What to Pack for a Ski or Snowboard Trip

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After returning from my first ski trip, I had some thoughts on what I would have brought and things I should have left at home. (Skip to Full List of What to Take Skiing/Snowboarding) Regardless of where you are traveling, it’s a drag to tote a heavy, unruly suitcase.

The ideal in packing for any trip is to strike a delicate balance so that you aren’t weighed down but that you remember to bring everything you need.

It’s certainly not the end of the world if you forget an essential item because there are many retailers there more than happy to sell you overpriced items.

While some of these items are no-brainers, those new to the sport may overlook some items that can make the trip more enjoyable.

The most obvious items to bring include ski pants, ski jacket, goggles, gloves or mittens, and helmet (if you choose not to rent one).  I found it worthwhile to purchase my own helmet rather than rent because it cost me the same and I will certainly use it again.  The only down side was the space it took up in my luggage.

Ahnu Womens Sugarpine Hiking BootsMy biggest error was, in several cases, opting for fashion over practicality. For example, I chose to bring two pairs of boots, both of which were impractical for navigating the town’s icy streets. This wasn’t intentional, but as a newbie, I didn’t expect having to traverse icy walkways.

Not only should I have used the packing space for waterproof hiking boots which would have offered traction, I never even wore their more attractive counterparts. I emphasize waterproof hiking boots.

Consider whether or not it’s worth toting the extra bulk of a parka or coat. Your ski jacket is perfectly acceptable to use while out and about. You won’t look out of place wearing it while off the slopes. I noticed that was a common practice.

One thing to keep in mind, in particular if your ski plans take you to a small town, is the distance you will be from stores that carry anything more than the bare necessities. Common items will be available in the local store(s), but there will be little selection. I’m talking about basic products a traveler can easily overlook or take for granted such as first aid items and women’s products. Also keep in mind the local stores tend to close early.

Sports grade sunscreen and moisturizing lip balm aren’t optional. The dry, cold air will chap your lips in three seconds flat without adequate coverage; and the sun’s rays will unexpectedly burn your exposed face due to the reflective property of snow.

Gloves versus mittens.

I opted for mittens because I was told they would keep my hands warmer. I noticed mobility was slightly limited but not so much as to regret choosing them over gloves. Personally, I was more concerned with warmth than dexterity.

Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Gloves
Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Gloves – 3 Finger

While my pair was a simple, uncomplicated version; a friend purchased a pair of internal dividers, effectively creating the feel of a glove but with the coverage of a mitten. Her particular pair had an area for inserting hand warmers and a zippered vent for the event her hands got too warm.

I purchased some hand warmers at the urging of fellow travelers. It turned out that I didn’t need to use them, but they were so inexpensive at one of the big box stores and they took up virtually no room it was worth having them as a back-up.

With temperatures below freezing, I expected to be constantly uncomfortable.  Given that I hate being cold, it never occurred to me to pack short sleeved shirts or anything other than leggings and jeans.

I found the hotel was kept extremely warm, so I ended up regretting my decision to pack only long sleeved clothing. Had I known our lodging would be hotter than a Florida summer day, I would have packed a pair of shorts and a few t-shirts.

This leads me to make a point about how to dress. Layers are the way to go. Temperatures change dramatically depending on the time of day and the environment where you are at any given moment.

Smartwool PhDYou may go directly from the chilly slopes to an overheated restaurant. On a particularly warm day where temperatures soared above freezing, I had to remove a layer and unzip my jacket during ski lessons.

Perhaps a seasoned skier would take for granted that one should wear wool socks while enjoying this sport, but this wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.

The significant price difference between knee-high wool ski socks and those made of other material is clearly worth it when you think of the consequences of opting for the inexpensive ones.  Imagine cotton socks plus snow or water. Uncomfortable to say the least.

The wool socks, made specifically for snowy weather, fit snuggly around your calf, reducing the chance snow and water will make their way to your feet. They also keep the ski boot from rubbing and causing skin irritation.

Planning ahead for keeping your goggles fog-free is well worth the effort.  If unprepared, you may find yourself in the dangerous, and at the very least, annoying situation of skiing with limited visibility.

That’s not to mention when your goggles keep fogging up, it’s just plain annoying. You can purchase a lens cloth designed for this purpose or spray that minimizes the fogging action.

When packing, a swimsuit is an item that could be easily overlooked, but keep in mind that many accommodations provide access to hot tubs for relaxing.  Check to see if your accommodations offer access to a hot tub or sauna.

Skiing in cold weather at fast speeds will naturally expose you to frigid wind. Protecting your neck is a serious consideration.  My boyfriend chose to bring a turtleneck. I found a “gator” to be perfectly effective and comfortable. One thing in particular I preferred about the gator is the ability to pull it up to cover both your mouth and nose.

The ideal is to avoid over-packing while ensuring you have everything needed for a successful adventure.

List Of What To Take Skiing/Snowboarding

Ski / Snowboard Equipment

  • Skis / Snowboard
  • Ski Poles
  • Ski / Snowboard bag
  • Ski / Snowboard boots
  • Goggles
  • Helmet

Ski / Snowboard Clothing

  • Ski/Snowboard jacket
  • Ski/Snowboard pants
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Heavy sweaters / fleece
  • Long underwear / base layer
  • Neck warmer/Gator or scarf
  • Warm waterproof boots
  • Turtlenecks
  • Warm hat
  • Merino wool socks
  • Sunglasses

Misc Equipment

  • Alarm clock
  • Batteries for small electronics
  • Camera
  • Hand warmers
  • Video/GoPro camera
  • Electronics chargers for your cell phone, camera, video camera, and laptop
  • Hair dryer (unless the hotel or condo will supply one)
  • Headphones for watching in-flight movies
  • iPod and iPod dock

Health and Beauty Items

  • Antibacterial wipes/lotion
  • Body lotion
  • Comb and brush
  • Contact lens solution
  • Deodorant
  • Face cleanser
  • First aid kit, including gas-relief tablets, antacid, antidiarrheal medicine, antihistamine for allergies, bandages, candied ginger for motion sickness, mild laxative, non-aspirin pain reliever, thermometer in a hard case
  • Floss
  • Lip balm (choose one with SPF 15)
  • Moisturizer
  • Personal-hygiene items
  • Prescription Medicine
  • Razors
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving gel
  • Soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Miscellaneous Items

  • Print out of lift Tickets if purchased in advance
  • Addresses of friends and family for postcards
  • Healthy snacks, such as Trail Mix, chewy granola bars or dried fruit
  • Money (cash, ATM cards, traveler’s checks)
  • Printouts of reservations
  • Travel journal
  • Travel pillow and blanket
  • Ziploc bags for stowing small liquid containers at airports


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Richard Remick

Richard is the founder and the chief editor of Outside Pursuits. Passionate about the great outdoors, Richard spends much of his time in Colorado enjoying skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. When at home in Florida, he is most often found in the water. He loves water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. He is a certified scuba diver. Because of his wealth of knowledge and experience, Richard has been invited to contribute articles to many outdoor-focused websites, such as Florida Rambler, and has been profiled on travel websites such as JohnnyJet.
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