Pack Like a Pro

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(SKI Magazine) -- When New Yorkers Ed and Carol Wetschler head to Keystone, Colo., they not only wear their ski parkas on the slopes, they wear them on the plane and don them après-ski as well.

"I'm happy to wear my ski parka at night, and why not?" Wetschler, a magazine editor, says. "This is Summit County, not St. Moritz. And I bring one sweater to wear at night; one that's nice enough that I don't mind wearing it every night. Our friends may wear nice winter coats at night, but they pack three times more stuff than we do."

Looking for an endless debate? Then ask two skiers how to pack for a trip. After all, ski vacations are unlike any others: You've got to be fully prepared for the chill factor of the slopes, the heat of après-ski and the elegance of dinner. Factor in unpredictable weather and unreliable baggage handling, and you have a number of variables to consider. Because it's such a personal matter, we turned to experts-ski business veterans with strong opinions.

The Essentials
It may be a no-brainer, but it's still worth stating that the essential ski items include a parka, ski pants, hat, goggles, sunglasses, neck gaiter and gloves or mittens. And because weather in the mountains can change in minutes, multiple layers are a must. Pack a fleece, a set or two of long underwear (polypropylene or capilene) and several pairs of socks also made of synthetic materials. Turtlenecks or other layers worn under your jacket should be made of synthetic materials, too, because they wick moisture away from the body, unlike cotton, which retains dampness. Sunscreen, moisturizer and lip balm are also must-haves, and if you get cold easily, consider bringing hand and foot warmers, as well as glove liners.

That's the easy part. Now it's time to determine what you need beyond the slopes. Fashionistas concerned with what to wear to restaurants and bars can relax if they're headed to Northern California. "Fashion in Tahoe is comfortable and casual," says Erin Bernall of Northstar-at-Tahoe. "Denim jeans and a sweater or fleece fit in just about anywhere. If you're planning a dressy night out, go ahead and throw in a pair of khakis." The same applies in Wyoming. Shannon Brooks of Jackson Hole says, "You need only one technical, warm, waterproof ski jacket. It can be worn on the hill, to a five-star restaurant for dinner and then to the bars afterward."

In Aspen, Colo., however, fashion is the raison d'être of many winter visitors. Here, Postcard, Prada and Vampire rule the streets, and wearing ski clothing anywhere other than on the slopes is for the terminally unhip. Not so in Telluride, Colo. "Ski and snowboard apparel is still definitely 'in' for après-ski. And at night, jeans and cowboy boots also are acceptable at even the most high-end establishments," reports Kelly Ladyga.

Up in Montana, says Lisa Johnson of Big Mountain, "The only criterion is for guests to keep their clothes on."

Pack ice-worthy shoes, a sweater, pants, a bathing suit for a pool or hot tub, and toiletries. Workout clothes (and the accompanying footwear) are also essential for many skiers.

Joan Christensen of Winter Park says, "I recommend women take fleece pants, which pack small, don't need to be ironed, are warm and can be dressed up or down depending on whether your agenda includes heading out to a nice dinner, hanging out at the condo or going ice skating. On top, I like a blouse over a capilene V-neck, and for shoes, sturdy, waterproof hiking/walking shoes and a pair of black flats with rugged soles."

Europe is a dressier matter. Chips Lindenmeyr of Lindenmeyr Travel, who sends many skiers to Europe, warns that on the other side of the pond, jeans, running clothes and sneakers are fashion taboos.

"The better the hotel, the dressier, but women can easily get by with the type of clothes I bring for a week. I take three pairs of slacks plus the ones I wear over, interchangeable combinations of sweaters and blses that go with all the pants, après-ski boots worn on the plane in case of inclement weather in the city and one other pair of shoes. I also bring two sets of ski clothes with four turtlenecks and two sweaters. I might add silk scarves or nice jewelry to dress things up a bit. Men can get by with nice pants and a sweater at night. But if it's a five-star hotel, bring a jacket, and don't forget a tie."

That may sound like a lot, but the fact is that some skiers really do want to take it all with them. There are those who must have a different outfit every night and a new Bogner ski suit every day. Then there are families, which, by necessity, pack heavy. "We used to bring our two kids with us to Alta every Christmas," recalls New York writer Bobbie Leigh. "We packed everything-crayons, coloring books, homework, puzzles, presents, as well as books and clothes. We needed easy-to-get-out-of breakfast clothes because nobody wanted to go down to breakfast in the Alta Lodge in their ski clothes. And we had play clothes, because the kids never lasted the full day on the slopes."

With her kids grown, Leigh now takes just a carry-on bag and no skis. Meanwhile, her husband, Jon, "takes several ski suits of varying weight, huge duffles and two pairs of skis," says Leigh. "But I just take one ski suit, one long black skirt and a couple of sweaters. I've learned that as a woman, you don't need much clothing, you just need dressy earrings."

Getting It All To The Slopes
The first rule of flying to the slopes is to pack your boots in a carry-on bag to ensure their safe arrival. (After all, there is no substitute for your own boots.) Surround them with a pair of ski pants and a set of long underwear, and stuff the boots with a pair of socks, sunglasses, goggles, a hat and gloves. Carry-on boot bags should be small enough to fit the templates that have been installed at airline security checkpoints. Finally, if you want to wear a nice jacket or coat in the evening, pack it in your checked luggage, and wear your bulky ski jacket on the plane. That way, even if your checked luggage is misplaced, you can still ski.

As for packing itself, Barbara Thomke of Smugglers' Notch says, "The best packing method is to unfold each article and lay it as flat as possible in the suitcase. I think rolling clothes into sausages is a joke. It doesn't save space, and it adds wrinkles."

Lindenmeyr follows her mother's advice and inserts tissue paper between layers. "It works to keep wrinkles to a bare minimum. Plastic from the cleaners does the same with hanging clothes."

If you're lugging skis, invest in a sturdy ski bag. They typically accommodate from one to three pairs of skis. Wheeled ski bags can be easily navigated through parking lots and airports. For other clothes and gear, wheeled duffle bags are best. The biggest packing debate of all is skis: to bring or rent. Skiers who insist upon bringing their own skis are usually diehards who love their boards. And an increasing number of them are opting to send their skis ahead of time. Erin Bernall of Northstar says that the resort "noticed a big increase last year in the number of people who sent their equipment via FedEx or UPS."

Pat Peeples, who represents Booth Creek Resorts says, "I've thrown a FedEx tag on my bagged skis and called it good. Everyone thinks you need to have special packaging, but you don't. I've shipped them to the resorts and have never had a problem."

But forget FedExing your Salomons to Europe, which can run well over $200 and entail paying customs. If you do opt to send your skis, even with the airlines, it's a great idea to wrap them in your ski clothing. Lightweight fleece hats around the tips, a layer of plastic around the bindings and vests and jackets around the entire length will stabilize them within their carrier and protect them from rough-and-tumble baggage handlers at the airport. If you want a damage-free guarantee, consider getting a hard-shell carrier, such as a SportTube. The plastic case is bulletproof.

Given ever-changing technology, the high cost of skis and the incredible hassle of traveling with them, an increasing number of skiers are simply bringing boots and renting skis. In the East, Pam Cruickshank of Okemo says, "Many skiers are renting high-performance equipment here instead of lugging their equipment, especially when traveling a long distance." Out West, Amy Kemp of Keystone notes that "I always see people lugging their 1970s straight skis around Denver International Airport in brand new ski bags that cost more than their gear. Instead, they could rent a pair of the latest shaped skis at the mountain."

When it comes down to deciding what's non-essential, Shannon Brooks of Jackson Hole puts it simply: "Ask yourself, 'Will it keep me warm? Will it be comfortable after a long day on the slopes? Could I ski in it if I had to?' If you answered 'No,' leave it at home."shell carrier, such as a SportTube. The plastic case is bulletproof.

Given ever-changing technology, the high cost of skis and the incredible hassle of traveling with them, an increasing number of skiers are simply bringing boots and renting skis. In the East, Pam Cruickshank of Okemo says, "Many skiers are renting high-performance equipment here instead of lugging their equipment, especially when traveling a long distance." Out West, Amy Kemp of Keystone notes that "I always see people lugging their 1970s straight skis around Denver International Airport in brand new ski bags that cost more than their gear. Instead, they could rent a pair of the latest shaped skis at the mountain."

When it comes down to deciding what's non-essential, Shannon Brooks of Jackson Hole puts it simply: "Ask yourself, 'Will it keep me warm? Will it be comfortable after a long day on the slopes? Could I ski in it if I had to?' If you answered 'No,' leave it at home."