By Colleen Smith
Does any sport require as much gear as alpine skiing? I doubt it.
In addition to the basic mantra—“skis, boots, poles”—the checklist
includes countless essentials and incidentals, depending on how hardcore
or laid-back your skiing style.
Most of us don’t have the liberty of jetting off to the Southern
Hemisphere for summer skiing, so it’s been months since we’ve clicked
into our skis. (Or board.) And as ski season opens, creature comforts that
keep a day on the mountain from going downhill tend to slip our mind.
Jog your skier’s memory with this list:
• Pass or lift ticket: You can get on the mountain without any of the items
below, but without your pass or lift ticket, you’re not skiing resort runs.
• Goggles/sunglasses: I keep my goggles strapped to my helmet. Yes, I
wear a brain bucket, and you should, too. A helmet won’t save you if you
get T-boned by another skier or rider or slam into a tree trunk, but a helmet
protects your noggin. Plus, ski helmets are warm, if not cool.
• Lip balm: Your lips lack oil glands, and alpine altitudes have no mercy
when the sun’s blazing. Winds further dry out your kisser. Lip balm with
SPF 15 or better is best. If you’re a ski bunny concerned about how
you’ll look in your on-mountain shots, opt for a product with sunblock,
moisturizer, and a flirty tint of color. Mwah!
• Eye drops: I wear contact lenses when I ski, but even if you don’t, the
combination of high, dry air, cold wind, and blinding snow turns eyeballs to
ice cubes. Eye drops in tiny, single-use tubes fit easily into a pocket. Pick
an inside pocket so liquid stays warm from body heat. To avoid dry-eye,
use drops at lunch or when you take a break.
• Cell phone: Stash it in a handy pocket so you can whip it out to connect
with other members of your party on the mountain, or to shoot a photo of
that stunning light on the fresh powder and the first tracks you just carved.
• Whistle: I don’t ski the hardcore back-country, but, because I was a
Girl Scout, I keep a whistle in my pocket. Just in case. A whistle does not
weigh much. On a similar note, if you ski the back-country, don’t run the
risk of making risky runs sans avalanche beacons and a small, fold-up shovel.
• Tissues: Skier’s nose, a medical condition that involves a runny schnozz,
comes along with the ride, but there’s little more disgusting than snotsicles.
I keep a supply of tissues in my right hip pocket, and I keep that pocket
unzipped so I can quickly access tissues rather than wiping my drippy
nose on my ski mittens or neck gaiter.
• Lens-cleaning cloth: Don’t use tissues on your goggles. The best
ski jackets come equipped with a lens-cleaning cloth attached to an
elastic strap that stores in a pocket. If your jacket lacks this feature, add
a microfiber cloth to your jacket. Don’t wipe the insides of your goggles,
though, or you might ruin the lenses.
• Money: Remember that a burger on the mountain can easily set you
back $10, so if you’re bringing cash, bring plenty.
• Medicine: Once, I got a migraine while skiing, and had to download on
the gondola. Ever since, I keep an anti-migraine tablet or two in a pocket.
Medication won’t take up much room and might be worth its weight in gold
if you need on-mountain relief for achy muscles or other maladies.
• Neck gaiter: An acupuncturist taught me Chinese medicine’s theory that
pathogens enter the body via the small of the back or the back of the neck.
When I ski, I’m much warmer with a neck gaiter protecting not only my
neck, but preventing me from taking it on the chin. Plus, neck gaiters can
function as headbands.
• Hand-warmers, toe-warmers: Some dismiss these as for sissies only.
Not I. I live by the “start warm; stay warm” theory. I don’t wait until my
fingers go numb: I crack open hand-warmers from the get-go. I use toe-
warmers on super cold days because I don’t have boot heaters. That’s
• Glove liners: I prefer silk ones because they’re warm, but super light
and not too bulky to stuff in a pocket. But be careful when handling your
skis if wearing only silk liners. Your skis’ edges can slice the silk.
• Ski cinches: While you can get by without a Velcro bands to lash your
skis together, this strap takes up little space, weighs almost nothing, and
makes life much easier. As you shoulder your skis, they won’t separate
• Common sense: Granted, there’s no ski jacket pocket to hold common
sense, but when you’re on the mountain keep your wits about you. Know
the code; follow it. Ski safely; ski the whole season.
Colleen Smith—the author of “Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life”—skis Colorado and writes from Denver.