The Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains is an awesome winter sports destination famous for the “Greatest Snow on Earth”, world-class skiing at Alta and perfect powder at Snowbird, one of the top freeriding destinations in the US!
Packing for your winter vacation requires preparation! The Little Cottonwood Canyon is a magnet for winter storms, receiving over 500 inches of snow a year, and some of the best powder stashes in the west. Checking the snow forecasts and weather conditions before leaving home, is your first step to being prepared and creating a smart packing list.
Whether you’re a first-timer on the bunny slopes or a seasoned skier or snowboarder riding the steeps and deeps, our list of the best ski trip packing essentials will help you prepare and pack light for your next winter vacation. Find out what you need to pack for an unforgettable winter getaway in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains!
Ski & Snowboard Clothing
Once you’ve checked the forecast and know what weather conditions to expect on your winter sports trip, it’s time to put together your ski outfit. Don’t weigh yourself down, keep it lightweight and practical with lots of warm and comfortable layers that you can alter as the weather demands (and as you warm up on the slopes!). Our Alta Chalets feature high-performance laundry facilities so you can pack light and wash as you need.
Breathable Base Layer: A breathable base layer ultimately acts as your second skin and is essential for staying warm, dry, and happy on the slopes. Steer clear of cotton which dries slowly and stays wet against your skin and go for a non-cotton base layer with a breathable fabric to wick the moisture from your skin, regulate your body temperature and keep you dry.
There are hundreds of quality tops and leggings on the market with light-weight, mid-weight, and heavy-weight options to suit the season, and your ability to bear the cold. Merino wool is best for the base layer, but some find wool too itchy and prefer synthetic or bamboo thermal underwear.
Ski Socks: Many tears have been shed over cold feet on the mountain, so it’s always worth spending a little extra on quality wool ski socks. Cotton socks are a no-go, thermal socks work great, but a good pair of socks designed specifically for winter sports are guaranteed to wick the moisture, cushion your feet, protect your calves in ski or snowboard boots, and keep your toes toasty.
Ski Neck Warmer: A wool or cashmere scarf is a stylish add-on to your après ski outfit but doesn’t work well layered under your ski jacket. Sticking with the non-cotton theme, go for a fleece or Smartwool neck gaiter or balaclava that protects your neck from the cold air, snow, and sun (and doubles as a mask on the lifts and slopes). There are loads of fun options available to glam up your gear.
Fleece Mid Layer: The mid-layer is your second line of defense to staying toasty on the mountain. Depending on the level of cold, opt for a flexible vest or zippered jacket that’s easy to remove. For the mid-layer, fleece is softer and lighter than wool, absorbs sweat, retains heat and with lots of options available makes it easy to move from the slopes to an aprés ski bar in style. In colder conditions, go for a lightweight quilted-down jacket.
Ski Jacket: The ski jacket is the outer layer that keeps you dry and protects you from the elements including bitter cold wind, a wet snowfall, sunshine, and Alta’s deep powder. For spring skiing, a lightweight waterproof and windproof outer shell is enough, but for colder temperatures, an insulated and water-repellant ski jacket is best. Look for a jacket with an elasticated waistline and cuffs to keep out the snow, visible pockets to scan your ski pass, and pit zips to vent your body heat!
Ski Pants: If you’re new to the sport, we suggest trying on all the options for the best comfort! Ski pants vary in style from pant shells and insulated ski pants to ski bibs with braces and high-waisted salopettes. Look for elasticated leg cuffs to keep out the snow, zips to get in and out your boots with ease, and always make sure you can lift your knees to your chest – you don’t want to be restrained in Alta’s perfect pow.
Gloves & Mittens: The choice between gloves and mittens is a personal one! Gloves are easier for dealing with your gear and you can even get touchscreen-capable gloves! Mittens, on the other hand, allow your fingers to generate body heat and keep your hands warmer. Regardless of your choice, ensure your gloves or mittens are insulated and waterproof, and throw in some thermal liners and heat pack hand warmers for extra comfort.
Ski & Snowboarding Gear
If it’s your first time skiing or snowboarding, renting your gear is highly recommended. You’ll have access to the latest demo models and can try out new gear every day, a great way to get a feel for what works for you on the mountain. If you’re looking to buy new, Alta and Snowbird have ski and snowboard shops with a wide range of apparel (including cool Alta and Snowbird branded swag!) and high-end snow sport equipment from top brands.
If you’re a seasoned skier, the chances are you’re already geared up and set on bringing your own equipment. Flying with ski and snowboard gear can be costly, consider traveling light and shipping your sports equipment in advance instead of lugging it through airports. You’ll need a wheeled and protected sports bag to minimize damage.
Ski Boots & Snowboard Boots: If you don’t already own them, renting your boots is strongly suggested and gives you the chance to find the perfect fit. Do not buy ski or snowboard boots online unless you have ample time to return, an uncomfortable boot will cause hours of misery on the mountain.
Ski Poles: Ski Poles are essential for any ski vacation. Even if you prefer to ski without poles, ski poles are great for getting through the lines, aiding in backcountry snowshoe hikes, and even pulling your kids around the base area!
Helmet: Finding the right ski helmet that fits well is important for your safety and protection on the slopes. Add a layer of comfort and stop the wind sneaking in with a wool skull cap or ear warmer headband.
Ski Goggles: You’ll need your sunglasses for bluebird days off the mountain, but they won’t cut it on the ski slopes. Snow goggles can make or break your mountain experience! Invest in ski goggles with interchangeable and adjustable lenses for varying ski conditions – yellow lenses to improve visibility on snowy days and polarized lenses to cut the glare and protect your eyes from the high altitude light on bluebird days. Always make sure your goggles fit your helmet.
Backcountry Gear: Backcountry skiing is thrilling but can be dangerous, so be prepared! If you’re planning on skiing and snowshoeing Alta and Snowbird’s untracked powder, you’ll need a partner (never go alone!), skins or a split board, and essential avalanche equipment. The best way to experience the backcountry of the Wasatch Mountains is with a trained backcountry guide that can guide you through the terrain with confidence.
Off The Slopes & Après Ski
When you’re not cruising the slopes of Alta, snowboarding “The Bird” or discovering untouched powder in the backcountry, it’s mountain casual all the way! Alta and Snowbird ski resorts are laid back, family-friendly and casual, but there are a few off the slope essentials to add to your ski trip checklist.
Mountain Casual: If you’re planning a special occasion, by all means, pack your mountain chic attire, otherwise mountain casual is all you need. Heading straight from the slopes in your ski clothing, or a quick switch to jeans and a hoodie is perfectly acceptable in all Alta and Snowbird restaurants and après ski bars.
Winter Boots: For toasty toes off the mountain, you’ll need a pair of insulated mid-calf winter boots for deep snow with a grippy traction bottom for icy conditions, waterproofing for slush, and a thermal lining for warmth and comfort.
Hats & Beanies: Avoid brain freeze and pack your favorite hats and beanies! Retaining body heat in cold temperatures starts with a warm, waterproof beanie that protects your head and ears from the elements. Throw in a warm winter hat with a rim to keep the snow out of your eyes on snowfall days.
Swimwear: Packing a swimsuit for your winter vacation is often overlooked! Whether you’re planning a day at a luxury alpine spa or spending your vacation in an Alta Chalet with a private hot tub, you’ll need a swimsuit, flip flops, and a warm throw or gown.
Ski & Travel Essentials
Covid Travel Essentials: Traveling during a pandemic requires a few extra items on your packing list. Be sure to pack your proof of vaccination card and basic covid travel essentials including portable hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a comfortable selection of face masks.
Toiletries: Shopping in our ski towns is limited, with only one general store in Snowbird. We strongly suggest bringing all your prescriptions, toiletries, and personal products from home. Add a high factor sunscreen and UV protection lip balm to your ski holiday packing list for high elevation protection and long days outside in the winter elements.
Lightweight Backpack: Aside from ski poles, a lightweight backpack or waist pack is all that is allowed on the Alta and Snowbird ski lifts. This is ideal for carrying your cell phone, camera or GoPro to film the action, water and snacks for the day, a multi-tool to adjust bindings, hand and foot warmer sachets, and extra layers.
Road Trip Essentials
If you’re driving to Alta, please note that state law requires all vehicles traveling in the Little Cottonwood Canyon to have snow tires or pack snow chains to carry in their vehicle. Be prepared for unpredictable road conditions and the possibility of Interlodge. If you’re flying into Salt Lake City, there is really no need for a car in Alta and Snowbird and plenty of airport transportation options to get you here safely.
Ski-In/Ski-Out Rentals In Alta & Snowbird
Still searching for your ski accommodation in Alta and Snowbird, look no further! Whether you’re in search of a cozy cabin for an intimate getaway, slopeside luxury in Alta or Snowbird, or a spacious private ski home for a long-awaited family reunion or group gathering, we offer the top selection of vacation rentals in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
No need to add food to your packing list or wait in lines at the store! Our team at Alta Chalets will deliver your groceries and ready-made drop-off meals to fill your fridge prior to arrival. There is a small grocery store at Snowbird to stock up during your stay or let our top-notch chefs prepare a meal while you curl up fireside or soothe your aching muscles in the hot tub.
Browse our portfolio of properties for your dream vacation home in Alta or Snowbird, book online or contact our team for guidance, and complete your trip planning with our in-depth travel guides to the Alta Ski Area & Snowbird Resort.