An Expert Guide on What to Pack for a Ski Trip
Overwhelmed by packing for your next ski trip? Read on to make your custom checklist so you have everything you need for a day of shredding and an evening of après.
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“Thank you for booking” just might be one of the sweetest phrases out there, especially after hours of resort research, flight pricing, and convincing your buddies that another February trip to the Caribbean would not be as fun as it sounds.
You’re in the home stretch, but your hard work isn't over yet—you still have to get to the slopes, after all! So, what’s the play, and what do you need to bring to make sure you’re ready to live it up both on and off the mountain? I will dive into it below.
While no two ski vacations are the same, your process for packing for them should be. Start with mission-critical items, those on-mountain essentials like skis, boots, and jackets, and branch out from there. Oftentimes, one of the most useful tricks is to visualize your day—your entire day, from breakfast to après—and the clothes and gear you’ll want and need for those activities.
The list below has you covered on the essentials, so make sure to save it, print it, and use it (!) on your next ski trip!
Where Are You Headed?
Okay, as you get started, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: Where the heck am I going?
Granted, most ski locales are going to warrant the same sort of equipment and clothing. Still, knowing whether you’re going east to rural Maine or west to Mammoth might influence the jacket you bring, shoes you wear, and a flurry of other decisions you’re going to make.
Keep in mind the elevation at which you’ll be skiing and staying since arid temps and stronger sun can wreak havoc if you’re not prepared.
How Long Will You be Gone?
Rapid-fire round! Next question: How long will you be gone? A long weekend? Seven days? Two weeks? It probably goes without saying, but the longer you’re gone, the more stuff you’ll need.
But there’s a catch! Depending on your accommodations, you might have access to laundry facilities which are a low-key clutch amenity if you can snag it. That way, you can ditch the extra jeans in favor of something functional, like another base layer.
The packing list for hard goods—skiing-mandatory items—won't change, so your auxiliary packing is the variable you’re really able to tinker with.
Are You Flying or Driving?
Next up: transport. Will you be slugging your skis and gear through baggage claim or piling your own car to the brim? Flying with skis is one of those things that can go really well or really poorly, and it’s possible that there’s no in-between. The key is planning.
If you’re driving, lucky you! Unless you and five others are cramming into a Toyota Camry, you should have a lot more freedom to overpack—a luxury that fliers aren’t going to have. But don’t waste your advantage; the real benefit of driving is the ability to tow along some groceries and to stock up on food and drink anywhere that’s not your hotel’s mini-mart.
Flying with ski gear? No problem! Read on for a quick primer.
Flying with Skis
Flying with skis is easy if you know what you’re doing, seriously!
- Look up your airline’s ski policy. A lot of the time, skis are counted as normal luggage, so you’ll pay a checked-bag fee, but not the oversize fee you might think.
- Expert Tip: Many airlines will count a ski bag AND boot bag as one checked bag, as long as the combined weight doesn't exceed the airline’s guidelines.
- Decide what bag you want (or have). There are two main types: a ski and boot bag, and a bigger roller bag. Airlines don’t care as long as they meet overall size and weight metrics, so it’s up to you. Having separate ski and boot bags can give you a little extra space, but it means that there’s an extra bag to carry and/or lose on the tarmac. A single bag is typically more expensive to purchase but may hold more pairs of skis.
- Go two-for-one. Pack your clothes around your skis — not only does this help free up your carry-ons, but it also protects your gear, depending on your bag. Some airlines try to mandate that only skis and boots are in the bags, so your mileage may vary here.
One of the biggest buzzkills on a trip is getting to your destination before your skis do and finding out that the airline will drop them off the next day or on its timeline. Think about this ahead of time when packing. What would you absolutely need to be able to ski the next day (a jacket, helmet, or gloves?) and what could you (less-than-ideally) rent, like skis or boots? Prioritize what you need in your carry-on bag whenever possible.
Expert Tip: If you’ve never flown with checked skis before, not to worry. It’s basically business as usual. At check-in, your airline agent will weigh both your ski and boot bags at the same time and off they go. Once you land, pickup locations for your ski and boot bags may vary, depending on the airport. Generally, boot bags will come out on the same carousel that suitcases do, while skis will either go to a dedicated ski carousel (like in Denver), or the oversize baggage area (like in Salt Lake City or Bozeman).
What’s Your Bag Situation?
What’s Your Bag Situation?
For the sake of this list, let’s assume you’re flying to your ski vacation with a full allotment of bags, including:
- One ski bag
- One boot bag
- One carry-on suitcase or duffel bag
- One backpack or personal item
Got it? You may have extra space here and there, but by and large, this list will tell you exactly what you need to pack smoothly and smartly for your ski trip.
On-Mountain Essentials and Where to Pack Them
- Ski poles
- Skiing backpack or hydration pack
- Expert Tip: If you need a bigger ski pack than can fit in your ski bag, carry it as your personal item.
- Ski boots
- Expert Tip: Up to you if you want this in your boot bag or in your carry-on backpack. Decide what you can’t ski without, or what you would be okay with having to purchase should your luggage get lost, and go from there. Many boot bags are designed to accommodate helmets.
- Extra gloves or mittens: you can also throw in hand warmers if desired
- Ski jacket: compression bags may help condense the size of your jackets and pants
- Ski pants
- Any ski clothing you need: like base layers and ski socks
- Ski gloves or mittens: (and glove liners)
- Face mask, balaclava, or neck warmer
- Season pass
- Goggles and spare lenses
- GoPro camera and chargers
- Helmet: if it doesn't fit or if you don't want to put it in your boot bag
Off-Mountain Essentials and Where to Pack Them
- Clothes: consider packing many of your street clothes in your ski bag, wrapped around your skis for extra padding—stuff like your t-shirts, fleece sweaters, flannel shirts, and sweatpants.
- Just saying…a bottle of wine or your favorite whiskey may or may not fit perfectly inside of a ski boot, which in turn, offers good bottle protection…
- Swimsuit: for the hot tub!
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, Tylenol or Motrin for those sore legs…you know, the usual
- Sunscreen and lip balm: especially if you’re heading to a western, high-altitude ski resort
- Snow boots
- Any street clothes you need that are not already in your ski bag, such as:
- Off-mountain winter jacket
- Expert Tip: It’s easy to overpack on a trip like this, especially when it comes to off-mountain clothes. If you’re going to fancy dinners at night and want some “going out” clothes, great! Just make sure you’re realistic about how much you need and will want to actually wear after a day of hard-charging on the hill.
- Hat(s) or beanie
- Camera (if you’re bringing one)
- Technology: Laptop/iPad and other electronics and chargers
Packing for your next ski vacation doesn’t have to be a bear. Some simple planning and organization will go a long way toward a smooth experience, so print off the list above and cross things off once they get packed into bags.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get your things together, and as you pack up, consider making a staging area to lay everything out and make sure you don't miss anything.
And finally, if you’re not sure what gear to use and need tips for breezing through the airport or for buying your next travel bag, make sure you connect with a Curated Ski Expert today!