Once you have settled on Vail for your ski vacation, it’s time to get ready! Packing for Colorado’s mountain climate can be a challenge; the region’s changeable weather conditions mean that a clear, sunny day can become cold and windy in a matter of minutes - and vice versa.
Vail resides in the Gore Range of the Rocky Mountains, tucked into the White River National Forest. The town’s elevation is 8,120 feet at the base, rising to a summit of 11,570 feet. This high-altitude environment brings unparalleled beauty, along with the potential for extreme weather conditions.
Packing the right clothing and outerwear, both for on and off the mountain will prepare you for all the slopes have to offer, as well as make for a comfortable, relaxed ski vacation in the Vail Valley.
A warm, dry skier is a happy skier, and the key to staying warm and dry is layers. The great thing about packing lots of layers is flexibility. With the right clothing choices, you can utilize pieces for both on-mountain and après wear. If you’re headed into town, you can add layers for a cold morning, then peel down as the day warms up.
Put the thought and effort into assembling the right layering pieces for everyone in your party, and plan for a comfortable day on the slopes.
Think about layers in three segments:
A base layer is closest to the body and should wick away moisture.
The mid layer traps body heat.
Finally, the outer layer acts as a shield against wind and water.
Keep this in mind as you compile your on-mountain attire. Remember, this layering solution works for off-mountain activities, as you stroll through Vail Village, or out to dinner. Locals know that this is the best game plan for warmth, comfort, and flexibility as weather conditions change during the day, and as day gives way to evening, when temperatures drop rapidly.
The base layer fits close to your body and pulls moisture away, keeping you warm. The base can be synthetic, such as polypropylene, nylon, rayon or a blend; natural, such as wool; or a blended material. An important note: avoid cotton, as it retains moisture. This base layer consists of pieces both for top and bottom of the body.
Synthetics wick well and are durable, though they may not be as odor-resistant, especially after multiple days of use. Soft, fine fibers make merino wool softer and more comfortable than the woolies that your Grampa wore. Merino wool offers good wicking characteristics and better odor resistance than synthetics, though it may be a little less durable than synthetics. As a bonus, merino wool can also cool in warmer conditions, as the moisture in the core fibers releases when heated.
The mid layer is all about the warmth. While vital for the top of the body, some people prefer a heavier-weight base layer and no mid layer for the bottom of the body. As with the base layer, there are a few options to choose from, both synthetic and natural. One common mid-layer option is polyester fleece, which is available in various weights.
Fleece stays warm even when damp, breathes and dries fast. That breathability brings susceptibility to the wind, so you’ll need another layer, which we’ll talk about next. Down is another mid-layer option, offering more warmth than any other insulating material. The drawback for down is that it loses insulating efficiency when damp.
This outer layer keeps wind, rain, and snow away from the body. Look for lightweight, breathable waterproof pants and jackets, to provide the best comfort and insulation. This layer may have more bells and whistles, such as charger pockets for phones, and zipper pockets for maps, money, sunscreen and other on-mountain necessities.
Be sure to try the outfit on at home, to ensure everything fits without being too bulky or restricting movement.
Along with your main outerwear, these essential components will make a big difference on the slopes.
Socks may be one of the most critical items in your skiing/snowboarding attire. Socks for skiing or snowboarding should be thin, yet warm. Thick socks collect sweat and hold moisture close to your foot, while thin ones move moisture to your boot liner, which is designed to wick it away from your body. Bulky socks can also bunch up and reduce circulation, making for cold feet. Good choices include thin wool socks, silk, a wool-silk blend, or those made of a wicking fabric.
Remember that Bridge Street offers overnight boot dryers, to ensure a warm, dry start to the day.
A helmet is the best choice for your head, both to stay warm, and for safety. Bring along a warm hat and scarf for off-mountain fun. For your ski day, consider a wool or fleece neck gaiter to keep this crucial area warm and dry.
Waterproof gloves or mittens with a fleece liner are an excellent option for skiing or riding. Gloves provide more dexterity and fine motor movement, while mittens generally are warmer. Heated gloves or mittens or hand warmers each provide all-day warmth.
Ski goggles are an indispensable piece of gear. These small but mighty devices protect eyes from wind and cold air and keep flying snow and debris out. They also provide UV protection, highlight moguls and other terrain on a flat-light day, cut fog, and polarized lenses can reduce glare, helping keep eyes rested. Look for a well-fitting pair that forms a tight seal against your face.
Pack (or pick up) sunscreen and lip balm, along with UV-protective sunglasses for off-mountain wear; with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, that bright, beautiful Colorado sunshine can be intense.
Rest assured, if you forget any items from your packing list, Bridge Street Ski Haus has you covered, with an abundance of inventory for both men and women. Along with clothing and outerwear, the store offers the finest ski and snowboard rental selection in Vail.
Bridge Street offers a great option if you want to avoid traveling with bulky ski equipment. Click here now to reserve your skis, boards and boots in advance, leaving you free to make your way to Vail with the sure knowledge that your top-of-the-line gear awaits. See you on the mountain!
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