Not sure how to fit everything you think you’ll need into the luggage allowance? Always seems like there is a mountain of things to bring to the mountains! Especially if you are travelling with children. Jelly & Ice-Cream Nanny company will hire out some equipment for babies and young children, including all terrain pushchairs, baby monitors, safety gates and sterilisers. There are also games and toys. In addition they can source baby wipes, nappies, baby food and snacks for you to purchase. All great space saving ideas – even if you don’t require their nanny services.
When it comes to packing there are some essentials, as listed below. Make sure you are fully prepared for days on the slopes/in the snow in any kind of weather – we are in the mountains and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. In addition, the weather can be “unseasonable”, i.e. it can be wall-to-wall blue skies and sun in January or a week of blizzards in April. Focus a little less on apres ski gear as you will probably find that you go for a drink after skiing in your ski gear and everyone hangs out in their thermals in the chalet/apartment. “Nicer” clothes are only really needed if you are going out for dinner, or staying in a hotel.
So what’s on the list…
- Suncream & lip protection – put them on every day whatever the weather.
- Same goes for eye protection. Googles or sunglasses. If just buying one or the other I would suggest buying goggles, unless you never ever ski when it is snowing/flatish light! Sunglasses just don’t cut it in miserable weather – they, and your eyes, will fill up with snow. They may also make your eyes water if the wind, or your speed, get up. I personally always wear googles, except maybe, from time to time, towards the end of April when they can get a bit sweaty.
- Gloves or mittens – waterproof. Good ones do not come cheap but choose the best that you can afford. I like Hestra and Black Diamond. For kids I highly recommend mittens over gloves – you’ll understand if you’ve ever had to guide little fingers into the right holes or had them taken off inside out! I also prefer to wear mittens as I think they are better for keeping hands warm – all my fingers are together and able to snuggle up to each other! And if you do use hand warmers (see below) these are much better in mittens. In an ideal world take two pairs in case of losses or too much snowman making/snow ball throwing/falling over which can cause sogginess!
- Waterproof trousers and jacket (see below). For younger children an all-in-one snow suit is better. For medium sized kids a pair of trousers with shoulder straps – just be sure that when you are dressing them the straps go OVER all the other clothes – makes loo trips much less hassle. Also make sure that you do not tuck the elasticated gaiter bits of trousers into boots, they are designed to go over the boots to avoid rubbing.
- Good socks. I like Falke. Don’t wear two pairs in ski boots as there will likely be some rucking up which can cause rubbing and blisters. 3 pairs should do it & allow for washing and drying time during your trip.
- Layers – whatever time of year you come pack for all eventualities. It may snow your whole week in April or be beautiful sunshine for your New year holiday. Layers are best as you can then wear as many, or few, as you like on a given day. See below for more ideas on layering.
- Something to keep drafts out and faces warm. A buff style neck warmer or balaclava – scarves are too unwieldy for skiing. I find a balaclava the best solution for children as it can be put on under a helmet and then adjusted, by the child themselves to go under or over the chin depending on the weather – neck warmers tend to slip off little chins and can gape. I personally wear a neck warmer which I can pull up over the back of my head/round my ears when it is really bitter.
- Hand warmers – not essential but can help on a cold day. I carry some in my pack in case of super cold/painful fingers.
- Helmets for skiing will likely be obligatory for kids in ski school. Although there are no laws for the slopes of Val d’Isere itself it is more than sensible for children and in some places there are laws about helmet use so check before you go. Helmets are also advised for sledging in the Espace Luge & for skating. You can buy one or rent with your ski equipment. Some people feel better buying one as then you know the full history, especially possible impact history, of the helmet which is an important consideration.
- Don’t over pack the “normal” clothes. You’ll be wearing your ski stuff all day and likely lounging at “home” in your thermals so will only require a couple of outfits if going out in public (or staying in a hotel I guess).
Here is an additional note on suitable layering for skiing. As I have said, layering is important for a day on the slopes as the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Also, it may be chilly in the mornings and later afternoons but warmer in the middle of the day. By layering correctly you can adjust accordingly and make sure you stay warm and comfortable all day long, making your day on the slopes a lot more enjoyable!
BASE LAYERS – these should be close fitting, breathable and wick moisture away from your skin. A long sleeved, thermal top. Thermal leggings – I prefer 3/4 length ones that reach over the top of my socks but not right down to my ankles as they can wrinkle and cause discomfort inside the boots. Good warm socks – one pair only at a time.
MID LAYERS – these should trap heat. This layer is not usually necessary on the legs as they tend to keep themselves warm. For bodies, a fleece or thin down jacket is good.
OUTER LAYERS – these should be designed to keep out the wind, rain (heaven forbid!) & snow so something waterproof. Trousers, jacket and gloves/mittens (see as above). For trousers and jackets look for designs with zippered air vents to give even greater adjustability with changing weather. And I like to have the elastic thumb holes to keep the jacket cuffs tucked inside my gloves and keep out drafts. Depending on your internal thermostat and the time of year you can choose between insulated outer layers or thinner shell designs.
EXTRAS – throw a down jacket into your rucksack for those “just in case” moments. Usually they come with their own little carry bags and can be rolled up super small, and they are light too. A pair of thin thermal gloves to go under your waterproof ones.
HEATED GEAR – yes, it’s true, you can get heated clothing! I swear by my Lenz heated socks for a day on the slopes, they are perfect for just taking the edge off on a cold day. You can also get heated vests and gloves. And if you have your own boots you can look at heated elements designed to be attached to the footbeds.
So, that gives you a guide on what you need in your suitcase. It may seem like a lot to consider but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll see what I mean!