A Skiing Checklist for a complete winter holiday

If it’s winter then it’s time to get the skiing checklist ready. Whether it is your first time planning on hitting the slopes or you are a seasoned skier/snowboarder, being well prepared with a detailed skiing checklist for your snowy adventure is extremely important.

You are likely going to be braving some serious wintry conditions, such as, you know, sub-freezing temperatures and the occasional snowstorm (though it is advisable that you admire any snowstorm from the safety of your chalet).

There are many places around the globe that you could opt to go for your skiing trip, whether you decide to go to the French Alps, Whistler, or Japan the skiing checklist of what to bring with you remains more or less the same.

It is safe to assume that you are likely heading out to a town that blooms in the winter with skiing related activities, filling up with a plethora of locals and tourists alike looking to enjoy the winter wonderland.

The essentials for creating a skiing checklist

The primary thing to take into consideration when planning your ski trip is how well can you actually ski or snowboard?

If you ski/snowboard well, are you planning on exploring the wilderness by venturing off-piste (away from the obviously marked and carefully maintained slopes)? What activities are there to do at your chosen destination if the weather is not amazing when you arrive?

How long is your holiday? Are you jetting off for a quick weekend in the mountains, or are you looking to fully satiate your skiing/snowboarding appetite for the rest of the year?

Depending on your level of skiing and/or snowboarding and how long you plan on staying in your chosen destination the checklist may differ slightly so always aim to take such factors into account.

Starting from the outside in, let’s create a skiing checklist of all the items you may need on your trip.

Ski Gear and Slope Safety

If it is your first time skiing or snowboarding, or if you are not ready to commit to skiing 100%, it is usually a better option to just rent your gear from the resort that you are going to.

Buying your own gear is an expensive affair, and only really worth it if you are planning on committing to the activity. By buying your own gear you then have to start thinking about where you will store it once you get back home, and how will you transport it back home. Most flights have a “sports equipment” hold luggage option but often you can only make use of this feature at an added cost.

When it comes to renting or buying your equipment you will need the following:

  • Skis or snowboard – the size of these is usually determined by your height, but as your skill improves you can start customising your skis or snowboard to suit your preferred style.
  • Ski poles – used for balance and propulsion, ski poles are an essential part of your gear, particularly if the skiing activities you will be engaging in are alpine skiing, cross country skiing and freestyle skiing.
  • Skiing boots or snowboarding shoes – ensure your ski boots are as comfortable as they can be so as to avoid developing blisters.
  • Helmet – especially for beginners, but a ski helmet is important really for all levels of skier/snowboarder as your head is an integral part of your body and ought to be protected.
  • Back/torso protector – although this is not something that is deemed a vital piece of kit to have when skiing or snowboarding if you have sensitive back it is advisable. No matter how much you try, falling over is part of the learning process and part of the fun with skiing and snowboarding, and considering the velocity at which you will be travelling impact can be quite painful, so if you have a sensitive back or spine, protecting it is always a good idea.
  • Wrist guards, knee pads, padded impact shorts and bum pads – primarily these are suggested for beginner snowboarders. You will fall, and you will bruise. Quite a lot. Take all the protective measures you can, and persevere because it is oh so worth it once you’ve got the hang of how to snowboard. It is a struggle to get there, but when you do… what an accomplishment! The difference between padded impact shorts and bum pads is that the former go over your thermals, whilst the latter are worn externally and look more like cushions. On the plus side, you can get funky designs on your bum pads, which can be a great source of entertainment for both yourself and anyone else around you.
  • Goggles – Pick a pair of stylish ski goggles to protect your eyes from the cold air, snowflakes and the sun.
  • Avalanche pack – this is advised if you will be venturing off the slopes and into unmarked territory. An avalanche pack is one of those items that you will invest in and hope never to use but it could be the difference between life and death if you are caught up in the unfortunate event of an avalanche. In the event of an avalanche, larger objects rise to the surface whilst smaller ones get buried at the bottom. In an avalanche pack, an airbag system is incorporated into a backpack with a large balloon that inflates at the pull of a cord. The design aims to make the person wearing it larger than they actually are so that they can naturally rise to the surface of the snow. Wearing an avalanche pack improves chances of survival by 50%.

Ski Jargon

Before delving into our comprehensive list of all the ski clothing items you might need for your skiing/snowboarding adventures let’s get some terminology out of the way so that there is no confusion:

  • Piste – a marked ski run path or path down a mountain for snow skiing, snowboarding and other mountain sports. In North America, this is also known as a groomed run.
  • Backcountry – skiing or snowboarding in sparsely populated and unmarked areas, outside designated skiing resorts. Usually accessible specifically through human power, as mechanised means such as ski lifts are unavailable.
  • Sidecountry / Backcountry – backcountry skiing that is easily accessible from the resort.

Waterproof Ratings for Skiing

When choosing your outermost layer of clothing, such as your skiing / snowboarding trousers and jackets you must remember that these need to be both waterproof and breathable. Below we list the waterproof and breathability ratings to help you better understand the various options available to you and what they are best suited to.

Waterproof Rating (mm)Where to use itWhat is it good for
10,000mmPistewill protect you against light rain and average snow
15,000mmPistewill protect you against moderate rain and average snow
20,000mm or aboveBackcountrywill protect you against heavy rain and wet snow

Breathability Ratings for Skiing

In addition to considering how waterproof your outermost layer is, you should also consider its breathability. Breathability is essential as it will allow for sweat (yes, mountain sports can be a sweaty business, despite the surrounding cold. You are after all partaking in a sport.) to escape the ski jacket without letting water in. This, in turn, keeps you nice and dry.

Breathability Rating (g/m2)Where to use it
5,000 g/m2Piste only
10,000 g/m2Piste and Sidecountry
15,000 g/m2Sidecountry
20,000 g/m2Backcountry

Skiing / Snowboarding Clothing

  • Waterproof skiing or snowboarding trousers – at a waterproof rating of a minimum 10,000mm. Skiing pants are usually a tighter fit, whereas snowboarding pants are usually quite a lot baggier to allow for crouching and more leg movement.
    Ski pants for women | Ski pants for men
  • Waterproof skiing or snowboarding jacket – at a waterproof rating of a minimum 10,000mm. Similar to the trousers, skiing jackets are usually a slimmer fit to allow for a more aerodynamic flow.
    Ski Jacket for women | Ski jacket for men

Gore-Tex & eVent Clothing

Gore-Tex and eVent are generally considered the most well-known and trusted materials when it comes to waterproofing and breathability of your outermost layer of clothing. There are also three main styles that you will come across when having to choose your jacket:

  • 3-in-1 ski jacket – includes an inner shell that can be anything from a thin fleece to a warmer synthetic fill. You have the option of being able to separate them yourself, and you can wear them separately, if for instance on one of the days you go out the temperatures are significantly higher. Ski Jacket for women | Ski jacket for men
  • Jacket shell – these are non-padded, waterproof and windproof. They tend to be cheaper than insulated options, but if you take extra care with how you layer your clothing they can be excellent value. Jacket shell for women | Jacket shell for men
  • Insulated jacket – slightly less versatile, these are designed to keep you warm, though not so great at keeping you dry. Definitely buy one of these if you are prone to getting cold. Insulated jacket for women | Insulated jacket for men

Insulation & Thermals

  • Fleece – this is usually an optional item, based primarily on your level of skiing. If you like to cruise and stop every so often to take photos and enjoy the view, then a fleece will be necessary to keep you warm. If however, you prefer a faster-paced experience, then a fleece might make you too warm. Exceptions to this rule, of course, apply depending on the weather so always check ahead. Alternatively, if you like to keep a small backpack on you then you can keep your fleece there and use it when needed throughout the day. Fleece for women | Fleece for men
  • Mid-layer – this is the layer that will keep you warm so it’s quite important. This can range from anything such as a long-sleeved sweatshirt to a lighter down jacket or even a wool jumper depending on the temperature outside. This is also the layer that you are most likely going to take off if you get too hot.
  • Base layer/thermals – this should be something that is fitted to your body snuggly. This layer needs to be able to wick away any sweat and keep you dry, warm and comfortable whilst you are skiing/snowboarding. It is essential here for the material to be breathable. You want to avoid cotton as cotton stays wet when you sweat and makes you cold. Synthetic fibres are a better choice for these layers.
    Base layer for women | Base layer for men
  • Socks – incredibly important that you get yourself a few good pairs of socks for your skiing/snowboarding boots as they are going to protect your feet. Your best options here are tall woolly socks. Wool will keep you warm and the fact that they are tall will prevent them from scrunching up in your boots. To save space when packing, you can put your socks in your goggles or boots.
  • Ski Gloves – you will want these to be waterproof on the outside and lined with something warm on the inside. Ski Gloves for women | Ski Gloves for men
  • Beanie / balaclava / neck-warmer – for added comfort

Toiletries, accessories & items for your backpack

Usually, your skiing/snowboarding jacket and trousers will have a variety of useful pockets for you to be able to stow your valuables away, but sometimes it might be a better idea to carry a small backpack as well. A backpack is also quite useful in the event that you decide to get rid of some of your layers.

Here is a list of all items that may be useful for you on your ski trip.

  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF – these are actually quite essential. You would be surprised how strong the sun can be when you are in the snow – this is because the white brilliance of the powdery snow reflects the sun’s rays. While this most certainly leads to some glorious photograph moments, it might also lead to some not-so-glorious sunburns and awkward goggle tan lines. So bring your sunscreen and lip balm, your face will thank you.
  • Ski lift passes – also essential, without a ski lift pass (in your ski pass holder) you will not be able to embark on a ski lift which can take you at the top of your desired slope.
  • Wallet – fully kitted out with some cash, your bank cards and ID. Many resorts have restaurants on the slopes that are only accessible if you ski/snowboard to them.
  • Tissues – the cold air can make your nose runny.
  • Mobile phone – essential for both in case of an emergency, and of course if you plan on taking the odd selfie
  • Battery pack & phone cable – to ensure, your phone doesn’t run out of battery. However, don’t go crazy with heavy items.
  • Earphones – in case you like listening to music while skiing
  • Snacks and water – particularly if you plan on going off-piste
  • Microfibre cloth – to keep your goggles clean – this is super useful to remove fingerprints and dirt
  • Camera – to take those awesome holiday pictures. Again, remember that you will have to carry all this with you, so pack lightly.
  • Small first aid kit – in case of cuts and bruises

Après-ski essentials

Going on a skiing/snowboarding holiday doesn’t always have to be all about mountain sports. An important aspect of a ski holiday is also everything else that you can do whilst at your holiday destination.

The activities that will be available to you largely depend on where you are, as some places are better suited toward a more quiet holiday whilst others are well known for all the parties that take place after a full day out on the slopes.

Once you are out of your skiing gear, it is time to get stylish and comfortable with some of the below suggestions.

  • Winter jacket
  • Warm knitted jumpers, cardigans, hoodies, sweaters
  • Tops, t-shirts, shirts
  • Jeans
  • Trousers – corduroys are particularly good for keeping you warm in cold weather.
  • Tights, leggings
  • Après-ski boots – these are typically waterproof, fur lined on the inside for added warmth and comfort, and they have a rubber sole for good grip in snowy and icy conditions.
  • Scarves, gloves, hats, beanies, ear muffs
  • Backpack, handbag
  • Underwear, socks, thermals
  • Pyjamas
  • Bathing suit, flip flops – in the event that you will be going to a spa or sauna.
  • Slippers
  • Sunglasses

Toiletries & Miscellaneous

And finally, let’s not forget about some everyday essentials which will make your life easier during your trip.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss
  • Hairbrush, other hair accessories
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume, cologne
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap
  • Razor, shaving gel, aftershave
  • Makeup, makeup remover, cotton pads
  • Glasses, contact lenses
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Muscle relief cream
  • Medications and a copy of your prescription as countries have different regulations regarding prescribed medicines.
  • Documents
    • Passports
    • Accommodation and flight details
    • Equipment hire details
    • Travel insurance
  • A good book – because who doesn’t like to curl up in front of a fireplace while it’s snowing outside and get lost in a captivating world?

Other than the specialised ski equipment, most of the items are interchangeable and may depend on your personal requirements. As always, take into consideration the weather and your destination.

When skiing or snowboarding or partaking in any other winter sports you are keeping your body moving, so it is natural to get quite warm and to sweat, especially with all the protective layers that you ought to be wearing. However, when your day on the slopes comes to a close and you move on with your schedule, either back to your hotel room or to a fun party elsewhere, you will not be moving as much so it is essential to pack things that will keep you warm.

In addition, also consider the activities you will be taking part in other than the sports, is this a holiday you are going to during Christmas and/or New Year? If so, then you need to plan for more formal attire depending on how you plan on spending these festive days. Will your accommodation have a spa or sauna facilities that you plan on using? If the answer is yes (lucky you!), then you will definitely also need to pack some form of swimwear and perhaps a bathrobe.

Finally, and most importantly, have fun! Yes, the checklist detailed provides a lot of information to consider when choosing the items that you will need to bring with you on a skiing/snowboarding holiday, but do not let that overwhelm you because the fact that you will soon be jetting off to a genuine winter wonderland is just too exciting.

Share this post
Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory Varga is a licensed travel agent and published travel writer. Her main expertise is writing about Japan, where she happily lives with her husband.
Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan and wants to share more about the local customs with the rest of the world.
While Cory has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries, Japan remains her favorite place to live and write about. Cory is multilingual.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *