When the temps drop and snow falls, there’s no better way to escape daily life than a good old-fashioned ski vacation. It’s impossible to remember your concerns back home when you’re focusing on the formidable slope below — and the cozy lodge time you’ll log when you get to the bottom. But knowing the best spots to ski is only half the battle. Having the right gear to ensure you’re prepared for what you face when you arrive is the rest.
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One item you’ll definitely want on your person, regardless of what peak you’re headed to: The new Garmin fēnix 6 Smartwatch Pro Edition. With more than 2,000 preloaded ski resort maps, including difficulty ratings, you’ll always find an appropriately challenging trail–and your way back to the resort. The fēnix 6 Pro also tracks your runs, descent and speed, and visually maps your track. A Pulse Ox sensor shines light beams at your wrist to gauge your response to altitude changes, and a Body Battery Energy Monitor tips you off when it’s time for a respite at the lodge.
Check out the fēnix 6 and other must-haves to pack for the top ski resorts you need to visit this winter.
Zermatt has a storied history with climbers and skiers. The Matterhorn, one of the most iconic mountains in the world, looms large over the village. The first ski club was founded in 1902, and the trams started loading up for winter ski seasons in 1928. With four interlinked resorts, having a reliable trail map is a must. Combine that with the fact that there are no cars allowed in the town, and your fēnix 6 will quickly be pulling double duty, navigating you through skiing the slopes and walking the village.
Gear Pick: Andermatt Jacket
We love Ortovox’s jackets because they use local materials from around Europe. The Andermatt Jacket ($680) is insulated with natural, black wool from Switzerland. Black wool is normally scrapped or wasted due to its low ability to take dye. Ortovox’s black wool insulation uses these scraps to create a warm jacket that is more breathable than goose down, and won’t look out of place at home after your vacation too.
Squaw Valley, California
Skiing in Squaw ranges from serious steeps to family-friendly beginner runs—and almost all feature epic views of Lake Tahoe. With more than 3,600 acres of terrain (and another 2,400 at sister resort, Alpine Meadows), there’s something for every skier. If you’re on the more extreme end of the ski spectrum, make sure you get at least a few runs in on the notorious KT-22 Express lift. Your friends can watch comfortably from one of the 20+ restaurants and bars in the village.
Gear Pick: Sir Francis Bacons from Line Skis
Squaw is known for its rowdy freeride skiers, amazing terrain, and 450 inches of snow a season. Our favorite skis for making the most of it are the Sir Francis Bacons ($700) from Line Skis. Funny name aside, these skis are a joy to ride. Fat enough to stay on top of deep powder, forgiving enough that your knees and quads won’t hate you. As an added bonus, you’ll instantly look like a pro with these bad boys on your feet.
Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia
Always wanted to ski one of the biggest resorts in the world? Whistler-Blackcomb’s massive terrain—more than 8,000 acres total—means you can spend a week there and hardly ski the same run twice. We recommend trying your skill on one of the famous “Gold Medal Routes” where the Olympic downhill ski race course was set during the 2010 Winter Olympics (your fēnix 6 can even track your top speed, but play it safe and don’t try to match those pro ski racers who can hit 80 mph). Whistler also boasts a family-friendly area with ski speed limits to keep things safe for the kiddos.
Gear Pick: Zeal Optic’s Portal XL Goggles
Whistler is in a coastal mountain range, so often times when it’s snowing up top, it means rain or fog on the lower mountain. Zeal Optic’s Portal XL Goggles ($279) are our favorites for unpredictable weather. With a wide field of vision and excellent venting, you won’t have to worry about foggy lenses even in poor conditions.
La Plagne, France
Sitting near the French-Italian border, La Plagne is one of Europe’s best ski destinations for family riding. La Plagne interconnects six ski areas, four small resort bases, and 11 villages down the valley. If you want a unique cultural experience along with your daily powder skiing, this is the place. Don’t forget your ski lessons—La Plagne’s ski school is renowned, with classes for first timers and park pros alike.
Gear Pick: Fall Line Ski Roller Bag
International ski travel can be hard on gear (pro tip: never, ever check your ski boots, if you can manage it). We love Dakine’s ski bags for their durability, and the Fall Line Ski Roller Bag ($145) is perfect for long haul travel. It holds two pairs of skis, and has enough internal organization to fit the rest of your gear (including boots).
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Every serious skier needs to make a pilgrimage to Jackson Hole at least once. Definitely not for the faint of heart or pure beginner, half of the resort is rated expert terrain. We don’t recommend taking some of the more famous chutes and cliff drops, but hop a ride on the aerial tram and you’ll probably catch locals attempting heart-dropping verticals. Make sure you use your fēnix 6 to time a full tram lap at least once–with 4,100 feet of vertical drop, there’s no way down that won’t leave your legs screaming. Outside of skiing, the Mangy Moose is an absolute must for après-ski, and further into town you can’t miss the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, or the Elk Prime Rib at Snow King Resort.
Gear Pick: Stio Environ Jacket
The locals are pretty loyal to Jackson based brand, Stio, and it’s easy to see why. Its Environ Jacket ($449) and Pants ($389) were designed with Teton-based resort and backcountry skiers in mind, and stand up to the worst Wyoming winters with ease. You’ll have the added benefit of looking like a local when you settle in at the bar to rest your legs after a day of Jackson powder.