We often get asked about what to pack for a holiday in the mountains so we've put together a handy guide for you.
Skiing is one of those sports where the clothing is just as important to get right as the equipment, and that’s due to the fact you’re out having fun in usually cold, often snowy conditions, with an ever-present potential for danger. On crowded slopes you will encounter people wearing an immense variety of ski attire, much of it stylish and clearly expensive, but it almost always conforms to the same patterns of layering, protection and accessories. From time to time you’ll see daredevils flying past in fancy dress, or just their underwear, but they tend to be the exception!
Buying clothes for skiing can be difficult when you’re not entirely sure what you need, and don’t want to purchase things you won’t use while forgetting something you definitely will require. So here’s what you’ll need to think about packing if you are off on a VIP ski holiday soon, and why each piece is necessary.
It’s commonly recommended to use three layers of clothing for skiing. The base layer serves to keep you dry and warm, wicking off moisture, as skiing is an energetic activity that causes sweating which can be unpleasant. Many people opt for thermal clothing for this layer, but warmth is secondary to a layer that stays dry and comfortable over the course of the day.
The mid layer should be for insulation purposes, and is most necessary when you’re expecting very cold conditions. If you’re heading to resort later in the season, such as around Easter, then you might be tempted to skip this layer, but it’s worth putting it on your ski clothing list anyway just in case. It doesn’t need to be especially thick - a lightweight fleece will do the job perfectly.
Your outer layer is what offers protection from the elements, so it should be both waterproof and windproof, as well as durable. It is composed of the ski jacket (which often comes with a zip-pocket on the left sleeve where you can conveniently keep your lift pass), and your ski pants, otherwise known as salopettes. What to wear under ski pants? If you feel it’s necessary, a thin tracksuit or thermal leggings will do nicely. In terms of material, think Gore-Tex or similar. Note that although outer layers can often be purchased for a very reasonable price, if you don’t feel ready to make that kind of investment yet, they can also be hired from many suppliers.
Goggles / Sunglasses
It’s best to bring both goggles and sunglasses. The latter are suitable for when the weather is good and the white of the snow can be almost blindingly brilliant, while goggles are necessary for snowy or windy conditions. Bear in mind that goggles can steam up, obscuring visibility, so a pack of wipes can come in handy too. Bringing both along while you ski allows you flexibility. Most ski helmets have a strap to keep goggles attached. Spending a little more for extra UV protection and anti-fogging is a good idea.
20 years ago it was rare to see anyone skiing with a helmet. Today, it’s rare to see someone skiing without one. A helmet offers you an extra piece of protection against collisions and falls on surfaces that are often a lot harder than they might look. Modern ski helmets are stylish, comfortable and lightweight. While they can be rented alongside skis, poles and boots if required, if you want to invest in your own then expect to pay upwards of £50 for a high-quality ski helmet. Keep in mind that if your helmet takes a serious knock, but appears undamaged, it may still have an invisible crack that can render it useless in future.
Choosing the right type of ski socks is an area where many people get it wrong when deciding what to wear when skiing. You might think you want thick socks such as for hiking, but actually ski boots are usually well-insulated themselves, so thinner, calf-length socks are more appropriate. Again look for a breathable fabric, and something odour-free, especially if you plan on bringing just a couple of pairs to last you a week. Thin socks can easily be washed and left to dry on a radiator overnight.
You’ll want a warm, woolly hat to wear around resort when not skiing. Ear-flaps and comedy-stylings are optional.
Ski gloves need to be waterproof above all else. That’s vital especially if you’re a beginner, and can be expected to fall over a lot, as wearing wet gloves all day long is a very unpleasant situation. Mittens suit very cold weather, or you can also get removable linings.
The above covers how to dress for skiing, but there are optional extras that can also be of use. These include:
This might be a specific garment made of a warm, breathable fabric, or simply a scarf or balaclava. It covers the gap between your jacket and helmet and will stave off chilly winds - particularly appreciated on high lifts.
You don’t see many people wearing this body armour, but if you’re a little accident-prone, paranoid about major wipeouts, or enjoy pulling tricks in the snowpark, then you might consider it a worthwhile investment. It can prevent spinal injury, and is usually both lightweight and unobtrusive under a jacket.
If you’re spending a whole day on the piste then taking a backpack with you removes the need to stuff the pockets of your ski jacket and salopettes. You can carry around all the sunscreen,chapstick, extra layers, sunglasses, water and snacks you need, as well as your phone and a spare map in just a small waterproof pack. Do remember that it’s good practise to remove a backpack before boarding a chairlift, and keeping it on your lap.
One final thing to note about skiing clothes is that, if you’re borrowing kit from friends and family, always try it on a few days before departure, as if it’s not right, you’ll struggle to find bargain replacements when in resort.
If you've not yet booked your next ski holiday, we're sure to have something to suit your party.