If you’re going skiing for the first time or sending a child off on their first school ski trip, working out what gear you need can be baffling.
Even if you’re renting from a platform like EcoSki, rather than buying your own, you still need to know what to take. So here’s our guide on what to pack for your first ski holiday.
Take comfortable, stretchy underwear that you would usually wear for sports, and a sports bra for women that you can comfortably wear all day. Natural fibres are best all round; cotton, silk or bamboo underwear and long socks, ideally made specifically for skiing without a bulky toe seam. EcoSki stocks and recommend Ortovox, Mons Royale and Point6. You should ideally wear a clean pair of socks every day as feet sweat, but if you don’t fancy washing them in the hotel sink, three pairs for a week is acceptable.
Worn next to the skin, baselayers should fit comfortably and snugly and made from a breathable fabric that will wick sweat (cotton t-shirts will stay wet and make you cold). Sustainably or Regeneratively produced merino are great for warmth, breathability, wicking sweat effectively and naturally odour resistant. Long-sleeve baselayers are best and during midwinter an extra vest layer beneath can be useful – EcoSki recommend the Icebreaker tank tops. If your ski pants are padded you may not need long johns, but always pack one pair — three-quarter length are ideal so there is less fabric tucked into ski boots, but full length is fine if the bottom seam is not bulky.
Layering is key to keeping warm — it’s more comfortable to wear several layers to trap heat than to wear one big, bulky coat. Depending on the time of year you ski and what your outer kit is made of, your mid-layer might be a fleece, down jacket, down vest/gilet or a combination of all three. A wool sweater will also work or even a running/sports top. Whatever you choose it needs to be breathable and quick drying. A lightweight layer to stow in a backpack is handy for emergencies.
Ski pants and jackets come in all guises. If it’s your first time on the slopes, you will be a curious mix of hot and cold — learning is very energy-consuming, especially as you might fall and get up a lot! You need clothing that is warm, breathable, waterproof and windproof (normally these come as standard, even in budget kit) and then optional extras might include a helmet-compatible hood, a snow “skirt” to tighten so you don’t get snow up your back if you fall, thumb loops, adjustable cuffs to make it snug and handy pockets for phone, gloves etc. If you opt for a shell jacket and pants (ie, no insulation) the mid-layer will be more important. Less so if there is insulation in the outer layer. Ski pants versus salopettes comes down to personal preference — work out which is easier to use when you need the bathroom!
Don’t skimp on these — you need ski/mountain-specific gloves, or mittens if you get cold hands. Woollen gloves or anything you’d use in the UK will not be good enough to keep out the cold in the snow. Gloves also need to be waterproof and breathable, otherwise your hands will sweat, get wet and then cold again. If it’s mid-winter or you suffer from very cold fingers, it’s worth considering a pair of thin liner gloves to wear inside your main glove.
Hat or helmet
Helmets are strongly advised — often mandatory, particularly for children, in ski schools. Rarely will you see an experienced skier without one. A woolly hat or hairband for lunchtimes and après is an optional extra, keeping you warm and hiding post-helmet hat hair.
Goggles and sunglasses
Snow blindness is not just a myth, you risk serious damage to your eyes if they are unprotected on the slopes. With helmets, goggles are easier to wear and don’t get lost as easily when you fall/sit down for lunch. Sunglasses are handy to have in your pocket for lunchtimes and aprés.
Skis, boots and poles
If you’re new to skiing, you don’t need to buy skis, boots or poles. Though it’s nice to have, your requirements in both skis and boots will change as you become more skilful. They are also heavy and expensive to lug on your holiday.
Use this as carry-on for flights or day bag in the car/train, a backpack is handy to wear on the mountain to stow water bottle, an extra layer, sunscreen and the all-important snacks. Just remember to remove it on the chairlift — every year there are nasty incidents when skiers get snagged on a lift by their backpack and most often it is children.
Sunscreen with a minimum 30SPF is essential. Don’t forget lip balm too — choose one that will provide both an SPF (the higher the better) and a barrier cream.
Water bottles save money on drinks and cut out single-use plastic. Choose a vacuum bottle and you can take hot and cold drinks up the mountain. Similarly, a coffee cup is good, too and picnic cutlery if you can fit it in. We recommend Black+Blum.
Hand warmers are handy for cold days and for kids. Easy to store in pockets or backpacks for emergencies.
Finally — snacks! There is nothing worse than being caught with low sugar levels on the mountain — learning to ski or snowboard uses up a lot of energy. Chocolate or cereal bars are easy, but healthier and better for the environment would be home-made trail mix.