The gear you really need to bring on your winter trip to Vail

Traveling to an outdoor mecca is exciting and stressful at the same time.  High altitude, mountainous terrain demands effective equipment, and considerations for clothing and gear are paramount for your experience.  The gear requirements can be overwhelming.  First consider the specific activities that you will participate in, second consider purchasing and packing the highest quality gear that you can afford.  Here’s a run down on what you need to know

Quality Is Paramount

I have been a skier since childhood.  It took me 25 years to finally realize that you must purchase the best equipment you can afford.  When I got serious about skiing in my early twenties, I would buy trendy, colorful outerwear that wasn’t terribly expensive; the brands were reputable nonetheless.  I ended up wasting more money on outerwear in the long run.  Had I purchased something very high quality to begin with, I would never have needed to buy again.  When considering ski/snowboard outerwear, look at brands such as Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Marmot, and Norrona. There are other reputable brands, but I have found these products are superior and will last a lifetime.  You will have sticker shock when you see the prices, but the $200 dollar counterpart will fall apart in a few years.  Don’t forget a good base layer too when considering a hard shell jacket, and pants.  As for quality, the same rules apply to packs, tents, climbing gear, etc.

Casual Wear

Mountain communities are notoriously underwhelmed with style statements.  This is good news.  You don’t need to bring 4 pairs of shoes for different occasions.  Bring a quality winter trail running shoe, or a leather boot and call it good.  You need a pair of jeans, a few shirts, a fleece, and a hat to keep your head warm.  A thin ski sock, and long underwear will be necessary for all winter pursuits.

Realistic Ski and Snowboard Gear

I know those powder skis are neat, and everyone dreams of bottomless smoke that blesses our mountains on occasion.  However, the chances of lining up a big day are slim to none.  If you’re a storm chaser, fine.  For the rest of us, a ski that is mid 80’s underfoot is ideal for Colorado.  Some argue that’s too narrow; ski width is largely individual, but for typical resort conditions, even on a powder day, a narrower ski than you think is a good bet.  By the way, if you haven’t already, spend the money on a proper ski boot!  Go see Dano Bruno at Gorsuch in Vail.  He will assess, measure, computerize, and then mold a proper foot-bed and ski boot for your anatomy and specific needs.  The same rules apply for snowboards and boots.  Seek out an all-terrain board that’s moderate in length and flex.  Don’t forget a quality goggle with an amber lens if you can only bring one pair.  If not, a yellow lens, and something darker for bright days is ideal.  A helmet that fits and a Hestra glove is encouraged.  There are Hestra gloves and everthing else, especially is you’re prone to cold hands.  Lastly, if you don’t want the hassle of bringing ski/snowboard hard goods, you can always rent. Receive 20% off, and we will fit you up right here at The Bunkhouse!  No need to leave the comfort of your bunk.  We will also return your gear after your departure.

Everything Else

You need:

  • A large water bottle.  A Hyrdoflask is the gold standard.  Keeps your drink hot or cold for HOURS.
  • Lip Balm
  • Ibuprofen
  • Backcountry pack with all safety gear (if that’s your thing)
  • Personal items such as hygeine tools, id, cash, credit cards, etc.

All of theses basic, minimal gear standards in this column can be packed into a moderately sized backcountry pack for what it’s worth.  Whenever I travel to another mountain, I can fit all of these items into my pack, minus my ski boots.  Lastly, whenever traveling by plane, ALWAYS take your outerwear and ski boots on the plane; don’t check these items.  Flying into mountain towns is synonymous with cancellations and delays.  You don’t want to end up here without your boots or jacket.  You can always rent skis.  Good luck with rental boots if you’re a serious skier or rider. 

See you soon!