How To Pack for a family ski vacation

By Rachel Walker

It’s hard enough to pack for just yourself when going on a ski vacation.

Add in a troop of kids (or even just one) and all the unknowables—weather, mainly, but also whether you’ll be shredding deep powder in a storm or cruising sun-kissed slopes—and it may seem like you need a covered wagon to get to the mountains.

The good news is: you don’t.

But you do need to pack wisely, so take our advice and use the following lists.

1. Suitcase

DaKine Split Roller Lg.$200

This is the last suitcase you will ever need.

Big enough to hold clothes for the entire family (if you’re efficient; otherwise it’s great for one adult and up to three kids) this bag has smartly designed zipper compartments, is made with bombproof fabric, and functions like a black hole—in a good way.

2. Wheels

If you have toddlers, bring a stroller.

Gate check it if you’re flying; or make room in the car. It doesn’t matter how pedestrian-friendly your chosen ski-resort is.

Toddlers are notorious for refusing to walk at the most inopportune times.

We love the Mountain Buggy Duet ($599). This streamlined double stroller is no wider than a single, accommodates kids from newborns to five-year-olds (trust us, they’ll be grateful for the lift after a day in ski school), and is the most intuitive, burly, stroller on the market.

3. Street clothes

First the good news: you and the kids will need roughly the same things:

• Cold weather clothing (one of each): heavy sweater, hoodie sweatshirt, snowboots

• Several scarves and warm hats, fleece headbands or bandannas, earmuffs and wool-blend, waterproof socks

• Comfortable clothes for the condo or hotel

• Pajamas

4. Mountain clothes

As with adults, it’s important to layer your kids so they can best regulate their heat.  Here’s the system that works for me:

Long underwear top and bottom: A number of outdoor companies have branched into the kids market, and this winter I’ve relied almost exclusively on Icebreaker for soft merino wool baselayers.

My toddler son has sensitive skin and practically lives in his Oasis Crew ($45).

The shirt keeps him warm, rarely needs washing, is so well made it will fit his sister when she’s a little older, and features Icebreaker’s indisputable quality.

Insulated layer: Parents and kids alike love Patagonia.

The clothes run large, which means my son wore his 18 month bunting until he turned two, and his 2T puffball appears as if it will last through next season.

Shell: This is less important for little kids, as few parents will force the little ones to stay on the slopes in inclement weather.

But if you’ve got a hard-charging eager tot, look to REI or L.L. Bean for affordable, waterproof shells that withstand the elements.

Mittens or gloves: I splurged on Marmot gloves for my little guy, and then promptly lost them.

If you’re more organized than me, splurge away. Otherwise, buy a few inexpensive pairs from Target and keep them in your ski bag.

Better to have too many on hand than too few.

Helmet: The debate over whether or not to wear a helmet is long over: it’s the safest choice for the mountain, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid skiing without one.

Set a good example and wear yours. Giro makes kid and adult models.

Equipment: If you’re daytripping, bring your own. If you’re flying to your destination, it may make more sense (logistically, if not financially) to rent.

Plus, some gear shops like Vail Sports have rental delivery services (check out rentskis.com, which delivers skis to your lodging at all Vail Resorts).

Toys and books: Even though there’s a plethora of entertainment at ski resorts, you’ll be grateful to have some familiar toys and books for your condo or hotel to keep the kids occupied during downtime.

5. Checklist

Use the checklist below to maximize your ski vacation packing!

Clothes (adult/kid)

__ underwear (1/day)

__ socks (1 pair/day)

__ long-sleeved shirts/tops (1/day)

__ pants/jeans (3 max)

__ sweater/sweatshirt (2 max)

__ fleece

__ snow/winter boots

__ swimsuit (if pool available)

Accessories

__ sunglasses/goggles

Clothes (baby/toddler)

__ onesies (1/day + 2 extra)

__ outfits (1/day + 2 extra)

__ socks (1 pair/day)

__ boots

__ jacket

Ski Essentials

__ gloves/mittens

__ helmet

__ neck gaiter (preferable to scarf)

__ goggles

__ warm ski socks

__ toe + hand warmers

__ ski jacket and snow pants

Ski Equipment (unless renting)

__ skis __ poles __ ski boots __ helmets

Sleep

__ pajamas

__ stuffed animal/doll/blankie

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