Planning a family ski trip can feel overwhelming. Where to ski? Where to stay? What to pack? Although there is a bit of planning involved, it’s well worth it for the incredible family memories. Riding the chairlift together, exploring a mountain as a family, getting out into nature… all part of the beauty of skiing.

Skiing at Winter Park, Colorado. photo courtesy: Winter Park staff

Skiing at Winter Park, Colorado. photo courtesy: Winter Park staff

Winter is coming! Ready for ski season? Good, because it’s already snowing in Colorado! A few planning and packing tips before you head out:

Picking Your Peak Spot

We live in Chicago, near O’Hare. Flights to Denver are plentiful, and that means they’re also pretty affordable. So for us, Colorado skiing is where it’s at. Colorado also leads the pack in great ski resorts. SKI magazine just named the top 30 ski resorts in western North America, and Colorado grabbed 10 of them. No surprise there! Now, each ski town has its own vibe, so choose a mountain that fits your family. Colorado Ski Country is a great planning resource. You can check out snow conditions and compare different deals and promotions to find the ski resort that meets all your needs.

Arapahoe Basin opens earlier than any other Colorado resort, so you’re always guaranteed skiing at Thanksgiving and Easter break. Will Mom or another adult not be skiing? You might want to try a resort like Aspen with its spas, boutiques and world-class restaurants. Looking for an authentic Western experience? Head to Steamboat Springs.ProductReview


We always look for budget-friendly destinations near Denver. Winter Park, Copper Mountain and A-Basin are all within an hour and a half of the airport. Totally doable in one long weekend! Fly into Denver in the morning, and you can be on the slopes at any of these three in the afternoon.


Ski-in/ski-out accommodations mean less time dragging your family’s gear and more time enjoying the mountains. It also gives family members more freedom to come and go. Maybe only some of the family wants to go on a couple harder runs at the end of the day? The rest of the family can walk back to their lodge while the die-hards can stay on the slopes. We also like to go with condos that come with a full kitchen (saves lots of money) and a fabulous heated pool/jacuzzi area. Pick the right lodging and it’s a relaxing retreat to come home to after a day on the mountain.

Layers provide cold comfort on the mountain slopes. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Layers provide cold comfort on the mountain slopes. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Peak Packing

I never check luggage (too many experiences with lost suitcases or waiting an hour for it at the airport). Airline baggage fees also make this a no-brainer for me. We rent all our ski gear, including helmets. However, we bring along our other ski must-haves… wool socks, waterproof gloves, ski pants, neck warmer or turtleneck, ski cap, and ski goggles or sun glasses. After spending $150 for forgotten ski pants at the mountain gift shop, I learned my lesson. Get must-have items locally. You can buy a box of wool socks from Costco for what a pair will cost you at a ski resort.

It’s All About the Base

Layers are key when skiing. You can take off pieces as the day gets warmer, or you warm up from exercising. Underneath it all, the base layer can be the difference between an unbeatable powder day and an afternoon spent drying out in the lodge.

The best base layers keep you warm on the hill and look good enough that you won’t be embarrassed to peel off your snowpants and jacket for lunch or apres-ski. These base layers are peak performers:

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We like WoolX – they make a great line of thermal underwear, shirts, socks, hats and accessories. Most people hear wool, and think it must be itchy. When I told my boys I got them wool long johns and neck warmers, they gave me the cold shoulder. They quickly warmed up to this soft and cozy material. It’s like skiing in your pajamas!

What are your ski trip must-haves? Wishing you mountains of fun on your next family ski trip!