Now that you're travel is booked and your skis are shipped (click here for "Ski Trip Checklist: Getting There"), here is a list of rental tips, and must-haves and basics that you should not forget to pack.
If you think you want to demo, don’t forget your own boots!
When considering renting, comparison shop online at the ski shops in the town you are visiting (some might even offer equipment reservations online at a cheaper rate). For my boot and boot fitter suggestions, click here.
Go to the rental shop the evening BEFORE your first day out (call ahead for hours). Make it a priority; don’t wait until the next morning. The process will be faster, easier and more thorough in the afternoon or evening than the frequently crazy atmosphere in the morning (most travelers arrive on the same days and rent at the same time).
Inquire about storing your skis/board slopeside overnight, and warm your boots at your lodging—a huge benefit for your first morning (small boot warmers will do the trick). You can research, and sometimes book, ski valets and storage online.
2. Must-Haves You Might Not Think You Need
Buy a small boot dryer. Out of all of the “gadgets” you can buy, this one will be essential if your lodging does not have boot dryers (different than boot storage, find out from someone on the property). It should be small (like an oversized tissue box) with 2-4 tubes to put into boots. No boot dryer? Use baby powder/talc to absorb moisture - even if you don’t feel it, your boots are wet at the end of the day. You will end up feeling it the next day if you don’t dry them overnight, brr!
Stock up on chemical handwarmers (in bulk before you get to the resort). Only buy the “hand size”, any others get too bulky. If they get too hot, don’t throw them out, put them in a ziplock baggie to use again later (ziplock baggies cut off oxygen to the warmers, extending the time they’ll last). You can also use them to dry out your gloves/mittens overnight even if you didn’t use them during the day
Get boot heaters in your boots (only from a professional who really knows what they’re doing, no “do it yourself” kits). The most basic ones work with any boot that you OWN. Have the installer include “safety” catches so the battery doesn’t fall off (they can get knocked off on the ski lift), and create a system to help you remember to plug in/charge up the batteries overnight, otherwise they’re useless. Start them at a low level in the AM and leave it there. The higher levels can burn sensitive feet, and if you wait too long, you won’t feel it when it happens.
A fantastic (but NOT fashionable) alternative to boot heaters are boot gloves - neoprene shells that fit over the toe of your boot and fasten with an elastic/Velcro strap in back. They really work, especially in powder conditions, but be aware, they can infringe upon the boot-binding connection (dangerous), and are slippery to walk around in (take them off and carry them if you are walking anywhere). There are a bunch of companies that offer them, and they are all equally good.
Everyone should be wearing a helmet. Widely accepted and no so weird looking anymore, you can even find ones with heaters or ipod speakers. Also look online for companies that will create custom designs that you can stick on them, for that teen who needs a little coaxing.
Always bring goggles. I know this one seems obvious but you would be surprised how many people don’t think they need them. But, weather changes very quickly in the mountains, and it’s miserable to be stuck with only glasses; snow gets into your eyes, lenses flatten the limited available light. Plus, the sun is much stronger due to altitude and reflection from the snow; eyes need specific care beyond your regular sunglasses (they block wind too). Although don’t forget your sunglasses!
Make sure to buy an anti-fog cloth to clean your goggles with, and keep it in the wrapper it came in (it has a special chemical just for this purpose). Never use regular cloth/paper to clear moisture or clean off fingerprints, goggles scratch easily. Keep the cloth bag that came with your goggles, the material is designed to be used to clean and protect them; and always avoid putting goggles over your ski hat on your head, they will fog. Turn them around, or wear them backwards on your jacket collar if you can’t wear them on your face.
3. Clothing Basics
Whether you are a beginner or an avid skier, staying warm means the same to all of us, and here are the basics we should all have.
Turtlenecks for everyone! That little space at the base of the throat/neck gets burned, wet, cold, etc before you know it. If (when) you fall, you’ll feel it down your backside if you don’t wear one. Cotton is fine, ski specific silk is better, and the Hot Chiles brand is the best overall.
Wear multiple layers. There are some terrific, very thin yet effective top and bottom pieces available, although I prefer the Hot Chiles brand. With a good set of medium weight Hot Chiles turtleneck and bottoms, you’ll be fine in your ski pants and a light inner shell/microfleece jacket or vest and your ski jacket even on really cold days. Try not to wear bulky sweaters/fluffy fleece underneath, they aren’t warmer and restrict movement.
ONLY WEAR ONE PAIR OF THIN SOCKS!!!! Thick socks (or worse, two pairs) bunch up, restrict movement and circulation and trap more sweat. Get a boot that fits, and your feet won’t get cold. Do not use the “shake ‘em up” chemical toe warmers when you are wearing your boots. If you need chemical warmers in your boots, your boots probably don’t fit correctly because there shouldn't be that much space. A good boot fit = good circulation = warm feet. With the chemical warmer in, your foot lifts and/or tilts and is no longer in the neutral position designed for proper alignment. Finally, you have no control over how much/how long the heat is in that one spot with a chemical pack. Buy a pair of ski specific socks…they’ll wick moisture, take up less space and will be higher than the top of your boot (any lower, and they’ll bunch up inside of your boot), or get a professionally installed boot heater (see above).
Get a neck warmer. They are cheap, effective, and easy to stuff in a pocket. Don’t get one of those neoprene face shields, they can freeze and gap away from the face, and they don’t provide the seamless warmth that the “turtle fur” brands/types provide from your jacket zipper to your chin/nose. The regular neck warmers can be turned around throughout the day for a renewed dry/warm spot.
Mittens are warmer than gloves. Don’t get gloves for little kids! Kids have a tough time getting each finger in the right spot, and almost always get the fingers turned inside out when they remove their hands, never to get them back in all the way. If they aren’t easy to put on, kids will take them off and ski without them, damaging the skin. Mittens are warmer because all digits stay together and aren't separated.
Get a tag hanger (the kind that retail stores use to put plastic price tags on) to attach mittens to jacket, hat to jacket. Some large retail chains will let you bring in a few clothes to do this to - fewer lost mittens!
Bring extra mittens, socks and hats, or be prepared to pay resort prices.