By Megan Michelson
The perfect ski day is one you’ll remember forever—fresh, high-mountain air, family and friends, and the pure fun of a day spent on snow.
But getting to that point requires a fair amount of planning and logistics.
Here are 10 tips to help you avoid stress and head off any snafus before you hit the slopes.
1. Make a checklist.
You don’t want to get all the way to the ski hill and then realize you forgot your goggles.
So make a list of all the things you need—as in, everything you need to physically have on your body before you leave your condo or hotel: skis, boots, poles, helmet, goggles, gloves, jacket, sunscreen, and whatever else.
Before you head out the door, scan the list and make sure everything is accounted for.
If you do forget something, most rental shops also rent accessories like helmets and goggles, in addition to skis and boards.
2. Buy online.
While it might seem less complicated to buy your lift tickets in person at the mountain as you go, you’ll find the best deals if you purchase online and in advance, at least 24 hours before your ski day.
Check your resort’s website before you depart for your trip for the details.
Bonus: It’s less of a hassle than making split-second decisions at the ticket window.
3. Be gear savvy.
To make the morning gear schlep easier, leave your skis in your hotel’s bottom-floor ski locker or with the ski valet—don’t bother bringing skis up the elevator to your fifth floor room.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help loading gear into your car or the shuttle.
It’s OK to leave skis in the car overnight, but definitely don’t leave your boots there.
There’s nothing worse than trying to shove your foot into freezing cold boots in the morning.
4. Get outfitted.
If you’re renting ski gear, avoid the crowds by getting to the rental shop early.
Better yet, consider booking rental gear in advance through Rentskis.com, which delivers the gear to your hotel or house and gives you a custom, at-home fit.
They offer services throughout Colorado, Tahoe, and Utah.
5. Dress for success.
Just because you’re on a mountain doesn’t mean it will be arctic-cold (although it certainly can be).
Chances are, you won’t need six layers every day.
Check the weather report to see what the day’s forecasted temperature and weather will be, then dress accordingly.
Temps in the teens and blowing wind?
You’ll want that extra down jacket, your warmest mittens, and neck protection (a neck gaiter, which slips on over the head, covers the neck and can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose on especially blustery days).
Bright sunshine with highs in the 40s?
One base-layer, a shell, and light spring gloves might be enough.
In all weather, you want to stay as dry as possible, so aim for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics close to the skin and moisture-repelling materials on the outer layer.
(Pssst: No cotton. No jeans.)
Remember: It’s better to start with too many layers versus not enough; you can always stash a backpack with extra layers in a locker at the base area and either pull from it as the day cools off or shed layers as the day gets warmer.
Lastly, helmets are a must—even if you trust yourself, you have zero control over everyone else on the mountain—and sunglasses won’t cut it.
They fog up frequently, break easily, and offer less protection from sun glare and wind.
Go for the goggles.
6. Skip rush hour.
The busiest time to arrive at the ski area is between 9 and 10 a.m. To avoid the mayhem and traffic, consider getting there early—driving in before 8 and enjoying breakfast at the hill while everyone else is fighting for a parking spot.
Or, sleep in, get there late, and ski through lunch—you can snag a midday parking spot from someone who’s already left.
7. Park smart.
Some resorts offer up-close parking for an extra fee.
It might be worth it if you’ve got small kids and lots of gear to carry.
Also, resorts like Keystone offer free wagons for hauling gear from the parking lot to the lodge. Or take a shuttle from your hotel, which will drop you off front and center.
8. Bring the heat.
If it’s going to be a cold day, stock up on those disposable handwarmers, which you can buy at any ski shop.
Stuff one in each glove and also place a handwarmer next to your phone or camera in your pocket to help prolong the battery life of your electronics.
9. Fuel up and water down.
Make a point to eat a hearty breakfast in the morning and drink plenty of water to power up for your day in the mountains.
Stash a granola bar or some nuts in your pocket for that moment midmorning when you’re feeling tired and hungry and lunch is still an hour out.
When you step off the slopes, beer and nachos will sound really good, but be sure to keep drinking water.
Altitude and sun will dehydrate you if you’re not careful.
10. Dry it out.
At the end of the day when you arrive back at your condo or hotel, start prepping for tomorrow by drying out all of your gear (putting on wet socks and soggy gloves in the morning is less than pleasant).
Stick your boots in a boot dryer if you have access (a hair dryer works in a pinch, too) or leave them by a fireplace or heater along with wet hats and gloves.
Hang jackets and pants in a warm, dry place.
Toss your base layers and socks in the dryer if you have one.