What to take skiing? In fact, what to take on ANY holiday, not just a ski holiday!
Are you asking yourself “what to take on a skiing holiday“? Packing for a holiday, whether you’re going skiing for a week or backpacking for a month is a tiresome task, and especially so if you aren’t too sure what you should be taking. To help you we’ve put together this useful guide so you can pack up your miniature wardrobe, ready to hit the slopes on your first day skiing!
Top tip: When packing for your ski holiday remember less is more, i.e. less of the junk you won’t wear equals more warm layers that you inevitably will!
Starting from the top to bottom, inside out, here is a good list to get you started with packing for your next ski holiday:
We start at the top, and probably the most important item of clothing to take skiing is your hat. If you have a chilly head when you’re out an about you will certainly feel cold, so make sure you invest in a good quality, lightweight hat with modern insulation (Thinsulate make some excellent hats).
- Thermal Underwear
The traditional “Long Johns” are long gone and have been replaced with super-technical base layers made from Merino Wool and other modern synthetic materials. These base layers (Helly Hansen makes exceptional base layers) must fit tight against the skin to reap the full benefits. They keep a thin layer of warm air close to your skin (much like a wet suit to a surfer keeps a thin layer of warm water against the skin), and they also wick away any sweat and moisture to help prevent you cooling down too much when you stop for a vin chaud!
- Thermal Neck Warmer or “Buff”
These thermal neck warmers come in various types and brands, Buff being the most recognisable, but essentially they are a 1 piece sleeve that fits around your neck to stop windchill and droughts down into your jacket. They are essential on a cold day when sitting on a long chairlift so you can pull them up and over your head and across your face!
- Ski Socks
Ski socks are actually a super important part of your ski outfit and are often completely overlooked until the inevitable blisters and cold feet show their faces! Ski socks are usually handed (or footed!), meaning they are designed to fit either the right or left foot. They are made of a thin and highly elastic material that helps them stay put, rather than working their way down into your boots before causing blisters, and have strategically placed padding to stop you getting boot sores from pressure points. Also, however un-intuitive it may seem, wearing one pair of thin socks actually helps to keep your feet warm by promoting blood flow, whereas two or more pairs will restrict the flow of blood and freeze your toes! Our biggest tip here is to roll your thermal leggings up and out of your ski boots and socks as the hem will cause a ring of blisters around your ankles!
- Fleece or Softshell Jacket
The next layer of clothing you will need comes in the form of a fleece or synthetic lightweight jacket. Named for its polyester material that mimics pile wool, fleece jackets feel soft, warm and are very lightweight. Synthetic fleece material such as Polartec maintains its warmth even when wet, so it’s particularly useful for almost any season and nearly any activity, especially skiing.
That does it for your inner warmth layers, too many layers and you will get hot and sweaty, then when you stop that sweat cools down rapidly leaving you cold and damp!
The next group of items are all worn externally to help keep the warmth in and the snow out!
Ok this is more about safety than keeping warm, although buying a helmet with built in ear protectors to stop your earlobes freezing off is always a good idea, but there is absolutely no good reason why you should ever go skiing without a helmet. Ever. Period.
Goggles are a really important part of your overall ski outfit, not only for the way they look but for the job they do. A properly fitting pair of ski goggles will offer your eyes the proper protection should you take a tumble, will stop your eyes from streaming due to the cold and will improve your vision especially in poor conditions. Goggles are a highly underestimated part of the total enjoyment of your ski holiday, so invest in a good pair that is suitable for “flat light” or that has changeable lenses, because there is nothing worse than skiing in low light with goggles that are too dark for the conditions.
Cold hands really suck, so buying a properly fitting pair of gloves suitable for skiing and snowboarding is essential to all day enjoyment on the slopes. There are a multitude of options available, but we prefer the ski and snowboard specific gloves that feature the proper waterproofing to keep you dry through all day snow, and lightweight high performance insulation like Primaloft and Thinsualte to keep you nice and warm.
- Ski Jackets and Pants
Ok so “onesies” have been all the rage for the past couple of years, but thankfully you don’t have to look like these two muppets to stay warm while skiing! Ski jackets and pants come in all shapes, sizes and designs, but if you have purchased the proper base and mid-layers (thermals and fleece) then you should only need a nice lightweight ski jacket and pants to keep you warm and dry. There are two important ratings when it comes to buying ski jackets and pants, they are the waterproof and breathability ratings, often referred to as “Fabric Rating: 20K Waterproof / 20K Breathable”.
- Waterproof rating
- Jackets with Mild Waterproofing (5,001mm-10,000mm or 5k – 10k) can use a waterproof fabric or a more advanced water repellent coating called DWR. These will keep you dry in average snowfall and light rain.
- Jackets with Moderate Waterproofing (10,001mm-15,000mm or 10k – 15k) are the most common, and can use a combination of water repellent DWR coating and a waterproof fabric. These jackets will keep you warm and dry in light to moderate snow all day long, and in light rain.
- Jackets with High Waterproofing (15,001mm-20,000mm or 15k – 20k) are a great choice for avid riders that need a jacket to withstand any conditions they may encounter. These jackets will keep you dry in heavy, wet snow and rain.
- Breathability Rating
- Jackets with Mild Breathability (5,001-10,000g or ) offer an adequate amount of breathability to remain comfortable for a full day of low to moderate activity and short periods of high activity. However without careful layering you will become sweaty with high activity.
- Jackets with Moderate Breathability (10,001-15,001g or 10k – 15k) are the most common since they provide a good balance between function and the cost of technical fabrics. The jackets in the moderate category can keep you dry and comfortable during a full day of moderate activity and will easily handle sustained periods of high activity.
- Jackets with High Breathability (15,001-20,000g or 15k – 20k) are good for skiers and snowboarders who will work up a sweat from time to time. These jackets provide great breathability which keeps you dry throughout the day.
That just about does it for your essential ski gear, if you’ve chosen wisely and not scrimped on your gear then you should have at least half of your total weight allowance left for all the things you don’t need on a ski holiday, such as luxury toiletries because your chalet company provides complementary l’Occitane toiletries, a book or two because your catered chalet has it’s own library with hundreds of books, your dressing gown because your chalet hosts will provide you with a luxury 100% Egyptian cotton bath robe etc. etc.
On that note, if you are staying in a luxury catered chalet then, even in spite of your best laid plans to go out and hit the town every night, you are likely to be coming down to dinner in your pyjamas after a long soak in the hot tub, curling up with a glass of wine in front of the fire before heading off to bed, so a suitcase full of your favourite glad rags is sure to go to waste! You’re much better off with one “going out” outfit for the chalet staff night off, and keeping the rest of the space available for comfies and an extra jumper or two should you need them.