So, you’re coming to ski the Greatest Snow on Earth™? Congratulations on a good choice. Skiing in Utah is one of the best trips anyone could possibly have. In fact, the only better trip imaginable might be “Free Party Cruise,” and that doesn’t come along too often.
Before you hit the slopes, it’s time to pack. Packing for a ski trip can be tricky, and whether you’re a hardened veteran with a permanent goggle tan or a newbie looking to tackle the bunny hill, everyone could use a quick refresher. Here’s your perfect packing list for a Utah ski trip.
Ski or Snowboard Equipment
If you were wondering what to take on a ski or snowboard trip, the most important thing to bring is your ski or snowboard equipment. (It’s a good thing you have the experts here to help you.) If you don’t have your own equipment, the most important thing to pack is money to rent it with. Even if you have your own equipment, you might consider renting, rather than buying a ski bag just for your trip. (If you’re driving to your destination, you won’t need one.) But if you’re traveling to ski often a ski bag may be worth the investment. Here’s what you’ll need:
Skis or a Snowboard
You know, those things that help you go down the mountain. New to the sport and not sure which to choose? Refer to the old mountain-town adage: skiing is easier to learn but harder to master, while snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master. Basically, you’ll feel more comfortable on skis as a total newbie, but you might reach the next level faster on a snowboard.
Maybe this will help too; beginner snowboarders tend to experience a lot more sore butts and wrists from the backwards falls they take. But that still might not be enough to make them jealous of their skier friends who have been struggling to uncross their legs for 20 minutes. Go with whichever one strikes your fancy, and book lessons if you can afford them.
You might not use your ski poles too much while you’re still learning, but you’ll appreciate having something to grip while you white knuckle it down your first blue square run.
Wondering what the difference is between ski and snowboard boots? Ski boots are rigidly designed to keep your shins locked in an upright position, which protects your knees and ankles from injury. Because of this, they tend to be pretty uncomfortable, especially before they’re broken in.
Beginner skiers should prioritize comfort over all else when looking at boots and leave the bells and whistles to the experts. Snowboarders don’t need to worry about that — their boots are as comfy as can be. If you’re still on the fence about skiing vs. snowboarding, ask your feet which way they’re leaning.
Good news — boots also double as extra storage! Your goggles, sunglasses and other smaller items can fit into your soft-lined boots without getting scratched. Also, if you’re planning on renting at the resort because you don’t want to check a ski bag on the flight, you can bring your boots on the plane as carry-on items to save a bit of extra cash on your rental package.
It goes on your head. And no, you don’t look cool without one. You look dumb, and everyone on the chairlift is making fun of you and calling you names like “Mr. No Helmet” and “Little Ms. Hat Head.” Those aren’t really creative insults, but still, they’re right. Helmets are a necessity, not an accessory.
You won’t have much fun without goggles, especially if it starts to snow. Imagine how silly you’ll feel if you end up watching a classic Utah powder day from the lodge. Don’t risk it. And if you can, try on your goggles and make sure they’re compatible with your face and helmet. If your goggles are too small or too tight, you’ll feel as bad as you look. Which is pretty bad.
Clothes to Wear on the Mountain
Sure, your Dad grew up skiing in jeans, but unless it’s closing day, you don’t want to dress like your Dad. Even then ...
Layers, Layers, Layers
People layer in all kinds of ways, and some folks have a specific system or piece of clothing that they swear by. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but if you’re looking for some guidance, here’s the by-the-book layering system:
Baselayer (top and bottom): Also known as long underwear, long johns or thermals. A baselayer is a close-to-skin layer that traps body heat and wicks moisture (sweat and snow alike). The golden rule of baselayers? No cotton. Cotton dries slowly and doesn’t stay warm while doing so. That makes for a cooooold day on the slopes. Wear wool or synthetic instead. They both dry quickly, breathe well and stay warmer when wet. If you don’t have ski-specific baselayers, any wicking shirt will work as a top, while yoga pants or running tights will do the trick for your bottoms.
Midlayer (top): A midlayer is similar to a baselayer, and some people often combine the two. The purpose of this layer is just to add a bit of warmth and comfort to your system, and for that purpose, your favorite fleece or sweater will do just fine.
Insulating Layer (top): Your midlayer and baselayer work by using your own body heat, but your insulating layer brings some heat of its own. A puffy jacket (or vest) with down or synthetic fill will help keep you nice and toasty on those cold lift rides.
Outer Layer (top and bottom): Also referred to as a shell, this lightweight layer is your real defense against the elements, and should have some degree of wind or water resistance. If the weather calls for a storm, you’ll want to make sure you have something waterproof. Otherwise, any wind-blocking and water-resistant jacket will do.
If your ski jacket has its own insulation, your insulating layer and your outer layer are one in the same. Don’t wear a puffy jacket under an equally puffy ski jacket, unless you want to look like the kid from “A Christmas Story.” And if those puffy jackets are taking up too much room in your bags, see if they have any compartments or double zippers that allow them to pack down into themselves. Otherwise, buy a stuff sack from your local outdoor outfitter or a vacuum seal kit from your local late night infomercial.
This section might seem redundant since your pants are (hopefully) one of your above layers. But in case you were trying to wear some other type of pants on the slopes, allow us to talk you out of it. Any pants that aren’t made with water- and wind- resistant material will make for a seriously bad time on the slopes. Even expert skiers and riders fall in the snow every now and then, and if your layers aren’t covered, you’ll be wet and shivering for the rest of the day. Your ski pants don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be for skiing.
Gloves or Mittens
One of the most important pieces of clothing for your ski trip is one of the easiest to forget, and since it’s pretty much impossible to ski or ride without them — forgetting your gloves basically means buying a new pair. So don’t forget them. Pro tip: wear liner gloves under your ski gloves for some extra warmth. Any pair of lightweight exercise gloves should do the trick. And if they don’t, a pair of hand warmers will help out the truly frozen-fingered.
Don’t get cold feet about this trip — snag a pair of comfy ski socks and keep those little piggies all bundled up. There are plenty of socks out there built just for skiing. They’ll be about shin length and feature cushioning in all the right blister hot spots. For a few days of skiing, however, any pair of cozy socks will serve you fine, as long as they’re wool or synthetic. Once again, cotton is no good.
Especially useful on cold and windy days, a neck gaiter covers your face from the elements. You can find one that’s as light or as heavy as you’d like — some people even grow their own!
Sunscreen and Lip Balm
If you were out in the sun all day in the summer, would you wear sunscreen? Of course. Well, the sun might get weaker in the winter, but it doesn’t go away. A day on the slopes is a sneaky way to get skin damage, especially since UV radiation is stronger at altitude. Be safe and lather up, and be sure to bring SPF lip balm too — chapped lips are one of the most common ski trip grievances.
Noses tend to run in the cold, snowy mountains, and the resort might not always have tissues at hand. Bring or buy some tissues, or you’ll end up with gross gloves from all that face wiping.
Warm Clothes for a Night Out
Going home and going to bed? That’s for the locals! You’re on vacation, and it’s time to aprés the night away. Whether you’re staying in Salt Lake, Park City or Ogden, Utah has plenty of ski cities for you and your crew to explore after you hang up your boots. So bring some of your coziest, most stylish clothes for your downtown adventures, and try to avoid overlapping with your ski outfit too much. You’ll want to give those clothes time to dry out overnight.
Warm Clothes for a Night In
Going home and going to bed? That … actually sounds pretty nice. If you’re gonna make it through your ski trip, you’ll probably have to have some off days or nights. Make sure to pack along a set of cozy clothes for board games, movie nights and kitchen karaoke sessions. You might think you’ll be fine lounging in jeans, but don’t underestimate the power of the sweats — they’ll feel like heaven after a day on the slopes.
A Bathing Suit
Mom was right — you should always pack a swimsuit. A ski trip without a hot tub session is just a vacation with some skiing in it. Make it a Ski Trip with a capital “S” and and soak, soak, soak your cares away.
A Sense of Adventure
This is the most important thing to pack, and to break out as often as you can. Here in Utah, you’ve got some of the world’s best skiing out your back door, and whether you’re a novice or a pro, there’s always something new to experience. Maybe that’s finally getting the gumption for a double black diamond run, or maybe just clipping on your skis is a trip outside of your comfort zone. Just remember to have fun, stay safe and always be kind to the folks who make the mountain run.