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Your Ski Vacation Checklist

by Rachel Walker

There is no end of advice on how to optimize your ski vacation. Countless websites offer discounted lodging; less expensive lift tickets can be found for those who sleuth; and for the family that wants to ski together? The blogosphere has you covered. But what if the problemi.e. that obstacle between your driveway and the mountainsisnt motivation, but simple confusion?

I had this thought recently, as my family and I headed out on our umpteenth ski trip for the season. Because we go somewhere new almost every weekend, and because my husband and I dont mind strapping our four and six-year-old sons in the car and driving for hours, we have got this head-out-the-door-for-skiing thing dialed.

But that wasnt always the case.

Weve forgotten ski pants, skis, poles, boots, and ski passes. Weve spent triple the amount that we should have for snacks because we forgot ours at home. Weve almost run out of gas on a very long drive home to Colorado from Jackson, Wyoming. Which is to say: we have a lot of hard-won insight on how to get out the door and to the slopes, and Im going to share it with you here. Let this be your ski vacation checklist.

  1. Put it on the calendar and pony up a deposit. Nothing like having some skin in the game to make that ski vacation happen. If you dont plan and commit, there will always be an excuse that crops up and tries to persuade you to cancel your trip. (This happens to me regularly, even though I live to ski and make my living writing about it. But because life is busy, I almost always feel torn just before we leave for the trip; fortunately, I ignore that emotion and, trust me on this one, Ive never once regretted going skiing.)
  2. Organize your gear at home. Both kids, my husband and I each have our own dedicated ski boot bag. Inside the bag, youll find our ski boots, helmet, goggles, several pairs of gloves or mittens, buffs and neck warmers, ski pants, ski jacket, ski passes. These are packed and lined up on the floor in our garage. When we get home from a ski trip, either my husband or I will wash anything that needs to be washed and then repack the bags. Sure, we double check before heading out to make sure everything is where it should be. But it always is. This makes packing infinitely easier.
  3. Simplify the rest of what you bring. In my clothing bag, I pack long underwear, pajamas, a comfortable sweater, extra ski socks, and my bathing suit (always pack your bathing suit!). Same for the kidsthough I dont know why I bother packing them clothes, as they always insist on hanging out in their long underwear after a day of skiing. Were not posh and we rarely go out to dinner when we travel to ski, which makes it easy to keep it simple. Why is this important? Because the fewer bags youre lugging around, the more fun youll have. Im sure theres a study somewhere that proves this.
  4. Stuffies stay home. If youre not a parent of young children, go ahead and skip this one. If you are, consider limiting your kids toys and stuffed animals and books to just one of each. Less to keep track of. Plus, the kids are pooped after days on the slopes and are generally happy to play with the condos board games or to color on scratch paper or, better yet, play in the pool (note: try to rent lodging with pool access).
  5. Allow for break in time. We rarely put the kids in ski school on our first day of a ski vacation, particularly when its somewhere new. This is because we dont want to rush. Wed rather figure out the parking or bus situation, make sure were all well fed and hydrated, and explore on our own schedule.
  6. Keep meals simple. Our food cache on ski weekends is straightforward: peanut butter, jelly (dont forget to bring ziplock bags!) for lunch. Carrots and apples for snacks. Tortilla chips. Pasta and some sauce (were nuts for the Costco pesto) and some frozen meat (it stays frozen during the drive and thaws out in the fridge for quick cooking). This is not the time for gourmet meals (except that one New Years in Crested Butte, when my husband prepared coq au vin, but thats another story). Basically, we bring the staples, treat ourselves to one or two meals out, and just think of food as fuel. Againour whole purpose is to simplify. One day well get really organized and do some crock pot chilibut until then, we carbo load and dont complain.
  7. Enjoy your time on the slopes. The key to this, especially with little kids, is to find gratitude in the details like the scenery and the mountains and, if the weather gods cooperate, the snow. Its gorgeous out there. Youre skiing downhill on wooden planks with metal edges. Youre with people you love. It really doesnt get much better than this. So cut yourself a break if youre not thrilled with your technique on this particular day, and dont worry if your four-year-old refuses to carry his skis. Either bribe him with hot cocoa or just carry them for today. Life is short. Skiing is bliss. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get yourself out there and pat yourself on the back. Youre going to have an amazing day. I promise.
  8. Dont forget these things. Sunscreen. Ski passes. Gloves. Goggles. Boots. Ski socks. A mid-layer. Ski pants and jacket. Skis or snowboard. Neck warmer. Sunglasses. Chapstick. Nail clippers.