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How To Pack for a Day on the Mountain

Winter Park Uphilling

Your day-pack can make a significant difference in how your day goes on the slopes. Being warm and comfortable on the mountain is crucial; and (not to be over-dramatic) having a day-pack prepared for the unexpected can be a matter of life-or-death. To aid your morning rush to beat everyone to first chair, I’ve put together a list of items to prepare you for a full day on the mountain.

  • Backpack
    • This is the most important element, for obvious reasons. I prefer a backpack with an A-Frame ski carry, which provides straps on either side of the pack to carry your skis. If you plan on doing in-bound hiking, this feature will free up your arms for pole planting up the ridge.
    • A sternum and hip strap are helpful in keeping the pack from swinging around.
    • Exterior pockets allow for easy access to smaller items.
  • Clothing
    • Layering appropriately will set you up for success. You never know what Mother Nature will bring, so pack for a variety of conditions (and be prepared for when your buddy inevitably spills beer on you at the bar). For any circumstance, base layers are key for a comfortable day and are easy to roll up and stash at the bottom of your bag.
    • A hat and sunglasses are essential après gear for when you’re sunning yourself on the deck.
    • Slip out of your boots and into comfy shoes or boots for the drive home.
  • Equipment
    • Don’t lose your vision by not being prepared for weather. Having two pairs of goggle lenses, one for low-visibility and one for sunny days, will make all the difference in your performance and safety.
    • I always carry a neckie (a.k.a. buff or gaiter) in my pack for protecting my face from wind, or as a headband to disguise my helmet hair. Non-cotton neckies help wick water on snowy days.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Stay fueled by bringing snacks and water. Your friends will ask you to share, so if you want to keep your ski posse tight—bring extra. If you’re not skiing with friends, bring some to share on the lift with strangers!
    • You never need a carabiner until you have one. Attach one to the outside of your pack to hang miscellaneous things. 
    • Sunscreen and lip balm. Need I say more?
    • Earphones can provide your own personal soundtrack while you ski – but make sure you are still aware of your surroundings.

Some helpful tips:

  • Pack the night before
    • Beat the rest of the Front Range out the door, or hit the snooze button one more time, by packing the night before.
  • Stay organized
    • Pack with the intention of having easy access to the items you’ll need most often. Be strategic in how you layer the items in your bag. Try starting with base layers in the bottom and ending it with essentials like sunscreen and snacks at the top.  
  • Avoid over packing
    • You’ll be back home by evening and you don’t need much for the day, so leave the trivial items at home. Having a light, lean pack will be more comfortable throughout the day and allow you to tuck through the trees without getting snagged by branches.
  • Consider the packing space you have on your body
    • Small items such as your phone, ski pass, lip balm, sunglasses, lens cloth, etc. can be stashed in your coat or pants pockets.

Although a daypack is not confined to these items, this short list of items and packing tips will help you get the most out of your day on the slopes. Pack your bags and ski with the confidence that you’ll have what you need, when you need it.