Packing for a Ski Vacation
By Steve Kopitz
As part of a skiing family that includes a wife and two kids, we have gone on many a ski vacations. While both of my kids are in college now, they both started skiing shortly after they could walk, and over the years I learned a few tricks…usually the hard way. Below are some tips, techniques, and tools to help maximize your enjoyment on your vacation when you get to your resort. This will insure that your first trip isn’t to the ski shop to purchase things that you left at home.
Keep all your gear in a bag: After a ski trip, or day at the local ski mountain, keep all your ski gear in a bag or designated area. Of course be sure everything has had a chance to dry first. Items that need to be washed should be immediately added to the rest of your gear after they come out of the washer or dryer. This will prevent you from losing or forgetting some of your gear.
Lay out all your gear: Before you put anything into your suitcase lay out all your clothes and gear on the floor. I would always have my kids (and my wife) do this before each ski vacation. I would then go through a checklist to be sure they had everything and in the right quantity. My kids would always hate this, but I would usually find something they forgot.
Keep a note pad by your suitcase. As you start packing, make a list of items you may need to buy or find before you depart.
Use a checklist: Use a checklist that you can print out and use to be sure you don’t forget anything.
Things you will want to bring in quantity: I always bring two pairs of gloves. This way one can be left to dry while you have a nice, warm, dry pair to ski in. I also recommend a pair of socks for each day of skiing. You don’t want to start a new day with a smelly, matted, or damp pair of socks. As for long underwear, I recommend two pair of tops and bottoms, one lighter and one heavier. This will provide a couple of advantages. First, you can switch between pairs to allow them to get a chance to breathe. Second, you can pick the one best for that day’s expected weather. Finally, if it is really cold, you can wear both. I will also bring a few spare items like an extra hat, goggles, neck warmer, and gloves. These came in handy when my kids would arrive back at the condo with a missing item.
A little known fact about airlines: I recently found out a nice little trick. Everyone knows that you can only check two bags on an airline. What most people don’t know is that if one of those bags is a ski bag, you can also check a boot bag with it, and it doesn’t count as a bag. This allows you to actually check three bags. Though you are surely best to check with your airline to assure this rule applies.
Staying under the airline weight limits: Airlines only allow 50 lbs. per bag and they are pretty strict these days. By using the tip above you can get the heaviest item, your boots, out of the calculation. I have also found that they do not enforce weight limits on bags with skis. Thus, if you own a real big double ski bag you can get your boots and lots of other stuff inside. However, I strongly recommend a wheeled ski bag so you don’t kill your back before you get to the slopes.
If you can’t get your bag under the 50 lb. limit, I recommend you check your bag with the curbside attendant. Curbside attendants are not usually airline employees and they work on tips, so a good tip will often allow your bags to bypass the scale.
If none of the preceding ideas work, it’s usually only an extra $25 from 50-75 lbs, a small price to pay to have all your cool stuff with you.
Arranging your suitcase: A couple of tips here. One, if you wear a helmet put your goggles and other items that are breakable inside for protection. If not, be sure to carefully wrap and pack your goggles. Two, fill everything! Put socks in your shoes, underwear in your boots, etc. Third, roll your clothes before packing them. You can fit more clothes in your suitcase if you roll them before packing them.
Packing your skis: I always wrap a towel around my skis and over the bindings for two reasons. First, have you ever seen how baggage handlers will sometimes throw bags on and off of the plane? Second, I usually pack two pairs of skis to a bag, and the towel prevents the skis from banging together and damaging one another. If you do pack more than one pair of skis per bag, be sure to reverse the directions of the tips so they don’t bang against each other. You can also pack a bunch of clothes around them for both added protection and as a way to stay under the airline weight limits. If you do pack your boots in your ski bag, it is a good idea to wrap them with a towel or clothes for protection as well.
Prior to your trip home, be sure your skis are dry before packing them. The towel you brought for padding can also be used to wipe down your skis and boots.
Planning for a lost bag: A great way to prevent a lost bag from ruining your trip is to carry your boots on the plane with you. You can carry them loose or get a ski boot bag, and if the airline loses your skis or snowboard, you will have your own boots with you. The airlines will pay for you to rent skis or a snowboard, but renting boots is usually painful and no fun.
If you really want to be safe, wear your ski jacket, hat, and gloves on the plane. Pack your ski pants with a pair of long underwear and regular underwear in the bag with your boots. Now you can ski the next day while the airline is locating your missing bag.
Swimsuit: I know, it sounds crazy, but this is an easy one to forget. Some days I’m not sure which I like better, the skiing or the hot tub, so don’t forget to bring a swimsuit and flip flops.
Pack for arrival: Pack the items you will need upon arrival in a place that is easy to access, such as the outside pocket of your suitcase, inside of the top layer, or with you on the plane. These items would include hat, gloves, jacket, and sunglasses.
An extra bag: Bring an extra soft collapsible duffle bag. This will come in handy in several ways. One, it is extra packing space for the clothes and gifts you bought on vacation. Two, you can carry your boots to the hill if you don’t want to walk to the slopes in them. Three, you can pack wet clothes or swimsuits for the trip home.
The little extras: These are the things that make a ski trip extra nice and prevent you from being gouged for little stuff you may need.