12 November 2022

What to take on your first ski holiday

Working out what clothing you need to take on your first ski holiday can be utterly baffling, especially if you’re sending a child off on their first school ski trip and you’ve never been yourself.

Whether you choose to buy, borrow or rent ski wear, you still need to know what to take and how much of it — how many pairs of ski socks, for example!

So to help, the team at EcoSki has put together a quick guide on what to pack for your first ski holiday, followed by a handy check list (at the end) to guide you through the process.

What you need to pack: layer by layer

Socks and underwear

You need comfortable, stretchy underwear suitable for sports that can be worn all day. Natural fibres are best; cotton, silk or bamboo underwear. Women need a comfy sports bra. The right socks are crucial: knee-high and specifically made for skiing. Ideally you should wear a clean pair of socks every day as feet sweat, but if you don’t have room in your luggage and don’t want to wash them in the hotel sink, three pairs for a week is fine. EcoSki stocks a range of socks to buy or rent for men, women and children.


Worn next to the skin, baselayers should fit comfortably and snugly and made from a breathable fabric that will wick sweat (cotton t-shirts will stay wet and make you cold). Sustainably or Regeneratively produced merino are great for warmth, breathability, wicking sweat effectively and naturally odour resistant. Long-sleeve baselayers are best and during midwinter an extra vest layer beneath is good, too (EcoSki recommends icebreaker’s tank tops). If your ski pants are padded you may not need long johns, but always pack one pair in case you get chilly — three-quarter length are ideal so there is less fabric tucked into ski boots, but full length is fine if the bottom seam is not bulky. Women can wear woolly tights, but beware they might make your boots tight around your feet.


Layering is key to keeping warm — it’s more comfortable to wear several layers to trap heat than to wear one big, bulky coat (read our blog on how to build a layering system for skiing). Depending on the time of year you ski and what your outer kit is made of, your mid-layer might be a fleece, down jacket, down vest/gilet or a combination of all three. A wool sweater will also work or even a running/sports top. Whatever you choose it needs to be breathable and quick drying. A lightweight layer to stow in a backpack is handy for emergencies.

Ski jacket and pants

Ski pants and jackets come in all guises. If it’s your first time on the slopes, you will be a curious mix of hot and cold — learning is very energy-consuming, especially as you might fall and get up a lot. Choose an outer layer that is warm, breathable, waterproof and windproof and then optional extras might include a helmet-compatible hood, a snow “skirt” to tighten so you don’t get snow up your back if you fall, thumb loops, adjustable cuffs to make it snug and handy pockets for phone, gloves etc. Insulated jacket and pants are the best option for beginners, but if you opt for a shell jacket and pants (ie, no insulation) the mid-layer will be more important to keep you warm. Ski pants (waist-high) versus salopettes (bib/dungarees-style) is down to personal preference — work out which is easier to use when you need the bathroom.


Don’t skimp on these — they must be ski-specific (waterproof, breathable, insulated) and choose mittens over gloves if you get cold hands. If it’s mid-winter or you suffer from very cold fingers, a pair of thin liner gloves to wear inside your main glove is essential (try these from icebreaker), as are some handwarmers that you can carry in your pocket and use if you get cold.

Hat or helmet

Ski helmets are strongly advised on the slopes, and often mandatory, particularly for children. Rarely will you see an experienced skier without one. A woolly hat or hairband for lunchtimes and après is an optional extra, keeping you warm and hiding post-helmet hat hair. EcoSki stocks a range of helmets to buy and rent from POC, Sweet Protection and Bollé.

Goggles and sunglasses

Snow blindness is not just a myth, you risk serious damage to your eyes if they are unprotected on the slopes at any point — even if the sun isn’t out. Goggles are easier to wear with a helmet and sunglasses are handy to have in your pocket for lunchtimes and aprés.

Skis, boots and poles

If you’re new to skiing, you don’t need to buy skis, boots or poles. Though it’s nice to have, your requirements in both skis and boots will change as you become more skillful. They are also heavy and expensive to lug on your holiday.


A backpack is handy to wear on the mountain to stow water bottle, an extra layer, sunscreen and the all-important snacks, and also doubles as carry-on luggage while you’re travelling. Just remember to remove your backpack when you get on a chairlift.


Sunscreen made for high-altitude mountain/sporting environments, with a minimum 30SPF is essential. Don’t forget lip balm too — choose one that will provide both an SPF (the higher the better) and a barrier cream.

Water bottles save money on drinks and cut out single-use plastic. Choose a vacuum bottle and you can take hot and cold drinks up the mountain. Similarly, a coffee cup is good, too. We recommend Black+Blum.

Hand warmers are handy for cold days and for kids. Easy to store in pockets or backpacks for emergencies. EcoSki likes these new rechargeable handwarmers from Lifesystems.

A neck gaiter or snood is essential, too. Even if your baselayer has a high neck, you need something warm around your neck — like this one from Woolpower. For really cold days, you might even use a balaclava.

Finally — snacks! There is nothing worse than being caught with low sugar levels on the mountain — learning to ski or snowboard uses up a lot of energy. Chocolate or cereal bars are easy, but healthier and better for the environment would be home-made trail mix. 


Kit list for first-time skiers

3 x ski socks
7 x pants
2 x sports bra (for women)
2 x vests
2 x long johns
2 x long-sleeve baselayers
1 x neck gaiter
2 x fleeces/wool jumper
1 x down jacket (if ski jacket not insulated)
1 x pair ski gloves/mittens
1 x pair lining gloves (if you get cold)
1 x ski jacket
1 x ski pants
1 x ski goggles
1 x sunglasses
1 x ski helmet
1 x woolly hat
1 x woolly gloves (for evenings/wearing around resort)
1 x swimming costume
1 x backpack
1 x water bottle
Lip balm

Find baselayers, midlayers, jackets, pants, gloves and hats for men, women, juniors and of course a full range of ski accessories available to buy or rent with EcoSki.

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