Ski Trip Packing List: What to Bring on a Ski Trip

Published on 03/27/2023 · 15 min readNothing is worse than realizing you forgot an important piece of gear on a ski trip! Check out this packing list to make sure you are well-prepared for your next trip!
Kat Smith, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Kat Smith

Photo by Eric Sales, courtesy of K2

You and your friends are taking a big ski/snowboard trip this winter, and you’re stoked! Flights and accommodations are booked, lift tickets are purchased, and all that’s left to do is pack up your stuff and get there! But packing for a ski vacation can be daunting. You don’t want to slow things down that first morning because you have to stop at the ski shop to buy or rent a forgotten item (and you don’t want to spend unnecessary money, either!). The guide below will help you decide what to pack and key features to look for when shopping for your ski gear, so you arrive at the ski resort ready for anything!

My name is Kat Smith, and throughout my 32 years of skiing, I’ve lugged my ski gear and apparel all over North America on various ski trips. I admit I have arrived at the ski resort only to realize that I’ve forgotten an essential item (snow boots, ski poles, climbing skins, and favorite base layer, to name a few) or that I have a massive rip in my ski jacket that I probably should have upgraded it before my trip (true story). But I’ve lived and learned and now have the ski trip packing list down to a science. Use the guide below to help you decide what to purchase and pack to ensure you have the best ski trip ever!

What Gear Do I Need?

My husband, Jos, fully geared up during one of our backcountry ski trips. Photo by Kat Smith

The easiest way to start the ski trip packing process is to make a checklist. If your checklist is accurate, then you’ll never forget anything! I break down my ski trip packing checklist into three categories: essential gear, essential apparel, and “extra” or non-essential ski items.

Essential Gear:

Essential Apparel:

  • Ski jacket
  • Ski pants or bibs
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Baselayers (top and bottom)
  • Ski socks
  • Balaclava, neck gaiter, or face mask

Extras:

  • Beanie
  • Sunglasses
  • Backpack
  • Sunscreen and chapstick/lip balm
  • Midweight layer
  • Extra layers (i.e., a fleece, sweater, glove liners, down jacket, etc.)
  • Snow boots
  • Climbing skins (if needed)
  • Avalanche safety gear (if needed)
  • Toiletries, chargers, and medications
  • Non-ski clothes and a bathing suit (for the hot tub!)

When I pack for a ski trip or any outdoor trip, for that matter, I like to lay out all of the items on my checklist before I pack them up in my luggage. This not only ensures that I don’t forget anything, but it gives me a chance to do a quick once-over of all the items and ensure I don’t need to replace or upgrade anything. It’s easier than you’d think to forget about small mental notes you’ve made on your last trip, especially if an entire summer and fall have gone by! And if you are newer to skiing, this method allows you to see if you’re missing any of the ski essentials.

So you’ve made a ski packing list and laid everything out all over the living room floor, only to realize that you’re missing and/or need to upgrade a few key items. Now what?

What to Consider When Packing

Should I Purchase or Rent New Gear?

Ski gear and apparel tend to be pricey (although there are plenty of deals to be found!), so renting gear is a great option. But how do you know if you should rent or buy gear? Here are a few questions to consider:

1. What Ski Gear Is Available to Rent? The majority of ski gear and even apparel is available to rent at most ski shops, especially once you are at the ski resort. Gear available to rent at any standard ski shop includes skis, ski boots, ski poles, and helmets. You can even rent outerwear at some ski shops, such as waterproof ski pants and jackets.

2. How Often Do You Plan to Use This Gear? If you use this gear infrequently, let’s say one ski trip per year or even less, renting is more cost-effective than buying new gear. On the other hand, if you put in double digits days per year on the slopes, having your own gear will be easier, more comfortable, and friendlier on your wallet.

3. What Level of Skier Are You? It is beneficial for someone new to skiing to rent ski gear as they learn. There’s no point in purchasing all the gear until you know that you like the sport and plan to continue skiing for years. Once you’ve been on the slopes a few times and know that ski trips are in your future, you should start getting your own gear. While you are still actively progressing your skills, it’s a good idea to stick to rental skis and boots since these items are expensive and will have different features for beginners than intermediate and advanced skiers.

Regardless of your skier level, though, once you’ve skied enough times that you know you like it and plan to do it again, you should purchase the soft goods: waterproof ski jacket and pants, helmet, goggles, and gloves. You won’t outgrow these items as you advance your skills.

What Is My Budget?

Once you’ve decided that you’re going to move forward and purchase new gear, it’s helpful to know how much the items typically cost. Below are the price ranges you should expect.

ItemLower RangeUpper Range
Skis$300 (with or without bindings)$1,500 (without bindings)
Ski Boots$200$900
Bindings$120$700
Poles$30$200
Helmet$50$350
Goggles$50$350
Ski Jacket$120$600
Ski Bibs/Pants$60$550
Golves$30$200

The above chart describes the price ranges for new gear. If the prices above seem outside your budget, plenty of used gear is out there! Just be careful when purchasing used gear. Find out as much as you can about the gear before buying it to ensure it is in good condition. Don’t compromise size/fit and other essential features because you found a good deal.

Oftentimes, lower-priced gear is a better fit for a beginner skier, and more expensive gear will be better for an advanced or expert skier. It is because the gear for more advanced skiers tends to have more features and technology, which increases the price. If you are a beginner skier, you likely can find a pair of sticks in the $300-500 range, and there’s no need to look at skis that cost over $1,000.

What Key Features Do I Need?

When purchasing ski gear and apparel, there are countless options to choose from. If you are shopping for gear across multiple categories, it can feel overwhelming! To narrow your options, stick to the items with the features you want and need. It’s important that you buy the best gear for you!

Features to Look Out For When Purchasing Ski Gear

My sister and my niece are ready for a day on the slopes during their weekend ski trip. Photo by Brendan Denihan

Not everyone is going to need or want the same features. What may be important to one person may be at the bottom of someone else’s list. Knowing your skier level and skier style (more on this later) will help you make decisions and narrow down the choices for hard goods such as skis, bindings, and boots. For example, if you are a beginner skier who only skis in the Northeast, you don’t want skis that are super wide and have a heavily rockered profile (these would be better for a more advanced skier who sees a lot of deep powder days out West or in the Rockies).

For soft goods, take the time to think about the things you need while staying within your budget. For example, I get cold really easily, so insulation is a priority when shopping for a ski jacket and ski pants. I won’t even entertain the shells and jackets without insulation. Below are a few examples of features you may find.

ItemFeatures to look for
SkisLength, width, ski category (i.e., all mountain, carving, powder, etc.), turn radius, sidecut, rocker profile, flex/stiffness, weight, and twin tips
Ski BootsSize, last width, flex rating, walk mode, grip walk soles, alpine vs. alpine touring compatability
BindingsDIN range, brake width, grip walk compatibility, alpine touring compatibility, release safety features
PolesLength, weight, shaft material, basket size, grip material, telescoping
HelmetSize, MIPS technology, ventilation, compatibility with goggles
GogglesFrame size, lens shape, anti-fog treated, compatible with helmet, interchangeable lenses, glasses compatible
Ski JacketSize, insulated versus shell, waterproof, fit type, length, ventilation, powder skirt, helmet-compatible hood, and number of pockets
Ski Pants/BibsSize, insulated versus shell, waterproof, fit type, ventilation, adjustable waist, reinforced cuffs, number of pockets
GlovesSize, gloves versus mittens, waterproof, liner type

How to Choose the Right Product for You

My brother and father came for their annual ski trip to visit me in Utah. They always come fully prepared for all conditions, with multiple pairs of skis each and all of their ski equipment and apparel in tow. Photo by Jos Smith

Now you better understand how to sift through certain items, but how do you know which items are right for you? For this, it’s important to have a good understanding of your skier level and skier style. Would you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or advanced skier? What type of terrain do you love to ski (groomers, trees, moguls/bumps, terrain park, narrow couloirs, wide open bowls)? What snow conditions do you generally find yourself in (Northeast hardpack, Utah powder, freezing and single-digit temperatures in rural Maine, sunny and milder days in Colorado, or a combination)? Below I’ve described a few skier level and style scenarios and outlined some good gear options!

Terence: The Beginner Skier Committing to Getting His Own Gear

Terence is a beginner skier based in upstate New York. He’s decided to tag along with some friends on a weekend ski trip to Stowe, Vermont. He has been renting skis, boots, and poles and has been making it work on the slopes with a pair of rain pants, a rain jacket, a beanie, sunglasses, lots of layers, and a pair of old ski gloves he borrowed from a friend. Terence has decided that for this trip, he will rent skis, boots, and poles again, but he feels invested enough in the sport to purchase his own jacket, pants, helmet, goggles, and gloves.

Below are some features Terence should look for and considerations he should take into account when shopping for this gear: 1. Ski Jacket

  • Since Terence will be skiing at a resort and primarily on groomed runs, an insulated jacket rather than a shell will keep him warmer during the frigid Northeast days, especially on the chairlift.
  • Comfortable size and fit.
  • Breathability and ventilation so he can dump heat and moisture on those warmer days or when his heart rate gets high as he challenges his skills
  • Terence needs to consider his budget. Does he want something high quality and more expensive that will last him for years to come, or does he want something more affordable that will get him through another season or two while he decides his commitment level to skiing?

2. Ski Pants

  • Ski pants with light insulation will keep Terence warmer than shell pants, especially in the Northeast.
  • Comfortable size and fit.
  • Breathability and ventilation for warmer days
  • Terence needs to consider his budget. Does he want something high quality and more expensive with features such as reinforced cuffs and knees for durability that will last him for years to come, or does he want something more basic and affordable that will get him through another season or two while he decides his commitment level to skiing.

3. Helmet

  • Comfortable size and fit.
  • MIPS technology for maximum safety.
  • Compatible with the goggles he purchases.
  • Terence needs to consider his budget. Unless he has a bad crash, a helmet is something he shouldn’t have to replace very often, so purchasing one with all the features he needs/wants is a good idea knowing that he won’t need to upgrade for a while.

4. Goggles

  • Frame size that fits his face.
  • Compatible with the helmet he purchases.
  • Terence needs to consider his budget. Expensive ski goggles have a ton of really great features to maximize the field of view and the ability to see the snow. A more affordable pair of basic goggles would be fine for Terence’s needs right now as a beginner, though, and he could always upgrade down the road.

5. Gloves

  • Gloves versus mittens, which is typically a user preference
  • Size.
  • Terence should consider his budget, but likely doesn’t need to splurge on a fancy, expensive pair of gloves.

Abby: The No-Limits Ripper In-Need of Some Upgrades

Abby is an advanced skier who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and skis 30+ days per year. She skis all of the terrains on the mountain, from groomed runs at the resort to big lines in the backcountry. She’s packing for a weekend trip to Jackson Hole, and as she lays out her gear, she remembers that the last time Abby skied, she got tangled up by a tree branch and ripped her jacket, broke a pole, and scratched her goggles right in her field of view.

Since Abby is skiing a lot of days, it’s best for her to replace this gear rather than rent it. And since she is skiing hard and skiing often, it’s appropriate for her to splurge on high-quality gear that can take a beating and will last for multiple seasons.

Below are some features Abby should look for and things she should consider while shopping for this gear:

1. Ski Jacket

  • Since Abby splits time at the resort and the backcountry, a shell or a lightly insulated jacket will be more appropriate than a heavily insulated jacket. Still, she should consider her body (i.e., does she run cold?).
  • Breathability and ventilation will be key for those warmer days out on the skin track.
  • Comfortable size and fit.

2. Ski Poles

  • Lightweight, durable poles made out of carbon fiber will be strong enough for when she’s ripping at the resort but light enough for long backcountry tours.
  • Telescoping/adjustable poles will accommodate the length she needs at the resort and when skinning in the backcountry.
  • Since Abby lives in Utah, interchangeable or powder baskets would be most appropriate for the snow conditions she sees.

3. Goggles

  • Compatible with her current helmet.
  • Frame size that fits her face.
  • Spherical lenses will give her a larger field of view when skiing challenging terrain.
  • Interchangeable lenses so that she can see clearly in all conditions

Emmy: The East Coast Ripper Looking for Versatility

Emmy is an intermediate-advanced skier whose home resort is in Vermont, but she takes at least one trip out West each year to get that powder. Emmy owns a pair of solid carving skis, which are great for her in the Northeast, and for the past few years, she has been renting a pair of skis for her trip out West to accommodate snowier conditions. However, she’s decided that it’s time to add a pair of all-mountain skis that can handle the powder conditions out West to her quiver. She also needs bindings. When Emmy is out West, she likes to ski all terrain, including groomers, trees, and wide-open bowls.

It’s important for Emmy to decide on a budget for both the skis and the bindings that make sense for her financial situation. Still, since she is finally deciding to purchase a pair of skis she plans to use each year, Emmy should look into the mid to high range to get what she needs.

Below are some features Emmy should look for and things she should consider while shopping for this gear:

1. Skis

  • A length that is suitable for her height, weight, and skier level
  • Width in the 95-102mm range, a versatile width for Western ski conditions and various types of terrain.
  • Skis that fit into the “all-mountain” category

2. Bindings

  • DIN range that is suitable for her weight and skier level.
  • Brake width that is compatible with the skis she purchases.
  • Compatibility with the ski boots she owns.

Conclusion

Photo by MacLean Wright

Next time you’re heading out for a big ski trip with friends and family, make sure you arrive at the resort with all the gear and apparel you need! A checklist, like the one in this article, is a great way to ensure that you don’t forget anything, and laying everything you plan to bring out before packing it away helps you get a clear visual of any items you’re missing or need replacing. If you find that you need some new gear, look for features that make the gear suitable for your specific needs and fit into your budget.

And if you are still feeling unsure? No problem! Reach out to a Curated Skiing Expert to find all the gear and apparel you need to be well-equipped on your next ski trip!

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