How to Pack For a Ski Weekend with Just a Carry On

Most of the time, when packing for a ski trip (or any winter sport) I want to throw in as many warm clothes as I can, plus three different beanies, multiple pairs of gloves, and all my cutest boots. But nowadays…that’s not so practical. The steep fee that airlines charge for check bags definitely entices light packing to fit everything into a carry on – especially if you have to check skis or a snowboard; the second bag can be as much as $50. That’s money much better spent in the chalet at the mountain for beers or hot chocolate and chili cheese fries.

A ski trip isn’t always just about skiing or snowboarding though. Most ski towns have a central downtown area that is brimming with bars and restaurants, making it fun to go out at night after spending the day on the mountain. Therefore, you’re going to want some fashionable clothes, too. The key is to not to go crazy with the fashion, though – keep it simple, but presentable.
So how do you fit cute clothes with ski boots, a helmet, and goggles? The key is to balance light layers with warmth.

Pants: Forego jeans and instead pack warm leggings. This can work to wear under snow pants and out at night. Leggings are also easy to wear with boots – both ski boots and fashion boots – making it comfortable and convenient to make them part of your daily ski trip wardrobe.

Shirts: Invest in a couple warm, but lightweight shirts designed for winter activities. SmartWool is a great brand for non-bulky, but extremely warm attire. Bring a long sweater cardigan or tunic for wearing over leggings for going out at night with a few long sleeve shirts to wear underneath for added warmth. Pack one sweater or tunic and wear the other on the plane – two should suffice for a long weekend trip.

Shoes: Shoes often take up a lot of precious cargo space in suitcases. Wear your warmest pair of boots on the plane ride and plan to make these your shoes to wear when not skiing or boarding. Ugg-style boots work great for ski trips since they’re fashionable and will keep you warm when heading out for drinks or dinner after a day of skiing. Also pack a pair of comfortable, foldable ballet slippers for wearing around the hotel or rental property you’re staying at.

Scarf: Forego the scarf and get a ski face mask if you’re worried about wind chill on your face while you ski down the mountain. Not only can a face mask easily fold up and fit in the pocket of your snow pants or jacket, ready to be worn if needed, it’s also safer. A scarf can come undone and get tangled in the chairlift or accidentally block your vision while skiing. If you’re worried about being warm enough at night when you’re not skiing, bring a warm scarf and wear it on the plane. You can always take it off and use it as a pillow.

Gloves/Mittens: Bring your thick ski gloves. They’re one bulky item you don’t want to scrimp on as it’s important to stay warm while skiing or snowboarding. In addition, pack a pair of skinny gloves or mittens for wearing around town.

Hat: If you have a helmet (and if you don’t – rent one; it will be safer and increase your confidence swishing down the mountainside), you most likely won’t need a hat for the mountain, but it’s still good to pack one to have when you’re outside and not skiing. Beanies are often worn as a fashion statement, so you may have a dozen lined up in your closet, however, don’t pack them all. One should suffice – choose one that is both cute and warm. No point packing one that’s not going to keep your ears from hurting from the cold.

Jacket: Ski jackets take up a lot of room. Therefore, wear yours on the plane. You can always take it off and stow it in the overhead if there’s room or position it around your neck to create a make-shift neck pillow. Also, plan on wearing the ski jacket as your only jacket. It may be tempting to pack that cute peacoat you recently bought, but it’s really not necessary as it will take up too much room and wearing a ski jacket in a ski town is totally fine.

Toiletries: Pack minimal make-up and bring disposable face cloths that double as face wash and a washcloth to use with soap for the rest of your body. Use the shampoo and conditioner provided by the hotel or if you must have your own, buy small bottles to transport your shampoo and conditioner in. Plan to fit your toiletry bag into your handheld bag and not your carry-on. If it won’t fit, you probably packed more than you need.

Most of all, remember it’s not a beauty or a fashion contest when you’re in a ski town! The important thing is to have fun and realize you’re more likely to be judged on your turns down the snow than how you styled your hair or what outfit you wore.

Gina Tarnacki is a freelance writer, online marketing professional and avid traveler. When she's not busy finding a creative way to squeeze in a few more vacation days so she and her husband can explore the world together, she writes about balancing travel with a career and relationship at One Day in a City.


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