Packing for a ski vacation does not have to be as painstaking as one might be led to believe. Before cramming everything in a suitcase you first need to decide what you intend to do while in the winter wonderland and what season are you visiting in (for purpose of knowing the minimum temperatures). Ask yourself if you are going to spend most of your time skiing or if you intend to do other activities like sitting by the fire, hiking, or snowmobiling. Winter-skiing and Spring-skiing are two different animals of the same species; one just has less fur in the spring. I am going to make the assumption that most people reading this are primarily concerned with what to pack when skiing is the actual motivation.
It is really quite simple when packing for a ski vacation, a vacation is just that and if you are there for a longer period of time just wash your clothes instead of bringing extras. There are only two things to pack for, skiing and not skiing. When packing for skiing, DO NOT pack more than three layers. Skiing is like any other sport in that after a period of activity you will “warm-up” and begin to sweat. Many people tend to overdress because they think it will be freezing, but the truth is that once they start to ski they begin to sweat, the sweat stays in the clothes and can cause you to be even colder. I would recommend wearing one solid, warm, breathable layer underneath the ski suit. Many people wear two layers – if it is 10 below freezing or you have an abnormal aversion to cold, wear two. The only reason I mention bringing three layers is incase you do not dry out your layers each time you get home. Be sure that you do pack at least two of each of the following, but no more than three: (1) long johns top and bottoms; (2) warm gloves; (3) a warm hat that covers the ears; (4) warm socks made of wool or made specially for skiing; and (5) a warm sweater. Optional items include turtle necks, face warmers, and heat packs. Heatpacks can be purchased at your destination.
Do be sure to pack ski goggles and a ski suit, but at the very least a very warm, water-resistant coat. Sure some people can get away with skiing in jeans, but I have not really seen that since the early nineties or late season skiing. IF you are a beginner, or plan to ski in powder, or fall a lot; do not ski in jeans. They will become soaked all the way through as you body heat melts the snow that comes in contact with them and you will get frostbite on your genitals. I don’t know if that last bit has every really happened, but it could, so do not wear jeans while skiing. In fact a one piece might even be best recommended for a beginner or someone who falls a lot – it prevents snow from getting up under your clothes and against your body.
Another important factor is ventilation. When you begin to warm up, you want to be able to unzip you outer layers, or even take off that sweater. Proper ventilation will help regulate your internal temperature and prevent you from sweating too much thus drenching your clothes and causing you to be extremely cold.
With regard to what you should pack to wear when not skiing, if you come from a colder climate, just pack what you would wear on any given snow-day day in your home town. If you are not use to cold weather, just pack like you would dress on a cold day… in layers. A pair of jeans or pants, underwear, warm socks, shirt, sweater, jacket, gloves, hat, and perhaps sunglasses is all that you might need. The idea is that when you go inside a warm area (i.e. Restaurant, store, etc…) you want to be able to take of the jacket and such so that you do not die of a heat stroke. Need I remind you to bring toiletries and necessities? Also bring comfortable clothes for sitting around the lodge or wherever you are staying. Most places offer a hot tub, so bring a swimsuit.
A key item to have is water. The physical activity coupled with dehydration and altitude can make you very sick if you don’t drink enough water. Most places will have water available when you get there, but if you are skiing some remote location that for some reason does not have water, bring some, or a torch to melt the snow to drink.
When skiing, it not really the cold that makes you cold, it over dressing for the cold that make you too warm. Skiing is a physical activity and your body will warm itself up after a few minutes. Do not wear barely anything at all, but don’t wear too much either. The sweat that accumulates is what makes you feel cold. Have fun and watch out for the downhill skier.