Packing tips for the family ski trip

I wouldn’t normally consider the New York Times a go-to source for information on outdoor recreation, particularly on the nuts and bolts of packing for ski trips. I’ve spent nearly a lifetime on skis — my parents strapped me onto them (and it was straps, back then) as soon as I could walk — and I have time-tested systems that work. But I came away from reading a January 22 article in the Times with several solutions to persistent packing problems.

As in, we get to a ski area, and I’m digging through the rabbit warren of canvas bags, backpacks, and duffel bags in the back of the car, asking such questions as Where’s Virgil’s hat? I thought we packed Ursula’s gloves. (If you’re married, you know that statement functions as a question.) I know we have snowpants, but where are they?

Times sportswriter Bill Pennington offered a trio of tips to solve these problems. The first comes straight out of Parenting 101: Make children responsible for their own gear, at least once they’re of a certain age. Ursula, at 11, has clearly reached that age; at 7, Virgil may be there.

But then Pennington went a step further: Help them be responsible for their own gear by getting them to pack it in individual boot bags or backpacks, separate from their other clothing and off-slope gear. Pennington explained the value of having separate gear bags for each family member: “On the morning of your first day of skiing or riding, not only is there only one place to look for all that stuff, [but] should you have to drive to the mountain from your lodging, everyone takes his bags, carrying everything he needs into the lodge.” It’s a simple tweak of our current system that I can see immediately will smooth many of our trip wrinkles.

For the final tip in his packing trio, Pennington drew on the experience of Diane Mueller, a mother of two who also operates three ski resorts with her husband. For her skiing and snowboarding children, Mueller put together a checklist of everything that needed to go in those individual gear bags — boots, hats, goggles, gloves, helmet, chapstick... The kids had the list, but as Mueller said, “It was up to them to make sure they brought what they knew they would need.”

To that suggestion, I would add a back-pocket tip that might come in handy if you still want to ski while the responsibility lessons take hold. We keep a fabric bin in the back of the car with extra seasonal gear. In the winter the bin contains second-string wool socks, gloves, hats, extra jackets, even a sleeping bag and flashlights. (In the summer, we switch out the wool socks for terrycloth beach towels, swimming suits, tennis shoes, and sunscreen.)

It strikes me that these tips work well for other sports beyond downhill skiing and snowboarding. I wrote up my first gear checklists this morning for cross-country skiing .... and fencing and karate.

Learn more
Read the full New York Times article to learn the connection between instant oatmeal and easy ski weekends, and more.
Read an AMC Outdoors article on packing for winter hiking and camping trips.

Photo caption: What doesn't work.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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