Essential packing guide to kids ski & winter gear

I absolutely love skiing with my kids, and think it is one of the few family activities that you can start at a really young age (Easton started when he was 2.5 years old). But the trick to happy skiers is keeping them warm! That is why knowing what to dress them in to keep them warm on the mountain is so important. They will be miserable if they are cold, which trust me, is not fun! Check out below for some tips & tricks I have for dressing my kids for skiing, my packing guide as well as my favorite pieces.

Tips & Tricks

  • TWO layers of hand protection – one glove & one mitten. This is my biggest tip I can give you. For my kids, I have them wear a thin glove layer underneath waterproof mitten (yes mitten! not glove! –  see favorite gear below for what I buy). Not only does this keep them warmer on the slopes, but they can take off their mittens when they are done skiing and just wear the thin (and easier to move in) layer when we are in the village or walking around.
  • For ages 4 and under, I recommend buying a one piece suit vs. bibs and a jacket. Kids fall a lot when learning, and the snow can get between their jacket and bibs when they fall. In a one piece, snow cannot creep in at the stomach or back, keeping them warmer.
  • When buying any ski gear (socks, gloves, long underwear, helmets) I try to sick to gender neutral colors. That way, when Emmie outgrows them, Easton can wear them in the future. While the cute pink long underwear is tempting, I bought them both bright blue so it can work between kids.
  • If your kids plan to go to ski school, try and buy them a patterned jacket or bright color ski pants. With so many kids in ski school and the fact that their faces are covered with helmets & goggles, its hard to know which kid is yours if you spot them on the mountain in class. Having a distinguishing marker on them will make it easier to identify them on the mountain. Last year Easton had a lime green and blue patterned jacket with a lime green helmet and it was easy to pick him out from the group.
  • Ski gear can get expensive but there are ways you can try and keep the costs low. Decide what is important to you and what areas you can spend a little less on and try and balance your gear between more expensive items and cheaper items (ie – nice, merino wool long underwear and less expensive bibs and socks). Also, you don’t need multiples of everything. For a week long ski trip, you can get away with two sets of long underwear, two to three pairs of socks, one set of ski pants or bibs and one ski jacket. Your kids won’t be skiing everyday, and the good news about the outerwear being waterproof is spills wipe off easily! One set should do just fine.

 

Packing Guide

Each child needs:

  • Long Underwear
  • Thermal Socks
  • Fleece Pullover (if it is really cold out, I dress them in two layers of this, one thin and one thicker)
  • Bibs or Ski Pants
  • Ski Jacket
  • Ski Boots
  • Thin layer of gloves
  • Mittens
  • Neck gator or Face Mask (optional depending on weather)
  • Goggles
  • Helmet (if ski school doesn’t provide one)

 

My Favorite Gear

Long Underwear

There is a range of long underwear you can buy – from very inexpensive & thin layers to very expensive merino wool layers. When I started out, I bought the super cheap pair from Costco that was really thin. I think this works fine for warmer spring skiing or if you child might only ski one day. Since then, I have now purchased a middle of the range thicker pair for both kids from REI that they use everytime. Its the REI mid-weight crew long sleeve top and bottoms. I love this set and think it does an excellent job of keeping them warm on the mountain. This would be my first recommendation for long underwear for kids based on price & warmth. Since this is the item of clothing that touches their skin, you want it to be warm & comfortable and I would recommend making sure the piece does both versus buying the cheapest.

Thermal Socks

For kids socks, you don’t have to go expensive here. Just a nice, comfortable & warm pair of ski socks will work fine. I recommend looking for socks that have merino wool or a merino wool blend for warmth, as well as one that is thicker without being too bulky. For ages 3-5, we use these merino blend boot socks. For ages 6-12, I recommend these in the S/M size. You can also find a nice & inexpensive selection at Sierra Trading Post.

Fleece Pullover

Over your long underwear top, you will want to dress your kids in a nice fleece layer for warmth. For younger kids like Easton, I like either the Under Amour Pullover (size up) from Amazon or the Columbia Zip Up Jacket from Amazon. For Emmie, she has both the Columbia Fleece Jacket from Amazon and the C9 Fleece Jacket from Target and both work great.

Outwear – Bibs & Jackets

For ages 4 and under, my favorite item for outwear is a one piece as it keeps the snow out better from falls. For Easton, I bought him the Burton Striker One Piece and I absolutely love it! It is expensive but worth it in my opinion. If your going to spend money on something, the long underwear and the outwear/jacket would be the place to do it. You can also resell this once they outgrow it.

Last year, at age 3, Easton wore a Columbia bib and jacket set from Amazon. We had no problems with these set and I would recommend it for toddlers as well.  I also bought this bib last year as a second pair to use with the jacket from the Columbia set. I liked them so much I bought the bibs again in size 4T for this year.

For older kids (ages 5 and up), I recommend the same Arctix brand of bibs I bought for Easton from Amazon. Emmie used the bibs last year, but this year she switched to the pants.  The bibs are nice as you don’t have to worry about their pants falling down or being to tight around the waist.  For the outer jacket, I recommend a waterproof jacket that is meant for skiing. You don’t want a thin jacket – you want some insulation whether is is lined with fleece or has insulation in it. Good brands to look for are Columbia, North Face & Burton.

Ski Boots

My absolute favorite ski boots that I buy for the kids every season are Kamik. Easton owns these Kamik Boots and Emmie loves her white Powdery boots. They are waterproof, warm and super cute. Both shoes are adjustable around the calf making it easy to tighter around their skins to keep the snow out.

Gloves & Mittens

I HIGHLY recommend wearing a thin glove/mitten underneath a waterproof ski mitten for anyone (I wear this combination as an adult!) The two layers are much more effective at keeping your fingers warm than one and the mittens do a better job than an outer layer of a glove in my opinion. For toddlers, I would recommend both mitten layers as it is easier to put on them while old kids and adults could wear a glove layer underneath the waterproof mittens.

My absolute favorite ski mittens for toddlers or young kids are these Snowstoppers from Amazon. I HIGHLY recommend these are they are longer than traditional gloves and can go up to their elbow. I put these on over their jackets and it does a great job of keeping the snow out. Last year we wore regular gloves that ended around the wrist and had so much snow get between his wrist and jacket which we kept having to brush off.

Inside his mittens, he wears a Sherpa mitten. It is not waterproof but it is extremely warm. It doesn’t need to be waterproof as it is used in combination with the mitten. I ordered this set of three from Amazon so I had back up pairs to change out in case they did get wet. I love these mittens for Easton as they are so soft and warm.

For older kids, you can wear a normal waterproof mitten that stops around the wrist. These are an inexpensive pair from Amazon that have great reviews. If you prefer more of a name brand, these are a nice pair from Spyder. In my opinion, as long as it is waterproof and has some good insulation any mitten should work just fine.

For a thin layer, you can really do any type of glove you prefer (fleece, cotton, etc.). I like these winter gloves that have a fleece lining on the inside as they do a great job of keeping them warm without being bulky.

Ski Gator or Head Mask

Depending on the weather, this is an item that you can do with or without. If it is really windy or if it is snowing, you will definitely want your kids to have one of these to keep them extra warm. But for sunny, warm ski days, they can do without it. My kids have skied a total of 20 – 25 times the past two years and we have only warn these once (while it was snowing). Some good options are TurtleFur gator or the TurtleFur headmask. Emmie has this full coverage one from Burton which was perfect for when it was snowing out. I love how it goes over the helmet and has an extra piece that sits under her goggles, covering her whole face and giving her more protection from the snow. It is a little pricier, but I did find this one on Amazon that looks similar for less.

Goggles

When skiing, your kids must wear goggles on the mountains. My kids love their Bolle googles I bought them from Amazon and I love the price.

Helmet

Kids are required to wear a helmet on the mountain. Most ski schools with provide you with a helmet, or you can rent one at a ski shop. If you wanted to bring your own helmet with you, this is the brand that I bought for my kids and have been completely satisfied with. They wore them last year and are wearing them again this year. If you plan to ski a lot, if might be nice to invest in a helmet but make sure you have room in your suitcase for them as they do take up space!

Also, if you plan to buy one, I recommend buying a bright, distinguishing color. I bought Emmie hot pink and Easton lime green. With so many kids in ski school, bright colors make it easier for me to recognize them among the group on the mountain.

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