What to pack for skiing?
What should I bring skiing? The essential items to pack for a ski holiday include a ski jacket and ski pants, thermals – top and leggings, ski gloves, ski goggles, ski socks and a helmet. Many skiers rent their equipment from ski shops in the resort, however it is worth investing in your own skis and boots if you plan to ski every year.
There is nothing worse than arriving at your holiday destination to discover you have forgotten to pack some essentials, and are forced to go out and pay double for something you already have at home. Through experience of many forgotten items over the years and much heartbreak, I have prepared a summary of everything you need for the complete ski holiday, right down to some extra bonus items you might not even have known you needed!
- Ski Jacket and Ski Pants - This is by far the most obvious piece of equipment you need and the one you are least likely to forget. However, it is important to buy jacket and pants which are waterproof, as this will be the outer layer protecting you from the snow and the rest of the mountain elements you will encounter on the holiday. Take it from me, it’s not worth getting your clothes wet on a snow day.
- Thermals - These are also essential items to be packed as you don’t want to get cold while you are skiing. On an average day of skiing, the temperature can be anywhere between -10°C to -2°C. If you don’t wrap up well, it's not going to be an enjoyable day. It’s a good idea to bring multiple layers you can layer up with depending on the day, as conditions vary a lot day to day in the mountains. I normally bring a thin fleece and a few different thin thermals for the holiday so that on very cold days if needed I can wear a thermal, a fleece and my coat (which is also insulated).
- Gloves - An essential item not only to keep your hands warm, but also to keep them dry from the snow. Completely waterproof gloves are not necessary nor are they very common, however it is important to get gloves that will keep the snow and water out. A useful addition to gloves is to buy what are known as ‘inners’. These are very thin, often woollen gloves to wear underneath your gloves, to add an extra layer of insulation. This helps a lot if you are skiing in very cold condition such as in Canada where it can get down to -30°C during the day (rare, but I've experienced it!).
- Socks - This is fairly obvious, however you need to ensure you buy yourself some padded, woollen, calf-length socks for skiing. This will keep your feet warm as you are skiing, but more vitally cushion your feet and shins from your ski boots. As ski boots are made out of mainly plastic, they are inherently uncomfortable, which is why nice thick comfortable socks are ideal. There are a few other things to look out for when buying ski socks. The reason woollen socks are best for skiing is due to wool’s properties. Wool is naturally an antimicrobial material, meaning your ski socks will last longer without smelling, and will stay ‘cleaner’ for longer. As well as this, wool is known to wick moisture away. What this means is that the fabric removes moisture from the surface of your skin and disperses it over the surface of the fabric, to enable it to evaporate quicker.
- Balaclava - Depending on how cold you get, you may find that you prefer to wear a balaclava or neck warmer all the time when skiing. Others may prefer to wear a balaclava only when it gets very cold or windy. Either way, a balaclava is a small but very useful item to have at your disposal in case it is needed.
- Skis – If you intend to go skiing multiple times per year, or even if you intend to make a skiing holiday a regular occurrence each year, it is definitely worthwhile purchasing your own skis. Not only will this save money in the long term as you won't need to rent skis each time, but you can also purchase your favourite skis, that suit your preferred skiing style. If you are a beginner skier, it may not be worthwhile buying skis until you reach a more advanced stage. As you improve at skiing, you will move onto more advanced skis for the purpose of improving technique and speed. You may find yourself needing to buy a new pair of skis quite quickly if you buy too early.
- Ski Poles – if you are renting skies at the resort, ski poles will almost always come with the skis. There is no point in buying ski poles unless you are also buying skis, as you’re not going to save any money. If you are a more advanced skier and you own skis, it is worth buying your ski poles as well, you don’t want to have to rent these when you get to the resort. Generally, the more expensive ski poles are lighter and stronger. It is also possible to buy extendable poles to make them easier to transport, as well as for ski touring if this is the type of skiing you intend to do (for experts only).
- Ski Boots – finding the correct ski boots is the most difficult part to get right. Comfortable ski boots can make or break a ski holiday. As with purchasing your own skis, if you can see yourself skiing regularly, purchasing ski boots is a good investment, not only for comfort but also to save on costs in the long term. More people own their own boots compared to owning their own skis for the reasons above, however there are certainly still a large proportion of people who rent boots alongside skis.
- Helmet - Do I need a helmet for skiing? Over the past couple of decades, helmets have become more and more common to the point that is it very rare to see anyone skiing without a helmet now. Hitting your head on the compact snow at any speed is dangerous. Don’t be mistaken into thinking the snow is soft enough, that if you fall and hit your head it’s not going to hurt. The resort compacts down the snow on-piste to make it easier to ski on. Even if you are going slowly, you could do yourself serious harm if you fall without a helmet. Helmets can easily be rented or purchased at shops in the resort.
- Goggles – Some sort of protection for your eyes is essential when you are skiing, both from the sun and from the snow. On most days you will need to wear goggles if it is snowing or misty, although on sunny days you may prefer to wear sunglasses. Due to the speed you’ll be travelling at, you’ll need to protect yourself from the wind in your eyes if you want to stand a chance of being able to see anything.
- Hand Warmers - These could be considered a bit of a luxury, however if you are sat on a chairlift on your way the peak of a mountain with strong winds and heavy snow blowing in your face, it might be something you wish you had for a bit of extra warmth.
- GoPro - If you want the opportunity to show off the beautiful weather, the incredible après-ski or your slick skiing skills, the GoPro is definitely something you will want to invest in to use for years to come. Initially the GoPro may seem like an expensive purchase, however when you’ve recorded countless videos and memories from your holidays, it’s hard to put a price on how invaluable a GoPro can be.
- Sun Cream - This is something that is often completely forgotten about for winter holidays. While this is an excusable mistake given the temperatures and the abundance of snow, on a clear day you are at the sun’s mercy. The sun’s UV light not only hits you directly, but also reflects off the snow, making skiing a prime activity for getting sunburnt. Even on cloudy days, because you are spending all your time outside, the UV light is able to penetrate the clouds meaning you are still at risk of getting sunburnt even when you can’t see the sun.
- Lip Balm - As above for sun cream, lip balm helps to protect your skin from the elements. When you spend long periods in the cold, your lips will become chapped. This is almost inevitable for anyone skiing, which is why for the sake of a few dollars, it is definitely worth buying some lip balm.
- Malleable Water Bottle - You will find yourself getting thirsty as you ski, so having a way to keep yourself hydrated is important. Unless you bring a backpack with you, you’ll struggle to carry a bottle comfortably with you on the mountain. There are companies that make water bottles which are very flexible and malleable (something between a water bottle and a bag), to allow you to carry the water in your pocket without you even being aware it is there. Much easier than trying to force a plastic water into your jacket pocket.