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The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing Checklist

Packing for a ski trip is no small task. There is a ton of gear, clothing, and travel essentials you need to remember. And if you forget something important, it can put a damper on an otherwise-perfect day on the mountain.

Whether you’re planning a long day on the slopes at the resort with friends or a solo mission in the backcountry, this list has what you need. I remembered everything you need to pack for your next skiing trip - so you don’t have to. Here are the items you need to make your next ski trip a success.

Gear Bags and Luggage

Depending on what kind of trip you’re going on, you might take a few different approaches to storing your gear. If you’re flying, you’ll need a rolling ski bag to check your skis onto the plane.

If you’re not flying, you can probably get by with a good duffel bag and a boot bag. Boot bags are the best way to organize everything you’ll need on the hill.

Your duffel is for everything you don’t need immediately while you’re skiing - clothes, toiletry kit, etc. Your duffel stays at home, while your boot bag comes with you to the resort or trailhead.

It’s also a good idea to bring a backpack/day pack with a few items in it. If the conditions change, you can throw on extra layers. If you get hungry or thirsty, you’ve got water and snacks on you.

Winter Clothing

Packing the right layers for a day of skiing is a subtle art. But in general, you should always have the following winter clothing:

Base Layers

Including thin ski socks, long johns or tights, and a technical base layer for your upper body. I strongly recommend buying merino wool base layers.

Merino is the warmest material for insulating layers, and it's even odor resistant. A merino wool neck warmer (or neck gaiter) and glove liners for cold weather are also helpful to have. For our female readers, invest in a solid sports bra. You'll be glad to have it.

This is the smallest number of base layers you should wear on an average day at the mountain. If it’s colder, you can layer warmer base layers over the thin ones that go next to your skin.

Warmth Layers

Which insulating layers you pick will change a lot depending on the weather conditions. Sometimes a fleece jacket is plenty, other times you will want a synthetic or down puffy jacket to go under your shell.

Mid - layers are crucial when you're in the elements all day. Try to stick with synthetic material when picking warmth layers as it resists water, unlike cotton.

A pair of gym shorts under your ski pants will work wonders in keeping your legs warm. If you’re using glove liners, make sure they don’t fit too tightly under your gloves. When your gloves are too tight, your circulation will be cut off, which will make you colder.

Waterproof Layers

Staying dry is key. If you can, always invest in a high quality Gore-Tex shell and bib pants. This is the best way by far to create a seal against water. Bibs fit the best and provide the most water resistance. Some skiers prefer to have a waterproof ski jacket that is also insulated, rather than just a shell.

If the weather is sunny and warm, waterproof layers might be unnecessary. But you should still always bring your waterproof jacket with you, even if you don’t use it. If the wind picks up, or it starts snowing, it’s helpful to have an extra layer on hand.

Gloves or Mittens

Some skiers prefer the added dexterity provided by gloves. Others go with mittens because they stay warmer. Either way, insulated ski gloves are a must to keep your hands dry and warm.

Ski Gear

Regardless of the weather, there are a few things you’ll always need. Make sure you have:

The Right Skis

By which, I mean skis that are appropriate for the snow conditions. On a heavy powder day, groomer skis won’t do. If it’s slushy, wide skis designed for powder snow won’t turn as well.

So make sure you’ve got skis that are long enough, wide enough, and stiff enough for the kind of snow you’ll be skiing. If you’re touring or ski mountaineering, you want lightweight, nimble skis that can handle the snow conditions without weighing you down.

Ski Boots

Finding the right pair of ski boots is harder than finding the right skis. First, you want something appropriate for the activity. Downhill boots work better for resort skiing, and technical touring boots are for the backcountry. But most importantly, you want your boots to fit you perfectly.

Because ski boots have plastic shells, finding the ideal fit can be tough. If you’re having trouble dialing the fit in, pay a visit to your local boot fitter.

For those with wide feet, see my guide to the best ski boots for wide feet.

Poles

Some resort skiers prefer a simple aluminum pole. These are cheap and durable. For ski touring and mountaineering, adjustable poles work better. Adjustable poles are easier to pack and lighter.

Helmet

Your helmet is your best friend, because you only get one brain. I recommend a MIPS helmet for the best protection.

Goggles or Sunglasses

The conditions we run into on the mountain can be hard on your eyes. Snow reflects sunlight and amplifies it. This can cause permanent damage to your sight.

Goggles work better in cold weather, because they help keep your face warm. If you’re touring or ski mountaineering, sunglasses with a high visible light transmission (VLT) rating are better.

Backcountry Gear

If your ski trip involves going into the backcountry, you need to make sure you have backcountry-specific gear. This is especially important if you’re planning on doing any serious mountaineering or climbing. Any time you’re skiing outside the resort, you should have the following:

Avalanche Gear

Whenever you venture outside of the resort, you need to have your beacon, shovel, and probe. In addition, you should always have a partner with you.

The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials cover all the survival basics you need when you go out of bounds.

They are:

  1. Navigation
  2. Light
  3. Sun protection
  4. First aid
  5. Firestarter
  6. Your knife
  7. A makeshift shelter
  8. Extra food
  9. Extra water
  10. Extra clothing

Technical Climbing Gear

If you're going ski mountaineering, you may need other equipment.

Your glacier kit, rope, crampons, ice axes, Garmin inReach, mountaineering helmet, glacier glasses, and gaiters might be necessary. This is all dependent on what you're planning on climbing and skiing.

Relaxing Clothes

When you get back down from the mountain, you’ll want a comfy, warm outfit to lounge in. Warm socks, sweaters, beanies, and the like are a welcome change after skiing all day.

If you’re staying at a lodge with a hot tub, don’t forget your swimsuit!

Other Helpful Things to Have

Water Storage

Skiing is hard work. Make sure you have some water, either in a water bottle or a hydration bladder with a hose.

Snacks

On good snow days, nobody wants to take a break. Pack a few granola bars or some trail mix to munch on while you ride the chairlift.

Hand Warmers

If the weather is freezing, add a hand warmer to your gloves. These packable hot pads are real lifesavers when the weather is nasty.

Travel Gear

Don't forget the things you need to be comfortable. Your toiletry kit, phone charger, travel pillow, and whatever else you need. It's also a good idea to bring an external battery pack or another power source for when you’re away from where you’re staying.

Your Pass

If you’re skiing at a resort, make sure you have your day pass or season pass with you. Day passes are small and notoriously easy to lose. But more on this later.

Packing Tips

If this is your first ever ski trip, there are a few things you can do to make life easier. Here are some quick tips to streamline packing and save you some headache down the road.

Get a jacket with big pockets

More storage room on your person is always helpful. Especially if you’re skiing in the resort, it’s a lot easier to keep everything you need in your jacket rather than in a backpack.

High- and low-light goggle lenses

Most new goggles have the option to interchange lenses. I recommend getting two lenses, one that blocks more light for sunny days, and another that’s more transparent for stormy weather.

Some skiers even use clear lenses when the sky is cloudy. This is helpful if you’re going night skiing. Avoid clear lenses in full sun, as they don't offer much UV protection.

Parking lot shoes

One small change that can make your day much easier is to bring some slip-on sneakers or moccasins to the resort. It’s smart to have some comfortable shoes before and after you put your ski boots on. 

Bring pain relievers

If you're going skiing multiple days on your trip, always bring some over-the-counter pain meds. Don't let sore legs stop you from enjoying your time in the mountains.

Grill it up 

Resort food can be expensive. If you have a big group with you, cut costs on food by grilling in the parking lot of the resort. Bring a few camp chairs, a propane stove, and enjoy the outdoors. This is a great way to relax between runs.

Keep your pass pocket zipped up

When you get your resort pass, put it somewhere where it's easy to scan. It needs to be in a pocket by itself - keeping it with keys or your phone can make the gates at the resort not work.

Once you pick your dedicated pass pocket, zip it up and don’t open it. It’s a good idea to keep your pass in a piece of clothing you always wear, like your ski pants. That way you always have it on you. Passes are easy to lose and can be a pain to replace.

Checklist

Did you get everything? Let’s double check.

  • Duffel bag, backpack, boot bag, ski bag
  • Base layers
  • Warmth layers
  • Waterproof layers
  • Skis
  • Boots
  • Poles 
  • Helmet
  • Goggles or sunglasses
  • Avalanche gear (if you’re skiing in the backcountry)
  • The Ten Essentials (not essential for the ski resort)
  • Technical gear (for ski mountaineering or touring)
  • Comfy clothes for after you get off the mountain
  • Travel stuff (toiletry kit, phone charger, power source, travel pillow, etc.)
  • Your pass

I consider myself a citizen of the West. Currently residing in my hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah. Between my career as a wildlife biologist and my many outdoor hobbies (mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, climbing, canyoneering, caving), I’ve seen just about every nook and cranny of the Wild, Weird West.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.