Skiing checklist: girl’s guide on what to pack

I’m no Olympic skier. In fact, I only started learning a couple of years ago and my posture could certainly benefit from more lessons (so unfortunately I can’t teach you how to do a 360 flip with double grab) but I absolutely LOVE skiing, being in the mountains and the whole culture that goes with it. And if there’s one thing I feel I’ve ‘got down’ these days, it’s what to wear and what to pack for a ski trip!

Paddy’s skied since he was three years old, so you can imagine what he’s like now: skiing backwards down runs, skiing off cliffs, learning snow park tricks and, bless his soul, now spending most of our ski days halving his speed as he accompanies me down the mountains. I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have some intense full-day lessons in The Alps with Paddy’s family two years in a row, where we would head over for a week at a time. I quickly fell in love with skiing and I now crave heading to the slopes every weekend!

Together, Paddy and I have now skied in Les Trois Vallées, aka The Three Valleys (Tarentaise Valley, Savoie département, France) twice, staying in Saint Martin de Belleville both times, and in Grand Massif (Haute-Savoie département, France) staying in Les Carroz, plus we’ve had day trips to Kimberley Alpine Resort (British Columbia, Canada) where my aunt and cousins live. We also now have season passes to Cypress Mountain, where we ski for half a day most weekends (and sometimes brave night skiing after work!) and we venture to Whistler as a treat when we can afford it, because it is so magical and fun!

The main pull for us to move to Vancouver was the city’s close proximity to the mountains, so we currently live a 10 minute drive to Grouse Mountain, a 25 minute drive to Cypress Mountain resort, a 30 minute drive to Mount Seymour and a 90 minute drive to Whistler. (If you love skiing or hiking then I would absolutely recommend Vancouver as a great city to live, work and play in!)

Anyway…over to the reason why you’re here!

I pack my ski clothes with three main objectives in mind: to stay warm and comfortable, to be safe on the slopes, and to get those ‘Instagram-worthy’ shots! When I first went skiing, I couldn’t imagine how cold it could get or what amenities would be available on the mountain. I didn’t consider what I’d do with my hair or what order I should wear my synthetic or natural layers in. I hope this guide will help first-time skiers with knowing what to pack, and remind skiers who haven’t been for while to not forget anything!

CLOTHING

Here’s how your clothes should layer:

  1. Sports bra and comfortable underwear (not cotton)
  2. Ski socks – wear one pair, otherwise you can get blisters. I once thought I needed really thick socks but actually, the lining in your ski boots will keep your feet nice and toasty!
  3. Wicking layer – this is the layer worn next to your skin. Think stretchy, fitted thermals – long sleeve top and leggings
  4. Depending on how cold it is, or how cold you tend to get, you may next want to wear a vest, t-shirt or thin sweatshirt between layers 3 and 5. (I always do). If it’s super cold, then a t-shirt AND thin sweatshirt is great here, but if you’re skiing at spring time then this may be too much
  5. Insulating layer – a synthetic fleece or natural wool sweatshirt is perfect. Something warm and cozy

It’s always best to layer up when skiing or snowboarding, as it will help pack in heat and gives you the option to take layers off if the sun comes out and you get too warm.

Try to avoid cotton garments, especially as your base layers, as they will absorb sweat and snow and leave you feeling damp and cold, which no one wants!

Here’s where my outer layers are from:

  • Coat: SuperDry
  • Ski pants: Salomon
  • Mittens: Barts
  • Neck warmer: Quiksilver

6. Ski pants (referred to as salopettes in Europe!). These keep your legs dry, even if you face-plant in the snow! Of course, you can always wear an all-in-one ski suit instead too. These can come in really funny, wacky 80s patterns and recently, some super luxurious, glamorous styles too!

7. Protective coat – look for something that is warm, waterproof or water-resistant, and that has a good amount of pockets, including a pocket in the left sleeve to slip your ski pass in. (This is the side that the scanners are on). I personally avoid duck down or real fur trimmed coats as I don’t agree with this ethically, so if you’re conscious of that as well then just keep an eye on material information too. I also tend to go a size up for my ski jackets so I can wear more layers underneath, unless the next size up is obviously way too big!

8. Mittens or gloves – I personally opt for mittens, as I find having my fingers touching keeps my hands warmer for longer!

9. Neck warmer, aka snood – this is like a scarf, but you can pull it up over your mouth if you get cold, and it can’t blow around in the wind!

EQUIPMENT

Boots, skis, bindings & poles

If you’re going skiing for the first time and aren’t sure if you’ll continue after, I would recommend renting the bulk of your equipment to save money. You’ll find rental stores at all ski resorts and they’re usually really reasonably priced. They will do all the hard work for you, including measuring your feet, choosing skis and fitting bindings to suit your height and ability.

If you have the money, then buying your own boots is a great idea. Some people can find rental boots uncomfortable as they aren’t molded to your feet, so can end up rubbing and causing blisters. Sore feet can ruin your enjoyment, steal your focus away from the beautiful mountain scenery and encourage you to cut the day short which, unless it’s because you’ve stumbled across an amazing après venue, is never a good thing!

I recently purchased some Salomon QST Ski Boots. They are SO comfy, sturdy and look cool too! Trust the advice from ski store experts to help you find a great boot to fit your size and ski level. If you already own or are planning to buy skis as well, store staff can also make sure your boots are compatible with your bindings and fit them for you.

A great thing to remember is that the higher the Flex number on the boot, the stiffer the boot will be and the more advanced you should be at skiing. As an indication, I am now an intermediate skier, and my boot flexibility is 70. Women’s boots typically have a lower Flex scale than men’s, as in they don’t go as high, or as stiff, as men’s boots can, so a 95 Flex can be considered stiff (and therefore more advanced) for women. The Flex scale ranges from 50 (soft) to 130 (very stiff).

Helmet and goggles

Your safety while skiing should be paramount and I cannot get my head around people thinking they won’t look cool enough wearing a helmet (if you’ll pardon the pun!). A cracked open head will look far less cool than the sleek selection of helmets you can now buy. I own a white Salomon helmet, which didn’t cost very much and from day one I always loved not having to share a sweaty helmet with countless other hirers!

Ski goggles are the other accessory I’d highly recommend buying. I started out with some basic Oakleys and then got some SunGod Goggles. I LOVE reflective goggles and am so happy with these. You can even switch out SunGod lenses to mix up your style! Again, it’s great owning your own goggles even just for hygiene reasons alone, as they sit so close to your eyes.

When required, wipe your goggles with the goggle bag they came in, or the microfibre cloth that might be built into your ski jacket. Cleaning them with tissue or your sweatshirt can easily scratch the lenses.

Things to pack in your pocket

Some people like to take a small backpack but I tend to cram my pockets full, unless I’m bringing my camera! If you opt for a backpack, do make sure it is small and sits closely to your back, as otherwise it will catch the wind and feel unsteady. Paddy often wears a Camelbak water pack, which comes with a tube so you can easily sip at water during the day – perfect for quick chairlift thirst quenches!

Here are some things I like to take with me…

  • Cell phone
  • Credit/debit card and ID (for those après ski vin chauds!)
  • HAND WARMERS – my hands are the first things to feel cold and hand warmers can come in super handy. You can get single-use or reusable ones, where you boil them to re-set
  • Lip balm – and if it’s sunny out, then SPF lib balm too, as the snow is super reflective and burnt lips aren’t fun! I’d recommend a chapstick style roll-on rather than a tube you have to squeeze, as it can easily freeze
  • Pack of tissues
  • Sunglasses, for if it’s nice weather and you’ll be stopping for lunch on the mountain
  • Energy bar, if you’ll be skiing all day
  • Ski pass! Day passes can come in paper clip-on form, but for season passes, week-long passes or Whistler passes, you’ll get a plastic credit card sized pass that you can slip into your left hand sleeve pocket

Extra tips

We also strap our GoPro to Paddy’s chest to capture any fun footage and beautiful scenery. We have the GoPro Hero 7 Black, and the image stability is AMAZING! So even if you’re skiing fast or over bumps, the footage should come out super smooth.

For people with long hair, I’d really recommend braiding your hair into two loose plaits. This will prevent hair blowing into your face or mouth while skiing, and saves you from having to take your mittens off in cold weather to fix it back in place. It also means your hair will sit low, perfect for placing a helmet over!

Don’t forget to apply (and reapply) suncream to your face, particularly all over your nose, especially if it’s spring time or the sun’s out. (I once got really sunburnt under my nose as I kept wiping it in the cold without reapplying any, and I forgot how reflective the snow is. Ouch!)

And to end this section on a classy note – always take toilet breaks when you can, such as right before you set off and at lunch times, as sometimes you’ll go a while without seeing another washroom.

Après ski

If you’re going skiing for more than one day, then of course you’ll want to bring clothes for when you’re off the slopes too! This is where your personal style comes in, but here are a few key pieces I’d recommend packing:

  • Wooly hat – look for hats with a fleece lining, as this will help prevent cold air from getting through
  • Comfy boots, like UGGs. It feels SO good to put on comfy shoes after wearing ski boots all day!
  • Sweatpants, hoodie and other such cozy loungewear. This is perfect for chilling in your chalet, cabin or hotel room after a long day on the mountain, and sometimes skiing all day can leave you sleepy from about 9 or 10pm!
  • A couple of outfits for if you go to a pub or club in the evening, and an outfit for eating out in. If you’re staying in a chalet, then the staff will typically have one day off per week where you won’t be cooked for, so you may end up eating out that night
  • Swimwear, for if your rental has a hot tub, or for if you visit a hot spring during your stay. Having a hot bath works wonders for sore muscles!
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