The idea of skiing with your kids may feel daunting, but experienced ski parents will tell you it’s well worth the trouble. With a lot of planning (and maybe a little bribery) it’s totally do-able.
When to start
Many parents agree that the earlier kids start skiing, the more confident they’ll be and the more fun they’ll have. Colorado mom Ellen Nordberg, got her twins in lessons by age four and says, “Our kids are 13 and committed skiers for life for having started so early.”
Ian, a Colorado dad, recommends not rushing, but instead, waiting until kids are, “excited about skiing so they’re self-motivated.”
If you’re not sure whether your kids are ready to hit the slopes, Nate Chesley, a former Alta, Utah ski instructor, recommends asking yourself: How confident am I that my child will have fun?
According to Chesley, success is less about the actual skiing and more about kids having the confidence to be separated from their parents, bundled up in bulky outerwear, and trying to learn a new sport with foreign objects strapped to their feet. The key to a successful experience is making sure your child is having fun, because as Chesley says, “Learning stops when the fun stops.” Even if your child spends half the lesson “eating snowballs,” if she’s smiling at the end and excited to try again, you can call it a win, advises Chesley.
Manage (your own) expectations
Be honest with yourself about why you want your children to ski and what you hope they will accomplish. Says Chesley, “Your motivations and expectations, and whether they’ve been met…will shape your child’s comfort and engagement with [skiing]. Push too hard, and you’re fighting against fear and discomfort.”
Parents know that unreasonably high expectations promptly lead to disappointment. And reminding your young skier how much money you’ve doled out for this opportunity won’t help, either. Colorado mom Rebecca Johnson says kids “don’t care that you spent $80 to take one whiney run on the kiddie hill.” Moreover, if you pressure them, “they may not take another run just to spite you.”
From scheduling to packing your bag, planning reduces stress, and saves time and money. Being organized means avoiding paying resort prices for a forgotten mitten, for example. Aim to arrive 15 minutes early for your child’s ski lesson to allow for unexpected delays and the inevitable bathroom stop once all their gear is zipped and buttoned. And remember, kids pick up on your anxiety. If you’re stressed about running late, they will be, too.
Speaking on planning, if possible, ski on weekdays. Crowds are lighter and prices may be lower. Also, enroll your child in lessons in advance, as they can fill up.
Braving the elements
Layers are key to staying warm. While kids’ bodies generally heat up faster than adults’, they’re more likely to complain about being too cold than too warm. If you can’t justify the cost of quality gear your kid will wear for one season, try borrowing items or look for gently worn secondhand goods.
- long underwear
- ski socks
- warm sweater or fleece jacket
- warm pants
- snow pants
- ski jacket
- neck gaiter
- ski helmet (doubles as a hat)
Remember to apply sunblock and chapstick with SPF. The combination of UV rays reflected off the snow and altitude make skin especially vulnerable.
Most parents recommend renting skis and boots each season. Many ski shops have a trade-up program where you can trade last season’s gear for a bigger size at a discounted price the next season, or trade out for the next size mid-season at no extra cost. If you rent skis just for the day, prices are generally lower at your local ski shop than at the mountain. Renting locally also saves time at the ski resort.
That said, if you have multiple children, buying could make sense. Joy Jackson, Colorado mom of three, buys her kids’ equipment. “It gets handed down to the next child and we tune them better than the rental stores do.”
Allow time for a solid breakfast. For picky eaters, consider serving a favorite food that packs a nutritional punch. Since you’re likely waking up pretty early to start this alpine adventure, consider making something to munch in the car, like a breakfast burrito or a sandwich.
Encourage your child to drink water, starting the day before. Hydration is particularly important at altitude. Don’t force your kids to drink when they report feeling sick. When they puke, you’ll feel like the worst mom ever. (That was my experience, anyway).
Snacks will help keep your child’s energy and mood up, plus they’re motivating. Parents cited candy, granola bars, and cheese sticks among prizes they keep in their pockets. Colorado mom Joelle Wisler advises, “Don’t underestimate the power of bribery.”
Lessons are the way to go
Parents overwhelmingly recommend turning kids over to professionals. If you plan to ski regularly, enroll them in a lesson that meets repeatedly with the same kids and instructors so they get comfortable and make friends. Lessons also give you time to ski with your partner or friends.
Parents and professionals agree that for kids to enjoy skiing, it must be fun. Strategies for upping the fun factor include:
Ski with other families so kids can ski with friends
Sing on the chairlift
Keep candy in your pocket
Plan something fun at the end of the day, like going out for hot chocolate
Let them wear helmet stickers and mohawks
Plan a special grocery run and let them pack whatever they want (within reason) for lunch
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Taking kids skiing is a lot of work and it’s not cheap. As with any family activity, there are no guarantees against tantrums, whining, or even puke. But the rewards of sharing the sport with your kids more than make up for the hassles. And if you maintain low expectations, keep little toes warm, remember to bring candy, and focus on fun, you’ll be at least four steps ahead of the game.