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The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List

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No matter what level of experience they have on the slopes, all skiers will need to bring along the following essentials.

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No matter what level of experience they have on the slopes, all skiers will need to bring along the following essentials.

Follow this guide to the best things to take on a ski trip, for both on and off the slopes.

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The 2020–2021 ski season will certainly look different due to a variety of coronavirus safeguards in place at resorts everywhere from Colorado to Japan (goodbye traditional 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. 

Ski clothing

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.

Outer layers

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.

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Patagonia’s Snowbelle 3-in-1 Jacket ($399, rei.com) and Snowbelle Pants ($199, rei.com) are some of the most highly rated ski wear on REI’s website. If you’re looking to invest in ski clothing that will last years, Iceland’s outdoor gear company 66º North recently launched in the United States and is known for standing up to the country’s notoriously unpredictable weather.

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.

How Rent the Runway Changed the Way I Pack
The Columbia Three Forks Black Dot Jacket is available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

Mid layers

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. Cotopaxi’s Dorado Half-Zip Fleece ($100, cotopaxi.com) 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, columbia.com) is lined with the brand’s proprietary Omni-Heat 3-D technology, a thermal-reflective pattern that retains heat while still being breathable. You can also wear this without a waterproof shell off the slopes thanks to the new Black Dot technology on the outside of the jacket that traps warmth and captures solar heat.

Base layers

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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. Smartwool, Icebreaker, and 66º North all make high-quality merino wool base layers that are both soft and durable.

Ski accessories

In addition to regular ski accessories like gloves and hats, skiers during the 2000–2021 season will also need to pack face masks since many resorts—including all 37 of Vail Resorts’ locations in the United States, Canada, and Australia will require them in order to be allowed on the mountain. Thankfully, neck gaiters or balaclavas provide extra protection against wind and cold while also covering your nose and mouth to meet these new COVID-19 precautions.

  • Ski hat or helmet liner
  • Ski gloves
  • Neck gaiter or balaclava 
    • AFAR’s pick: The Evo Oyuki Proclava ($30, evo.com) easily fits under a helmet and covers your face and mouth while also keeping your neck and head warm.
  • Ski socks
    • AFAR’s pick: Bomba’s merino wool Performance Ski & Snowboard Socks ($24, bombas.com) are made with temperature regulating vents that allow cool air to flow in to prevent overheating, while also keeping your feet warm.

Ski gear

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.

  • Goggles
  • Helmet
  • Skis
  • Ski poles
  • Ski boots
Woolen slippers from Danish brand Glerups are key for staying cozy off the slopes.

Après-ski clothing

Even though the après-ski this year means 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:

  • Jeans
  • Comfy pants for lounging
  • Sweaters or cozy fleece jacket
  • Mittens
  • Beanie
  • Sunglasses
  • Casual waterproof boots
  • Slippers
    • AFAR’s pick: Danish Glerup Slippers ($135–$155, huckberry.com) 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.
  • Swimsuit
  • Flip-flops

Miscellaneous items for the slopes

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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 
    • AFAR’s pick: Supergoop’s new Cloud 9 100% Mineral Sun Balm SPF 40 ($26, supergoop.com) is made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection and shea butter to soothe dry and cracked skin. Plus it comes in a pocket-friendly one-ounce tin.
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Hand warmers
  • GoPro
  • Portable charger
  • Water bottle
  • Lightweight backpack
    • AFAR’s pick: Matador’s Freefly16 Packable Backpack ($55, matadorup.com) is weatherproof, packs down to the size of your palm, and weighs less than five ounces.

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. The travel clothing company Bluffworks is about to launch a new line of “BluffCube” Compression Packing Cubes (from $48, bluffworks.com) that can be packed from the elastic top access opening and compressed with a strap that has an adjustable buckle. 

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 ($130, rei.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.

Next:

>> The AFAR Guide to Après-Ski

>> Who Wears It Well? The Best in Après-Ski Outfits

>> The World’s Most Charming Ski Towns

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

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