I just returned from the best skiing of my life in Hakuba, Japan – the Japanese Alps. While the snow has seemed to utterly disappear from the entire western United States, it snows almost every single day in parts of Japan. When we arrived in Hakuba our expectations were high, but we had no idea it was going to be the best few weeks of snow in several seasons. It was a dream-like experience and I’m glad I spent the time preparing for it! Packing well for a trip like this is extremely important. If you forget a piece of gear, it’s probably a pricey item to buy while on your trip. And if you pack wrong, you run the risk of expensive over-weight bag charges at the airport.
Here’s a list of how I pack and the most important things to remember when traveling to a ski trip by plane!
1. Plan on using a Ski Bag, Large Checked Duffle, and Avy Backpack
2. You only need one pair of skis if you know it’s going to snow every day! Pow Skis! I use ski touring bindings (Salomon Guardian 13 smalls) because we took trips into sidecountry or the backcountry every day to score more fresh snow. If you plan on skiing in-bounds the whole trip (which is still amazing) you definitely don’t need all the avy gear I brought.
3. The most space-efficient way to pack your skis is base-down with the brakes rubberbanded. This flattens out the ski and allows for lots of space to pack your extra ski accessories on top of them. To rubberband them, use two thick bands, loop them around one brake, and then cross them up and over the binding to loop around the other side.
4. Pack one set of ski outerwear, and your base & mid layers on top of your skis. Also pack your beacon, shovel, and probe. If you don’t have a good case for your beacon (I keep mine in the original cardboard box it came with) I suggest packing it in your backpack to keep it from breaking. It’s an expensive little item!
5. Also pack your helmet (with gloves stuffed inside), goggles, skins, and poles.
6. DO NOT pack your ski boots in your ski bag. Yes, there’s usually pockets built for them. But it’s common that ski bags get lost and delayed for a few days when traveling internationally. It is very easy to rent skis when you’re at a new resort, but it is NOT nice to rent boots. Keep your ski boots on you (slung around your suitcase before you check it) and carry them onto the plane.
7. You can use the pockets built for your ski boots as a place to store your heavy snow boots! You will need a pair to walk around town when it is storming or slushy. (Pictured Below: Muk-Luk Gwen Short Boot)
8. Pack your clothes and toiletries in your checked bag. I’ve attempted to use a carry-on for many ski trips but, with all the jackets and sweaters you usually want to pack for winter, it never works out. You’ll try transferring more items to your ski bag and then it will probably be over-weight at the airport. The checked bag is the way to go.
9. Pack your avy backpack with electronics, valuables, and helpful travel items, and take it with you on the plane. I always bring a BIG zip-lock bag full of PROBARS for my entire trip. It sounds a little excessive, but it’s hard to find snacks for skiing when you’re rushing around in a foreign country. Having a supply with you gives you one less detail to worry about, and saves you money.
For more information on this sort of thing, read my packing list for skiing in Bariloche, Argentina here!