Before my thirties, I’ve never set foot on a ski slope before and had no intention of ever doing so. But when Nick’s family invited me to come along on their ski trip to Mayrhofen in Austria, of course I was curious enough to say yes!
I had absolutely no idea what to expect and definitely no idea on what to pack for skiing. I’m ALWAYS cold, so I guessed that I needed to dress up very warm, but how?
At the time I write this, I’ve been on four ski trips (2x Mayerhofen in Austria, 1x Bad Klein Kirchheim in Austria and 1x Mont Tremblant in Canada) and I have a much better idea of what the best things to pack are. I thought I’d put together this comprehensive guide for you, with a downloadable ski packing list at the bottom.
The other day, Nick and I were invited by The Post Office to attend an ‘Après Ski’ event in central London, and it totally brought back all the good times we’ve had on the slopes! It also reminded us about the importance of having good travel insurance, which we’ll tell you more about at the end of this blog post.
We also got a MASSIVE goodie bag full of items that are perfect for a ski trip, so that sparked the idea to create this guide as well!
Now THAT is a nice goodie bag! Thank you Post Office!
(including: action camera, mints, thermos, partyclette (cheese grill to-go, haha), gopro head strap, buff hat, pillow spray (to sleep better), handwarmers and an alcohol test for in the car)
What to Wear Skiing?
If you’re a first time skier, then I hope this blog will help you prepare and buy the right gear in advance, so you avoid having to buy expensive clothing and other ski gear at your holiday destination.
I’ve also included some general packing tips for traveling with winter gear at the bottom of this blog, and some practical tips on essentials you don’t want to miss, as well as a handy skiing checklist beginners can download and print.
So if you’re interested, keep reading to the end!
What we'll cover in this article
- WHAT TO PACK FOR A SKI TRIP
- Ski Essentials: Layering Up!
- Snow Boots / Hiking Boots
- Hats, Gloves & Scarfs
- Renting Ski Equipment: Ski’s, Poles, Goggles & Helmets
- Normal Clothing
- Health & Beauty Products
- Electronics and Entertainment
- Don’t Forget these Essentials
WHAT TO PACK FOR A SKI TRIP
Ski Essentials: Layering Up!
If you ask anyone about the best way to prepare for the cold during a ski trip, they will tell you to layer up. With 3 essential layers (the base layer, the mid layer and the protecting layer), you’ll be sure to stay warm and dry and enjoy the most of your time on the slopes.
The weather can be changing quite fast in the mountains, so when you are working with layers, you can easily remove or add one to stay comfortable. I like to think of myself as the Queen of layering, because even at home, I’m always switching between hot and cold (mostly cold though), so I layer my clothing pretty much every single day.
1. The Base Layer – Underwear, Thermals & Socks
Picking the Right Underwear
I’ll start with a quick tip for the ladies, and that is simply to wear a sports bra. They are perfect to support you when you’re moving around a lot, so avoid wearing bra’s that you also wouldn’t wear to the gym when you hit the slopes. Same goes for your panties: choose comfortable over pretty. Embrace your inner-grandma and avoid having to go through several layers of clothing to fix your wedgie. Just sayin’.
Hurray for Thermal Underwear!
For me, thermal underwear is the next best thing after sliced bread. I wear it so often, even at home. I told you I was ALWAYS cold! No, thermals are definitely not sexy, but some brands have done a great job in making them feel like a second skin.
Thermal underwear (long sleeved shirts and long trousers) comes in different weights from lightweight to heavy and you can combine them depending on the weather conditions, so make sure to add them to your ski packing list.
Thermals should be tight to your body (comfortable, but not baggy) and the best fabrics are merino wool or a synthetic fiber, such as polyester. This will help moisture to move away from your skin and will prevent loss of heat.
Whatever you do, NEVER wear cotton as a base layer. This will get wet and stay wet for the rest of the day. This results in a lowering of your body temperature and god knows what else. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
If you really want to invest in quality thermals, I would recommend going for the slightly more expensive Merino Wool over synthetics. It’s sweat-wicking, insulating and naturally antibacterial, where sometimes synthetics can make you end up a bit smelly after a day of sweating around. Silk is another good, natural fabric that can wick away sweat.
- Sweaty Betty Base Layers
- Icebreaker Merino Women’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe
- Icebreaker Merino Women’s Oasis Leggings
- Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe
- Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis Leggings with Fly
- Blacks Women’s Base Layers
- Blacks Men’s Base Layers
A Word on Ski Socks
Just as your thermal underwear, picking the right ski socks can make or break your holiday. Stay away from bulky or cotton socks and go for the high-performance socks from leading brands.
Good ski socks reach almost to the knee, are lightweight and often made of (synthetic) wool, just like the thermals. They cushion your feet inside your ski boots and will keep your toes nice and warm by wicking away sweat.
I can recommend bringing LOTS of clean socks, as they will get sweaty after a full day on the slopes. Nothing better than ending your active day with a hot shower and the feeling of fresh, clean socks on your feet!
Another big tip (that I did wrong in the beginning) is to never layer your socks. Get one pair of good ski socks and that’s it. Wearing two pairs of socks might seem warmer, but in the end they will end up shifting and cutting off your blood circulation and giving you blisters. I’ve fought with my ski boots so often, but when I wear just one layer of socks, it helps me tremendously.
- Sweaty Betty Ski Socks
- Icebreaker Women’s Merino Ski + Ultra Light Over The Calf Socks
- Icebreaker Men’s Merino Ski + Light Over The Calf Socks
- Blacks Ski Socks
2. The Mid Layer – Insulating Clothing
As you might have guessed, your mid-layer goes over your base-layer and under your protective layer. When it’s warm, this is a layer you can easily take off.
Mid-layers are generally speaking light- to medium-weight long-sleeve shirts and light jackets. Recommended fabrics are polyester, Merino wool and most of all: fleece. These are fabrics that do not absorb a lot of moisture, but instead wicker it away for you. Again, you want to avoid wearing cotton as a mid-layer, as this will do nothing to keep you warm. On the contrary!
You can wear anything from sweaters, sweatshirts, vests and pullovers as a mid-layer, just what you prefer. I have a fleece sweater, but Nick often doesn’t even wear a mid-layer and sticks to a long-sleeve thermal shirt instead.
- Sweaty Betty Ski Tops
- Blacks Women’s Fleece
- Blacks Men’s Fleece
- Icebreaker Merino Women’s Long Sleeve Zip Hood
- Icebreaker Merino Men’s Long Sleeve Half Zip Top
3. The Protecting Layer – Shells (Jacket & Trousers)
The final of the three layers is the outer, protecting layers. This is the time to go wild and choose from hundreds (of thousands -probably) of different designs, colours and patterns. Remember that in skiing and snowboarding, nothing really has to match, so go wild if you’d like (although I prefer my jacket to be quite simple in colour, so I can where it off the slopes as well)
Buying a Ski Jacket
You really don’t want to cheap out on this, because it is an investment nevertheless and you’ll probably use this jacket for many years to come. We’ve been using our ski jackets not just on ski trips, but on any trip with cold weather, or even at home!
If you’re not sure you’re into skiing though, perhaps on your first year you can borrow it from a friend or family member, before you spend a lot of money on a jacket. Another good option is go to outlet or discount shops, where they still sell the good brands, but at a much more affordable price. In the UK, we have TK Maxx and Decathlon!
Go for a high-quality and water and wind-resistant jacket, preferably light-weight. A good thing to look out for is Goretex. Remember that generally the more waterproof a jacket is, the less breathable it will be. So if you have a full waterproof jacket, you will need some “pit zips” (zippers in your armpits, with mesh liner behind it), to let in some fresh air.
Check if the jacket has a small zip pocket in the sleeve, so you can keep your lift pass there and easily go through the ski lift barriers without having to scan your pass (it picks it up automatically). You might also want a pocket inside for your phone.
When cold, you want to keep your phone as close to your body heat, so the battery doesn’t die immediately.
A ski jacket is generally a bit shorter than a snowboard jacket, but you can really go for both, depending on your taste. I’ve always gone for a ski jacket, but if I buy my next jacket, I would personally prefer a longer jacket, that reaches over my bum instead.
You can also opt for a 3-in-1 jacket, where you can zip apart all three jackets (usually an outer jacket, fleece middle jacket and inner lining) and wear them individually. This will definitely save you some packing space, as you now also have a perfect jacket for your après ski or town trips. Another option is to buy a “shell” jacket and add any down or fleece jackets you may already own.
If you’re flying to your ski destination, I would suggest to wear the jacket on the plane to save a huge amount of space. Otherwise, have a look into compression sacks, that can squeeze out a lot of air for when your in transit.
- Blacks Women’s Ski Jackets
- Blacks Men’s Ski Jackets
- Columbia Women’s Snowshoe Mountain Omni Heat Ski Jacket
- Columbia Sportswear Men’s Alpine Action Jacket
Buying Ski Trousers / Salopettes
Same as with the jacket, make sure your trousers are waterproof, breathable and hard wearing. They should also be long enough to be able to slide them over your ski boots.
When trying them on, bend your knees and make sure the legs are long enough, without the need to pull up the pants after you come back up. Trousers seem the best way to go, as salopettes seem to be terrible when you need a wee. Your decision, though.
Oh, and perhaps totally unnecessary for me to say, but hey: don’t ever wear jeans when skiing!
- Sweaty Betty Ski Bottoms
- Columbia Women’s Arctic Air Omni-Tech Ski Snowboard Pants
- Columbia Arctic Trip Omni-Tech Mens Ski Pants
- Blacks Women’s Ski Trousers
- Blacks Men’s Ski Trousers
Snow Boots / Hiking Boots
Before you’re on your ski’s, you will need to walk to the ski rental from your accommodation. If there is a lot of snow, you really want to get yourself a pair of nice ski boots. You can easily wear these during après ski as well, nobody will care.
You can usually rent ski boots, but I would highly recommend bringing your own. You’ll wear them a lot! There are some pretty cheap ones out there that are comfortable. My first boots were about 10 pounds and they were perfect. As long as they are warm and waterproof, that’s all you need.
Another option is to bring your hiking boots, as you might not spend all your time actually on the slope, but also exploring the village or simply going to the grocery store.
Same as with you ski jacket: wear your heavy boots/shoes on the plane.
- Blacks Women’s Snow Boots
- Blacks Men’s Snow Boots
- SOREL Women’s Meadow Lace Premium Snow Boot
- SOREL Men’s 1964 Pac T Snow Boot
- Blacks Women’s Hiking Boots
- Blacks Men’s Hiking Boots
- Brasher Women’s Country Walker Walking Boot [our review!]
- Brasher Men’s Country Master Walking Boot
Hats, Gloves & Scarfs
Even if you ski with a helmet, you want to wear a hat to keep you warm. You’ll definitely wear the hat at night and when you pause your skiing when breaking for lunch. Make sure you’ll get one without a pompom on the top if you’re wearing a helmet!
Having good, waterproof gloves is really important when skiing. Don’t cheap out on them, as you’ll be using them every day. Make sure the gloves are waterproof as well, because having wet gloves are the WORST. I would say that packing a second pair of gloves, in case your first pair doesn’t dry quickly enough is NOT a luxury.
Remember that the thickest gloves are not always the warmest or the best for skiing, so make sure to shop around. Also, if you attach a string and loop them trough your ski jacket’s sleeves, you’ll feel like a little kid, but won’t lose your gloves ever again!
Scarf VS Gaiter
While I usually where a scarf when going outside, for skiing this is not really your best option, as it flaps around and can create little gaps where wind comes through. You’re better off buying a so-called ‘gaiter’ which is like a tube of fabric that you slide your head through.
- Blacks Women’s Ski Gloves
- Blacks Men’s Ski Gloves
- Women’s The North Face Montana Gore-Tex Gloves
- The North Face Revelstoke Etip Glove Men’s
- Blacks Women’s Hats & Beanies
- Blacks Men’s Hats & Beanies
- Buff Adult Knitted & Polar Patterned Beanie Hat
- Blacks Women’s Neck Gaiters & Scarves
- Blacks Men’s Neck Gaiters & Scarves
- Original Turtle Fur Fleece Heavyweight Neck Warmer
Renting Ski Equipment: Ski’s, Poles, Goggles & Helmets
I’m going to assume you’re renting all your equipment, because if you’re an experienced skier, you probably wouldn’t read this packing guide.
Just go to the rental place, tell them your experience level and what you want to do (ski or snowboard) and your boot size and length. They will them provide you with the right ski’s, poles and ski boots, or a snowboard + shoes.
If you are a first-time skier, perhaps you want to play it save and rent (or buy) a helmet. Head injuries are not something to think lightly about!
Sunglasses VS Goggles
You might not realize it when you’re on the slopes when it’s cold, but the sun in the mountains is very strong and the white snow will strongly reflect sunlight. The higher you get, the stronger the sun’s UV rays are. Make sure to protect your eyes and increase your visibility by wearing ski goggles. When you get one with polarized lenses, you also reduce glare.
Another option is to just wear sunglasses, but you will find they can fog up pretty easily. Goggles can also be attached to your helmet so you can take them on and off easily without losing them. They often fit differently depending on the helmet, so renting them together will ensure they fit.
Think about bringing sunglasses either way, even if you don’t use them on the slopes. On a sunny day when you’re having lunch outside, you’ll be happy you have them!
- Blacks Ski Goggles & Helmets
- Giro Women’s Facet: Snow Goggles
- Giro Men’s Index OTG Goggles
- Sinner Titan Ski Helmet
- Blacks Women’s Sunglasses
- Blacks Men’s Sunglasses
Having a break in the mountain restaurant for a hot chocolate, coffee or beer is definitely part of the ski-fun, but when you just want to drink something quickly, bringing your own drink bottle can safe you quite some money on the slopes.
Also make sure to throw in a couple of granola bars or apples in your backpack, so you can get an energy boost when you need it.
While you do want to pack fewer ordinary clothes that you would normally do on a trip, don’t forget that you’re not just ON the slopes. You’ll be walking around in your accommodation, perhaps exploring the village and of course go for dinner in the evening.
Most après ski’s I’ve been to, we went straight from the slopes and everyone is perfectly happy walking around in their ski trousers and mid-layers.
Keep your clothing to one or two pairs of trousers (like jeans), a few jumpers and shirts you feel comfortable in, and that’s it pretty much. As you’re surrounded by nothing else than other skiiers, this isn’t a trip to get all fancy. Choose comfortable and practical (mix & match) over stylish. You can add a nice scarf to dress up a bit if you want. Leave your heels at home, ladies, you’ll only break your neck in the snow or get them ruined in the bar.
Don’t forget to also pack your pyjama’s, perhaps a pair of slippers and your bathing suit or trunks! Most ski resorts will have a pool and/or sauna facilities, which you don’t want to miss.
You might also want to pack a pair of ‘normal’ gloves to use when your ski gloves aren’t in use, or drying.
Casual dinner with the family
Health & Beauty Products
Besides your normal toileries that you would bring on a trip, here are some things you should definitely bring when you’re going on a ski trip:
As I mentioned earlier, the sun can be pretty harsh on the mountains, so always make sure to protect your face from UV rays and slap on some sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy!
First Aid Kid
Moisturizer & Lip Balm
Going from the sun and wind/snow in your face, to a super warm indoor area, will kill your skin. Make sure to moisturize and use lip balm!
Not only great to warm your hands, but you can put heat packs into your boots or gloves to warm them up.
The cold might give you runny nose, so a pack of tissues in your jacket can be super useful! I have a cold 365 days a year, so I never travel anywhere without.
Electronics and Entertainment
We’ve been bringing our GoPro to our last ski trips and got some amazing footage! We were just using it with the selfie-stick, which is fine if you’re a good skier and can keep your poles in one hand, but otherwise perhaps get a head strap. We just got one in the goodie bag, so will definitely be testing that next time!
Always make sure to check what power sockets they have in the country you’re travelling to and bring the right adapters.
Waterproof Phone Case
Just in case you drop your phone in the snow, make sure to use a waterproof phone case. Better safe than sorry!
Why not track your day of skiing with a GPS? Most smart phones and watches have great apps for this now.
Book / Games
When you’re not skiing and want to do something, bringing a book or a fun game to play with the whole family is recommended! We always play fun card games at night.
Don’t Forget these Essentials
I’ve forgotten to pack so many essential items over the years, that I started to make my own packing list on Evernote and simply tick off the boxes each time I travel now, so I don’t miss a thing. Here’s what you’ll definitely what to bring on a ski trip:
With a small day pack, you can bring drinks and snacks to the slopes, as well as have a place to store any item of clothing that you want to take off, or keep your camera and things like that. We always bring one!
Seems like a nobrainer, but just make sure your passport still valid for a couple of months after your trip is planned, just in case!
Bring your credit/debit card, but also see if you can organise some local currency in cash beforehand.
Flight Bookings & Boarding Pass
Check if your airline has a mobile app you can use and save a tree. Just make sure your phone is charged!
Check beforehand if there are any special rules when driving in the country. For example in France, you need to have an alcohol test in your car and in Germany, you need snow tires.
This is so important – At the Post Office Event we went to, we learned that over 57% of people are hitting the slopes without proper winter sports insurance, which sounds crazy if you ask me! These people really underestimate just how much medical costs can be (especially if they have to helicopter you out) – even if you have a minor incident. Apparently, 1 in 3 people have some sort of misadventure on a winter sports holiday!
An insurance is something you 100% need for a ski trip, as accidents while doing adventure sports is not something that is usually covered in standard travel insurance packages. So even if you have a travel insurance, always make sure that you check your policy to ensure you’re not invalidating it by going skiing.
Check the website of The Post Office for more information on their insurances and tips on how to #SkiSafe (you can also see a fun video of the event on this page!): postoffice.co.uk/travel-insurance/ski/ski-safe
Bonus: Ski Trip Packing List Tips
With all those bulky items, packing for a ski trip can be a bit tricky, so here are some of my favourite tips to help you out:
Roll your clothes (instead of folding)
When you roll your clothing tightly, you will compress it by squeezing out the air and you’ll save a ton of space -and get less crinkles!
Use compression sacks for puffy items
If you’re packing ‘puffy’ items such as a jacket or ski trousers, use compression sacks to squeeze out all the air and pack everything up as tight and small as possible.
Fill boots and helmet
Anything with a gap or hole in it is perfect to store (fragile) items, such as your GoPro, goggles and such. Or you can simply use it to stuff in all your socks and underwear. Use every tiny corner, don’t leave gaps!
Organise your life with packing cubes
Packing cubes are simply THE BEST! You can use different ones (in different sizes) to separate underwear, socks, base layers and normal clothing.
Bonus: Top Tips to #SkiSafe
- Get Fit & Warm Up – Decrease the chance of injury and ease the level of sore muscles in the first few days.
- Get a EHIC Card – The European Health Insurance Card allows you to receive state-provided medical care at the same rate as a citizen of that country (You still usually need additional winter sports insurance for more serious injuries)
- Take Lessons – Gosh, I wish I told myself this. Even if you’ve skied before, it’s likely been over a year (or longer) and you just need to get that feel back. Don’t have a snowmobile have to rescue you of the slopes on your first day. Don’t be like Nienke.
- Know Your Limits – Alcohol impacts your judgement, coordination and reaction time. When you injure yourself or others, you can even invalidate your insurance cover!
- Check the Snow Reports – They will give you daily updates on snow conditions and piste conditions including avalanche risk levels and open lift numbers.
Download Our Complete Skiing Checklist
I hope you found all these tips useful and that you have an amazing ski trip. Please download your own printable ski packing list here. Let me know how you did!
Download this ski trip packing list printable so you’ll never forget anything!
Here are a few more photos from the fun #SkiSafe event that inspired this ski holiday packing list post:
I hope this list helps you decide what to pack for a ski holiday! Did I miss anything? Let me know!
PACKING FOR SKI TRIP? BOOKMARK THIS ARTICLE ON PINTEREST:
Disclaimer: We were kindly invited by The Post Office to attend their Après Ski #SkiSafe event. We were not asked to write about the event, but their amazing goodie bag sparked the idea to write a ski trip checklist for you, something I’ve wanted to do for ages!! So here you go, all photos and opinions are 100% my own.