As we head into autumn; ‘what do I need for a ski holiday?’ is among the most common questions we receive. Although it might sound trivial, it’s an important question. Failure to prepare for the elements you’ll face on a ski holiday can leave you cold and miserable, or worse.
So, building on our recent rundown of the Top European Ski Holiday Destinations for 2023, we now give you The Complete Ski Holiday Packing List.
We’ll cover must-haves and nice-to-haves for carving up the slopes. But we’ll also touch on the casual gear you’ll need for carving up the après-ski! We finish up discussing how best to prepare yourself mentally for a great ski holiday.
- What do you need for a ski holiday?
- What ski gear do I take on a ski holiday?
- Must-have ski gear
- Nice-to-have ski gear
- Casual gear
- The ski holiday mindset
- All set?
What do you need for a ski holiday?
As well as your high-tech ski gear, you’ll also need some casual gear for socialising and lounging about in the chalet. Before getting onto the good stuff, we’ll start with the necessary life admin.
The exact documentation you need will depend on where you plan to go for your ski holiday or ski season. For example, say you’re going to Banff or Big White, you’ll need a visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for Canada.
However, every ski holiday packing list should include the following essential documentation, wherever you plan to go.
- Does your passport have at least 6 months left before it expires?
- Travel insurance
- Remember: skiing is awesome, but has its risks. Be sure to download/take a copy of your policy documents.
- European health insurance card
- For UK holidaymakers: if you’re going to be skiing in Europe apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Should you need medical assistance, the GHIC reduces the costs of healthcare within the EU.
What ski gear do I take on a ski holiday?
When it comes to ski gear, there are a few must-have items and a bunch of others that aren’t essential, but nice to have if your budget allows.
Must-have ski gear
It’s always advised to buy your must-have ski gear in advance of your ski holiday. Take it from us, the local stores on ski resorts tend to charge extortionate prices.
- Ski jacket
- Don’t skimp on your ski jacket —you’ll need a good one to protect you from the elements. Although there’s all sorts of fancy heated jackets on the market, most of us go for a ski jacket that combines good weather protection with ventilation and comfort.
- Warm hat
- Near the top of every ski holiday packing list, a good winter beanie is essential for keeping warm and feeling good.
- Waterproof rucksack
- A good waterproof rucksack for your day-to-day items on the slopes.
- Ski trousers/salopettes
- When it comes to ski trousers or salopettes, look for a pair that are waterproof and breathable.
- Ski goggles/sunglasses
- Go for a pair of ski goggles with a snug fit and good field of vision, even in your periphery. Decent ski goggles have UV protective lenses to protect from snow glare, but be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses too.
- Your primary concern when picking ski gloves is waterproofing. If you’re going to be skiing somewhere with colder temperatures, also consider picking up a pair of liner gloves.
- Base layers/thermals
- The base layer is for keeping you warm and wicking away sweat. You’ll want a pair of thermal leggings and a top. Many skiers swear by merino wool but synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are more affordable and do the job.
- Mid layers
- You’ll need another layer for your upper body. Most of us go for lightweight fleeces but a basic wool or cotton sweater also does the job.
- Ski socks
- Wear one pair of decent ski socks, rather than layering regular socks. To avoid rubbing, it’s important that your ski socks can be pulled up above the inner part of your ski boots.
Nice-to-have ski gear
Once you’ve sorted your must-have ski gear, you can start thinking about those nice-to-haves. Although the following items are non-essential, a few luxuries can make for a more comfortable skiing holiday.
- Lightweight or packable down jacket
- A lightweight down jacket is versatile. It can fit in your day bag and can also be used as an alternate/additional mid layer whilst drying your ski jacket.
- Hand warmers
- A few hand warmers are a nice luxury item, especially for those long chair lift queues.
- High-energy snacks
- You can probably pick your snacks up on location, but trail mix and energy gels can come in handy for those long days on the powder.
- Bandana or buff
- A bandana or buff to keep the exposed parts of your face and neck warm can come in real handy when exposed on the mountaintop or for those long red runs.
- Knee and ankle supports
- As the holiday goes on, knee supports can help with any niggling joint pain.
You’ll also want some gear for those times you’re not on the piste. There’s not too much to add here, but you might be wondering what types of casual clothes you need for a ski holiday.
The main thing to consider is a casual ‘pub’ jacket, so you can give your expensive ski jacket a rest and some time to dry off.
A decent pair of waterproof shoes will prevent you from tramping around with cold and wet feet.
After a long day on the slopes or a few drinks at the après ski, some comfy clothes are pretty much essential for chilling in the chalet / hotel.
Most alpine ski resorts have spas with jacuzzis and steam rooms. If you’re in a hotel, there’s a good chance it will have a heated swimming pool.
The ski holiday mindset
With all of the packing and organising, it can be easy to overlook the steps you can take to mentally prepare for a ski holiday. If you’re feeling anxious the best thing you can do is take a trip to your local dry ski slope or snow centre. Some training will prepare your body physically but also give you a clear understanding of your skill level.
One of the biggest mistakes people make on a ski holiday is trying to ski above their level. Attempting slopes that are above your skill level not only puts you at risk, but others on the slope too.
What does mental preparation look like? It can be a massive mental boost to know a bit about the area where you’ll be skiing. Get online and check out recent videos or blog articles about the resort you’re going to.
Obviously, the type of ski holiday you’re planning on taking will influence your preparation. A family taking a ski holiday in Chamonix is very different to a student on a gap year preparing for a ski instructor course.
More than any other sport, skiing requires you to make extensive preparations, not just physically but also mentally.
By preparing well in advance on your departure date, you go a long way to ensuring a smooth ski holiday. Bookmark this ski holiday packing list or print it off.
If you have any other suggestions, feel free to comment below.
See you on the slopes!