Let’s face it – packing in winter takes a bit more strategy than packing during summer months. By the time you add in that third sweater your suitcase can barely shut. That’s where flying Southwest (2 free checked bags) and extra space in a ski and boot bag are a lifesaver.
As I sit here and write this “how to pack” guide on the plane out to Denver, Ross is cracking up that I’m giving advice on this subject. I’m the queen of overpacking, constantly stealing space from Ross’s suitcase and taking hours to pack from trying on 800 possible outfit combinations. So I’ll start with WHAT to pack, then go into HOW to pack after.
WHAT I PACK
OUTERWEAR + ACCESSORIES
The basics for being on the mountain – snow pants, outerwear jacket, helmet (so much warmer than a hat on the mountain), goggles, socks, neck warmer, and mittens. My preferences:
- Mittens > Gloves: Burton, Scott, and Hestra for on the slopes / thicker pair!
- Regular Gloves: Ones that aren’t super thick for the slopes, but thin ones for walking around. I love my The North Face etip gloves for daily wear
- Socks: Burton, Eurosock, SmartWool
- Jacket: I stick with trusted outerwear brands that specialize in skiing or snowboarding. Roxy, Burton, Ride Snowboards, The North Face
- Snow Pants: again, I go with the brands above (my Roxy snowpants here)
- Neck Warmer: Turtle fur is by far my favorite! Love the new tube style.
- Helmet: Even if you are renting, I would buy your own helmet! I would so much rather wear something on my head that wasn’t worn by other people. After trying on over 50 helmets for my small head, I prefer Smith helmets (make a tighter fit). I ended up with a youth small, LOL, but my Mom’s Smith Women’s Small helmet also fits. This was a time I was being cheap, and the kids helmet cost less.
You can rewear these (there’s one Lululemon pullover I tend to wear multiple days in a row) or bring enough outfits for the number of days you are skiing.
- Leggings: You probably don’t need to buy a ski brand, and can use leggings you have in your closet. I prefer my “thicker” leggings – Outdoor Voices warm up leggings, Lululemon Wunder Under, and Avocado Earth Leggings.
- Tops: Lululemon, Nike, and Under Armour base layers. I bring a few, some thicker warm fleece with turtlenecks and normal, crewneck tops.
- Sets: Sweaty Betty makes the cutest ski sets if you are willing to splurge!
- Pullovers / Sweatshirts – normally, I wear a base layer and an additional layer. This layer is dependent on weather – but ranges from a crewneck sweatshirt, quarter zip or pullover. Nike and Lululemon are my main go – to’s (again, just using stuff already in my closet).
- 1 pair of jeans without holes (I never wore them but hey)
- 1 black pair of leggings you won’t wear on the slopes
- 2 lounge sweatpants (you will lounge more than you think)
- # of sweaters for the days you are there
- 1 cozy sweatshirt
- 1 cozy t shirt
- 1 cozy long sleeve
- 1 scarf
- TONS OF SOCKS
You really only need Uggs or Sorel’s, and flip flops are nice to walk to the hot tub. Because I’m extra, I brought my Uggs, Sorels, flip flops, and black leather Moto boots. Ask if I wore the Moto boots….nope. Straight comfort after the slopes and I put on my fluffy Uggs.
- Camelbak!! The most overlooked item – you will be dying for water on the mountain in higher elevation, and having it available at your fingertips is ideal. You can also store a few snacks in the backpack (PB&Js, trail mix, Gu) and spend less money for lunch on the slopes.
- Swimsuit – there will be much needed hot tub time after a day on the slopes. Do not forget this, or you will be going in your sports bra and undies.
- Sunscreen! – You WILL burn. I excessively put sunscreen on and still got the tip of my nose red. The sun is real on the mountain!
There’s my ultimate guide to packing….with one last tip! Wear your thickest sweater / coat combo on the plane for more room in the suitcase! You may overheat carrying all the bags, so make sure you wear a short sleeve shirt under your sweater for the the “airplane” outfit (instead of spending $30 on an airport t-shirt like I did).
HOW TO PACK
Next up, HOW to pack all this gear. If you own skis or snowboards, packing for ski trips becomes a lot easier, because you have double the space. Regular suitcase, ski bag, and boot bag! I’ve segmented the below packing tips based on if you are renting or bringing your own equipment. But first:
DECISION TO RENT OR BUY
- If you’re going to ski / snowboard over 5 times in the next 10 years, it’s worth it to buy your own gear. I recommend renting a few styles to figure out your favorite, then look online to snag them on sale in the off season. I bought the exact snowboard I rented, but upgraded the bindings when I bought my own (the rental bindings for snowboarding are usually not great).
OWN EQUIPMENT: Packing Tips
You’re a proud owner of your equipment, and there’s no greater benefit than the amount of extra storage you get by toting your own equipment around. Yes, it makes the 50 feet walk from the car to the airport check in desk a hot mess, but well worth it to bring 1 sweater per day of vacation, 2 sets of snow pants, and 4 different outerwear coats. Overpacker problems.
Two things to remember…..wheeled ski/board bag and a backpack boot bag. I suffered through NOT having these basic features, but trust me, they are signs of LUXURY. Your shoulders and back will thank you. I suffered through the non – wheeled bag and a traditional boot bag shoulder strap for years…until I finally upgraded this year. And, by “upgraded”, I mean I used Ross’ nice board bag on wheels and he carried my old one. So, upgrade your bag or your man, but you don’t want to be without one or the other, much less both (insert me cracking up at my own joke here).
- Bag With Wheels – After a grueling trip from baggage claim to the far fields of rental car land (Salt Lake City airport looking at you), I thought my shoulder was going to break off carrying the 6 foot long bag. Dramatic, I know, but that comes with the package. Add wheels on your bag to save yourself (worth the extra money) and another pro tip is to buy a double size bag for more clothes space.
- Boot Bag Backpack – As a last minute decision maker, Amazon is a lifesaver. I knew Dakine made good bags, but they were a little more expensive and weren’t as large as the Athleticon bag I found on Amazon with prime shipping. They don’t have as cute of prints as Dakine, so it was difficult for me to choose function over style. But I did it, and couldn’t be happier with my boot bag choice! It’s so large it can fit my ski boots, snowboard boots (yes 2 sets of boots), helmet, gloves, goggles, AND base layers! If I only have 1 set of boots, it also fits my outerwear jacket and snow pants. Seriously a miracle backpack that makes it so much easier to tote around at the airport, to the car, and carrying around the ski area.
RENTING EQUIPMENT: Packing Tips
Even if you are renting, I recommend buying a boot bag (my $55 bag here), or taking a separate small suitcase just to be able to store your outerwear. There’s just no way all your coats, snow pants, gloves, hat, base layers, etc can fit in with your regular clothes. And if it does, IMPRESSIVE!!
Really the 2 bags help you stay organized. That way all your skiing equipment can stay in one area and your regular clothes, makeup, shoes, PJs, etc are in another bag. Also, a good idea to invest in your own helmet and goggles instead of renting, which take up more space. See below for my helmet and goggle recommendations!
For more snowy adventures, you can check out my Breckenridge Travel Guide here!