Skiing with family or friends at your local resort is fun, but nothing compares to discovering new mountains. I’ve traveled to France, Western Canada, the Gaspé Peninsula and Japan in search of powder, so I know a little about ski travel. Whether you’re heading to the Rockies, the Chic-Chocs or overseas, make sure you don’t forget anything with our ski trip packing list.
Ski day essentials
1. Duffel bag
First thing’s first: the bag or suitcase that will hold all your gear. If your trip involves air travel and you want to bring your own equipment, you’ll need to get your hands on a carry-on bag for your skis or board. If you plan on renting your equipment on site, you can just bring your boots in a boot bag. The comfort of your ski boots is key if you want to enjoy your time on the slopes, so bringing your own boots on your trip will save you a lot of trouble.
I often only bring a carry-on bag to transport my clothes since most of my ski equipment can be contained in my ski bag. A duffel bag like The North Face’s Basecamp is ideal for air travel with skis. If you plan your wardrobe efficiently, a medium duffel should be sufficient.
2. Outer layers
Now that you’ve chosen your suitcase, it’s time to pack. Does your outdoor apparel consist of lightweight jackets and pants adapted for layering? That’s perfect! They take up minimal space and let you to adapt to all conditions. Here’s a pro tip: put only your outer shell and pants in the bag and wear your mid-layer on the plane to save some space. It can also serve as a pillow if you feel the need to take a nap mid-flight.
Baselayers make all the difference on ski days. Merino wool apparel, for example, is odour resistant, quick drying and regulates body temperature to keep you warm or cool. Since they don’t absorb odours, you can stick to one outfit, comprising a top and bottom, if your packing space is limited. For socks, I also swear by merino! I do like to have several pairs on hand though, so I can change socks at lunch and still have warm toes.
There’s no need to pack your mid-layer in your bag: you’ll wear it for the trip. It can be made of down, fleece or even merino wool, but take the time to learn the pros and cons of these different materials before making your choice. Down has the advantage of being highly compressible, which is always worth considering when traveling. If the weather at your destination is going to be freezing, consider padded pants as a mid-layer! These innovations will keep your legs and backside warm on the chairlift.
5. Ski goggles
Often forgotten, ski goggles are essential! They protect your eyes from cold winds and a good pair off goggles will improve your visibility on the slopes. To avoid lugging around two pairs, choose one with interchangeable lenses: a dark one for sunny days and a yellow or pink one for cloudy afternoons or snowy days. If you’re looking for lens experts, it’ll be hard to beat Oakley and Smith Optics.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting your gloves at the bottom of your backpack after a day of skiing and starting the next day off with wet gloves. You will freeze, guaranteed! To avoid this, I always bring two pairs of gloves or mittens when I travel. The same goes for all your accessories. They don’t take up much space, so why deprive yourself of them? Put them in a storage cube in your suitcase to avoid scattering them and misplacing a mitt. Don’t forget your neck warmer, gloves (or mittens) and toque.
7. Ski helmet
In 2021, safety should be everyone’s top priority on the slopes. Gone are the days when ski helmets weren’t cool. Nowadays, everyone wears a ski helmet and we don’t need to tell you why. In fact, the helmet has been a real revelation for my comfort on the slopes: it keeps me warmer than a toque by preventing the wind from reaching my skin. In short, make room for your ski helmet when packing. It might take up a lot of room in your duffel, but luckily most ski and boot bags have space for a helmet, so no excuses!
8. Ski Backpack
If you plan on exploring the backcountry during your next ski trip, you’ll need a ski backpack to store your avalanche gear. Choose a model specifically designed for skiing or snowboarding. Features such as straps for hanging your skis, a compartment for a shovel and probe, and a helmet pocket will be especially useful when bootpacking or just hitting the slopes. Remember to fill it up and bring it with you on the plane for extra space.
9. Skis, Snowboards, Boots & Poles
This brings us to the least likely item to be forgotten – your ski equipment. Still, consider whether you want to rent skis at your destination or bring your own. Renting can be a good option if you want to avoid the hassle of buying a ski bag and making a stop at the airport’s oversized baggage claim. It also allows you to try out new models of skis or snowboards, which are sometimes better suited to the snow conditions of your destination. However, we strongly recommend bringing your own ski or snowboard boots. After all, they fit YOUR feet and are comfortable, which is not always the case with rental boots.
It’s a priority in the suitcase for a trip to the sun, but often forgotten during ski trips, sun screen is more useful on the slopes than you’d think. We don’t think about it much, but the sun can be very intense in the mountains, especially at high altitudes. Slip a jar (or at least a lip balm) in your ski bag to preserve your skin and avoid coming back with a racoon tan.
3. GoPro Camera
You’ll be hitting the slopes of some of the most beautiful mountains you’ve ever seen and, if you’re lucky, skiing in the best snow conditions of your life. You’ll definitely want to take some pics. There’s nothing like a GoPro camera to help you rack up the likes on Instagram and show off your skills.
4. Reusable Water Bottle
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean your body won’t get dehydrated. Although we feel less thirsty in winter, we still need to drink! An insulated bottle lets you keep fresh water on hand, but also carry coffee or hot chocolate with you – something to warm you up between runs.
We’ve covered the essentials for days on the slopes, but what about the après-ski? It’s an integral part of the ski trip experience, so you’d better have what you need to enjoy it! Whether you’re more of a fireplace, hot tub and sauna person, or the type who wants to experience the resort’s fine dining and bars, après-ski is all about comfort.
5. Wine & Bottle Opener
Beer always tastes better after exercise, doesn’t it? And how about a glass of wine after a day on the slopes! Whether you’re staying in a cabin, lodge or hotel room, this handy and inexpensive accessory will help avoid messes and disappointments…unless you really want to try the bottle-in-the-shoe technique.
Your travel bag is now packed with everything you need to enjoy your ski trip. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: don’t forget that you will also need your boots, poles and skis or snowboard! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my travels, it’s that you should always double check your packing list for a ski trip before you leave. After that, all you have to do is enjoy your vacation in the mountains!