What could be better than a family ski vacation? If you have small children, LOTS of things if you don't prepare properly! I would smile at the lines of kids laughing and making reindeer ears with their poles as they followed a cute young ski pro down the hill, yelling PIZZA! FRENCH FRIES! But then there's the reality- cutting your ski day or après short to pick up your three-year-old, only to find them sitting on a counter with a snuffly nose and tears streaming down their blotchy red face that says, "I have been crying for five hours." In one instance, my daughter, Isabel, was impossibly stripped down to her base layer with her ski boots still buckled and attached to her feet. The good news is that all four of my kids are great skiers and love the sport, and I am happy to share a few tips to make it a much smoother experience.
1. Get the Right Gear
A cold child is an angry child. An overheated child is an angry child. You are already strapping sticks to their feet and tossing them into the cold, so the battle is already lost if they are uncomfortable. Consider this your gear check-list for the next family ski vacation:
- Socks on first. Ensure they are not too big, as they will make the boots uncomfortable
- Add a baselayer (formerly known as long underwear)
- Mid layer on the upper body- a half zip for the child who runs warm and a hoodie or thermal layer for the one who runs cold
- A one-piece is always easiest and driest for the youngest kids, who spend a lot of time on the ground and don't have to worry about snow going up their jackets. For older kids, go with their preference as it does become about "the look." Their outer layer should be waterproof but breathable. Pockets should be plentiful to hold hand warmers, lift tickets, snack money, chapstick and a hat
- Helmet covers make everything more fun
- Goggles. Make sure you buy a pair with the most versatility on bluebird days vs. flat light clouds vs. heavy snowfall. Some have interchangeable lenses and can be costly
- Mittens. When kids first start skiing, opt for mittens over gloves. They keep their hands warmer and are easier to put on
- Hand warmers- you can buy these at any store on-mountain, probably cheaper online. Keep lots handy- they are quick fixes for cold digits and toes
2. Arrive at Ski School Early
The lines can get long on popular holidays, and nothing blows a kid's fuse faster than waiting in a line inside overheating. You can fill most forms out ahead of time. Also, get intel on your resorts' ski school (feel free to email us). They all operate differently, and once you know the ins and outs, you can make life that much easier for yourself.
3. Choose the Right Ski Pro
It may take a little trial and error, as different kids respond to different people, but when you do arrive a little early try to check out the pros and who will be the most fun for your child. It also helps to be friendly to the people signing you in and try to give them a little snapshot of your child to help them assign a good fit (if they are crazy busy, skip this step). And if you find one your child really loves- hang onto them: ask for your child to stay with them or splurge and get some friends together to go in on a private lesson! I don't recommend private lessons for one child as other kids serve as great motivators and playmates.
4. Buddy System
Try to send them with a friend. Sure, they will make new friends, but it makes it familiar out of the gate. If you know another family at the resort or mountain, try to coordinate and ski with the same group.
5. Don't Ignore the Age Policy
Do not send a child a minute younger than the minimum age. We did this once and regretted it (see description of the sad child above). Ski schools have been operating for a long time, and know why kids younger than three are not a good match for ski school!
6. Plan Days Off
Let the kids take a day off to do other fun activities like tubing, skating, or a good, old fashion snowball fight. Skiing is tiring for those little legs. Sometimes they need a day inside doing puzzles or snuggling on the couch. If they know they have days off, they are more relaxed about days on. Insider tip: A lot of the kids' ski school pros are young and starting out at resorts and are looking to make extra money. Ask them if they babysit on their days off or have friends who do. A fun young babysitter will give you a little break and the kids love having a fun older pal around to play with them. It also comes in handy if you need a night out!
7. Keep the Hot Chocolate Coming
Last but certainly not least... hot chocolate, and lots of it! And a sweet treat in the pocket never hurts!
Salt + Snow Knows Slope Style
Now that the logistics are down, it's time to get your little shredders ready to hit the bunny hill in style! Check out our best-selling children's outerwear and snow accessories to get you started: