Family Ski Vacation Tips
Planning on teaching your child to ski this year? Or better yet, farming this daunting task out to a great ski school? Either way, a first ski trip with kids. especially toddlers, can be challenging. By the time your child has put all those layers of clothes on, walked a while in ski boots (stopping to eat some snow and to make an angel or two), they may be ready to pack it in, along with their exhausted parent(s).
Through discussions with many skiing families, and having survived a number of family ski trips of our own, I have come up with some tips on how to make your vacation run as smoothly as possible.
Finding Family Ski Resort Accommodation
- With a family, you may find that renting a suite, condo or house with a kitchen and laundry facilities provides a more comfortable and economical option over a standard hotel room. VRBO, Airbnb.com, and Tripadvisor.com all list hundreds of family vacation rentals at most major ski resorts. Just make sure you use the advanced search to find kid-friendly properties. Above all, read reviews by people who have stayed there recently. Click here to get a $34 credit on your first Airbnb!
- While ‘kids ski free’ deals are attractive, be aware that very young ones (5 or 6 and under) generally ski for free anyway at most mountains. The real value comes in if your child is 6-12 years.
- For shorter lift lines and better deals, book outside of school breaks such as Christmas, New Year’s and President’s Day Week which are considered peak times and can see rates double or triple.
- When choosing your accommodation, keep in mind proximity to the bunny hill, ski school and other fun apres-ski activities for kids such as a tube or toboggan park (yes, they will still have energy for this even when you don’t).
The Best Ski Clothing for Kids
Nothing will end your day quicker than cold or wet kids. Many inexpensive snow clothes and accessories are only meant for a half hour frolic in 1 inch of snow (think Gap snowsuits), rather than a whole day on the mountain. Some tips for finding the good stuff include:
- Look for key words on clothing items such as insulated, waterproof, breathable and taped seams.
- Look for features such as grow cuffs (you can let out the hem as your child grows), powder guards, velcro adjustable straps, removable hood, and clips to keep gloves/accessories attached.
- Keep little noggins safe and warm with a good quality ski helmet with a clip or snap to keep their ski goggles in place. Don’t forget a soft (not itchy) balaclava for underneath.
- Save money by checking out ski swaps and consignment stores (many suits are only worn a handful of times).
- Buy end of the season deals, a size up, in anticipation of the following year.
- Know which brands represent good value. Although pricier than some other brands, I am partial to Obermeyer and Spyder for their great quality and design features (both usually come with grow-cuffs). Check out great prices and free shipping deals from Backcountry.com.
The Best Ski Equipment for Kids
Renting equipment by the trip for your child is a time consuming and somewhat exhausting process, so unless you are only planning on going out once or twice in a season, you may want to consider the following suggestions.
- If you have multiple children, it may make financial sense to buy equipment outright since it can just be passed down the line (think gender neutral colors – it takes a pretty cool and secure boy to pull off pink Roxy skis).
- Purchase equipment from a store that has a ‘buy back’ program, whereby they will pay you a guaranteed sum of money for the gear when your child has grown out of it.
- Rent equipment for the whole season from your local second hand sports equipment store (the cost is about the same as 5 days worth of daily rentals).
- Purchase used equipment from a ski swap, being sure to get the right length for your child (generally between shoulders and chin height for little ones starting out). Also be sure that the binding are set correctly for their height, weight and ability. A beginner falls a lot and their boots should pop out of their bindings fairly easily. Please see the following photo as a warning of what can happen when you end up with bindings that do not release when they should (Our daughter ended up with another child’s seemingly identical skis – but with tighter bindings.) Do not let this scare you out of skiing altogether. She is totally fine now and still adores the sport.
How to Pack for a Ski Trip with Kids
I used to dread packing for a ski trip as they are so many critical items to remember. The following things help me stay organized.
- Color coded PRO Packing Cubes. Each person in the family gets their own color and their ski gear is kept in these breathable bags, which are then packed into a larger sports bag. At the end of each ski day, after everything is dry, I pop the clothes back in the mesh bags so everything can be easily located the following morning.
- After years of dropping boots and skis as we walked from our accommodation to the car, we finally invested in proper ski and boot bags for each family member. The boot bags also fit our helmet and goggles.
- I always have a bag full of miscellaneous extras (gloves, long underwear, goggles etc.). Although these rejected items are usually a little on the ugly or uncomfortable side, they are most appreciated when something inevitably gets lost or damaged.
- At the beginning of the season I buy a box of hand warmers and a box of those mini tissue packs from Costco to keep handy in our ski bag.
- As soon as we get home from a trip and the laundry is done, everything is packed back into the bags, ready for the next trip (although despite this routine, I still need to double check the bag every time for my own peace of mind).
Ski Lessons for Kids
Oh how I commend the parent who teaches their own child to ski. Many people find, however, that their kids do better (and perhaps whine less), when taught by a professional. These people are usually young and without the temperamental back and knee problems that tend to go along with age and parenthood. Have you tried to snowplow for three hours lately? Surely lessons are a better place to spend your money than with a physiotherapist. If you still insist on being a super parent, here are a few suggestions:
- Speak in a ski language that your child can understand (pizza=snowplow, french fries= parallel).
- From a wise Aussie instructor – ‘No pee….no ski’. Get this out of the way before getting your child into their gear.
- If possible, teach your child to ski without ski connectors (gadget that keeps skis in the correct position), or a ski harnesses, as they may develop habits that are hard to break later.
- Do not forget to keep it fun for your child. Things going sideways? How about a hot chocolate break? My father-in-law keeps a bag of gummy bears in his pocket and distributes them to the kids as emotionally necessary.
- Carry with you an abundance of patience, good humor, fun or a flask.
- Reviews the following videos on teaching a child to ski – the 3 minute version and the 12 part mini series.
Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Should you decide to buy or book anything through one of the links, a small percentage of that sale will go back to me, and allow me to keep writing about family travel (for which I am very grateful).