Ski season is already off to a great start, with some resorts in Colorado opening as early as October 2022. With winter storms sweeping across the United States right before Christmas, it’s never been a better time to start planning a ski trip, whether you’re a novice or ready to rip down black diamond runs. No matter your skill level, the list of essential ski gear to bring with you to stay comfortable on and off the slopes is the same: 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
- Ski pants
- Mid-layers, like Cotopaxi’s Teca Fleece Full-Zip Jacket ($110) made with recycled polyester in a variety of fun colors for both men and women
- 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 that 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 accessories like gloves, hats, and goggles, skiers shouldn’t forget to bring (or rent) a helmet to keep them as safe as possible on the slopes.
- Ski hat or helmet liner
- Ski gloves
- Neck gaiter or balaclava
- Ski socks, like Bomba’s Heavyweight Merino Wool Ski & Snowboard Socks, $30, which have strategic cushioning where you need it the most
Unless you’re an experienced skier who hits the slopes every weekend, it’s more convenient (and ecofriendly) to rent your gear on-site—especially if you’re flying and don’t want to schlep it all there.
- Ski poles
- Ski boots
Whether your dream après-ski scene is sipping whiskey by the fireplace or in the hot tub at your cabin or with a crowd of new friends at a rowdy bar, you’ll 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, $130–$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:
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand warmers
- Portable charger
- Water bottle
- Lightweight backpack (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 ($129) 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 Roller Bag ($300) has padded sleeves for up to two pairs of alpine skis, plus a dedicated internal pole compartment to make sure they don’t get damaged along the way.
This article was originally published in November 2020; it was updated on December 21, 2022, with current information.