regional resort, coming up with a packing list of what to bring with you can be a challenge – and you don’t want to forget anything. We have been skiing and snowboarding for decades and have distilled our packing list down to an effective selection of the top ten items we pack every time we hit the slopes. Even if this is your first time on a ski trip, let our advice guide you to choosing the right items so you can enjoy yourself.
Here are our top 10 items (plus some bonus tips below) to pack for your ski or snowboard vacation:
– Starting here first because this one is super important! Regardless of how cold it is outside, your feet will sweat when crammed into boots all day and as you build up heat in your body. Wear the wrong socks and all that moisture will turn your toes into icicles. You don’t have to buy the most expensive socks, but either choose wool, or a warm synthetic blend. But whatever you choose, make sure cotton is not one of the fibers. Pro-Tip: Resist the temptation to wear more than one pair at a time! Your boots have insulation in them. Adding an extra sock layer will make your boots tighter and your feet sweat more.
(or long underwear )- Equally important to your socks is the layer that touches the rest of your skin. The goal of your base layer is to take the vapor and sweat that comes off your body as you ski, and transport it away from the surface of your skin so it can evaporate. This is what keeps you dry from within and prevents frostbite and hypothermia. Wool or silk are natural fibers which are great for baselayers. Most modern long underwear is made of a wide variety of synthetic fibers that act as little tubes – pulling moisture away – and are the most popular choice. Some have antimicrobial materials added in as well to help reduce odor.
(or insulating layer) – This is your warmth layer, and the key to staying comfortable on a long day on the hill. You should choose this piece by how cold it is outside. The best choices again are synthetic because of their ability to stay warm when wet and to keep moisture away from your body, so think of fleece pullovers or zip ups, or on warmer spring days, a fleece vest works nicely. On extra cold days, down vests feel amazing to eliminate chill. Down alternatives tend to be lighter weight and take up less space in your backpack if you need to remove them mid-day if you get too warm, or if you are seeking a vegan alternative.
Waterproof/breathable shell outerwear
– Your base layer keeps the moisture you generate away from your skin. Your shell layer keeps the moisture from the environment away from your skin. There are two critical factors to your shell – being waterproof, AND being breathable. This combination stops snow and rain from coming in, while allowing sweat vapor to escape – keeping you dry. The combination of Base, Mid and Shell layers is the golden ticket to regulating your temperature and being comfortable in the coldest or wettest of days. Pro-Tip: look for armpit zipper vents in your jackets, and thigh/crotch vents in your pants. These are fast and effective ways to dump excess heat quickly without having to remove your outerwear. We won’t buy shells without them!
– Strapping your bindings on and off, picking up your poles, getting up off the ground or busting through powder stashes – your gloves will be exposed to a lot of moisture. Be sure they have a good combination of warmth and waterproofing. Like your shell layer, more expensive glove options will be made of more durable and comfortable fabrics that are waterproof/breathable and seam-sealed all the way through. Cheaper options will have a water-repellant coating on the outside which will eventually wear away and may allow water in through the stitching. Choose the option that fits your budget and how often you may use them.
– Personally we always opt for goggles, since they fit well, keep the wind from making our eyes tear-up, and changeable lenses give us options for varied lighting conditions. Regardless of whether you choose goggles or glasses, the snow reflects the sun’s harmful rays into your eyes and if you want to protect your vision, you need solid eye protection. Pro-Tip: Don’t place your goggles on top of your head – the heat from your head will fog them up.
Comfortable ski/snowboard boots
– If there is one piece of your hardgoods kit you should buy first, it’s your boots. If your feet hurt, your day on the hill will be ruined. A good fitting pair of boots will make your skis or board feel like a natural extension of your body. Pro-tip: Take the time to find a pair that fit properly and if you have issues, make an appointment through your ski shop with a bootfitter. Professional bootfitters are magicians at making your feet feel amazing. If your local ski shop doesn’t have an expert at bootfitting, set up an appointment at a shop at the resort you are going to. You won’t regret it.
Skis or snowboard
– We’re stating the obvious here.
– There is a reason this is almost at the top of our list, and it’s because a helmet is a non-negotiable for us. Your brain is the single most important part of your body and protection is of utmost importance. The most important feature of a helmet is proper fit. Pro-tip: look for washable padding, adjustable vents, bluetooth headphones built-in, and removable ear-flaps for warmer days.
Safe Descents Coverage
– This is the number one item on our list, and it’s actually the cheapest as well – Less expensive than a new pair of snowboard socks, $4.75 per day (or $56.99 for the entire season), buys $25,000 worth of coverage. We wear a helmet to protect our head, and we buy insurance to protect our wallet – so we can continue to afford to do the things we love on and off the slopes. For more information, check out https://safedescents.com/
DON’T BRING IT:
- Cotton socks or cotton long underwear
- Dressy clothes
BONUS: additional stuff we’ve learned over the years to throw into our pack:
- Beanie/toboggans/toques to keep our heads warm when not on our skis/board.
- Camera or GoPro with backup battery and extra memory card
- Ski/snowboard lock because you can’t always keep an eye on your gear when you’ve stopped for lunch
- Skin protector (sunscreen, Dermatone, lip balm) – Sunscreen and lip balm are obvious, but on those single-digit days or super windy days, you’d be surprised at how good a coat of Dermatone on the exposed skin on your cheeks and nose will feel.
- Cash – stash some somewhere other than your wallet as a precaution. There’s a lot of gear to keep up with on the mountain, and losing track of a wallet is easier than you think. Have a backup plan.
- Hydration/snacks – on a small mountain this isn’t the most important tip since you’re never far from the lodge, but on a big mountain, having this is so helpful! A small Camelbak along with some energy bars will keep you on the slopes, rather than having to waste time in line at the lodge. Maximixe your trip and get more on-snow time!
- Buff/neck gaitor – On super cold or snowy days, having that extra protection for your neck and face can mean more enjoyment and more runs. These are super versatile and can function as neck warmers, face protection, a balaclava, headband, etc.
- Rub-on wax – We all need good hot wax for our skis and boards, however sometimes when you’re on the hill you feel like your board is sticking to the snow, or slow? Having an appropriate rub-on wax can be a game changer to allow you to crush those speed runs and leave your friends in the literal dust! Just be sure you’ve got the right temperature wax for the conditions.
- Boardshorts / swimwear for the hot tub – A MUST. You’d be surprised how many people forget this. The hot tub in the snow after a day on the slopes can’t be beat.
That’s our list of the top 10 items to pack for your ski or snowboard vacation. If you are planning a ski or snowboard vacation in the US, bring Safe Descents along for the ride. Our product provides extremely affordable coverage for ambulance, air ambulance, field rescue, emergency evacuation, medical repatriation, medical escort and transport costs. For more information, check out full policy texts at https://safedescents.com/full-policy-text/
Buy coverage now: https://safedescents.com/coverage/
Risk less, ski more with Safe Descents.