Before you travel to the mountains this winter, think seriously about what to pack. Don't discard the flip-flops because it's cold: What else are you going to wear to the ski-lodge hot tub, loafers? The following is a list of the essentials you'll need for a fun, safe ski vacation.
Above-the-ankle footwear is essential when walking through snowdrifts. With lightweight hiking boots, you have those conditions covered -- as well as everything else. Because ski towns are universally casual and practical, you never need patent leather or fancy shoes. Go sensible.
Even if the forecast calls for bright and sunny skies every day of your trip, don't expect to simply shield your eyes with sunglasses. Most ski resort visitors find that speeding through the cool air protected only by shades makes their eyes water. Goggles fix that problem, and are absolutely essential in bad weather.
Never, ever wear cotton tube socks skiing or snowboarding. Not only will wet cotton freeze your feet, it can also lead to blisters. Designated ski socks like these are built to fit snugly to your foot and stay up on your shin. Plus, Smartwool breathes and insulates better than anything cotton.
As with the sandals above, be ready for a plethora of hot tubs and steam rooms at snow country accommodations. Many snowboard clothing designers like Quicksilver and Roxy carry swimwear, as do outfitters like REI.
Yes, you read correctly: a $400 pair of gloves. But these are guaranteed to warm your paws, even in bitter cold, thanks to an adjustable, three-level heating system. Powered by lithium polymer batteries (which are included, along with the charger), the Cayenne gloves still feel flexible and maneuverable. And if $400 is a budget-buster for you, there are plenty of options at lower price points.
There's a reason why used Arc'teryx products always fetch a good price at ski swaps and other secondary markets: world-renowned quality. Arc'teryx obsesses over every detail on its Beta AR (which comes in a variety of colors, in men's and women's sizes). Check out its waterproof Gore-Tex construction, helmet-compatible hood, pit-zip ventilation and roomy hand-pockets.
For those coldest days in the icebox months of December and January, try the Returnia pants (available in men's and women's sizes), which are lined with cozy Thermal.Q insulation. You'll instantly appreciate the superior warmth over uninsulated shell pants (which work fine in March). Bonus: fleece-lined hand pockets.
Osprey designed this streamlined pack for "lift-accessed adventure." If that phrase appeals to you, try the Reverb 18, which has glove-friendly buckles, a hydration-bladder sleeve, a zippered goggle pocket, and straps for carrying skis or a snowboard. Best of all, the pack is small enough to keep on while boarding a chairlift.
This expedition-sized duffel anticipates all the change-ups that travel to ski country throws at a visitor. You can wheel it smoothly and silently through a hotel lobby, but can grab and tote it from a number of different handles when dealing with stairs or snowy parking lots. Plus, you can easily strap wet snow clothes to its exterior.
This affordable double bag can be stuffed with not only skis and poles, but basically anything. DaKine fans use the big exterior pockets to stash their boots, then shove all their clothes for the trip in the huge main compartment, which is reached through full-length zippers. The bag rolls superbly on its urethane wheels.
Skis aren't bicycles; they're not meant to tolerate road grime and rock salt. Plus, unlike bikes, skis (and snowboards) fit easily into burly, waterproof cargo boxes like this one. Compared to a traditional rooftop ski/snowboard rack, the Skybox is much harder to burglarize. Heck, thieves won't even know your favorite board is inside.
If you're going to be driving in snow, you'll appreciate the control, power and other advantages of all-wheel drive and snow tires. No matter the vehicle, give yourself three more times the space you think you need to stop in snow. Brake gently to avoid skidding. On particularly icy patches, avoid sudden steering or braking moves. Turn on your lights so other motorists can see you in a blizzard.