Packing For A Snow Sports Vacation

All too often, winter vacationers wait until the last minute, cram a bag full of clothes, and rush off to the slopes. And what happens? Essential items get left behind.

Create a packing list well before your trip, then check off each item as it is packed. See our sample list below. If you're handy with a computer (and we suspect you are, because you're surfing the 'Net), create a customized packing list and print one out before each of your trips.

Pack garments that protect your body, especially your fingers and toes, against cold, wind, and precipitation. Sounds so simple. But it's not, because you need to plan for varying temperatures and snow conditions. It might be wet, it might be dry. It might be below freezing, or balmy. You've heard it before, but the trick is to take clothes you can layer. Put 'em on when it gets cold, take 'em off when it's warm.

Essentials (don't leave home without 'em)

  • Undergarments of polypropylene or some other synthetic fiber that wick away perspiration from your skin to the outside layer:
    Don't wear cotton next to your skin. When it absorbs your perspiration, it will stay wet. Then when you decrease your activity (ride the lift, for instance), you'll be c-c-c-c-cold. You can wash out long underwear at night, and it'll usually be dry by morning, thanks to those modern fabrics.
  • A light shirt or turtleneck to wear over the underwear. (Bring two or three.)
  • A sweater of wool or fleece for insulation and warmth.
  • The outer layer jacket and pants or a one-piece suit:
    Be sure they are wind- and water-resistant and they "breathe," allowing perspiration and excess heat to escape through the fabric.
  • One lightweight and one heavy parka to allow for changing weather: (This also gives you a parka to wear at night while you're airing out the one you wore during the day.)
    Tip: Outer layers are bulky and take up lots of luggage space. You don't need several outfits for a multi-day trip unless you perspire heavily. You can adjust for temperature changes by what you wear underneath. (Added benefit: Other members of your group can find you more easily if you wear the same outfit.)
  • Accessories for when it's cold:
    Hat,goggles, neck gator, gloves or mittens, a thin pair of "liner" gloves, face mask or balaclava. A helmet not only will protect your head if you bang it on hard-packed snow, but it will keep your body nice and toasty. You may find that with a helmet, you won't need the middle fleece layer.
  • Accessories for when it's warm:
    Headband, sunglasses (don't forget a sunglasses strap!), sunblock with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number.
  • Socks:
    Bring several pair, and be sure they aren't cotton.
  • Equipment:
    Snowboard and boots; or skis, boots and poles.
  • Clothes to wear at night:
    Resort restaurants (and especially night clubs) can be very warm. Experienced winter vacation travelers pack lightweight shirts, then layer with fleece vests or sweaters and a fairly heavy parka for walking outside.
  • After-ski/snowboard shoes:
    If you're planning a dogsled ride or snowshoe excursion, call ahead to see if the company provides heavy boots. If not, you'll need them. Call the central reservations desk or your lodge a couple of days before to ask what the in-town walking conditions are. Heavy shoes take up lots of room in a suitcase, and many visitors (particularly those coming from the Sunbelt) don't want to wear boots on a long plane flight.
  • Toiletries:
    Hairbrush, toothbrush, extra pair of contacts, prescription medicine whatever you need to be comfortable. Many lodges have in-room hair dryers; call ahead to see if yours does, and you'll have extra space in the suitcase.
  • Money, credit cards, ATM card, phone numbers for resort and home:
    Don't forget your boss' phone number, just in case you get snowed in...

Optional items:

  • A bathing suit for a soak in the lodge or hotel spa:
    if you have room, tuck in a pair of slip-on shoes or sandals, preferably ones with a no-slip sole. (We're not wild about putting damp feet into our apres-ski boots...)
  • Pajamas:
    You're pretty hardy if you sleep naked in winter. To save luggage space, some people sleep in long underwear, then they're already wearing the first layer when they wake up!
  • Work-out clothes:
    Don't forget the shoes! We've done a workout more than once wearing apres-ski hiking boots because we forgot our workout shoes.
  • Heat packs:
    to stick in your gloves and/or boots on those cold, fresh-powder days.
  • Camera:
    The disposable kind work quite well. Or, a point-and-shoot camera with a zoom lens and date stamp tucks into a pocket or fanny pack.

Ski/Snowboard Vacation Packing Checklist

Grab your suitcase and hit the print button! Here's your packing checklist. If you want to customize this, highlight the list with your mouse, copy and paste it into your word-processing program and type in whatever else you usually take on your trips.


  • Skis or snowboard
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Heat packs
  • Portable boot dryer

Clothing and clothing accessories

  • Jacket and pants or one-piece suit
  • Second jacket to wear at night and alternate with the first jacket
  • Wool sweaters and/or fleece pullovers
  • Fleece vest
  • Undergarments of polypropylene or some other synthetic fiber (no cotton!)
  • Turtlenecks
  • Socks, non-cotton
  • Helmet
  • Hat
  • Headband
  • Goggles
  • Sunglasses with strap
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Glove liners
  • Neck gator
  • Face mask or balaclava
  • Sunscreen

Off-slope stuff

  • Pants and shirts
  • Shoes
  • Pajamas (remember, you can wear long underwear to bed)
  • Bathing suit, including appropriate footwear (sandals or slippers)
  • Workout clothes, including appropriate shoes
  • Underwear and socks
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair dryer
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Extra pair of contacts or glasses
  • Prescription medicine
  • Camera, batteries and film
  • Money, credit cards, ATM card
  • Airplane tickets and hotel/rental car confirmation numbers
  • Essential phone numbers (and remember to leave the phone number where you'll be with someone at home)