On staying stylish, while staying warm – the best things to pack for a perfect ski or snowboarding trip Including what to wear on the slopes, in town & at your lodging (scroll to end for a link to download our ski trip packing checklist)
Planning a winter getaway is always exciting – especially a ski or snowboarding trip. And journeying into snowy mountains adds a sense of adventure. But what do you pack?
As you start dreaming up perfect outfits for slopes and après in picturesque mountain towns, jamming all those puffy pieces into your luggage may not be top of mind – until you’re sitting on a suitcase that won’t shut, hours before flight time. Not to worry – you can stay stylish without bringing an entire second wardrobe. We’ve packed for many ski trips; this blog shares our ski trip packing tips!
ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT & GEAR
Whether you ski or ride, you’ve either already got gear, or you’ll need to rent it. It’s always a big question: should you rent your skis when you travel? Or bring your ski equipment with you? The answer is: it depends.
Do you have specific skis that you feel so comfortable on, you really can’t imagine skiing something else? Are they waxed just right for the season? And do you have a great carrier case to transport your gear if you’re flying to your destination? Then yes, by all means bring your skis or snowboard.
We have, however, had friends who brought their gear on a long haul trip (from Colorado to the Alps) and claimed it was a huge mistake – that they were constantly having to cart their stuff around through the public transportation system and would have preferred to travel light. So dedicate a little time scouting out your destination and then decide on a plan of action.
PRO TIP: If there is one thing you can easily plan to rent, (and save yourself a lot of transportation hassle), it’s your skis and ski poles, or your snowboard. We’ve brought ours with us, in a hard carrier case, and it was no hassle at all. We’ve also brought along just our boots and demoed skis along the way, and that was fun too!
What you probably don’t want to rent (although of course you can!) are your boots. Unless you’ve outgrown your boots or they really need replacing and you’re looking to test out new ones, your nice ski or snowboard boots are likely perfectly fitted to your feet. In that case, none that you rent will feel quite as natural as the ones you’ve broken in. We recommend bringing those, in a good boot bag. (We have a Kulkea “Powder Trekker” boot bag that serves us well.) You want a boot bag that will carry not only your boots, but also your helmet, goggles, mittens or gloves, scarf or neck funnel and balaclava, and possibly even your ski sweater and/or base layers. (And your pass, if you’ve got one. Slip that into a pocket and do NOT forget where you’ve put it!!)
Think you can fit all of that into a boot bag? It depends on your bag, but we have, and you probably can too!
We keep our ski pass tucked in with our goggles, so we’ll always find it. (Okay, there you go, ski-pass-pickpockets. That’s where you’ll look in our luggage!)
Did you know: your ski bag and boot bag are counted as one piece of checked luggage on major airlines? They’re considered sporting equipment that go together, but obviously can’t be packed together. 2 pieces = 1 piece – just like that!
WHAT YOU’LL WEAR
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR BASE…LAYERS
Whether you plan to cut corduroy, ride powder, skin up, hop a cat, glide over ice…or any cold weather activity, really…it’s easiest if you start at the base. Your base layers, that is. You’ll want them for winter walks, and time in the ski village too.
First things first: comfy undies that you’ll forget you’re wearing. It’s not necessary to wear a sports bra, which you may find binding after many hours on the slope. It’s not like a quick run or soul cycle class – one hour and you’re done. Unless you’re doing some serious jumps or park skiing, a sports bra is overkill. Also: it is not recommended that compression, encapsulated, or even underwire sports bras be worn over extended periods of time. Their binding qualities can restrict circulation, and even breathing. We recommend that you closely monitor your comfort level whenever wearing a sports bra.
Socks are the next step: Pack enough pairs to cover each day you’ll be out on the mountain, with regular socks fine for in town. We like to pack varying weights because you never know what turn the weather will take. Also worth noting: compression ski socks exist! These are an option to consider if you want full calf support during your day on the mountain. And if you end up having to wear that extra-warm pair for two days in a row, it’s okay. We won’t tell anyone (as long as you don’t tell where we stow our ski pass! ;)
Warm knee- or over-the-knee-highs, preferably with some wool or cashmere in them. Important: Don’t sacrifice the cute feet factor! There are so many color combinations and patterns on the market. And think local! Many brands knit their socks at mills in the US. It’s super-easy to get this part right! These guys are especially recognized for bringing the mountain vibes to stateside manufacturing: Smartwool (Colorado) / FITS (Tennessee) / Farm to Feet (North Carolina) / Darn Tough (Vermont)
Tops & Bottoms:
If the term “long underwear” makes you squirm, shrug it off. Those bunchy button-ups are so last century! They’ve been smoothed and shaped into their new, svelte selves. From breathable silk to heat-tech, your extra skin awaits. Ask a local sports shop pro to point you in the right direction, or do searches for “base layers for women” (or men), and then prepare to spend hours on your computer because there are just SO MANY options.
You’ve got your Hot Chillys, your Cold Proof, your Kari Traa, your Mons Royale and Icebreaker…the list goes on and on. Top and bottom sets – bring ‘em. These are GOLD when the temps drop or wind whips up. You’ve either already got them, or you’ll want to pick them up. The one thing to avoid is cotton. As much as we promote natural fibers, we cannot get behind hypothermia. And if your cotton long-johns get wet, there’s no recovering from that icy situation while you’re out there in it. Tech fibers are best for the layer closest to your skin.
PRO TIP: You can wear a clingy, tech layer right next to your skin, then a light merino wool layer on top of that. The more layers, the more you cocoon in the warmth. Think thin, light, and layered for the win!
How To Pack Your Base Layers:
Find a light muslin or cotton bag to hold undies of all kinds; it makes them easy to find each morning.
Nestle any fragile must-brings into or in between the socks, especially the thicker ones! This will keep them safe as your baggage is tossed around.
Roll up base layers and tuck into suitcase corners – they’re remarkably compact.
There. That’s your base, sorted.
STEP TWO: BUILD IT UP
What goes over base layers? More layers, of course – often referred to as mid-layers. Some times of year, some mountains, and some altitudes may require a second base layer under that sweet ski sweater. Second, yes, but not the same. You began with “gear”, with or without wool. Now add another layer, with or without wool, perhaps a bit heavier than the base-base layer (the first layer.) Find pieces that move well and stack up nicely under your treasured ski sweater.
And on that note: the sky’s the limit with ski sweater designs, so definitely have fun. Whether you’re rocking vintage Dale of Norway, classic Obermeyer or brand new Neve, it’s an opportunity to boost your ski town fashion game. Are you a city kitty? No problem! Transform warm streetwear pieces to mountainwear with the right styling. Do you love being a mountain kid, but not sure how to upscale your look? Again, it’s in the styling. In either case, accessories go a long way. Take a look at what you plan to pack, then zero in on accents. If you want to go mountain-y, add plaid. If you want more upscale, check your fibers. Natural wool, cashmere, silk and leather will up your game more than any synthetics ever can. This is true.
We love wearing Kari Traa, the Norwegian Olympic freestyle skier-turned skiwear designer. From bright bursts of color to punchy patterns, these pieces will warm you at first glance. You’ll be dying to show off your true mountain style when you unzip at the lodge.
STEP THREE: TOP COAT
Some ski/snowboarding jackets seamlessly transition from cute on the mountain to cute on the street. Others…not so much. A short, smart ski bomber would look as great with jeans as it does with ski pants, but might not lend itself to a longer skirt. One versatile overcoat/jacket solves it. Whether you plan to step out in denim tucked neatly into stylish winter boots, pull on some cashmere sweats with fun muck boots, or doll it up in a buffalo plaid wool mini and high boots, pack a parka. A longer top coat, like a parka, has a higher likelihood for outfit compatibility. And it need not be heavy. With enough layers below, a lighter parka will style just fine, and fit nicely into your suitcase. Polish off the look with a coordinated scarf.
Now for the lower layers…
STEP FOUR: BOTTOMS UP
Denim, corduroy, cashmere, wool, down (synthetic or real) …whatever your preference, bring along something cute & comfy to strut your stylish self. From long pants to short skirts, pack what you need to be you when off the mountain. You know what you feel most comfortable in. For us, there’s almost always one skirt in the mix, with thick tights (wool or wool-silk blend), and tall boots.
STEP FIVE: CHOOSE YOUR SHOES (and what goes in ‘em!)
The mantra: comfort…style…weather friendly – in interchangeable order. Keep all of these in mind and you’ll do great. Want to prance down the promenade in fancy footwear? Go for it. Just save the sheer hosiery and heels for drier climes. And don’t stop showing off your legs just because you’re at altitude. It’s your time to make those mountain style, snow-friendly boots SEXY – yes you CAN! If the soles have decent tread – you’re golden! And if you want to go all in with a winter skirt, pile on some layers underneath. Warm, patterned tights topped with cute & cuddly leg warmers will work the look. Let them playfully peak out at the tops of your boots. A wooly skirt will fit right in, as will a puffy down or fiber-filled tushie-warming shortie – with pockets! Jeans often make the most sense for travel, with legwarmers still in the mix. Those over-the-knee socks you wore all fall can also go nicely with mountain boots and denim or leggings. Really, there’s no end to the hosiery options. They’re packable, playful, and tuck into the corners of your luggage. And just like your ski/sports socks, you can bundle them around any breakables.
Warm legwarmers never felt so good as when used to cover that area between the top of your boot to right up under the hem of a shorter skirt. From basic black to a pop of color, they can add dimension to your comfort and style. Legwarmers also work well on top of leggings.
If your phone tends to freeze when it’s cold, put a spare wool sock in your jacket pocket and tuck the phone into it when you take your first chairlift. It should help keep it running for the day. Unless it’s just insanely cold, in which case it may not make it. Then warm it up in the lodge until it returns to life!
STEP SIX: BUMP UP THE EXTREMITIES
Of course you’re not going to forget to pack mittens or gloves for skiing or riding the mountain, but do you want to wear bulky gear each evening as you stroll into those sweet shops in the village? And how will they go with that special outfit you packed for the bucket list restaurant? Better bring stylish gloves, be they leather, wool or vegan. The luster is in the detail. Pack a warm scarf and flattering hat that complement the look. Better still – make these pieces part of your travel outfit. Sunglasses, another mountain essential, complete the package.
Pick up some glove liners for your on-mountain mittens or gloves. They’re a low cost investment that delivers big!
Pack your mittens/gloves/liners/handwarmers inside your ski boots, leaving room in your boot bag.
STEP SEVEN: PAJAMA PARTY!
Whether you’re staying in a house on the mountain with your favorite ski buddies, or cuddling up in a condo with someone special, you’ll want to look your best and be comfortable during private time. From flannel sets to slinky silks, bring along your favorite sleeping attire, complete with slippers, eye mask, earplugs – whatever you need.
PRO TIP: Flannel isn’t necessarily essential if you’re staying at the resort, which is likely very well heated. It may be a good idea for cabins and Airbnbs, though.
STEP EIGHT: DON’T FORGET YOUR REG!
Regimens make the world go round. They keep you on your game and feeling your best, so don’t let them slide just because you’ve shimmied off the grid. You may be taking vitamins or supplements, and as with your prescriptions - bring ‘em along! Save an empty vitamin container and fill it up with as much as you’ll need for each day you’re away.
Same goes with your beauty products, but pare down. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, be sure to stick with trusted go-tos whenever traveling. And absolutely remember to bring your favorite facial sunscreen. The snow reflections can burn up any exposed area. A modest sun kiss in the dead of winter adds dazzle; full-blown sunburn is downright dangerous!
PRO TIP: Use this trip to try out those samples you’ve been stashing. Or request small samples of your favorites from beauty boutiques.
STEP NINE: OVERLOOKED ESSENTIALS
How well can you see this without your glasses? If you need eyewear to catch the details, you’re going to need them when you navigate a trail map or menu. Have an extra pair that can get banged around a bit? Stash ‘em in your snow jacket pocket. Nothing worse than missing lunch at that cute mid-mountain bistro because you couldn’t find it on the map!
A water bottle for both travel and bedside in your hotel is strongly suggested. High altitude can definitely dehydrate, which can lead to serious issues. Don’t take the risk.
Altitude adjustment pills (homeopathic) and headache tablets, such as ibuprofen, can travel along with toiletries.
Electronics chargers – for phone, tablet and/or laptop – anything you’re bringing that needs a boost.
A travel alarm clock, if you’d rather not use your phone to wake you up.
Cash & credit/debit cards/drivers’ license /insurance card + emergency contact info - all are essential!
This isn’t all of it – we’ve included more on our downloadable Ski Trip Packing Checklist.
Photograph everything you’ve packed in the event that you need to make an insurance claim for lost luggage.
Wherever you’re headed to ski or snowboard this winter, we hope you have loads of fun and make lasting memories. Playing on a snow-covered mountain is just magic. Stop and enjoy the views, breath in the mountain air, leave your daily life behind and recharge!
Click to download our free, printable Ski Trip Packing Checklist – which goes into greater detail. You’ll also find it in the “Free Downloads” section of our website home page header.
Coming Soon: a blog on what to expect at the ski resorts during this strange season of covid
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