If you're like most skiers, the day before you leave for your vacation, you run down a list of essential items you absolutely can't afford to forget: skis, boots, poles, parka, and ski pass. But have you thought about the dozens of incidental items that can make the difference between a good ski trip and a great one? Most of these items can be found in your local ski shop or at Alpine Accessories, and cost less than $20.
When your next ski trip takes you to Colorado or Utah - places where snowfalls are measured in feet instead of inches - buy a pair of powder cords. Powder cords are long strips of fabric that attach to your bindings and help you find a ski that has submarined under deep snow after you've fallen. You can reel in your lost ski by following the end of the cord. A powder cord costs about $10 and can be one of the most important additions to your gear and can help you avoid losing your ski. The alternative is to wait until the summer and hope that the Ski Patrol mails you your orphaned ski.
A boot scraper is another inexpensive tool that's indispensable when the snow is heavy and sticky. Boot scrapers are small, plastic squares about the size of a credit card. They're great for removing stubborn snow from the bottom of your kids' boots, scraping snow off your windshield, and can easily be stashed in the pocket of your parka. Take a tip from the pros: never use a credit card as a boot scraper. The cold weather makes the plastic brittle and can easily break. Of course, you could be better off if the alternative is letting your spouse have the credit card.
Skiers often wrestle with fogging goggles when warm weather prevails during the spring. Goggle fogging is caused by two temperatures colliding between the lenses of your goggles - the warm air inside meets the cold air outside.
There are several ways to keep your goggles from fogging. First, never park your goggles on your forehead when walking to the lift. Your head releases more heat than any other part of the body. Send that heat to the inside of your goggles and you're in for trouble. Instead, keep them inside your pocket until you're ready to ski or wear them loosely around your neck where air can circulate around the lenses.
Or, try buying an anti-fog cloth treated with a special chemical that, when wiped on the inside of your goggles, helps prevent them from fogging. Anti-fog cloths are available for around $5 at any ski shop. Keep the cloth inside your goggle bag so it's always ready when you need it.
Seasoned pros used to skiing in a variety of weather conditions never leave home without goggles and their sunglasses. Chances are, your sunglasses cost you a week's wages, so be sure to store them in a hard case and stow the case in one of the pockets of your parka where you won't fall on it. Many ski parkas are made with specially designed pockets that keep your goggles or sunglasses safe from being crushed.
Once you're on the snow, your most valuable possession is your ski pass, so make sure that it's accessible, easy to display, and secure from thieves. Ski shops carry several items that keep your ski pass handy. Retractable lift ticket holders attach firmly to an item of clothing and can be pulled out like a set of janitor's keys for scanning.
Try buying a neck wallet if you like your pass a little closer to your body. Neck wallets are small, fabric billfolds that you wear around your neck. In addition to carrying your ski pass, you can carry your credit card, hotel room key, cash, or anything else you can't be without while on the mountain.
Ski patrolmen and instructors often make a Leatherman tool part of their gear. A Leatherman is a multi-purpose tool that easily folds up and stores in your pocket. They have more functionality than a Swiss Army knife and are available in a variety of models and price ranges. They typically have a pair of pliers, several different knife blades, slot and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and other essential tools for making emergency repairs when you're miles away from a ski shop - sort of like a miniature toolbox.
Finally, never jump on a chairlift unless you're carrying several trail maps. Professional ski instructors give away trail maps to lost guests and they are also good for making temporary adjustments to skis, boots, and bindings. Trail maps make great impromptu ski cants, can tighten the cuff in a loose boot, or for a thousands other uses.
So, while you're packing up your skis, boots, and poles, don't forget the small things. They can turn a good day of skiing into a great one.