By Pam Moore
The idea of skiing with your kids may feel daunting. But as the parents I interviewed for this piece agreed, it’s worth it. With a lot of planning (and maybe a little bribery) it’s totally do-able. Here are some things to consider before hitting the slopes.
1. WHEN TO START
Parents agreed, 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.”
You may be wondering if your child is ready. If that’s the case, Nate Chesley, a former Alta, Utah ski instructor and dad, recommends asking the following question. 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, 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.
2. MANAGE 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.”
High expectations lead to disappointment. 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.” A Washington dad lets his kids choose whether to ski after their morning lesson, in order to avoid meltdowns and to keep it fun.
From scheduling to packing your bag, planning saves stress, time, and money. Being organized means avoiding paying resort prices for a forgotten mitten. 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.
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. Remember, kids pick up on your anxiety. If you’re stressed about running late, they will be, too.
4. THE ELEMENTS
Layers are key to staying warm. While kids’ bodies generally heat up faster than ours do, kids are more likely to complain about being too cold than too warm. If you can’t justify the cost of quality items your kid will wear for one season, try borrowing items.
Must haves include, long underwear, ski socks, warm sweater or fleece jacket, warm pants, snow pants, ski jacket, neck gaiter, mittens, goggles and of course a Ski helmet which will double 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 (exception: Twizzlers). You could also pack something to munch in the car, like a breakfast burrito or a sandwich.
Encourage your child to drink, starting the day before. Hydration is particularly important at altitude. Don’t force them 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.”
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.
8. FUN FACTOR
Parents and professionals agreed, for kids to enjoy skiing, it must be fun. Strategies parents offered for upping the fun factor included:
- Skiing with other families so kids can ski with friends (Plus they’re less likely to whine around peers.)
- 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 is not cheap. As with any family activity, there are no guarantees against tantrums, whining, or 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 one step ahead of the game.