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The Essential Ski Trip Packing List

Published on 06/02/2023 · 10 min readWe all know how disappointing it is to get to the mountain only to find that you've forgotten an important piece of gear! Stay prepared with the packing list below!
Gaelen Mast, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Gaelen Mast

Photo by Gorilla Images

Hello! My name is Gaelen, and I’ve been snowboarding for almost 12 years. I’ve taken dozens of ski/snowboard trips, from your average day trip to the local mountain to week-long trips at Mt. Hood for summer snowboarding adventures! During this time, I’ve (somewhat) mastered the process of packing for trips and have figured out what’s necessary and what’s not, including some items you may think you need but don’t. Additionally, you may discover some items on this list you wouldn’t think of but will drastically improve your ski trip. So read on for the ultimate ski trip packing list!

That’s me! Photo by Gaelen Mast

Why It’s Essential To Pack Efficiently

Packing efficiently is essential for any journey, but it becomes even more critical when preparing for a ski vacation. Otherwise, you face the risks of stress packing on what’s supposed to be a fun vacation, being unable to fit the essentials and having a bad experience because you were ill-prepared, or even forgetting a piece of gear and being forced to spend extra money to rent it. (I see this happen daily working in a ski rental shop).

Whether you’re driving or flying to your “skication,” chances are the biggest issue will be luggage space. Skiing or snowboarding requires a lot of gear, and some of it (skis/boards, boots, helmets, etc.) can take up a lot of room. This can lead to either costly baggage fees from airlines if you’re flying or an over-cramped and hard-to-see-out-of vehicle if you’re driving (they’re both unpleasant, trust me).

A great way to avoid the headaches I’ve listed above is to create a packing list to ensure you bring everything you need, but only what you need. Lucky for you, the rest of this article is a comprehensive packing list for both on and off the slopes, built from 11 years of ski trip experiences!

Your On-Hill Packing List Essentials

Photo by Antatoliy Gleb

Below are all the items you should consider packing that you’ll use when you’re actively out skiing or riding. I’ve rated each item from 1-5: 5 being “most important, do not forget or else you’re going to be seriously bummed” to 1 being “you don’t NEED this item to have a good time, so it should be the first to cut from your checklist if you’re short on space, but it will make your life a little better.”

Skis/Snowboard (5)

You’ll need one of these to ride down the mountain, and forgetting gear can be a costly mistake (as in, you’ll have to rent it). Alternatively, if you don’t own skis or a board or just don’t want to bring them with you, you can always rent from an on-resort rental shop. Just reserve them ahead of time if possible, as they’re never guaranteed to be in stock.

Ski Boots/Snowboard Boots (5)

Just like skis or a board, having your boots is also critical to making it down the mountain and is a costly mistake to forget. I would argue that bringing boots is even more important than your own skis/board, so if you’re considering renting, opt to bring your boots still if possible. A good-fitting pair of boots makes a huge difference in how your skis/board feel; rental boots typically don’t fit as well as your boots.

Face Covering (5)

This is one of the most important yet most forgotten-about items, but please bring some sort of face covering, whether it be a balaclava, tubi, ski mask, or ski hood. If you don’t, you will suffer. Even if your face feels fine when walking around at a base level, it will feel frozen when descending from a combination of increased elevation and wind resistance as you ski or ride.

This is especially true of mountains with large elevation changes, such as mountains out West. For example, there were multiple days this season where I thought it was fine not to wear one as I was warm down at the base, but by the time I got even halfway up my local mountain (in CO), I was freezing, so don’t do this! Luckily, if you forget something like this, it’s quite easy to find one, as they’re commonly sold at resorts.

Outerwear Ski Clothing (4)

For the sake of space, I’m lumping together multiple items here, but they are the following: a ski jacket, ski pants, a helmet, and gloves or mittens. As you likely know, skiing/snowboarding is cold, and having the correct gear will make your experience much more pleasant. While I’ve seen plenty of people show up to the rental shop I work in wearing nothing but jeans and a hoodie, I would not advise this!

Do some research on the area you’re going skiing/snowboarding. If it’s a place that frequently snows and/or is consistently below freezing, make sure you have some outerwear; in fact, go the extra mile if possible and purchase some waterproof outwear such as a waterproof ski jacket and/or waterproof ski pants. It may be more expensive, but it will improve your experience (trust me on this one)!

Goggles (3-5)

People would leave these goggles in the rental shop constantly. On slow days we would wear them for fun! Photo by Gaelen Mast

The importance of goggles largely depends on where you’re riding, the time of year, and even day-to-day. Therefore, I rated this item on a sliding scale of importance as it depends on your location a bit.

For example, I spent many years riding on the East Coast, where it rarely got too cold or snowed, and I seldom wore goggles, nor did many of my friends. However, upon moving to Colorado last winter, I wore goggles every single day, as did everyone else, due to the lower temperatures and frequent snow. I think it’s a common misconception that goggles are only necessary when it’s actively snowing; however, they also protect your eyes from wind, cold, and the sun's glare off the snow.

So when in doubt, it’s always better to get a pair. However, please don’t buy those cheap $15 goggles on Amazon that I saw so many of last year (see photo below). Goggles are very much a “what you pay for kind of deal,” and they are horrible. A basic pair of goggles from a reputable brand is a bit more expensive but is worth its weight in gold!

Base Layers (3)

Like outerwear, I’m going to lump some items together here:

  • A base layer and mid-layer.
  • Ski socks.
  • Maybe even glove liners (although just a good pair of gloves/mittens should be fine unless you’re prone to cold hands).

Of course, in an ideal world, you’d have outdoor-specific bases and mid-layers, tops, and bottoms made of fleece, Merino wool, or polyester, as these items will keep you the warmest and also have moisture-wicking properties if you get wet or get too warm and begin to sweat.

However, if you don’t have this sort of clothing and aren’t interested in purchasing any, just try to go for warm clothing with a good range of movement, like sweatpants or leggings and a baggy sweater or hoodie. Of course, these won’t keep you as warm (especially if they get wet), but they’re better than jeans and a T-shirt (I see this one a lot at the rental shop I work in, and these people are always the first to come back complaining about the cold).

Ski Poles (2)

I might get some flack for putting this as a low priority on the list, but hear me out! Ski poles are bulky, awkward to pack, and typically cheap to rent at a ski resort. Furthermore, most are quite generic, meaning most people don’t need a specialized kind (unless you’re a ski racer), so it might be worth it to shell out $5 a day to rent them instead of dealing with packing them if you’re tight on space.

Your Off-Hill Packing List Essentials

Photo by PL Prod

Now that we’ve covered everything you’ll need while actively on the slopes let’s talk about other items you should bring. This list is where you may discover some items you may not have thought of, especially if you’re newer to skiing/snowboarding. Each item will be ranked from 1-5 in importance, just like before!

Lift Tickets (5)

Why am I including a lift ticket on your packing list? Unfortunately, just because you show up at a ski resort doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a lift ticket. Some resorts will limit how many daily tickets they can sell, and if you’re planning your ski vacation for a holiday weekend or school break week, they may be sold out if you purchase them on your first day of skiing. Additionally, most resorts also offer cheaper ticket prices if you buy them in advance, so if possible, do this!

Sunscreen (4)

Did you know that snow is highly reflective of UV radiation from the sun? Unfortunately, I forget this every spring, and I always get burnt on the first sunny day of each season. So do yourself a favor and avoid a tomato skin complexion by bringing sunscreen on your face and/or body. Remember, it doesn’t have to be hot to get sunburnt; it can be quite cold. If you’re at a higher altitude (such as in Colorado), this is even more important as the sun’s UV rays have less atmosphere to travel through and will burn you even faster.

Sunglasses (4)

Just because you may not be on a ski trail doesn’t mean it’s any less bright. I can’t tell you how many times I would walk out of a building at the ski resort I worked in and had to make my journey with my eyes practically closed because of how blinding the sun was. So sunglasses are essential for any place that’s frequently sunny and has a high altitude!

Lip Balm (3)

If you’re planning a ski trip to somewhere with a dry climate (aka the West Coast), you should seriously consider always having some lip balm on hand. I never believed in it until moving to Colorado, when my lips were consistently chapped, cracked, and even bleeding until I started using lip balm. After all, you don’t want cracked and bleeding lips when you arrive at the ​​après-ski bar, right?

Backpack (3)

We’ve all seen those people struggling around a ski resort (or just out in public) with their hands full, don’t be that person. A small backpack or daypack to throw your stuff in will make life much easier. Although, ironically, being on vacation can already be a stressful experience for some, the last thing you need is to drop or lose your personal belongings!

Pain Relieving Ointment (2)

This is a go-to after a long day of skiing/riding for me! Photo by Gaelen Mast

If you’re planning a ski trip, you probably want to make the most of it! Unfortunately, the physical strain of skiing or snowboarding (aka sore muscles) can easily put a damper on your trip, especially if you don’t ski/ride often. Therefore, I’d recommend bringing some pain-relieving ointment. I use Tiger Balm, but any ointment will help manage sore muscles. These pain-relieving ointments are inexpensive and help keep your body feeling good for the whole trip!

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve read through this article and have a better idea of the essentials you should pack for a ski trip, it begs the question: Are you ready for your next trip?

If there are any ski essentials you came across that you’re not familiar with, don’t fret! That’s because here at Curated, you can message a real-life Skiing or Snowboarding Expert and get free advice on any gear! Whether you need something large like a new board or skis or smaller (but still essential) items like a balaclava or ski socks, Experts at Curated can help suggest the perfect options based on your preferences, budget, timeline, and anything else specific to you! So go on your next ski trip fully prepared and make it the best!

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