Picture the following scene:
It’s Friday afternoon. The kids just got home from school and have announced that they’re “starving.” The living room/kitchen/mudroom is strewn with ski gear. Wool socks without partners. Mismatched mittens stuffed with rock solid handwarmers from last February. Jackets with lift tickets dangling from the zipppers. Outgrown snow pants. You swore you were going to get all of this stuff organized before the start of the season, but as your mother-in-law always says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Packing for a family ski trip can be both stressful and overwhelming—ask anyone who has arrived at the mountain only to realize that they left the kids’ poles leaning against the garage door.
As the parents of three ski-happy teenage daughters, my husband and I have manage to get the packing routine pretty dialed—a routine that took us plenty of years of forgotten bathing suits, balaclavas, and goggles to (mostly!) master. So here are some tips that will teach you how to pack for a family ski trip, minimizing the chaos and making getting ready much less daunting. You might even get on the road before rush hour!
1. A Bag for Everyone
It’s never too early to start training everyone in your family to be responsible for their own gear. The best way to do this is to make sure each person has their own gear bag to pack with all the things they’ll need for a day on the slopes. There are lots of great bags out there that can hold everything from boots and helmets to snow pants, mittens, and neck gaiters—many even have fleece-lined goggle pockets. One of my favorites is the Rossignol Electra Boot and Helmet Pack, which has side holsters to secure your boots as well as a spacious main compartment and other pouches and pockets to stash things like extra socks, sunglasses, car keys, and lip balm.
Make a list of the items each family member should keep in this bag. I used to do an analog version with pen and paper, but now that we have teens I just text everyone the following:
- Ski/Snowboard boots—we love to attach boot handles if they don’t fit in the bag.
- Balaclava and/or neck gaiter
- Two or three pairs of ski socks—you can’t go wrong with Vermont made Darn Tough!
- Two pairs of mittens—or gloves, if you prefer, though we are firm believers in the superior warmth provided by mittens.
- Hand and toe warmers—these can be expensive to buy at the resort’s gear shop. If you expect to be on the mountain for multiple days over the course of the winter, buying a big box at the beginning of the season is often more cost-effective. Make sure everyone has a couple of pairs in their ski bag.
- Snow pants—this depends upon the size of your bag, but include them if they fit.
In addition to the above list, everyone should also be responsible for wearing their own ski jacket. I usually fire off a verbal idiot-check once we’re all in the car to confirm that everyone packed their most essential gear.
2. Layers are Essential
Layers are the key to being comfortable while skiing and snowboarding. Snow sports clothing is very functional, with each layer playing a part in keeping you warm and dry throughout your day on the mountain.
The first layer you put on in the morning is called a base layer. Made of moisture wicking synthetic fabric or soft merino wool, base layers are the clothes you wear next to your body. These items move sweat away from your skin so you don’t feel chilled when you stop moving. For that reason, it’s essential to avoid cotton. Cotton absorbs rather than resists moisture and will leave you feeling cold, damp, and unhappy. Pack two sets of base layers per person, keeping in mind that wool is excellent at repelling odors while synthetics tend to get stinky faster—a fact that my daughters have no problem pointing out to me when I suit up in the previous day’s long johns.
Mid-layers come next. The purpose of mid-layers is to add some extra insulation from the cold, keeping you warmer. A form fitting down or synthetic down jacket, a fleece pullover, or a cozy wool sweater are all perfect options for a mid-layer. You can even double up, adding and removing layers as needed throughout the day.
Finally, top everything off with a warm, waterproof outer layer. That’s where your jacket and ski pants come in.
3. Don’t Forget Après
Some of the best moments of a family ski vacation happen once you’re off the slopes for the day, drinking a fantastic Vermont brew in the base lodge and listening to some live music or watching the snow fall while soaking your hotel’s outdoor hot tub. In that vein, make sure to pack a bathing suit, flip-flops, and a couple of outfits for hanging out later on in the evening. And while many Vermont ski resorts have elevated their dining experiences, attire still errs on the side of casual. Jeans and a flannel shirt or leggings and a nice sweater will be just fine.
4. Food Glorious Food
Spacious condo accommodations abound at ski resorts and many come complete with full kitchens and all the comforts of home. Preparing some of your own meals can be a great money saver—I’ve been known to bring my crockpot on occasion—but even if you plan to eat your lunches and dinners out, packing breakfast staples is a must. Through the years we’ve brought everything from bagels and cream cheese to yogurt, granola, peanut butter, and oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit to fuel up for the day. If you’re the type of family that likes to get on the hill as early in the morning as possible—and even if you aren’t—eating breakfast in your hotel room or condo saves a ton of time. Plus, a good breakfast is essential in warding off those mid-morning blood sugar meltdowns!
Bringing along some healthy snack items is also a great idea. Granola bars, trail mix, clementines, and string cheeses are all things that can easily be tucked into a jacket pocket. Finally, we are big fans of putting out a cocktail hour spread with chips and salsa, baby carrots, crackers and hummus—you get the drill. The kids are always happy to have a quick nosh while everyone showers or gets into comfy clothes for dinner. We always try to grab a six-pack of Von Trapp beer, too. The Stowe family brewery makes some truly fabulous Austrian-style lagers perfect for après ski.
5. Other Must-Haves
You know your family best so beyond the items you’ll need for success on the slopes, pack accordingly. You’ll definitely want a hat and boots for walking around the resort when you’re not wearing your gear. My husband and I tend to wear our hats indoors and out all winter long, so that’s one item we never leave home without. Though it’s likely that you’ll get a solid amount of exercise during your time on the mountain, workout clothes and shoes are always good to throw into your bag. Most Vermont ski resorts have excellent fitness rooms and some offer on-site classes featuring everything from yoga and pilates to Zumba, kickboxing, and indoor cycling.
Be sure to pack items that provide protection from winter’s harsh elements. For our family that means sunglasses and sunscreen (you CAN get a sunburn on the slopes!), cream for soothing sore muscles—I swear by doTerra’s Deep Blue Rub—a hydrating face moisturizer, and some good lip balm and hand lotion—Bert’s Bees Farmer’s Friend Hand Salve does double duty on that front. Having these things on hand helps to keep you from getting chapped and chafed out there during a frosty Vermont day.
And finally, unless you’re renting on the mountain, don’t forget everyone’s snowboards, skis, and poles The last thing you want to hear when you’re halfway to Vermont is the phrase, “I thought YOU were going to put them in the trunk!”
In the end, it all comes down to streamlining the process and establishing a routine. To make that even easier, we’ve got a printable packing list for you that includes all of the items mentioned in this post.
Happy packing and see you on the slopes!
Click the image below to download our printable packing list:
Gina Vercesi is an award-winning freelance writer with an adventurous spirit and unwavering wanderlust. Despite growing up in New England, Gina didn’t don a pair of skis until February 2014—the result of being raised by a beach-loving dad who eschewed everything having to do with snow and cold. When she finally took her first lessons and hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, she became an instant convert. As an All Mountain Mama, Gina loves sharing the joys of Vermont skiing with powder-lovers and novices alike.
Chronicling journeys on land, water, and snow, Gina’s words and images have appeared numerous print and digital publications including National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Sierra, the Boston Globe, Delta SKY, Afar, Yankee, and many more. She is passionate about helping families (including her own!) unplug from electronics and the frenetic pace of modern life and believes that travel and adventure are the best ways reconnect to one another and the world around us. Gina lives in a friendly village on the Hudson River with her husband, three daughters, and a good dog. www.ginavercesi.com