You don’t have to be going on a road trip to use this packing list – it’s great even when you’re flying to your winter sports destination. The key to preparing for a trip like this one is to recognize that it will be very cold where you are going! Yes, you might get one of those fantasy days where it’s warm and you can still ski or snowboard, but don’t count on it.
When I was younger, I always underestimated how many layers and other items I would need, particularly hats. I hated getting hat-head, so I would be in agony trying to be “cute” with a little worthless headband that didn’t crush my hair but left me miserably frozen. Finally, I admitted it – no matter how ugly hat-head is, freezing all day is worse.
If you’re using this list for a road trip, get a rack for the back or top of your car – don’t waste space trying to fit your gear inside the car. This applies to skis especially, as they are awkward and take up a lot of space, and it’s easy to damage the bindings when you’re crushing them in with the rest of your stuff. If you’re snowboarding, you can skip the rack and just wrap them in towels to keep them from getting scratched.
What do you need to bring on a skiing or snowboarding road trip?
- Layers! You will need layers in the following order: long underwear for both top and bottom, secondary layer on top like a thin sweater/fleece or turtleneck, third layer that is a thicker sweater or turtleneck. You will need lots of sets of these. Definitely bring Woolite or another gentle soap to wash the long underwear if you’re not bringing a set for every day as they will get sweaty even on the coldest day.
- Ski/snowboarding pants and jacket. Get the real thing and never wear jeans! Jeans get wet from one fall, freeze on you, and torture you the rest of the day. There are tons of stylish and lightweight options in any winter sports store. You will only need one set so feel free to spend a little more and buy the best. If you’re really into being fashionable, buy two or three sets. If you buy any more, you look like someone that’s more into being a fashion-plate than a serious skier or snowboarder.
- Additional keep-warm stuff including gloves, hats, scarves, turtles, and warm socks. The best socks are the ones that are designed to wick any moisture away from your feet so they don’t freeze. Don’t layer more than two socks – you’ll cut circulation and your feet will freeze faster.
- Goggles or sunglasses to minimize glare and keep the snow out of your eyes.
- Heat packets for hands and feet – you can put them in your boots or gloves or just use them for emergency warm-ups. I love glove liners to wear inside my gloves – they really work to keep my hands warmer than just wearing the ski gloves alone.
- Boots – ski/snowboarding boots as well as snow boots to wear around. Bring one pair of regular/walking shoes for when you’re traveling to and from your destination, but you won’t be wearing regular shoes in the snow for the most part. Even sneakers leak water, leaving your feet sitting in what amounts to an icy slush puddle.
- All of your gear (if you’re not renting) including skies, boots, snowboards, and poles.
- Outfits for après-ski parties and nights out checking out the nightlife. If you’re just going to hang out at your condo/hotel, have some comfortable casual clothes you change into at the end of the day. You’ll feel fresher and enjoy your evenings more.
- Bathing suit if there is a pool or a hot tub where you’re going. If you’re not sure, just bring one. It’s great to hot tub after skiing or snowboarding – it really relaxes and soothes those aching muscles!
- Lip balm and moisturizers. No matter where you go for your winter holiday, your skin will be drier than you thought possible. You will want at least one lip balm with SPF to keep with you at all times and a large bottle of moisturizer.
- Sunblock! A sunburn with goggle marks is pretty ridiculous looking so take a minute when getting ready in the morning to slather on the highest SPF you have on your face and neck. I would recommend at least 25 SPF. Remember, altitude increases the risk of sunburn – it’s much worse than the beach!
- Change for the lockers at the lodge. It’s great to keep all your valuables in a locker at the lodge and just carry a little cash for snacks and meals. Don’t carry your wallet while on the slopes – it’s really hard to find it if you lose it.
Some of these items may seem like things you can pick up when you get there, like turtles or heat packets. Think again! These things are marked way up at resort areas and you will pay up to three times the price you would anywhere else. Unless you’re rich and money is no object, try to bring the things on this list rather than buy them there.
Now you’ve got everything necessary for a great skiing or snowboarding road trip! All you need now is to check out my General Packing List as well as The List to complete your packing. Combine great packing with a well-mapped trip (see Road Trip Planning: Map It! for more information) and you’ve got a fantastic winter sports vacation planned!