The following French Alps packing list has been submitted by Katie Doyle.
Skiing in the French Alps is the winter trip of a lifetime. Although the altitude of the Alps is much higher than most ski resorts in the States, winters can range from mild to freezing. Hopefully there will be an abundance of snow during your time there, because the powder is unbeatable. I was incredibly lucky to spend a few months skiing in the Savoie nearly every day, so the two suitcases I brought with me might be overkill for someone planning to stay for a shorter time.
For adventurous ladies, packing for style, warmth and comfort can be challenging; hence why the laid-back attitude permeating most Alpine resorts is a relief. You can fit in with the coolest seasonaires without a Sex and the City-scale luggage entourage. Laundry can be expensive—a weeklong trip and access to a washer and dryer make packing much less daunting—so having more than one of certain essential items will keep you and your body happy—because no one wants to wear the same sweaty ski gear for too many consecutive days.
Plan on checking at least one bag, especially if you’re bringing along ski or snowboard boots (or skis or a snowboard!). Keep in mind that the higher up you go, the more expensive things are. You don’t want to make too many purchases at 6,000+ feet above sea level! Give some thought to packing so you don’t find yourself unwillingly spending euros that would otherwise be put to good use at the après-ski bar.
A good winter coat and snow pants are a must. These items will be on the expensive side if you have to buy them, and bringing your own means you can get out on the slopes as soon as you arrive. Warm and waterproof will keep you happy, trust me.
Skis & Snowboards
A few airlines, such as Swiss Air, offer a free checked ski equipment luggage incentive when flying into Chambery, Grenoble, Geneva or Lyon. If you’re flying an airline that doesn’t accommodate skis, you can rent them for a reasonable price in resort. Rentals are usually available for daily or weekly rates, so you have some flexibility.
Ski boots are available for rent as well, but if you have a good pair, it might be worth it to bring them. You don’t want to waste precious skiing time getting your feet painfully extracted from uncomfortable boots!
*Packing tip: Roll up your socks and clothes and stick them into your ski boots for a little more efficiency.
You will not regret bringing your own goggles. They will be expensive regardless of the resort you’re staying in and they’re a must-have while skiing.
A helmet can be taken or left, as it’s one of the few very necessary items that can be rented from a shop on the mountain for a reasonable price. Your hair doesn’t have to be perfect in Alps society, so wear a helmet!
Layers are the key to staying warm and dry in the mountains. Even if you travel during a warmer week between November and April, you won’t regret packing a few of every layer of clothing. When shopping for necessities, I recommend Cold Gear by Under Armour, but really any decent-quality thermal will do.
The more the merrier, my friends. The warmer, the better.
Keep your core warm on those chilly powder mornings!
Good quality ski socks
Underwear & sports bras
Regular bras are good to have, too, but stick with a trusty sports bra on the slopes.
Jeans & other pants
Take a pair of jeans or other pants along for the time you’ll spend off the slopes. It’s nice to have something else to change into for a French dinner of fondue or raclette, although the dress code is usually ski-casual.
Sweaters or other tops
Just an option or two for when you’re not skiing.
Leave the heels at home, ladies. You won’t even take them out of your bag. You’ll notice that most people leave their ski boots on from first lifts until après-après-ski… basically, until very late at night. Bring a pair of winter boots or two and you’ll be all set for walking through snow and dancing on bars.
You don’t need to go overboard on makeup or other toiletries; if you bring a mini-hair dryer, great, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. Everyone who loves skiing as much as you do is on the same page.
…although you might not need to wash your hair every day, either.
High altitude equals dry skin.
Bring a few pairs, both liners and heavy, waterproof gloves. Make sure they thoroughly dry out overnight, as there are few things more unpleasant than putting on damp gloves first thing in the morning.
They do look cute while keeping your head warm. More for fashion than practicality, hats like these are all the rage in the mountains. One or two fuzzy beanies easily fit in your luggage.
Depending on your personal preference, sunglasses may trump goggles in nice weather. They’re a good alternative for lunch breaks or chilling with a cold beer after a long day’s ski.
Everyone in the Savoie Region has one. Trust me, you will not regret it.
Converter for charging everything
You know your blog readers can’t wait to see the beauty you’re experiencing in the Alps. Buy a cup of coffee in a café with wifi and get those photos and videos uploaded!
Extra SD cards for the GoPro
Spare batteries and chargers
iPod & Headphones
Without fail, I have gotten sunburned each time I’ve visited the Alps. Switzerland, France, Italy… it doesn’t matter. Bring it and wear it to protect yourself from the rays that will inevitably bounce off of the bright white snow.
Hand and toe warmers
I didn’t really need these during my trip because the weather was pleasant most of the time, but they’re a good idea if your extremities tend to get cold. Again, it’s best to bring a couple than spend a lot of money on them once you get there.
In France, Ibuprofen is sold in a pharmacy. This can be inconvenient as pharmacies—especially in the Alps— aren’t always open when the ski lifts close, so bringing some along will ensure that you get the most time on the slopes.
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About the Author: Katie is a writer and videographer who chronicles her travels on Where in the World is Katie Doyle? from wherever she happens to be. A winter in France, a summer on Cape Cod, with road trips and fishing expeditions in between—she’s up for anything and will tell you the story about it later. Check out www.kadoyle.com and follow @ladykatherined.