17 Feb A complete guide to what to pack for your ski trip
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, knowing what to pack for a ski trip can be a bit of a challenge. Here’s my complete guide to choosing the right kit – plus a printable packing list – to make it a little bit easier.
I have a vague memory of aimlessly googling not long after I booked my first ski trip. I’d excitedly brought myself a ski jacket but then I’d stalled. What exactly do people wear skiing? I had no idea, and needed to find out.
Fast-forward ten years, and thankfully I now know what to stuff in my suitcase.
You’re going to need warm, comfortable layers for skiing or boarding in, plus a couple of essential bits of kit – like helmets and boots. Then there’s clothes to lounge around in off the piste, and all the essentials you’d take for any trip – such as your toothbrush and pyjamas. And with all this to pack, it can all start to sound a little overwhelming.
I’ve found the easiest way to manage my packing is to keep a list every year. It’s evolved over time as I’ve learned more about what I like to ski in, and worked out what I really need. And after ten years in the game, I think it’s as good as it’s going to get.
So in this post I’m sharing my ultimate ski trip packing list, as well as advice on choosing clothing and kit to ski in. I’ve also included some tips on what to wear for apres ski and how to find ski wear on a budget (it’s possible!).
Want your own copy? Download and print your ultimate ski trip packing list here.
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What to wear when you’re skiing or boarding
Dressing for a day on the piste is all about layers. It’s the best way to keep warm, but also offers flexibility when the weather changes. Here’s what to pack for your ski trip – from top to toe.
Base layer: Keeping warm
Your first layer is the key to warmth, and to be honest, the bit I was most confused about the first time I went skiing. I mean, I’d seen what skiers and boarders wore on top – but had no idea what lay beneath (and hardly dared to ask).
In short, you’re after warm and comfortable clothing. It’s best if it’s breathable too.
- Long sleeved thermal base layers. These will keep your core warm on the slopes. There’s a huge range of options out there, from skiwear specific tops to those designed for other sports.
- Thermal leggings. Or at a push some good-quality, warm, sports leggings (I wear running tights as I have a drawer full of them). These will keep you warm under your outer layers without adding any bulk.
- Ladies, a sports bra. You’re going to be moving around and working up a sweat – so I find this the most comfortable option.
- Ski socks. Just one pair at a time though. Go for the real thing, not any old pair of sports socks. Proper ski socks are toasty and won’t have seams anywhere your boots could rub. Oh, and choose real wool (merino or merino blend) over synthetic if you can. These are much warmer and last better over time.
Top tip: You won’t need fresh layers every day. Most people will get a couple of days of wear from each. Two or three pairs of thermals and socks should get you through a week. I take more base layer tops and tees to give me plenty of options, but they’re often not needed.
Mid-layer: Flexing for the weather
Next comes the optional layers. The weather can vary massively up in the mountains, and over time you’ll get a feel for what suits you best in different conditions. So to be on the safe side, here’s what I always pack;
- A fleecy mid-layer. A lightweight fleece, or even a hoodie in a pinch, will keep you warm on a cold day. Start off with this layer on (better safe than sorry) and peel it off later if you get too hot.
- On warmer days I substitute my fleece with a short sleeve breathable tee. Keeps your core warm but you won’t roast.
- A buff or neckwarmer. This small but mighty item is invaluable. It stops draughts around the neck of your jacket, plus you can pull it up over your face and nose on chilly chairlifts. Sooo much better than bulky scarves. Fleece-lined
arethe best. Put it on under your jacket to feel it’s benefit.
Outer layer: Warm and dry
Next comes the easy bit, outer layers.
- A waterproof, breathable ski jacket. Opt for one designed for snowsports as it’ll come with a whole host of snow-
specifcfeatures. Ski jackets have a snow skirt – an extra fastening around your middle than means no snow can get inside the bottom of your jacket if you take a tumble. There’s also stretchy inner cuffs that’ll help keep your wrists warm and snow out of your sleeves. Loads of pockets are important too, so you can stash phones, spare gloves and more – plus a very important one on your sleeve for your lift pass. This lets you swipe in hands-free at lifts.
- Ski trousers (or snow pants, whatever you prefer to call them). Waterproof, breathable, warm, you get the
jist. You’ll find cuffs on the inside of the ankle of your snow trousers that’ll help you avoid draughty legs and soggy thermals.
- Ski gloves. With a nice long cuff that keeps you warm. Some people prefer mittens, and if you’ve got a few pennies to spend a leather pair will last forever.
- A helmet. An absolute must. These days almost everyone wears one on the piste in Europe – a massive change since I first started skiing a decade ago. Hire one for your first trip (it won’t cost much) and invest in your own if you’re keen. Finding one that’s comfortable and fits securely is crucial, so I’d recommend buying your first somewhere you can try it on.
- Sunglasses or goggles. Whether you go for sunnies or googles is largely down to what you prefer. Both will help to protect your eyes from the glare of the snow, but goggles will also help to protect your face from the chill air and swirling snow. Make sure your sunglasses are specifically designed for bright environments though, the snow isn’t the best place for your beach-worthy aviators. I skied in just sunglasses for my first trip as I didn’t want to commit to buying too much, and invested in goggles once I knew what I wanted.
- Sunscreen. Even if it’s not sunny and bright, reflection off the snow means there’s still a
chanceyou can get burned. Slather it on before you go out, as well as lip balm with a high SFP.
Top tip: Now I’m no fashion expert, but trust me on this one, your jacket and trousers don’t need to match. In fact, most peoples don’t! Buy what you like, that fits well and rock it – don’t feel you need to dress up like you’re in a shop window.
There are a couple of extra items I’ve added to my packing list over the years that I wouldn’t like to be without.
- Small rucksack. If you’re planning to be out all day, a rucksack is the easiest way to carry water, sunscreen and extra layers – rather than stuffing these in your pockets. You’ll also want one if you plan to take a packed lunch out with you (if you didn’t know skiers do this, know that it’s really popular in France. It’s not unusual to find picnic areas up on the piste).
- Glove liners. If you’re prone to cold fingers, these are the best. Thin, warm gloves that go under your ski gloves are great as an extra layer or for wearing when you’re off your skis.
What to wear off the piste
If anything, what surprised me most about my first ski trip (well, other than the skiing bit) was how casual everything is. Other than some of the more upmarket restaurants and hotels, most resorts are brilliantly laid back.
For apres-ski (early evening drinks), it’s absolutely OK to head straight out in your ski wear. Alternatively, have a quick shower first and pull on jeans and a jumper or hoodie.
If dinner out is on the cards, you might want to dress your jeans up with a smarter jumper, shirt or top – but no-one’s expecting dresses and heels. A statement necklace or scarf works a treat to dress up a simple top, so that you don’t need to pack a new outfit for each day.
Naturally, if you’re in a self-catered place you can dress as casual as you like, but the same rules pretty much apply in many hotels and chalets. No-one’s expecting you to dress up for dinner, but it’s nice to have something a bit smarter than trainers and tracky bottoms. Think jeans and a jumper – it’s a solid choice in most places.
A couple of outfits that you can chop and change through the week should do. Remember you’re likely to only wear these items for a few hours at a time.
It’s always worth packing your swimwear (and flip-flops) too. It’s a must if you’ve got a pool, sauna or hot tub in your accommodation. But most resorts also have great leisure centres, and going for a dip can be a good option if there’s inclement weather or you fancy a break from the snow.
Oh, and don’t forget to pack a hat or headband and casual gloves for when you’re out and about in the resort.
You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned footwear yet. It puzzled me a lot before my first trip.
First, the easy one. When it comes to being on the piste, you’ll want to hire boots for your first trip – until you get a feel for what you want. Then you might want to invest in your own pair of ski or board boots.
Off the piste is more tricky. I’d suggest a pair of sturdy walking
My favourite ski trip essentials
Over the years I’ve fallen in love with a few items I’d happily recommend to friends and fellow skiers. Here are my favourites I’ve found on Amazon;
- Roxy Jetty jacket and gloves. These are my old faithfuls that have kept me warm, dry and comfortable on the slopes for years. Roxy releases new designs every winter and I love these gloves so much I’ve just invested in a second pair.
- Salomon Icon helmet and trail backpack. I’ve raved about this backpack before as it’s my favourite for summer walking and cycling. As it’s lightweight, it’s great for skiing too. This helmet is new to me this winter, and after years struggling with one that never fitted properly, I’m hugely impressed with the comfort, fit and safety ratings.
- Helly Hansen Lifa base layers. These are brilliantly versatile tops. Great for skiing as they offer warmth without bulk, I also find they’re ace for running and cycling when I’m away from the slopes.
I’d also like to give an honourable mention to high-street hero Decathlon for their budget-friendly but surprisingly good quality Wedze winter sports range. Their basic base layers are fantastic value at less that £3.99, and are extremely warm and stretchy. I’ve skied in their mid-range Wedze boots for the past few winters and I can’t tell the difference from premium brands I’ve tried at twice the price.
Tips for ski trip packing on a budget
There’s no bones about it, ski kit can be expensive. But there’s lots of ways to save – and I’ve tried most of them over the years.
- Shop your wardrobe. Love to run, walk or head to the gym? Chances are, there’s items in your wardrobe you can ski in. Thermal layers, fleeces, sports sunnies – they’ll all come in handy.
- Borrow. If you’re heading to the mountains for the first time, you might not want to splash out until you’ve given things a try. Ask friends and family who ski if they’ve got kit you can borrow for a week . Even borrowing a pair of gloves can make a difference.
- Buy second hand. I brought my ski trousers off ebay (used) ten years ago. I paid £20 for them and can’t believe I’m still wearing them. Bargains are best found out of season, and I’d recommend seeking out lightly-used items from premium brands.
- Choose own brand. You don’t need the most expensive branded clothing for your first trip. Stores like Decathlon and GoOutdoors sell robust and surprisingly stylish skiwear for a fraction of the branded equivalents.
- Hire. Less common these days than it used to be, there are still some sportwear stores that hire ski clothing out. Great if you’re not sure that you want to commit. Don’t forget that this is also the easiest way to find ski boots and helmets for your first trip – simply hire them in resort.
So that’s a wrap – all my advice for packing for a ski trip in one place.
Don’t forget you can download and print an ultimate ski trip packing list here. Let me know if you find it helpful.
And, just for fun, here’s some outtakes from the photo at the start of this post. I’m never going to make it as a model…
Read more: Interested in heading to the mountains during the warmer months? Check out my guide to packing for the mountains in summer for more ideas.