Ski Essentials (Updated June 2022)
I am a born and raised skier. I grew up in Minnesota where a regular Sunday evening event was night skiing at the local hill. During college in Colorado, I regularly skied Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen and more. I have spent years in Northern California and renting houses with friends during ski season, where we would ski Squaw (now Palisades), Alpine, and Northstar. I’ve been on a family ski vacation to Alta Utah, right outside of Park City. I could go on, but you get the point. I know how to pack for a ski trip. So let’s get to the good stuff.
Given that I am all about packing light and going carry on only, this post is an exception. It’s hard to do with a ski trip, given that you have to check your gear. This is what I bring for every ski trip I take.
PRO TIP: Whether this is your first ski trip or your 40th, you can get my printable ski trip packing list here.
Ski Clothing to Keep You Warm on the Slopes
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- A Good Ski Jacket
One of the first things that should be on your ski trip checklist is a high-quality, waterproof ski jacket. On warm sunny days, you may not think you’ll need it. Trust me, when the snow and wind start to pick up, you’ll be thankful that you have a solid layer to keep you shielded from the cold. I like to buy my ski jacket and pants in the summer when clearance sales are going on. Well-known brands can be expensive in the winter months.
- Waterproof Ski Pants
Along the same line, your ski essentials should definitely include a pair of ski pants that are made out of waterproof materials as well. Like I said about the ski jacket, harsh weather conditions require the appropriate gear to make them work. Warm, waterproof ski pants and jackets will be the best investment you ever made and keep your trip rolling.
- Thermal Base Layers
Ski jackets and pants are important, but so are your base layers. Dressing in layers of clothing is especially important in cold weather because you can add and take away pieces of clothing as needed. You don’t want to underdress and be stuck on the ski lifts freezing. If you need to take off a layer, it’s easy enough to make yourself comfortable. Thermal base layers, also called long underwear, should be tighter fitting so they keep in body heat when you need them to.
PRO TIP: Kari Traa is my favorite brand for thermals, and are one of my ski essentials for sure. The designs are cute and flattering. The tops come in a variety of styles and typically have a matching pair of thermal leggings.
- Mid-layers for Cold Days
If it’s especially cold, a Merino wool sweater or thin fitted half zip fleece on top of your base layers is never a bad idea. You can always take layers off but wishing that you had them while you’re on the mountain doesn’t do you any good. You may end up not needing these layers while you’re skiing. I guarantee you’ll find some use for them at some point during your trip.
- Warm Pairs of Socks
When some people think warm ski socks, they think heavy, bulky material. In reality, the best way to prevent cold feet is to wear tight-fitting, thin wool ski socks that are specifically designed to keep your feet warm.
Ski boots are supposed to be tight fitting. You don’t want heavy socks to fold over and create an uncomfortable situation while you’re skiing.
- Neck Warmer or Scarf
Most of the items on this list are practical in nature, designed to keep you as warm as possible. A scarf or neck gaiter is another addition to that list. Some ski jackets zip up to your chin but don’t provide any protection from the cold, so if you want a little more warmth, wrap up your next while you’re gearing up.
- Ski Gloves or Mittens
It’s also really important to keep your hand protected from the cold weather. Some people prefer mittens over gloves, but whatever handwear you choose, just be sure that it’ll be warm and waterproof. If you’re extra worried about cold hands, you can also pack some glove liners to provide a little more insulation.
- Pair of Glove Liners
- Face Mask
Ski Equipment You Need For The Slopes
PRO TIP: If you have your own equipment, great! If not, you can rent skis, boots, poles and helmets at the rental shop where you are going.
If you have time before you go, you can actually save a lot of time and money by going to a local sporting goods store like Sports Basement. The prices are much better and you can sometimes even rent ski outfits!
- Ski Boots
Moving on to actual ski gear, which may seem silly, but it’s still worth mentioning. Ski boots (or snowboarding boots, depending on your sport), are an essential piece of gear that you’ll need in order to enjoy the slopes. If you don’t ski regularly, you may not own ski boots. You can easily rent them from outdoor and ski shops nearby your ski resort.
PRO TIP: If you are investing in your own boots, go to a local shop that has expertise in ski gear. Boots can make or break your experience. One or two days of an uncomfortable boot is manageable. If you are making the purchase, you want them to fit.
- Skis & Poles
Obvious, but you can’t hit the slopes without skis and poles. Having the right ski gear is important to having a good trip, so you should make sure that you get fitted for skis and boots before renting or buying any.
- Ski Helmet
Some people don’t like to wear helmets because of how they look, but a ski helmet is one of the most important things to have with you for any ski vacation. You never plan on having an accident skiing, but things happen and if your head isn’t protected, you could be seriously hurt. Play it safe and always wear your ski helmet — bonus points, it’ll keep your head much warmer than a hat.
- Ski Goggles
Even if the sun isn’t out, I guarantee that the UV rays are still strong at the top of the mountain. Because the altitude is much higher at ski resorts, the sun is stronger which is why you need to protect your eyes from the sun. It’s also much easier to see when you’re skiing when your eyes are protected from wind and snow.
- Ski Backpack
If you’re planning on being on the slopes for the entire day, it’s a good idea to have a small backpack with you so you can carry important items you may need throughout the day. Throw some extra sunscreen, hand warmers, and snacks in your bag in your backpack, you’ll be glad you have them!
Extra Ski Gear That is Cool but Optional
When you’re riding up the ski lift and your hands are freezing, you’ll be wishing that you had something to warm them up. I like to throw a few instant hand warmers in my ski bag in case my fingers get a little too cold.
- Reusable Water Bottle
Like with any sport, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. This is even more true when you’re exercising at high altitude. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to keep drinking water.
- Boot Dryer
- Earbuds for Your Helment
- Mini GPS
- GoPro Hero
- Portable Battery
When you’re out on the mountain, you most likely won’t have access to a charger or outlet if you need to charge your phone. In the event that your group splits up to explore more of the ski runs, you want to be sure that you can get in touch to meet back up. Bringing a portable charging bank will help keep your phone at full power.
Bags You Need to Transport Your Gear
- Ski Boot Bag
If you’re traveling with your ski boots, I recommend ski boot bags, which help you travel with ease. Ski boots can be a bit bulky to travel with and one of the great things that I like about boot bags is that some of the best ones are designed to hold all of your gear, not just your boots. That way you can keep everything together in one place.
- Ski Bag
- Small Suitcase
- Personal Item
- Compression Packing Cubes
PRO TIP: If you would like to see some great ski boot bags and more inspiration for winter packing, this post will show you some excellent options:
- Ski Boot Bags for Air Travel
- 27 Piece Winter Wardrobe Capsule For Travels Near and Far
- Best Compression Packing Cubes: Pack Like a Pro
Clothing for off the Slopes
Most ski towns are pretty relaxed when it comes to clothing. People dress with alpine style and for warmth at the end of a day on the slopes. I prefer to bring comfortable clothes to relax in, that are also cute. It’s nice to be able to be comfy after a long day on the slopes!
- Lounge Wear
- Cute Sweater for Apres Ski
- Winter Hat
- Ear Warmers or Headband
- Bathing Suit
Jumping in the hot tub at the end of the day is a great way to relax and warm up, which is why I always recommend bringing a swimsuit on any vacation you’re planning. The best ski resorts have a ton of hot tubs and pools for you to take advantage of, so you should be prepared to take a dip!
- Winter Boots or Snow Boots
As much as I like skiing, I always look forward to taking off my boots at the end of the day. Ski boots, even though they shouldn’t be uncomfortable to wear, can be a bit stiff, so I like to bring a warm, comfortable pair of boots to change into at the end of the day.
- Flip Flops
Ski Trip Essentials: Toiletries
Last but not least, be sure that you have all of your essential toiletries with you. The wind and cold can take a lot out of your skin. It’s really important to take care of your face and replenish any moisture that is lost during a day out in the cold.
The air at high altitudes is thinner and it is easier to burn. Make sure to wear sunscreen!
- Lip Balm
Just like sunscreen for your face, it’s also important to protect your lips. If you’re able to find a lip balm with some kind of SPF protection in it, that’s great! The high altitude and winds can also dry out your skin and lips, so it’s important to moisturize after a long day.
- Hand Cream
- Body Lotion
- Eye Drops
- Face Wash/Makeup Remover
- Disposable Razor
- Nail File
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Tooth Paste
- OTC Pain Reliever
- Kindle or Book
- Sunscreen I am going to say it again….the sun is super strong in the mountains. If you don’t want to be sunburnt, be sure that you’re applying sunscreen regularly throughout the day. Even if you don’t feel like you’re getting much sun, the UV rays can still reflect off of the snow so it’s important to protect your skin!
- Travel First Aid Kit
No one likes to plan on an emergency happening while skiing, but it’s best to be prepared in the event that it happens. On any vacation where you’re going to be doing physical activity, you should have some kind of first aid kit with you in case someone in your group gets hurt. You may not ever need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you packed it.
FAQ: Ski Essentials
If you’re looking for even more tips on what you should be packing for your next ski trip, keep reading to have all of your remaining questions answered.
What clothes do I need for a ski vacation?
For ski trips, you should be much more focused on function than fashion. Stylish clothes won’t do you any good on the mountain if you’re not warm. Start out with thermal base layers and add more layers as needed for warmth.
What are ski socks?
Ski socks are often much longer than normal socks. They are thinner than you may expect and often made out of warm materials like wool to keep your feet warm throughout the day. You can find lots of ski socks online or at the place where you’re renting your skis.
What should you not wear skiing?
The key to staying warm is wearing warm, waterproof clothing. If you choose to wear a regular sweater or wool mittens and they get wet, they’re going to get even colder than they were before. Even if it’s a sunny day, one fall in the snow can have your clothing wet and uncomfortable so stick to waterproof!