You’ve packed perfectly for your ski vacation by following a ski trip packing list. The alarm rings and you jump out of bed pushing the shades open. It’s blue bird, and there’s over two FEET of fresh snow. Today’s going to be epic! Quickly scarfing down breakfast, you rush out of the cabin for first chair. Music’s blaring. You and your friends are beyond stoked. Today’s the day! Pulling up to the slopes, you jump out and open the tailgate. Your stomach drops. This is when you’ve realized you forgot something. If this is your first ski day or one of many, learn from our mistakes and use this quick day of checklist to make sure you have all your skiing essentials BEFORE you rush out the door.
The first and quite possibly most important piece of gear is what you’re going to wear. If you wear the right stuff, you’ll be warm on cold days. Cool on sunny spring adventures. Dry when Mother Nature throws a curve ball and it’s raining/sleeting. To learn about what features to look for in each type of garment, how to identify waterproofness, and a rundown of what to wear in any weather condition, head over to our comprehensive clothing guide:
There’s nothing worse than having cold feet. NEVER ride with cotton. Instead, pick up a pair of merino wool blend or ones specifically designed to keep you warm and wick away sweat like Primaloft or Thermolite. Whatever you do, don’t double up on them either. Just get a pair of ski socks that are a bit beefier like a mid-weight variation.
Think of this as your second skin. Base layers are designed to be snug so that it keeps you warm, but at the same time easily wicks perspiration from your skin. If you grew up in a colder climate, you’ll know these as “Longjohns.” They’ve advanced quite a bit in their technology over the years and feel less like a piece of chainmail and more like a soft satin covering.
Being based out of Tahoe, this is the layer we don’t always wear but have in the car just in case. Mid layers are things like a fleece or a puffy. It’s that extra bit of warmth on those cold days. This doesn’t have to be for your upper body only. For some reason, my lower body (i.e. feet) get colder quicker so I typically wear a mid-layer on the bottom and not on my upper body.
The barrier between you and the elements. Nearly every pair comes with gaiters on the bottom to make sure snow doesn’t go up your leg but from there things begin to vary. If you’re looking for a touch more protection from the wind and snow on the back but with the freedom of no waistband, then you may enjoy going the bib route.
Instead of a heavy insulated jacket, we prefer to go with a shell and then layer underneath. If the sun does come out or the temps suddenly begin to rise, you can quickly shed layers and stay comfy. For a deeper dive on what features to look for in a jacket and some recommendations, be sure to check out our article: Unzip On What To Look For In The Best Women’s Snowboard Jacket.
Like most other pieces of ski equipment, gloves or mittens can get pricey rather quickly. It’s not unheard of to spend upwards of $200. If you’re only going out for a handful of days, you don’t need to spend that much. Invest those $$$ on more critical items like the jacket or pants. A great budget friendly glove is the Gordini GTX Storm Trooper II or for a few more bucks the Black Diamond.
Neck Gaiter / Face Mask
Normally, we carry two neck gaiters. A warmer one that’s a bit heavier in weight for those cold storm days like the Smartwool Merino 150 Neck Gaiter. And then another that’s incredibly breathable that we could use even on a warm spring day like the Buff CoolNet UV+ line. Note: The Buff CoolNet is so breathable you could even use it in a warm climate like Costa Rica if you wanted to protect your skin.
Skull Cap / Balaclava
Although a helmet has insulation to keep you warm, you’ll be grateful to have that bit of extra wind protection when you have a skull cup. Another option is to skip the neck gaiter and go full balaclava.
Out of all the skiing essentials, your equipment has A LOT to do with personal preference and skill level. We have MULTIPLE articles going into how to identify the best equipment for you such as Rocker Vs Camber – Which Is Best For You. We suggest starting on our ski & snowboarding equipment homepage and go from there:
Skis / Snowboard
Do a quick once over to make sure each bolt is tight and nothing’s broken. I’ve had a few times where my high back somehow lost a screw.
Snowboard / Ski Boots
Check the laces and latches to make sure nothing’s out of order.
If you’re renting or buying a pair of poles the easiest way to find the right size is to flip them over and hold them underneath the basket. Your forearm should be at a 90 degree angle to the floor with the upper arms comfortably on your sides.
The most expensive item in your entire kit is your brain so it’s a good idea to rock a helmet. I learned this the hard way by getting a few concussions in my youth. At a minimum, a helmet protects you from scratches and bruises from a random tree branch sticking out. At its best, the helmet will make sure that if a stray skier, snowboarder, or boulder hits you or you hit it, your noggin has some extra protection.
While ski goggles are one of the skiing essentials to have, you don’t need to drop big coin on them if you aren’t spending thirty days on the slopes. Focus on the basics like do they fit your face and helmet appropriately. At a minimum, you want them to reduce glare and block the wind from making your eyes water. We delve into how to find the best pair for you and review all the brands on the market in Get Your “Eye” On The Best Ski / Snowboard Goggles Out There.
While some of these are truly skiing essentials like your season pass, others are not as much. But, you’ll be glad you have them such as sun block on those sunny spring days.
Regardless if you’re a season pass vet or a day pass junkie, there’s a good chance you have to print out something to bring with you when you get to the resort.
Of course, you can ski with a regular backpack, but there’s a good chance you’ll feel like you have a cat attached to your back attempting to toss over the handlebars. If you are going to ride with one, we recommend picking up one that’s light and designed to carry a water reservoir like the Osprey Kamber 22L Snowpack. It isn’t bulky, and you won’t even notice that you’re riding with it.
Not as critical mid-winter, but on those warm spring days we typically carry a bit of warm weather paste wax such as Maxiglide or MountainFLOW quick wax and a tiny bit of citrus base cleaner to fend off any stickiness.
It is true ski resorts typically have a wrench at the bottom of each lift but normally they’re really a pain to use. Instead, have something like a Dakine Torque Driver Tool in your pocket. It has all the different sized bits and will work WAY better than what’s available on the slopes.
Don’t let the wind and sun leave you with pain. Protect those speakers from the elements with some lip balm.
You’re most likely going to be up higher in elevation which means closer to the sun. Even if it’s cloudy, make sure to dab on some screen.
If a snowboarder or skier lands a backside 360 in the park and it wasn’t caught on film, did it happen?
Mother Nature is all we need on the slopes, but I know for some music is what makes skiing & snowboarding fun.
Once was enough when I forgot a pair of goggles and had to drop another thirty bucks for a pair because it was storm day. Instead of letting this happen again, we created a checklist to make sure we have everything we need before we step out the door. Learn from our mistakes and download our FREE skiing essentials checklist:
Ski Trip Packing List
If you’re planning on going on a ski vacation, you need a lot more gear than what we highlight above. Besides the skiing essentials, you’ll also need other items like beanies, flip flops, toiletries, and even a swimsuit. To make sure you don’t forget all those items, use this ski trip packing list to save a week of misery on the slopes.