The ski season still looks slightly different due to a variety of COVID-19 safeguards in place at resorts everywhere from Colorado to Canada (goodbye rowdy après-ski scene, hello face masks). But for the most part, the list of essentials you need to bring with you to make sure you stay comfortable on and off the slopes hasn’t changed: You’ll need waterproof outer layers to stay dry, and cozy wool and fleece base layers to stay warm.
Here, you’ll find a ski trip packing list of everything you’ll need for a successful mountain vacation, plus some of our favorite gear recommendations and packing tips.
The trick to staying warm and dry on the mountain is layering. You will need outer layers to protect you from the elements, a mid layer to keep your core warm, and base layers to keep everything from your ankles to your neck warm.
Windproof and waterproof ski jackets and ski pants are what separate a great day on the slopes from a miserable one. Look for fabrics made with Gore-Tex or a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating to keep snow out. You’ll also want them to be breathable to let moisture out and to include features like armpit vents so you don’t overheat.
You’ll want to keep your core warm with an extra layer between your outer shell and base layer woolies. Anything from a fleece pullover or a puffy jacket or vest will work, depending on how cold and snowy you expect your destination to be.
In addition to a pair of leggings, you’ll also want to pack a long-sleeve top layer. We prefer ones with a quarter zip neck so you can adjust for changing weather throughout the day. Choose from either synthetic fabrics or merino wool—both provide sweat-wicking properties. We gravitate toward merino wool since in addition to being breathable, it naturally remains odor-free no matter how sweaty you get.
- Ski jacket (The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 Jacket, $360, is one of the most highly rated ski jackets for men and women on REI’s website.)
- Ski pants, like Aether’s Carlyle Snow Pant ($595), which is made with a waterproof three-layer Gore-Tex fabric and comes with a Recco Rescue Reflector transponder that rescue teams can use to find you in the case of an avalanche.
- Mid layers, like Cotopaxi’s Dorado Half-Zip Fleece ($110) which is made with recycled polyester and comes in a variety of fun colors for both men and women. If you’re looking for serious insulation, Columbia’s Three Forks Black Dot Jacket ($280) is lined with the brand’s proprietary Omni-Heat 3-D technology, a thermal-reflective pattern that retains heat while still being breathable.
- Base layers (Smartwool, Icebreaker, and Kari Traa all make high-quality merino wool base layers that are both soft and durable.)
If you’re not looking to spend hundreds of dollars on ski pants and jackets you’re only going to wear a few times a year, you can also rent ski clothes from brands like Perfect Moment and Spyder from Rent the Runway for a fraction of the retail cost.
In addition to regular ski accessories like gloves and hats, skiers will also need to pack face masks since many resorts—including all 34 of Vail Resorts’ locations in North America will require them in indoor settings during the 2021-2022 season.
- Ski hat or helmet liner
- Ski gloves
- Neck gaiter or balaclava (The Evo Oyuki Proclava, $30, easily fits under a helmet and covers your face and mouth while also keeping your neck and head warm.)
- Ski socks, like Bomba’s merino wool Performance Ski & Snowboard Socks,$24, which are made with temperature regulating vents that allow cool air to flow in to prevent overheating, while also keeping your feet warm.
Unless you’re an experienced skier who hits the slopes every weekend, it’s more convenient to rent your gear on-site—especially if you’re flying and don’t want to schlep it all there. However, it doesn’t hurt to purchase your own pair of goggles, since those are easy to pack and quality pairs can be found for $50 or less at REI or Backcountry.
- Ski poles
- Ski boots
Even though the après-ski this year may still mean sipping whiskey by the fireplace or in the hot tub at your cabin instead of with a large crowd at a bar, you’ll still want to pack comfy clothes for relaxing after a day on the slopes. Be sure to bring the following items for peak coziness:
- Comfy pants for lounging
- Sweaters or cozy fleece jacket
- Casual waterproof boots
- Slippers (Danish Glerup Slippers, $125–$155, are made with felted wool uppers and slip-resistant rubber soles so your feet stay warm and dry even if you have to dash outside quickly.)
Miscellaneous items for the slopes
In addition to your ski pass, you’ll want to have some cash and a credit card with you on the slopes so you can pay for lunch, plus a photo ID. You’ll also want to consider keeping these other miscellaneous items handy on the slopes so you stay warm, hydrated, and sunburn-free:
- Sunscreen (Supergoop’s Cloud 9 100% Mineral Sun Balm SPF 40, $26, is made with shea butter to soothe dry and cracked skin and it comes in a pocket-friendly one-ounce tin.)
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand warmers
- Portable charger
- Water bottle
- Lightweight backpack, like Matador’s Freefly16 Packable Backpack, $80, which is weatherproof, weighs less than seven ounces, and packs down to the size of your palm.
Luggage for ski gear
If you’re renting your gear, you just need to make sure your suitcase has enough room to fit your sweaters and ski jacket. It also doesn’t hurt to purchase compression packing cubes to cut down on the bulk from puffy pants and fluffy fleeces.
But if you own your gear, you should consider investing in specialized boot bags and ski bags so your gear doesn’t get damaged and is easier to carry. L.L. Bean’s Adventure Pro Ski Boot Backpack ($119, llbean.com) can fit your boots, goggles, helmet, and gloves comfortably. And at 18 x 14 x 13 inches, it’s sized to fit in the overhead compartment of most airplanes so you don’t have to worry about your gear getting lost. You’ll have to check your skis regardless, but the Thule RoundTrip Ski Bag ($150, nordstrom.com) has padded sleeves for up to one pair of alpine skis, plus a dedicated internal pole compartment to make sure they don’t get damaged along the way.