When I booked my first ski trip to Colorado, my excitement was quickly taken over by feeling overwhelmed by what to pack. Quick back story: I’m a Florida girl, born and raised, and only lived in New York City for three winters. While preparation and shopping in advance was mandatory for my wardrobe, doing my research allowed me to find some of the top-rated brands and identify the essentials worth spending my money on. Now that I’ve gone back to the mountains to snowboard, I’ve further solidified a list of the must-haves. Keep reading to learn how to pack for your first ski or snowboard trip, or save this post for your future trip!
An Important Note on Winter Weather
Something I realized in my research and talking to friends or customer service is that warmth is subjective. What’s too warm for one person might not be warm enough for another, inevitably varying from person to person. You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again: layer, layer, layer. It truly is the best method for packing to ensure you have options to stay comfortable no matter the conditions. We were in Breckenridge for 6 days and the weather ranged from a “feels like” temperature of -15 degrees to a high in the upper 30s. My last thing of note is that Breckenridge, like any ski town, has numerous shops if you end up needing something. Main Street had a North Face, Patagonia, and Columbia store within a few blocks, among many other popular retailers and local boutiques. Buy a variety of layers that you can wear together, don’t stress, and get packing!
What To Wear Skiing or Snowboarding
Since you can wear the same outfit whether you ski or snowboard, I recommend buying well-fitting, good quality items from the start. Fortunately, you can rent your helmet, skis and poles or snowboard, and ski/snowboard boots once you’re there – saving both money and space in your suitcase until you feel the trip is going to be a regular occurrence and worthy of investing in your own equipment. From top to bottom, here’s what I wore both skiing my first trip and snowboarding my second.
- Helmet – Rented
- Fleece headband – Mine is a few years old from North Face but buying a designer one is not necessary. Instead, focus on fit and comfort so that you’ll want to wear it. Backcountry has a great selection. I wore mine under my helmet, on its own, and under a beanie to keep my ears cozy. An alternative is to wear nothing under your helmet or a beanie (without a poof), but I preferred to wear the headband knowing I could easy stash it in my ski jacket pocket if I wanted.
- Goggles – I bought the Giro brand from a local Breckenridge sports shop on my first trip and have been happy with them.
- Neck gaiter/balaclava – If these words seem foreign to you, I understand. Essentially, they are neck/face warmers. I bought one from REI before my first trip to Breckenridge and hardly, if ever, used it. However, on this most recent second trip, I used it every day. I liked that I could cover my nose and/or mouth while snowboarding, put it in my ski jacket pocket if it got too warm, and wear it out on the town as a more compact version of a scarf. I will note that this style I have didn’t always stay in place and sometimes interfered with my helmet strap under my chin. In the future, I’ll probably try out one that has magnets.
- Ski jacket – My exact jacket is no longer available, but there are many options on the market these days at a variety of price points. My recommendation is to look for certain features, such as multiple zipper pockets for lift pass, gloves, etc. (just don’t be guilty of OPS = open pocket syndrome!), thumb hole option for additional coverage, and color. I would personally avoid black and white if you want to be both practical and identifiable by your friends/family/instructor on the slopes. Mine is a bright magenta and navy, which stood out unlike some of my friends jackets that were more neutral or common.
- Gloves/mittens – While I’m still figuring out the best gloves situation for me, I’ve learned a couple things in the process: make sure they aren’t too big and consider adding liner gloves. Well-fitting gloves will make it so much easier unbuckle/buckle your boots. Mine were too big so I had to take them off every time I needed to put on/take off my boots. I ended up wearing my North Face etip texting gloves (which were originally my liner gloves), but sometimes they weren’t warm enough and would feel damp because they aren’t waterproof. If you do have well-fitting gloves or mittens, liner gloves can still be beneficial if your hands get sweaty so you can swap them out during the day to prevent them from feeling cold from the moisture.
- Base layer long sleeve – There are different styles of base layers but my preferences are wool, synthetic or fleece-lined. From my favorite brands, I recommend styles with technology specifically for being active and staying dry. For example, Smartwool Intraknit and Icebreaker ZoneKnit. If you’re sensitive to wool, I completely understand because I usually am too but Smartwool especially I found to be soft and comfortable. In case it doesn’t work for you, I own and recommend Sweaty Betty for synthetic or Terramar for fleece-lined. Another brand I looked at but didn’t try was Half Days.
- Base layer leggings – My recommendations are the same as above with an additional note to make sure your leggings aren’t too long that they bunch up at the bottom since you’ll be wearing tight socks and boots over them. If you’re petite, check out these from REI’s brand; this popular set from Amazon was too long. on me.
- Ski pants – I have the North Face Freedom Pants and love them, but there are plenty of options out there to consider. The features I like most about my pants are the vents and adjustable waist. An optional alternative to ski pants is a bib, which is similar to a jumpsuit and keeps them up. Best. of all, you only need ONE pair. of ski pants since you’ll always be wearing base layers underneath and they are extremely durable.
- Wool socks – I never thought I would write this, but I was really impressed by these socks from Smartwool. I preferred the styles with cushion but it’s a personal preference.
- Ski/snowboard boots – Rented – Don’t worry about the size in advance because you’ll get fitted when you pick them up.
- Skis & poles/snowboard – Rented – Snowboarders: If you’re a beginner and don’t know whether you’re regular or goofy stance, they have boards that can be both so you can figure it out on the slopes. Based on the description, I thought I would prefer goofy stance, but turns out I’m just a regular gal.
- Backpack or belt bag – It’s completely optional, but I recommend having a backpack or belt bag with you to avoid having to store everything in your ski jacket or ski pants. Whether it’s extra layers, a water bottle, snacks, lip balm, boost oxygen cans, your phone, wallet, keys or SPF, it’s handy to have and personally didn’t bother me or get in the way.
What To Wear in a Ski Town
Beyond the obvious sweaters, warm socks, and layering up, these are some suggestions I wanted to share from personal experience.
- Coat – My biggest project and purchase prior to this second trip to Breckenridge was a new winter coat. I ended up with the prAna Kromata Long Jacket and loved it, but I have some alternatives for you to consider beyond the brands that might come top of mind: Woolrich Tacony Jacket (this was my second runner-up), Lolë (considered buying), Aritzia Super Puff (wanted but didn’t have my size in black), and Pajar (my friend loves hers).
- Heat Tech – I first discovered Uniqlo’s heat tech line when I was approaching my first winter in NYC and have been wearing them ever since. You can read about the technology here but in simplified terms, they are thin, soft, and stretchy basics to wear under your clothes and have unique features to keep you warm without feeling heavy or bulky. I have camis, long sleeve shirts, leggings, tights, and socks. Highly recommend these for cold weather wherever you live, however I do not recommend them as ski/snowboard base layers as they aren’t intended to be activewear.
- Fleece-lined leggings or warm jeans – Even though it’s not my favorite feeling, you can layer the heat tech leggings under your jeans for added warmth. Or, you can buy fleece-lined leggings (Lou & Grey, Tommy John, Athleta) or warm jeans (Old Navy, Madewell). I don’t have any specific styles to personally recommend but it’s something I’m going to explore more before my next winter trip.
- Snow boots – I invested in Sorel snow boots when I lived in NYC and nearly 10 years later, they are still my one and only pair of snow boots. I highly recommend this brand for comfort, style, and durability!
Winter Beauty & Wellness Essentials
Moisture, moisture, moisture! Here are some of my winter beauty favorites:
- Toner/Mist – Tower 28 SOS, Youth To The People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate or Elta MD Recovery Essence
- Day Serum (Vitamin C) – Use your favorite vitamin C product in the morning to enhance the protection of your SPF.
- Exfoliating Night Treatment – Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads, U Beauty Resurfacing Compound
- Moisturizer – PCA Rebalance, Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer,
- Overnight mask – Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Mask, Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask / Splurge: Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore
- Oil – The Osea Essential Hydrating Oil is my favorite facial oil I’ve ever tried and I think it would work great for all skin types, even oily or sensitive. However, I don’t recommend using an oil under your SPF as it can lower the effectiveness, according to Dr. Shereene Idriss.
- SPF30+ – Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical SPF, Elta MD UV Clear, Biossance Squalane + Zinc, Supergoop Play
- Lip Mask – Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (my favorite is berry) or Fresh Sugar Hydrating Lip Balm (my favorite is caramel in the pot)
- Hand Cream – Olay Hand Serum or Olive & June
- Body – Necessaire
- Complexion (Great for redness!): Erborian CC Cream, Tower 28 Sunny Days Tinted SPF
- Concealer: Kosas Revealer
- Powder: Kosas Cloud Set
- Bronzer: Makeup by Mario Skin Enhancer
- Cream Blush: Rose Inc, Merit Flush Balm
- Tubing Mascara (from most natural to more bold; won’t smudge!): Merit, Hourglass Unlocked, Caliray, Wander Beauty Mile High
- Lip Balm: SPF & Untinted: Jack Black Lip Balm SPF 25 / Tinted: Laneige Lip Glowy Balm, Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm, Westman Atelier Squeaky Clean
- Bumble & Bumble Invisible Oil – I love this line!
- Dae – I love their shampoo, conditioner, leave-in, oil…smells SO good and is very hydrating
- Virtue healing oil – Amazing for your ends and smoothing things out without getting greasy.
I’m working on a few more ski/snowboard trip-related posts that I can’t wait to share (will link here once live!):
- How To Prepare For High Altitude (will include more packing essentials)
- The Best Restaurants and Bars in Breckenridge
- Our New Favorite Activity To Do in Breckenridge Besides Skiing/Snowboarding
In Case You Missed It
- How To Plan For Your First Ski Trip in Breckenridge
- Away Carry-On Suitcases: Everything You Need To Know (the only luggage I brought with me on this trip)
- These Are The Most Comfortable Items To Wear Now and Later (includes many of my travel favorites)
- How To Pack for 3 Weeks in Europe With A Carry-On