Undeniably, one of the best travel experiences for every adventure lover is waking up each day to fresh snow and that crisp Winter air. But what to bring on a ski trip? This guide will detail what to pack and how to save space while keeping costs down.
Craig and I (Gemma) have had the pleasure skiing at Whistler in Canada, the Cairngorms in Scotland, and Mayrhofen in Austria so feel equipped (boom boom) to offer advice on packing for your ski trip. Plus, all recommended products are available on Amazon Prime. Check out their free 30-day trial for next day delivery free of charge. You can even return items for free within two-days (the only downside of shopping online!) and you can cancel once you’ve done your shopping (or continue to gain access to Prime Video and Music). Click here to read more. UK readers can sign up here.
Packing Ski Gear
Option 1: Hire on Holiday
Whether you take your own ski equipment with you or not is a personal preference. We opt to hire onsite to keep airfare costs down and for a smooth transit between countries (like us catching a train between Germany and Austria). Airlines charge between £30/$38-£60/$76 depending on the size of the sports equipment and if you book online or at the airport. Naturally, if you can keep within the baggage measurements and weight you don’t have to pay an additional fee.
Option 2: Carry Your Own Kit
Our friends travel with their kit, not wanting to waste the investment or rely on the potentially lower quality equipment at the resort. They state that it can work out cheaper regardless of additional ski gear charges.
Option 3: Pack the Essentials, Hire the Rest
An ex-colleague and committed skiing friend recommends investing in boots, packing them and then hiring skis (or boards) on holiday. He says this puts the onus on the hire company to ensure that the skis and boards are safe but lets you skip the boot queue which can take the longest.
Wheeled Ski Bags
If you do decide to travel with your own ski or board equipment you will need a durable wheeled ski bag. Wheels are ideal for pulling through the airport, train stations and streets. The awkward length of skies makes carrying on your shoulder a no-no.
The 5th Element ski bag (U.S only) is padded and has a grab handle at the side. There’s a larger handle at the top which can be thrown over your shoulder. A smaller pocket for items like wax and gloves etc is located at the bottom of the bag. The padding is ideal for air travel – airlines really aren’t known for delicately handling our luggage! UK and U.S readers, check out the BRUBAKER ski, boot and helmet bag – sturdy combo.
A helmet is one of the skiing essentials for beginners. Go for one that is adjustable like this Lucky Bums Snow Sports Helmet. It comes in a variety of colours and sizes (but runs a little on the small side so go up for measurements).
Craig doesn’t ski with poles but I do. It’s entirely up to your skiing style but I like using them to help me turn (or get up during the occasional fall when I’m exhausted!) They are another thing to pack but should fit in your ski/board bag. You can’t go wrong with lightweight Salomon ski poles (or gear) but they can get pricey.
What to Bring on a Ski Trip
As mentioned in the evening wear section of our guide, footwear is required to give the feet a rest!
Pack a pair of trainers for the bar, snow boots (like these ladies Columbia or just do what Craig does and wear your hiking boots) with a good grip if there is snowfall in the town and leave the heels at home.
If staying in shared accommodation with communal showers, pack a pair of flip-flops to avoid verrucas. I swear by Havaianas, had them for years.
Pack enough ski socks for every ski day or one less if your feet aren’t prone to smelly sweat. Merino wool based socks are the best bet (see base layer section for more information). Be careful, some socks are not 100% merino.
Stock up on fresh cotton socks too for the post-shower evening outfit.
Don’t forget your swimming gear if there’s a hot tub or the potential of an invite to a hot tub!
2. Choosing the Right Tech Apparel
Although we are inclined to go all out on our snow outerwear, the base layer is actually one of the most important because it controls your temperature and sweat. You are likely to find that it’s not actually the snow that makes you feel cold but a sweaty layer on your skin. You want your base layers to allow air to circulate throughout (breathable) so the need to avoid sweat drying cold and sticky is essential. That’s where the materials come into play.
The unique Capilene (polyester) by Patagonia or the more accessible merino wool base layers are popular with winter sports enthusiasts. They work because they wick water away from your body to the surface of the layer so it can then evaporate. Patagonia is Fair Trade certified so you can shop knowing the workers get a fair pay.
General polyester is cheaper than merino but not as comfortable and if you sweat it will smell quicker! Personally, for skiing (and hiking) I go for merino options such as Helly Hanson and Icebreaker but now I’ve read more into Patagonia will consider the Capilene models in future.
A good base layer will keep you warm in cold conditions but cool in hot climates so you don’t have to pack it away come summer outdoors trip time. A great investment.
If you are top heavy adventure lover like me, don’t forget a comfortable but shockproof sports bra.
Magically, Craig was the only punter in this Piste Again jumper. It’s a really lovely fit, 80s style jersey. I went for grey with the white writing for his Christmas present. The print also comes in Ts and other text variations like ‘Snow Board’
Two options for outerwear coats. You can either go full ski jacket with a hard shell which is great for all temperatures and conditions or an insulated down puffy jacket with a waterproof soft shell. The latter is ideal for skiers who get hot easily and/or travellers who are packing for a multi-season trip. I love my Marmot Precip as it is bright (blue) and folds away into its own pocket.
If you fall into the last category, consider packing thin trousers/leggings and a quality pair of over the overtrousers. Saves space and money. I did this in Whistler, Canada as I didn’t have my full kit with me. For Austria, I wore slim-fitting O’Niell’s ski pants. Craig is a big fan of salopettes, the brighter the better.
If you have space go for the first option for a ski coat and enjoy the flexibility of hood adjustments, wrist gaiters and vents. I also like a snow pass clip so I don’t have to remove my gloves when leaving the chairlift (I get cold hands). Finally, consider a 3-in-1 like this Columbia coat for toasty padded liner but waterproof outer – both can be removed and worn separately.
Alternatively, go 80s and splurge on this crazy one-piece number.
4. Toiletries and Medical
First up – travel insurance. Make sure your insurer covers adventure winter trips. We use True Traveller, I had to claim in Vancouver and they paid out fast. Check to see if they are right for your trip here.
Regardless of the snow, you still burn! Buy a high factor face moisturiser like the lovely La Roche Posay for skiing.
Go eco-friendly and pack soap instead of gels – if you are travelling with only a cabin bag travel this saves more space in the 100ml restrictions bag too. Consider solid shampoo and conditioner too.
Ladies, a good tangle teezer is recommended. Why does our hair get so tuggy on the slopes?
Lipsalve for dry lips. Avoiding licking them if you can.
Blister pads for rubbing, pack just in case.
Hydration tablets for the next day. Believe us, they work. It was actually a British doctor that recommended them in Cuba after too many rums.
Deep heat or Biofreeze for achy muscles.
If, like me, you really feel the cold, buy these heat pads for your hands. I’m never one to promote single use but if you are staying in a hotel it is unlikely you will have access to hot water for reheating. Little Hotties state that they are biodegradable.
5. Ski Accessories
The best investment I made was splurging on these three-finger leather Hestra ski gloves. The internal mitten separates from the external leather outer so you can dry the fleece mittens without melting the outside. The three-finger glove retains the heat because the heat stays circulating around your three fingered section I made my own mitten straps to ensure I didn’t lose them but they also come with wrist clips. I only had cheap gloves in Whistler and was left feeling sick with the pain from the cold whenever we stopped skiing (chair lifts, waiting on friends, fixing gear).
If you don’t want to invest, buy cheaper waterproof gloves and also mitten liners.
Shades aren’t just about looking suave, they also block out the glare from the sun but glasses are useless when caught in heavy snow (every day, 3pm in Austria). You need goggles to help with visibility at this stage. The best goggles have adjustable head straps and correctly coloured tint (dark colours for bright sunny use, yellows for low light weather).
When wearing a helmet, a headband works best to keep the nip from your ears. Keep a hat in your day bag for lunch stops. Avoid a woollen hat, they get heavy when wet (and ruin). This headband with pony hole is perfect for long haired skiers.
Neck warmers are great when they are dry but can get moist when active on the mountain. The wet just turns cold and is pretty unpleasant! The more expensive versions like the Airhole range have mouth holes to let you breathe, this would resolve the wet issue.
Snot! Steal some toilet roll from your accommodation or buy a hanky for a more environmentally friendly answer.
Waterproof phone covers, don’t lose the incriminating photos from the bar the night before.
Record the ride, don’t forget your GoPro, body harness and selfie stick.
Laugh all you want but I like a bumbag (fanny pack) for ski trips so I can easily access my phone/camera, lip salve and some cash. There are no loose straps to get tangled with either. Handy for the pub at night too.
What to Wear at Night on a Ski Holiday
The apres-ski outfit is something that I thought a lot about before packing for Austria in March. From my experience, skiers and boarders don’t get dressed up for dinner and drinks after a day on the slopes. There definitely is a lot of socialising going on but this is done in jeans or leggings, casual tops, flats like trainers and hats. Pro tip: go for black trainers as they look dressier. I wear black trainers with dresses and jeggings during travel trips.
Surprisingly, there was no snow on the ground in the village at Mayrhofen but there was ankle deep at Whistler so winter boots are recommended for grip. Heading to Whistler? Here’s our affordable accommodation guide.
If you are attending a ski festival – pack the glitter, stock up on the superhero capes and look out for the themed night shoutouts!
Packing for your ski trip doesn’t have to be daunting. This guide has detailed the essentials and some extras depending on your Winter travel needs. I’ve also provided some do’s and don’ts of looking cool without feeling cool while skiing and boarding. Ski trips are honestly one of my favourites and nothing tastes better than that first cider after a day’s ski (or maybe just the one on top of the mountain)!
If you are driving to the slopes, scroll to the winter packing list section of our road trip guide.