What To Pack For A Ski Trip To Japan

What to pack for a ski trip to Japan


I was certain my face was slowly cracking like a sheet of ice.

It felt like ice. My face. My face felt like ice. Cold and fragile, ready to fracture the next time I blinked.

We have never been so cold as we were on day three of our ski trip to Japan.

Granted, we had just come from Fiji, where it was a tropical 35C every day, and we’d plummeted to around -17C in Hokkaido.

Everyone was bailing off the mountain as visibility was poor, the snow was falling sideways and the cold was viciously penetrating my balaclava through to my face.

As skiers and snowboarders, we had a good stock of appropriate clothing with us – but some days you just have to head inside. Japan was the coldest environment we have been skiing in. Despite multiple thermal layers, I only had a flimsy balaclava to protect my face. I learnt my lesson quickly.

Winter packing is never particularly easy, so it’s important to plan what gear you’ll need to take with you.

Here’s what to pack for a ski trip to Japan.


What to pack for a ski trip to Japan

Stand out in the snow with our guide of what to pack on a ski trip to Japa

what to pack for a ski trip to japan


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Thermal Leggings

I am SO glad I discovered the joys of thermal leggings. Dress them up, dress them down, use them as thermals under your ski pants, wear whatever way you want – they keep your legs, hips and bum toasty warm.



Thermal Jeans

Normal jeans won’t protect you from the cold one bit, unless you’re pairing them with some long johns underneath. For an apres-ski look while staying warm, grab an integrated pair like the Camii Mia thermal fleece lined jeans.



Waterproof Boots

You know it’s winter when you start bringing out the Sorel boots. You will definitely need waterproof, sturdy, warm snow boots for travelling to Japan in winter. But I couldn’t get any Sorels shipped over to New Zealand before we left, so I opted for these similar Northside Kathmandu Women’s Boots – which looked great and kept my feet warm and dry. I wore them every day in Niseko. John prefers a slightly shorter boot, such as the Sorel snow boot for men.



Your base layer is really important when travelling to cold destinations, or when doing any winter activity such as hiking in the snow, skiing, snowboarding etc. The base layer needs to be able to wick moisture away from your skin, otherwise it will stay trapped on your skin, which will make you cold. You can choose either synthetic or wool fibres – but we always choose merino wool.


Your mid layer is for warmth. Again, we always choose merino wool for our mid layer thermals.



I’m a three-layers kind of girl when it comes to winter activities. So I usually throw on one more layer – my merino Icebreaker hoodie – over my base and mid layers, under my jacket. You can always take off layers if you get too hot. I love my hoodie, I wear it all the time in winter.


For when you want to look a bit smarter and not like you’ve just walked off the ski field, include a cashmere sweater. It’s lightweight to pack and it’s warm and snuggly. You can wear it over your thermals or any shirts with the collar pulled up over the top for a smart winter look for both men and women.




A chambray shirt adds a bit of style to my winter outfits when off the ski field. Let’s face it, we don’t want to have to look like a giant marshmallow of thermals and ski wear all the time! A chambray shirt is also ideal if you’re transiting through Tokyo or if you have a few days outside the ski resort. You can wear a thermal underneath and a cashmere sweater over the top, or you can use it as an outer layer, under your jacket. Men may prefer a plaid shirt.


A quality feather down jacket is imperative for winter travel. The great thing about down is it packs really well and is lightweight – perfect for travel. For women, opt for a longer length rather than one that sits on your hips. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.


Don’t go anywhere without a hat. The best kind for warmth is a merino beanie or woollen slouchy hat. Sometimes wool gets itchy around the hairline, so if that’s the case, choose one with a fleece lining.



A woollen scarf will keep your neck warm – and an infinity scarf is an any easy addition to any outfit and great packing item for travel. You can pull it up over your mouth and nose while walking around. A grey merino scarf is a good colour option for the men.



In New Zealand, I’ve never skied with a neck gaitor or balaclava. However in Japan I had to buy one on the first day because it was THAT COLD. I couldn’t cope with any part of my face being exposed. A full balaclava offers more protection than just a next gaitor but it’s down to personal preference.



In northern Japan you’ll be skiing or snowboarding in extremely cold weather and lots of powder. Bluebirds are rare. Make sure you have a decent waterproof rating and insulation levels.



As with your ski jacket, be sure to have quality waterproof and insulated ski or snowboard pants. You will get wet and if you get stuck in the powder, you’ll want to stay warm. I love my bright pink Salomon ski pants.




I always wear a pair of long johns or tights underneath my ski pants. Partly for warmth, but also to prevent my sweaty legs sticking to the inside of my ski pants during the day. Sexy, I know.



Quality ski goggles are imperative on the mountain. Bring a clear lens for night skiing, and a good low-light lens for cloudy conditions. You might get the odd sunny day, but it’s most likely going to be overcast in Japan.



For our 7-day skiing trip (as part of a wider 2-week Japan trip), we took three pairs of ski socks each. We washed them in the bathroom and hung them out to dry each night so there’d always be a fresh pair.


Warm, waterproof ski gloves or mittens are essential in the snow. Don’t buy the cheapest pair because they won’t keep you warm or dry all day. I prefer hybrid mittens – which have a glove interior lining but a mitt Gore-Tex shell for better warmth while retaining some dexterity.



Guard this bag with your life! It contains your precious goods – your skis/snowboard. We share one bag between us with John’s snowboard and my skis and poles, wrapped in our ski jacket & pants. Get one with separate boot areas if possible. And make sure it has wheels – it will make transporting your skis and snowboard through airports so much easier. We have the Dakine High Roller bag which fits all our gear safely and has separate zip compartments.


Protect your noggin – you only have one. No matter how good at skiing you think you might be, you never know if there’s an out-of-control skier hurtling down behind you, or a snowboarder falling on your path around the corner. The best ski helmets have MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which offers superior protection.


A small, lightweight hydration unit will help you power through the day – although the water might freeze over in the hose! It’s small enough to barely notice, but gives you the chance to stash a few items as well such as tissues, lip balm, and a few snacks.


Don’t forget to capture the action!


The cold elements can ruin your lips. Be sure to stash a quality lip balm or hydrator in your pocket during your ski trip.


John swears by these feet warmers. He suffers from a terrible condition called UFFCF –  uncomfortably friggin freezing cold feet.


The most precious cargo of all. Chances are you’ll be skiing in powder so you might need fatter skis than usual. Japan has good quality rental gear, so if you wake up waist-deep in fresh powder, your best bet is to rent some fat skis or a powder board. I stuck with my Fischer Ranger 89s the whole way through, although I mostly stuck to groomed runs with the odd bit of backcountry.


For more tips about travelling to Japan:

DISCUSS: What did we miss? What else would you pack for a ski trip to Japan?


Your ultimate list of what to pack for a ski trip to Japan


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Untold Morsels



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  • Camille Burgan

    this is super helpful! I don’t ski, but the clothing is similar for outdoor activities in the snow. So a very helpful list, thank you!

  • Thanks for sharing a pretty comprehensive post on packing for skiing/winter in Japan. People tend to underestimate how cold it gets in Hokkaido. You can also pick up cheap thermals at Uniqlo. They worked well when I went skiing on Mount Daisen in Tottori prefecture. You can also pick up disposable feet and hand warmers at any convenience store or 100 yen store.

    • Yes – and we had come from 35C in Fiji so the change was even more intense! Ah yes I forgot about Uniqlo! John bought a few items from there, and I wish I had stocked up more! Quite affordable and practical gear. Mount Daisen would have been incredible! Good to know they have the disposable feet and hand warmers there too. 100 yen stores are amazing! I actually loved going to the supermarket/mini marts in Japan for all the wonderful things you could purchase, such as the self-heating muscle patches to relieve our back pain from all the skiing and snowboarding.

  • Kevan Toombs

    Skiing is so much fun, but if you aren’t prepared and cold it can be miserable. This is a great list and love the amount of layers. Lip balm is so often overlooked and I’ve learned that the hard way.

    • You are right, if you aren’t properly equipped for the elements it can be a bit awful. And lip balm is SO important when you are in such a cold environment! It also needs to be a conditioning balm. I had a branded lip balm for the snow initially and it was useless and only provided temporary relief. A proper balm made all the difference in those cold conditions.

  • Kevin Wagar

    Awesome tips! We love to ski, and do it every chance we get here in Canada. It’s so important to dress in layers so that you can shed some heat if things get too toasty

  • It can be tricky while packing for winters and for sking the requirements are more special.
    Thanks for all these useful pointers. I haven’t skied yet but will refer to this when I do.

    • The most important thing when travelling to cold climates is to remember about layers. You can always take layers off if you get too warm. But it is better to have extra layers than not enough.

  • Pingback: 17 Tips For Visiting Japan For the First Time - Snorkels To Snow()

  • Parnashree Devi

    I can swear by these when it comes to packing for a snow country. I had tough times when I was packing for Finland this winter. But luckily I managed to pack everything and it saved me from freezing cold in Lapland that went down to -15 degree. These are the must have things for such trips.

    • I’ll be travelling to Lapland in October, which is during autumn, but I suspect I’ll need to pack much the same items and it will be very cold, especially as I’m going northern lights chasing at night!

  • Clare Thomson

    Really useful packing tips. I get really cold even in a UK winter and wear thermal leggings and long-sleeved tops so I’d be freezing in Japan! I really love the look of those Sorel boots. Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks Clare – thermal leggings are amazing! I can’t believe I didn’t know about them sooner! The Sorel boots are gorgeous but more expensive, these Northside boots were a great cheaper version but still super warm and waterproof.

  • Sweden will be amazing! And if you are heading up into the north (especially in winter) then you’ll need lots of warm clothing and good footwear.

  • There is SO MUCH POWDER it’s insane! Hope you get to go!

  • The feet warmers are a nice little addition to one’s comfort!

  • Beth Jarrett

    Feet warmers?! What a fantastic idea! I’d love to go to Japan to ski, I was only at the Australian snowfields last week, where the depth was only 10cms. But still, it was fun to have a ski.

    • Well NZ got a massive dumping of snow last week – mountains are looking great and I hear Australia was in for some more too.

  • How incredibly thorough. Bookmarked this post for the next time I go skiing! #FlyAwayFriday

  • There are some adventures which definitely cannot be done if one is not dressed well. Skiing is one of them for sure whether its Japan or anywhere else. Even if you forget one thing, it gets difficult. Snow can be tricky. This post is very helpful to do a check while packing for skiing.

  • Kavita

    I think a lot of European and North American ski resorts don’t reach such low temperatures – as long as they are cold enough for snow it’s enough. So it must be a shock to be in place that goes down to -17 C!! That’s COLD! We’ve been on on a few (non-ski) trips in those temperatures and even with the best thermals and lots of layers, it’s so hard to stay warm. I ditto your reco for Sorel boots, my Sorel caribous, bought nearly two decades ago for a cruise to Antarctica, are still going strong!

    • Yes quite a shock. And we usually ski in New Zealand at Mt Ruapehu – maybe a few degrees sub zero but never -17! You can get away with far fewer layers but in Japan it was ridiculously cold. Sorel boots or Sorel style boots are the best, aren’t they! How amazing that you got to cruise to Antarctica!

  • Untold Morsels

    Thermal jeans?! I’m in. I have Reynaud’s disease which might be the official term for UFFCF. Those foot warmers look genius too. Saving this because I’m scheming how we can get to Japan soon.Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Ah there’s actually an official term! Good to know. I hope you get to Japan soon, seriously the coolest place we’ve been to!

  • Punita Malhotra

    That is a lot of clothes and a lot of preparation, but I’m sure once all these are in the bag, one can happily smile in the coldest of weather. Great list. I would love to find those thernal jeans.

    • The thermal jeans and thermal leggings are a lifesaver! Much easier than wearing normal jeans over long johns too. Not easy packing for a ski trip but you need every bit of gear!

  • Danik Bates

    Great advice on skiing and the clothing. Never skiied in my life before and I am not sure if it appeals to me. I rather roll down the hills and scream than trying to get my balance and having the worry about hitting a rock underneath the snow which will send me flying. 😀 Thats my view. But seriously, great informative post for those who want to ski.

    • Thanks Danik! Ha ha it’s not for everybody, but it is addictive when you start! It’s very freeing. The packing list is ideal for any cold weather/winter activities though!

  • Yep I agree with all of these! I’m wearing my cashmere sweater right now. I Love it!

  • Samantha Green

    Great post! I didn’t know you could buy thermal jeans, I guess it doesn’t really get cold enough in New Zealand haha

    • It’s a new novelty for me too – now I just wish I had tried them sooner! After living in Fiji, this winter in New Zealand is exceptionally cold – and we’re in Auckland!

  • Thermal jeans! Brilliant! We have also had some brutal days atop the mountain when the winds whip right through you – layering is KEY. I am coveting that Icebreaker merino wool hoodie! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • I would buy the whole Icebreaker shop out if I could afford it. They have some lovely styling pieces that are functional for the harsher climates!

  • Sandy & Vyjay

    Sometimes we do learn the hard way, but one needs to be prepared and pack all essentials even if it means lugging extra baggage. There have been many ocassions when we have felt, “Oh if only we had bought that”! This is an perfect and practical list and so useful especially for someone who visits a cold place from warmer climes.

  • Awesome tips and thanks for sharing! Skiing in Japan looks and sounds incredible and packing correct is only going to make it more rewarding!

    • It’s incredible fun to ski in Japan, we can’t wait to return another season. But it is brutally cold. Especially if you come from a climate where the temperatures don’t drop that low!

  • eileen gunn

    I’m surprised the thermal jeans aren’t more bulky looking. Good find for ski town vacations anywhere. #wkendtravelinspiration.

    • They’re surprisingly fitted! As well as the thermal leggings, which have made it into my normal winter daywear in NZ now!

  • Great list! I’ve only been skiing once but never in Japan. I would love to go though.

    • Japan was incredible! The facilities are absolutely top notch and there is so much powder, it’s like falling into a mound of icing sugar!

  • Edith Carolina Rodriguez

    This is a great list. I’ve never thought of skiing in Japan but that would be so much fun. However, I would have to learn since I’ve only done snowboarding.

    • Totally recommend a ski or snowboard trip to Japan, the ski fields are awesome and the powder is incredible! John snowboards and loved it. He found plenty to keep himself occupied over there!

  • Such a great list, especially for beginners that aren’t too sure what else to bring other than skis! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – hope to see you again in a few days! xo

    • Cheers Kana! It can be hard to know what to pack when you haven’t visited those sorts of climates before, it was a big change from any skiing and snowboarding that we’d done in NZ. But we hope to return because we had the best time! We’d love to go and live over there.

  • Janine Good

    This is a great packing list! I love the thermal jeans. I know being in Canada that they are the WORST in winter so these would be a stylish outfit for then! noted 😉 I hope to see you at Fly Away Friday this week 🙂 x

    • Thanks Janine! The thermal jeans and thermal leggings are a godsend! Canada gets pretty harsh in the winter sometimes so I’m sure these would work for that climate too!


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