*This article has been updated for accuracy and additional information, March 2019.
We can’t think of a sport that requires schlepping more equipment than alpine skiing. If you are headed off on an annual ski trip – here are some thoughts on what to pack.
Outside you will be exposed to extremes: cold, sun, wind, altitude, and dryness. You will have more fun if you are prepared. When you get off the slopes, you will want to be ready for ‘apres ski’ – we have a list for that too.
Packing List for Skiing
Skis and bindings of good quality are available for rent at most resorts. If you are flying to the resort, consider this option. Rent poles as well. We rent skis from shops close to the lifts. These shops usually have facilities to store your skis and boots overnight, which is very convenient.
Ideally, buy some boots that fit you well and bring them with you. Only buy from a shop that will spend the time to ensure an excellent fit. They should have a big inventory with many brands from which to find your best fit.
Buy one and use it. Even if you don’t plan to hit a tree, another skier may hit you. Helmets cost between $100 and $500 (you will be happy for less than $200). They are lightweight and comfortable – get one that fits. After that, there are nice features – vents and removable liners which can be washed. Tip – after a hard hit on your helmet, replace it. It could be weakened by the impact.
Jackets and pants –
The phrase “Too much is never enough” does not apply to skiing. Choose outerwear, jacket and pants, that are appropriate for the weather, but not too hot. You will work hard on the slopes and you don’t want to overheat. Good choices allow you to open vents on zippers to cool down while you make those turns. Then on the lift, be prepared to zip up and conserve heat. Pants should be water-resistant (Tip – choose pants with a non-slip fabric. Steep slope, slippery pants, one fall – you see the problem)
Mittens and gloves –
In really cold weather, choose gloves over mittens. Swany and Manzella are both good brands. You can slip disposable hand warmers into the zippered pocket, or unzip the pocket if your hands overheat. You can add a silk or fleece liner to wick moisture.
You will want lighter gloves for milder days. There are lots of choices, try them on for fit.
Neck gator –
Turtle Fur is a good brand. You might want one with a light top that fits under your helmet. As an alternative, you also might want a balaclava that covers most of your face for extremely cold or windy days.
On the inside:
Long underwear –
You’ll want undergarments of wool, polypropylene, or some other synthetic fiber (no cotton!)
- Hot Chillys make popular long underwear.
- For women, try Snow Angel cashmere or Doeskin.
- Help your knees. Dr. Steadman, a legendary knee surgeon in Vail, has designed the ‘ultimate’ pair of long johns, Opedix, to support your knees while skiing. If you can get past the $225 price, these might just give you extra, comfortable hours on the slope every day.
- Smart Wool makes a boxer which is an ideal extra layer for men on cold day – they get a little more insulation between them and the seat of the chair.
- For women at www.rei.com.
Fleece or lightweight wool sweater
Turtlenecks – find good selections at www.rei.com or www.athleta.com
Men will find great options at www.rei.com as well.
Socks – wool or synthetic – no cotton.
Try goggles on while wearing your helmet. Make sure that they form a tight seal on your face and allow the greatest possible peripheral vision. Choose polarized lenses; look for UV protection. Double lenses reduce fogging. Smith Optics makes goggles with both a fan and ‘Spacio’ prescription lenses. We have not tried them, but they come highly recommended by subscribers. You’ll have to find a local optical shop which sells them.
Hand and Toe warmers –
We like the Grabber brand, but don’t buy them individually. On the web you can order them by the box for less than a dollar a pair. Tip: Have these warmers sent directly to your resort or ski house
Protection for your face from cold, wind and sun –
We like Kiehl’s
Fuel in your pocket –
- Our favorites are Werther’s Original Caramels
- Ginger candies
- The caramels on this list.
- Or pack some jerky – you’ll find it at the grocery store
Ski Gadgets –
Packing List for Après Ski
Most inside spaces at ski resorts are over heated and dry. Wear layers. Often you will find that you will need just one layer inside. You probably will not want heavy sweaters.
You will want a long, warm coat; preferably not the one in which you have just skied.
Hat, gloves, mufflers –
You will want to put on dry outerwear, bring a second pair of gloves and a hat which does leave you with hair appropriate to a 1920’s flapper.
After ski boots –
Outside is snow, salt, sand and wet. You will take your boots off when inside. Choose boots which are easy to put on and take off. They should give you good grip in the snow and on ice. Cowboy boots are fun in the spring when the ice has melted.
Your choice – not too heavy and add layers if you need them. Jeans and cords go a long way.
Slip into warm and comfortable footwear when you go inside. Ugg slippers are perfect for him.
For the ultimate luxury for her, get silk slippers with massaging insoles at Holistic Silk. Those tired feet will appreciate the comfort.
Many people wear casual, western jewelry. You will see more turquoise and more silver than we wear at home. Good costume jewelry is a choice – have fun. Leave the pearls at home.
Bathing suit –
Yes, pack a bathing suit for the hot tub, unless you are in Europe….
We wouldn’t want to guess what you prefer.
Dealing with the extremes
The Dryness –
- We like Kiehl’s
- Your moisturizer or Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream.
- A doctor recommends using a nasal rinse (we know, this is intimidating, but it is very beneficial in the mountains – and who wants a sinus headache?).
- Or saline sinus spray.
The Altitude –
- Stay hydrated
- Take aspirin for twenty-four hours before you go
- If you have time, take a day to acclimate before you hit the slopes
- Avoid alcohol for the first 24 hours at altitude
- Diamox (Acetazolamide) is recommended by an ASE subscriber for those who suffer at altitude. You will need a prescription – ask your doctor. The U.S. Center for Disease Control also suggests Diamox.
The Cold –
- Hand and foot warmers (see link to purchase, above)
- Balaclava to cover your face
The Sun –
- Choose sun lotion with Helioplex (Neutrogena) or Mexoryl (Anthelios), Kiehl’s. Should be water resistant.
If you are renting, or staying in a hotel
- Ship boots, helmets, hand warmers, extra coat, to the resort ahead of time. It will make your travel much easier.
- Have (clean) humidifiers put into bedrooms – it can be very dry
- Is there a place to dry boots?
- If you rent a house, find out about caterers – an evening ‘in’ is fun, but when you have skied all day, you’ll want to sit in front of a fire, not a stove.
Before you go
- Check the weather report.
- Go to the website for your destination and choose the best deal on lift tickets – multiple day passes are often paired with ski rentals. It is worth some study.
- Exercise – Suggestions at: Exercises to Get Your Body Ready for Skiing
- Order this video on ‘Knee-friendly skiing’ from Vermont Ski Safety. You can order the video at:
- Fax order form to: (802) 899-3677
Mail order form to: PO Box 85 Underhill Center, VT 05490
- Fax order form to: (802) 899-3677
Or, if you are channeling Bode Miller, check out his exercise routine.
- The history of skiing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skiing
- 3D maps of ski resorts across the USA at 3d Ski Maps.
- Health and Safety while Trekking is a good article for safety tips in the mountains. You may not need to let yaks pass, but the method is the same for other skiers and snowboarders.
Movies Featuring Skiing
- Ski Patrol (1940)
- Ski Troop Attack (1960)
- The Heroes of Telemark (1965)
- Footsteps in the Snow (1966)
- The Double Man (1967)
- The Devil’s Brigade (1968)
- Downhill Racer, Robert Redford (1969)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
- Snow Job (1972)
- Runaway! (1973)
- The Ultimate Thrill (1974)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- The Soldier (1982)
- A View to a Kill (1985)
- Hamilton (1998)
- The World Is Not Enough (1999)
- Deep Shock (2003)
- Taxi 3 (2003)