Hitting the slopes can be intimidating with kids, especially if you’re a beginner. From choosing a resort to lift safety, here are ten tips that will help families have fun downhill skiing.
Choosing a ski resort
Select a resort based on the quality of its magic carpets and beginner lifts as opposed to the quality of its advanced terrain. A high-quality bunny hill is what it’s all about when you’re skiing with kids. Also, long lift lines ruin the skiing experience for experienced skiers and beginners alike, so focus on finding a beginner zone that doesn’t get too crowded. Our family’s favorite is Summit West at The Summit at Snoqualmie.
Another important consideration when choosing a ski resort is proximity. Who enjoys a long drive in a car packed with ski gear and noisy children? In our family, motion sickness makes long drives especially painful and gross.
Also consider the parking situation at your chosen resort. Hiking long distances through the snow is made harder with kids and gear. Consider arriving before the lifts open to get optimal parking or plan to delegate the parking to just one adult (after they drop everyone else off close to the lifts). Most resort parking lots have centrally located loading zones and 15-min parking spots for convenience.
Another great (if spendy) way to introduce kids to skiing, without daily transportation hassles, is by renting a condo for a night or two. With a cozy base close to the lifts, families can split up as needed. One parent can squeeze in a few advanced runs in the afternoon while everyone else heads to the condo to soak in the hot tub. The next day, the other parent can nab the first turns in the morning while the rest of the group is powering up on chocolate chip pancakes in the kitchenette.
Bundle up and staying motivated
Consider the temperature carefully before committing to a ski day since windy conditions or frigid temps make it challenging for beginners and children to have fun. In good conditions, still over-dress the kids and (unless it’s downright balmy) insist on inserting toe warmers into boots and hand warmers into mittens for everyone. These little gems will significantly extend your ski day. A couple mini-packs of gummy bears in a ski jacket pocket also go a long way in keeping spirits high. We dole them out as rewards for especially brave undertakings on the slopes or following especially cold lift rides. A little warmth and sugar goes a long way in keeping smiles on rosy faces.
Not just alpine
Consider the other types of skiing. Cross-country and backcountry skiing are also great for beginners, and these skills readily transfer to alpine skiing.
Your better-half is not a skier? Half-day lessons are great for beginner kids as well as beginner adults. If your partner is not a skier, do everyone a favor and don’t try to teach them yourself. Get them signed up for a group or private lesson. Everyone has more fun this way and will learn to ski much faster. The goal is to hit the slopes together before the season is over. Furthermore, skiing as a family is a whole lot easier when there are two adult skiers helping to manage the kids on the slopes.
Ski vests for young kids
Stay safe on the chairlifts. For all kids learning to ski, an equipment must-have is a Kinderlift vest. The vest allows you to safely load and unload from the chairlifts with your child. We have gotten by with just the three smallest sizes (XXS, XS and S) for teaching our three children to ski, but they all started to learn very young (at two years old). Buying a range of sizes is justified and worth the investment. Most ski schools require these vests for kids since they are essential for safety as well as convenience. You want the vest to fit over the child’s ski gear in a manner that is snug, yet comfortable. Using the handle on the vest, you need to be able to safely lift all the weight of your child without risking that they fall out. Until your child is completely self-sufficient, and riding the lifts safely without adult assistance, they should be wearing one of these vests.
Using the chairlifts
The lifts are one of the trickiest parts of skiing with young children. Start on the slow, beginner lifts that have safety bars. Teach them to hop on themselves, scoot all the way back and lower the bar every time. Empower your kids to jump off the lifts themselves at the right time (but always have a firm grip on their vest handle so they don’t get left behind). Even once they are competent, don’t let them ride alone without an adult. Lifts break down and you don’t want them stuck up there in the cold without an adult.
What to expect on the slopes
Watch out for other skiers and snowboarders. Teach your kids about blind spots and how to avoid getting run over. Show them how they become invisible to uphill skiers when they first dip down onto a slope. Teach them to never stop there. Explain how to wait for their group where they are safe—for example, near trees or signage, or on sections of flat terrain.
Night skiing and its advantages
Consider night skiing! This option is great for older kids. Benefits include fewer crowds, cheaper half-day tickets, and the exhilaration of being outside in the brisk night air. It is easy to loose track of one another in the dark, so have everyone wear some kind of light-up item on their helmet or snowsuit (we use light-up “pop tubes”). It increases safety and it turns the evening into a party!
Above all else, keep it fun and low pressure. Don’t expect progressive improvement or a certain number of runs. The goal is to have a positive experience as a family.