How to Pack for a Family Snow and Ski Trip in Utah

Packing for a family trip at any time of year can be overwhelming and stressful, but it can be especially daunting when having to think about gear necessities times three, four, five or more people for a family ski trip.

While you can easily rent some items, or buy other necessities, it’s always helpful to have a system to plan ahead and pack wisely. That way, when you realize you’ve forgotten something, it’s less likely to derail the fun. Nothing causes a snow vacation melt-down quite like discovering that you’ve overlooked essential items like the stuffed animal that keeps your child from a crying jag.

Matching is optional as long as you're warm. At Nordic Valley Ski Resort, the more color the better. Photo: Jeremiah Watt
Matching is optional as long as you're warm. At Nordic Valley Ski Resort, the more color the better. Photo: Jeremiah Watt

Packing Lists

A packing list doesn’t have to detail every single, tiny thing that’ll go in your bag, but writing the important elements down helps you remember what you need to pack. Keep gear separate from clothing, and personal entertainment items for the plane or car ride separate from both.

Depending on the ages of your children, you can make it a fun assignment where they can either draw or write the items that they’ll need to pack. If the little ones are taking their first lessons, check with the instructor for recommendations to ensure your kids will be comfortable and well-equipped for a good time on the mountain — as much as is within your control.

Keep gear separate from clothing, and personal entertainment items for the plane or car ride separate from both.

Responsibility

Train everyone to be responsible for their winter gear and have them pack it. This works better for adults and older kids than for younger children, so as with the packing lists, you may need to assist. I’ve found that making sure that each traveler gets a backpack or boot bag for their own snow gear (boots, helmet, goggles, gloves, hat, sunglasses and neck gaiter), and then a suitcase for clothing (ski jacket and pants, insulating layers — typically polyester blends or merino wool — socks, off-snow clothing, swim suit and pajamas), works well. For my daughter, I sit on her bed while we go through her list and she chooses her items to pack. Make sure everyone knows that all their snow gear goes in their backpack. This makes getting out the door in the morning much easier: Put on your winter clothes, and grab your bag — you’ve got what you need.

Fit

Kids grow quickly, and boots, pants and jackets that may have worked well last season might be too small this season. When you’re planning your trip, have your child try on those items of clothing so you can plan to either replace them, or opt for rentals. Don’t wait until you’re packing (or worse, the morning of ski school) to realize that gear doesn’t fit.

Don’t wait until the morning of ski school to realize that gear doesn’t fit. Photo: Jeremiah Watt
Don’t wait until the morning of ski school to realize that gear doesn’t fit. Photo: Jeremiah Watt

Rentals and Lessons

Sure, you can grab what you need at the rental shop when you arrive at the resort, but since many offer the opportunity to reserve gear online in advance, it’ll often save you time to take care of that step before your trip. Same goes for ski lessons. Printing out forms and filling them out in advance, or signing up online, saves time on the morning of the first day.

Small Extras

Small packs of tissues, snacks for ski jacket pockets, hand and foot warmers, lip balm and sunscreen (a small roll-on type, that you can operate with one hand) are all easy-to-forget items, but valuable to have along for optimum outdoors enjoyment. Packets of instant oatmeal are great for family ski trips because it can be difficult to get everyone ready in the morning in order to get out on the mountain, let alone do it all earlier so everyone has a good breakfast. Tuck some instant oatmeal packets into your suitcase, and use the coffee/tea maker in your hotel room to make hot water (and don’t forget some cups and spoons).

Electronics and Old-school Entertainment

Some families treat ski vacations as opportunities to spend more time together without the tether of electronics. Ski resorts have plenty of activities to keep you busy, from roasting s’mores over bonfires to board games, from movie theaters to bowling alleys. But each family knows what’s right for them. With your phones, pads, laptops and cameras, don’t forget charging cables, and pack them together so you won’t leave them behind. If traveling with smaller children, small toys, coloring books and crayons, reading books, and stuffed animals are also important to consider while you’re stuffing that suitcase.

Jill Robinson

Jill K. Robinson writes about travel, adventure, food, and drink for the San Francisco Chronicle, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Robb Report, Private Clubs, Saturday Evening Post, Sunset, Coastal Living, American Way, Delta Sky, Celebrated Living, Rhapsody, Beyond, Sierra and more. Her essays have been published in Travelers’ Tales books: “The Best Travel Writing” and “The Best Women’s Travel Writing.” Her only requirement in skiing is to have fun. Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Enter Your Email Address Get new stories delivered to your inbox

Sign Up For Our Newsletter