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8 Essentials (Besides Your Ski Setup) You Need to Hit the Slopes

When you head out on a ski trip, there are certain things you obviously need to have before hitting the slopes: skis and poles or a snowboard, boots, waterproof jacket, snowpants, and gloves or mittens. There’s a lot of other stuff out there that you can add on to make your mountain experience safer, more comfortable, and more fun. So, what else do you need?

Here are eight items you should have when you head out on your next ski vacation.

1. Helmet

20140114 MB Affleck 017Helmets are an important piece of gear that can help protect your head as well as provide other benefits. © Vail Resorts

Helmets protect your noggin. While not required, they are strongly recommended for safety and can help protect you from serious injury if you fall and hit your head. Make sure your helmet fits properly or it won’t do the job it’s intended to do. If you crash or notice any dents or cracks in your helmet, you need to buy a new one. Even if your helmet looks like new, you should replace it every five to six years.

If safety isn’t selling it, helmets are also pretty warm and comfortable. They help minimize the chance of a total yard sale—where your hat flies one way and your goggles the other—by holding everything in place. If you are into music some helmets have an audio integration so you can rock out to your favorite tunes.

Most rental packages, including ours, come with the option of having a helmet included.

2. Goggles

Goggles protect your eyes from snow, ice, tree branches, and anything else that may come into contact with your face while skiing. Bonus: They also make it easier to see. Different colored lenses for varying weather conditions make it easier for you to navigate terrain when it’s sunny, cloudy, or under the lights at night. Finally, goggles help keep your face warm and won’t easily fly off like a pair of sunglasses.

3. Hand Warmers

Some days it’s just downright cold and hand warmers are nice to have. They can mean the difference between frozen fingers that need a lodge break to warm up and an uninterrupted day of riding. You can get toe warmers too. Dreamy.

4. Sunblock

20150331 VL Affleck 015You’d be surprised at how sunburned you can get from the glare off the snow! © Vail Resorts

Yes, it’s winter, but on a sunny day, both the sun itself and it’s glare off the snow are strong enough to give your face quite a burn and leave you with brilliant goggle lines. Your nose and lips are especially susceptible so lube up before you head out and again at lunch. Some sunscreens will also help protect your skin from windburn.

5. Neck Warmer

Neck warmers are a must-have. When it’s biting cold, they can be pulled up over your nose and cheeks to help keep your face warm and prevent frostbite. They also block wind and snow from rushing down the open space between your jacket collar and your skin. If it’s really chilly, thin neck warmers can be worn over your ears and under your helmet adding a nice layer of warmth.

6. Ski Socks

Cold toes are no fun. Don’t let them be a reason to head back to the lodge early. There are a lot of different style socks on the market that will keep your piggies warm. Look for over-the-calf socks specifically made for skiing and riding and ones that are made from wool, synthetic, or a mix of the two. Avoid cotton because once it gets wet it stays wet and your feet will freeze. Wool and synthetics will wick away any sweat and help keep your feet dry and toasty.

In general, ski socks are designed for better integration with ski and snowboard boots. They have added padding in certain areas and thinner coverage in others to increase comfort and to help eliminate potential pressure points that may happen with bulkier socks. Remember, thicker doesn’t mean better.

7. Hydration Pack

20150305 VL Affleck 002Riding with water eliminates the need to stop at the lodge for a drink giving you more time on the mountain. © Vail Resorts

Avoid multiple water breaks in the lodge and maximize your time on the mountain by carrying water with you. A small hydration pack will fit comfortably inside your layering system and close to your warm body, which will help keep the water and hose from freezing. You can also just carry a small water bottle with you, just be sure to keep it in an inside pocket to avoid it icing over.

8. Snacks

Snacks….yum. Skiing and riding will make you hungry and there’s nothing better than filling up while riding the lift or basking in the views from the top. Taking a minute to fuel up will keep away hangry friends and children and likely bring on more smiles so you can extend your day. Good snacks to bring along: granola bars, energy gels or chews, peanut butter crackers, anything that makes you happy.

This list is a good place to start. The more you get out, the more you’ll start to figure out your own needs and routines, what snacks you look forward to, and what brand of socks is your favorite. The knowledgeable staff at Epic Mountain Gear can help you find it all.

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Written by Suzanne Loring for Matcha in partnership with Rent Skis.