By the time you book your ski vacation, you’ve probably already thought of all the essentials like lift tickets, lodging, travel plans, lessons, and most of your gear (if you do need help planning your trip, click here to get connected to the experts). Yes, it is crucial to take care of all the “big” stuff – especially when it comes to skis, boots, and outerwear. And you probably have your mountain-man casual après flannel, hot-night-out-in-Vail party dress, or around-town boots with the fur packed and ready to go. But there are a few key pieces of gear that many ski vacationers forget about in the planning process, and guess what? They happen to be really, really important, both for comfort and for style. Here’s our list of 8 pieces of gear not to forget this season.
Balaclava is the official name for the close-fitting garment that covers the entire head and neck, with an opening for the face. It can be synthetic or made of wool (and we recommend the wool – for warmth and wicking effect). On bitter winter days or in blizzard conditions, this will be the accessory you’ll thank yourself for wearing (even if you think it looks dorky). It fits perfectly under the helmet and offers that extra layer of insulation and protection from the elements. Not digging the full getup? Opt for the neck-only version, popularly known as a Buff.
2. Ski Socks
Please note: regular socks will not suffice! If you’re pinching pennies on your ski vacation, don’t do it when it comes to ski socks. These socks are specially made to keep the feet warm and comfortable inside the boots, whereas soaking wet cotton ankle socks that are chronically bunching up at the heel can destroy an otherwise fabulous day on the slopes. While you may be tempted to get the ultra-thick woolen version, trust me: thinner is better. Your feet will have more space to breathe within the boot, allowing air to act as an insulator. Ultra-thin synthetic or merino wool is best.
Goggles may seem like a no-brainer, and they are; that said, the quality of goggles you bring on your ski vacation may very well have an effect on your overall experience. You don’t need the top-of-the-line designer pair that will burn 600 USD in your pocket, but it will help to find a pair that have interchangeable lenses for varying weather conditions and anti-fogging technology. In this sport called skiing, we really do want to be able to see where we are going and who is around us, and a good pair of goggles will ensure that.
Hats are out, helmets are in. Okay, you will still see plenty of people cruising the slopes wearing hats or headbands instead of helmets, but while this life-saving accessory used to be primarily for ski racers and kids, most resorts now encourage all skiers and riders to wear them (and most ski schools will not let kids in lessons without a helmet). You can feel more confident and safe in your own skiing and protect yourself from head injuries caused by collisions with anyone or anything. Plus, they are so much warmer than hats!
It may be winter, and it may be snowing, but rest assured, the sun is still beaming. Even from behind clouds, the sun’s rays are powerfully reflecting off the slopes, and a good pair of sunglasses (ideally polarized) protect eyes from the glare. These are also a key accessory for off-slopes activities, like snowshoeing, sledding, and strutting your stuff around town.
6. Long Johns
A.k.a.: thermal base layers. Perhaps the most important of all your ski clothes, the base layers are those garments worn directly on the skin. They are the first layer of insulation to keep as much body heat in while still allowing the skin to breathe. They wick sweat away from the body when you get too hot, dry quickly so you don’t freeze, and move with you all day. Avoid cotton, as it retains moisture but no heat. Find comfortable synthetic layers that dry quickly or merino wool for the best insulation.
7. Phone Case
This ski resort is not your office, no matter how many calls you may have to make to keep business going while you’re on your ski vacation. There can be rain, hail, snow, wind, and a lot of moisture ready to annihilate your phone, so you better beef up the case before hitting the slopes. Something with a bumper is necessary, and waterproof is best. (Of course, there’s always sealing it in a Ziploc sandwich bag as a back-up, but why risk it? Go for the good stuff).
Ah, the age-old question: mittens or gloves? I vote mittens, for warmth and comfort, but gloves are a great option if you need more flexibility or control in the hands. Either way, you’ll need mittens or gloves specifically designed for outdoor pursuits like skiing and riding. They need to be burly, insulated, and ideally waterproof. Once these guys get wet, nothing will dry them besides a tumble in a dryer or a night next to the fire, so make sure you get ones that will at least give you an entire day of dry warmth.
A lot goes into planning the perfect ski vacation, and we wouldn’t want you to forget the little pieces of gear that make a BIG difference. So stay warm, stay dry, and stay classy this season, and find the vacation deals that suit all your wants and needs here.