It was a milestone birthday for the husband this year and last year he decided he’d like to include a snow trip to Japan as part of that year-long festival.
The last time I’d been on skis was a 1991; for the husband it was about 1995 since he’d snowboarded. Technically we are rookies. And that’s not such a bad thing because when it comes to how to plan and pack for a skiing or snowboarding holiday, there are plenty of other people to learn from, for example, people who have hit the slopes in this century!
We got stuck in to the planning side of things early this year – out of necessity because what was going to be a one-family trip, snowballed (HAH) to became a four-family trip, with a total of 20 adults and kids.
That has required a whole lot of logistics along the way, from flights, to accommodation and putting together a ski-robe. If you find yourself planning a snow trip this year or next, these tips I’ve learned along the way may help.
12 tips for how to pack and plan
1. Decide on your destination. Australians love Japan, Canada and the US for January/February snow trips; in July/August, it’s all about New Zealand and the slopes of New South Wales or Victoria.
2. If travelling overseas, lock in those flight early. We managed to secure great prices on return flights by booking 10 months before our departure date. This also meant we had dates secured to then lock in accommodation.
3. If travelling in peak season (as we are to Japan in January), accommodation does book out in advance, particularly if you’re trying to accommodate families or groups of people. If you can travel outside of peak times, the pressure will be off somewhat.
4. If travelling as a group, look for self-contained accommodation in chalets or lodges. This will not only give you more space but allow you to save money on cooking some or all of your meals.
5. Secure your travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked flights and accommodation – even if it’s 10 months out. You never know what unforeseen circumstances might happen before your holiday.
6. Speaking of travel insurance, adding a snow pack to your policy is important. Without it, you most likely won’t be covered for any accidents while on the slopes.
7. Costs for a snow holiday do add up – you’ll need to hire/buy/borrow gear or equipment and pay for lift passes for skiing or snowboarding each day.
8. When it comes to clothes, most of the items you need are not things you’ll need at any other time of the year. Maybe you can borrow gear from friends or family? Look out for end-of-season sales? Hit up the Aldi ski sale (happens each May) like I did? The key is not to leave this until the last minute as snow store specialists have the most stock leading up to the Australian season.
9. You can’t go past UNIQLO for year-round availability of things like thermals and down jackets. You just might not find a high winter offering when it’s our summer. We bought our non-snow, warm jackets in the Australian winter, when there were seven different levels of down warmth available to select from. The fewer seams in the jacket; the warmer they are as air cannot get in as easily.
10. How warm you need your clothing – and how many layers – will depend on the destination. Australian winters are generally mild in temperature when compared with Canada or Japan. Friends who are joining us on this snow trip went to Canada last Christmas and “experienced” temps down to -37 degrees celcius (felt like -50). It was an unusually freezing cold snap but proved tracking the weather app is crucial.
11. Staying warm on the slopes is all about strategic layering. This gives you flexibility to add and subtract as required. The layer closest to your skin should be a thermal layer made of modal or wool that draws moisture away from your body, keeping you dry. The middle layer – usually a polyester fleece – is designed to keep the heat in and the cold out by trapping air between the layers. The top layer is your protection layer – your snow jacket and pants should keep you dry from rain, snow or sleet, block the wind and be breathable. The level of insulation you need will depend on your snow destination. Snow speciality stores are a great help with this. You’ll also need ski gloves, thermal socks, goggles and a helmut (can be hired).
12. When not on the slopes, the layering principles still apply. You may be walking from one heated spot to another, so being able to de-layer is crucial. A beanie replaces the helmut; and snow boots replace the ski boots. I’m packing a UNIQLO down jacket as well as my ski jacket so that my ski jacket can dry out each evening.
15-piece travel capsule wardrobe
If the majority of your trip is spent on the slopes, then creating a capsule will be easier than most holidays as you’ll be wearing mostly the same thing every day.
We’ve got two nights in Tokyo, so I’ll also take ankle boots (when in the ski areas, I’ll just be in the snow boots) and I also want to add in at least two knits and two pairs of jeans/leggings for wearing out in Tokyo or out at night in the snow resorts.
I’m not packing anything “dressy” as we don’t have any occasion for it; but if you know you have that need, add in an outfit to suit.
From the capsule starting point below, I’m doubling up with thermals, thermal socks, fleece mid layers, beanies and neck warmers so I’ve always got dry and clean options each day/night. That’s also my thinking for taking both a ski jacket and an apre-ski jacket. The ski jacket will have a chance to dry out overnight and I can wear the other out to dinner/drinks.
So tell me, are you planning a snow/ski trip this year? Where are you headed? What are your must packs?