Our goal for our winter ski vacations with our daughter is not to put in the longest ski day or make her the best possible skier but to simply get her to enjoy skiing so she wants to keep on doing it. Part of enjoying skiing is being warm. So we dig into our pockets and invest in good warm winter clothes.
Luckily, I’ve been able to find socks and gloves with enough wiggle room to get two years out of them. And I buy in February for the following winter when I catch sales. When I can, I pack two sets of warm socks and gloves; if you have a warm day those are the items most likely to come back wet. Here are the essentials we always pack.
1. Sunscreen & lip balm
Everyone forgets sunscreen when they ski, especially in the northeast, where it’s often overcast, but the sun reflects off the snow the way it reflects off water when you swim, so a sunscreen stick is handy for keeping your nose and cheeks protected.
If you forget the sunscreen, in a pinch I’ve used lip balm with SPF for lips and face.
2. Base layer
I recently discovered heat-reflective long underwear from Columbia Sportswear. It’s fantastic and comes in kid and adult sizes. My daughter and husband were recently skiing on a 17-degree day and she held up in her reflective long johns far better than he did in his ordinary ones. I bought a size up and have gotten two years out of it.
You need socks that are warm but not too thick. I love Smart Wool fleece socks for adults but they are pretty fitted. Socks with Merino wool are warm, wick moisture away from feet and have some give as kids’ feet grow.
4. Top layer
I always pack a long sleeve shirt or light hoodie for ski days when the temperature is above freezing, a light fleece for colder days and a heavy fleece for when it’s freezing. Tops with zippers are the best because you can adjust them as you get warm skiing or cold on the lifts. A turtleneck or fleece with a collar you can turn up are handy for keeping necks warm, especially if kids don’t want to wear a scarf.
5. Snow pants
I love my snowboarding pants because they have a loop for your lift ticket, deep zippered pockets and they don’t have that cumbersome bib. But you know what, my daughter loves her old-fashioned bibbed snow pants. Whichever style you prefer snow pants are the most essential item for keeping skiers warm and dry.
6. Mittens, hat, scarf
Heavy waterproof mittens are the way to go for kids, especially younger kids. As a pro-shop worker explained to me once, kids’ ski gloves have too much lining crammed into them, which can make them impossible to get on. Mittens are easier to deal with and keep fingers warmer.
Fleece gators are more practical than scarves because they don’t fly off or hang down. If you go with a scarf, choose a short one and keep it tucked in.
Most resorts encourage or even require kids to wear helmets but it’s still worth packing a hat to keep their head warm when they come off the slope and walking around town.
Winter boots are essential for walking around muddy, icy ski resort parking lots, and they keep your feet warm off the slopes.
8. Sunglasses or goggles
This is the tricky thing: You need something to protect your eyes from the wind and the sun glare off the snow, and to help you see more sharply when it’s overcast. But goggles overwhelm my daughter’s small face and sunglasses don’t work well with her helmet. See which, if any, works for you and invest in one or the other for grown-up skiers.
If you’re skiing for more than one day choose a hotel with a pool and hot tub. Nothing works out the mountain kinks and kills time aprés ski and before dinner like a dip in that hot tub. And if your kids still have energy left after a day on the slopes, splashing around the pool will use it up.
What are your ski essentials?
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