It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Mostly because it’s ski season, but also because this means I get to make lots of lists. I know it’s been said many times many ways, but it bears repeating: getting ready for a vacation can itself be a huge part of the overall enjoyment you get out of the trip you’re about to take. (Here’s a little proof.) And if you’re a natural-born list maker like I am, this holds exponentially true.
I Don’t Pack Light
This list may seem exhaustive but I really like to have everything I need when we travel. I know many people will say to pack light and just pop into a local shop to get whatever you may have forgotten, and of course you can, but I’d rather be skiing and après skiing than searching a foreign country’s pharmacy for kids’ meds or hunting down an extra base layer because all three of my daughters are now covered in hot chocolate. And since I’ve done the late-night search for acetaminophen in a Japanese pharmacy before and because I don’t want to do it again, I Make Lists.
Lay the Foundation
I created this list for skiing holidays but there’s a lot here that’s just good for winter packing in general. For example, item number one: It’s all about the base…layers. (Sorry.) I am convinced that the reason my kids look so happy in all our winter photos—where they’re covered head to toe in snow—is in large part because they are WARM.
We like the Uniqlo heattech thermal base layers, but another great long underwear top is one with thumb holes (like LL Bean’s), which makes it super easy for kids to pull layers on over it—a fleece, then a jacket—without losing their sleeve in their sleeve. Because sleeve in sleeve misplacement is a surefire tantrum starter when the kids start layering up and getting hot and flailing and the parents start getting frustrated (and flailing). An added bonus is that the kids can much more easily dress themselves with thumb holes. So yes, I’m very pro thumb hole… (Sounds like a weird euphemism but really it’s not. I just like them.)
Good socks are another obvious staple: warm toes go a long way to a kid’s happiness on the slopes. You could also add toe warmers inside their boots (and hand warmers in their mittens) if they get very cold. Ski boots are pretty damned uncomfortable so anything you can do to make feet otherwise happy is a plus. Ski socks have a strange habit of disappearing in the laundry, so I always pack extra pairs.
Bib overall ski pants are the best because no snow sneaks in when your daughter decides to ski the trees and maybe misses a turn and ends up on her back with her head pointing down the mountain and her one ski in the air (the other having flown off and narrowly missed your husband’s head). So there’s that.
Also, make sure these pants have pockets in case you need to engage in Ski School Bribery. The first day of ski school can be a bit like the first day of actual school: new teachers and new kids, but here you also have a whole mountain to conquer. Stressful! If you can fill a few of their pockets with Mentos or Skittles, that transition might go more easily. But whatever you do, don’t give them M&Ms. Despite what you may have heard, those melt in your mouth and in your hands and in your expensive ski pants pockets the second you go back into a heated building.
Next up is a zip-up fleece layer. The best ones have a soft zipper cover at the top so the freezing cold metal isn’t hitting your face. I like zip-ups because the lodge is often really warm and unzipping is easier than pulling the whole damn thing over your head. Maybe I’ve given this too much thought.
Keep Layering Up
An insulated ski jacket is pretty crucial. Unless your kids are like my middle daughter, who refuses to zip hers even in subzero temps, it will keep in all that warmth they’ve created by dragging their gear up to the ski school meeting spot. It’s good to find a jacket with a zippered pocket for their lift pass, preferably in the sleeve so kids can simply wave an arm at the sensor instead of undergoing a full body scan every time they try to pass through a lift gate.
Top It Off: Balaclavas
The good news is that balaclavas cover your whole head so there’s no freezing air blowing on the back of your neck, or snow going down the back of your jacket. The bad news is Balaclava Hair. This is really more of an issue for the adults (and exacerbated by your helmet) since kids don’t care too much. We all do braids to keep our hair out of our faces, and to tame the static a little bit. But balaclavas will still give you pretty awesomely bad hair. Just don’t look in any mirrors.
Hand in Glove…Or Mitten? Or Lobster?!
When you pick up your kids from ski school at 3:00 and their tiny fingers are red as a newborn’s you know you need to up your mitten game. We’ve lost so many pairs over the years that we’ve had the pleasure of trying lots of different brands and types. We finally settled on our magic combo of really good and thin (not bulky) glove liners plus mittens. There is also the lobster: a hybrid of a mitten and a glove that makes your kids look like they have claws. Lobsters make it easier to hold ski poles than a mitten, and fingers stay warmer than they would in a glove. I personally stand by glove liners plus mittens but that’s just me!
No Pee, No Ski
Obviously as soon as you’ve gotten all these important layers on, the kids will need the bathroom. We have a No Pee-No Ski policy, adopted from wise ski school instructors in Lake Tahoe, so we start there before any clothes go on. If you manage to get all these clothes on all your kids AND get them to ski school on time (ish), you win! You’ve earned your après ski. Or maybe even an avant ski. Go ahead and put a little Bailey’s in your coffee: I won’t judge.
Last But Not least
Bring a swimsuit! If you’re lucky, the house you’re renting or hotel you’re staying in will have a heated pool or jacuzzi, and après ski is just better with bubbles.
Did I miss anything? This list has been honed over many years but I am always happy for suggestions and improvements to get it just perfect. Let me know your thoughts!