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How to pack the essentials for any ski trip Add to ...

Adhering to tight restrictions on air travel has turned packing into a hair-pulling, reality akin to navigating expert-level Tetris.

Ski- and snowboard-savvy travellers face an exceptional challenge - packing for extreme elements on the mountains while meeting the weight, size and number-of-bags criteria at the airport.

Heavy boots, awkward ski and snowboard bags and fragile goggles create problematic packing woes. But three-time Olympic ski racer Emily Brydon says the issue isn't necessarily cumbersome equipment as much as the fact that people simply pack too much.

"Think of what you need and halve it," she says. "Realistically, you will ski, après-ski, eat and sleep."

Brydon, who grew up in Fernie, B.C., suggests swapping an extra outfit for some fashionable, "hot-looking" long underwear to show off at après-ski.

"In mountain towns, we call the dress code mountain casual. ... You will be exhausted after a day of skiing and will likely choose hanging out in comfies."

2010 Olympic snowboarder Kimiko Zakreski says that avoiding bulky jackets and focusing on layers is practical for saving space and staying warm.

"You just need a good waterproof jacket and lots of quality thermals for all temperatures. Merino wool is my favourite," she says, adding that puffy down jackets can also be good since they are typically light and pack small.

Even though you should slash your clothes pile in half, Brydon says to double up on things like "gloves, goggles, neckies and ski socks. … There's nothing worse than having to put on cold, wet gear."

Wrapping skis or snowboards with snowpants, jackets and clothes will both protect equipment from rough handling and free up valuable space in checked luggage for essential items such as hand warmers, sunscreen and a goggles cloth.

But what you put in your wheeled-bag is as important as how you put it in there. Protect goggles by packing them inside your helmet and then cushion your helmet inside your clothing bag to prevent the helmet from being jammed or dropped.

"Helmets are designed to absorb impact," the 27-year-old Zakreski says. "If it takes a lot of pressure during travel, it may no longer be effective in protecting you in a crash."

Carrying heavy, awkward ski or snowboard boots onto the plane is the quickest way to cut weight. It's also the safest for avid alpiners.

"If your luggage gets lost, you can rent [equipment] but you will still have your trusty, comfy boots," says Zakreski, who always carries hers on board.

For Brydon, 30, the joy of being on the hill is made even better by having a camera. "Some of the most beautiful panoramic views are captured from the high alpine at ski resorts. … Hauling equipment isn't easy, but the reward is well worth it."

Special to The Globe and Mail

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