Remember your first family ski vacation? Maybe it was sitting on the chairlift as you breathed in that cool, still air. Or the sound of all those boots crunching through the fresh powder. Maybe it was watching plumes of white rise as the skiers and snowboarders carved their way down the slopes or it could have been sipping hot chocolate next to a roaring fireplace in the lodge. Whatever it was, now that you’re a parent, it’s time to share those same experiences with your kids. To help make sure they love snow sports as much as you do, we’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts when going on a family ski vacation.
#1 Keep Them Warm We always take the Goldilocks approach when it comes to dressing for the slopes. We don’t want our teeth chattering because we’re too cold, but we don’t want to overheat either. Just like Goldilocks, we’re looking for that “just right” temperature. We get there with the layer approach, because you’ll need clothing that ensures breathability, warmth, and waterproofness. Here’s how: Base Layer: Meet the Wickers The base layer is the layer that’s closest to your skin, which means you want clothing made with wicking fibers. Wicking is a specially designed to wick moisture away from your body, keeping your inner body free from sweat chills while the mid and outer layers work at keeping you warm and dry. One of our personal favorites is Patagonia’s Capilene selection (you can find it here). There are tees, crews, and even bottoms (think long underwear) that are designed to dry fast and keep you warm. If it’s especially cold, you can combine the technology of Capilene pants with fleece pants. Mid Layer: Get Fleecy Weather matters when it comes to choosing the right fleece. Wearing a heavy fleece is a given on cold ski and snowboard days, but what should you wear when conditions are a bit warmer? There are lighter weight fleece options that provide critical separation between your outer and base layers to maximize breathability and warmth retention. We love the options that The North Face has to offer for both boys and girls. Outer Layer: Flex is Best Kids love blue jeans and so do we, but they’re a big no-no on the slopes. In fact it’s one of the worst materials for snow. Here’s why: They’re not waterproof. Most kids are going to fall. A lot. But with waterproof pants they’ll be able to brush off the snow and water drops. After all, nobody likes the feeling of soaking clothes clinging to your skin. And let’s not overlook the fact that keeping your kids warm and dry will keep them happy, which means the entire family can stay on the slopes all day instead of having to pack up early and head back to your cabin to warm up. They’re not flexible Remember that part about kids falling? As you know, when kids fall blue jeans have a tendency to rip across the knee. Ski and snowboarding pants are designed to be flexible, especially during falls. The Upper Outer Layer
Shell jackets, like this girls ski jacket, offer the best protection from both wind and moisture while also being flexible enough to handle the unavoidable tumbles everyone is likely to have once they hit the slopes. Always look for the components of a 3L jacket. Waterproof, windproof and highly breathable make up three layers you’d never want to be caught in the snow without. Fits Like a Glove One of the best ways for kids to stay comfortable on the mountain is to keep their hands warm and dry. There’s nothing worse than skiing and snowboarding with gloves that don’t perform the way they should. Cheap gloves tend to lack important features like synthetic insulation, breathability, and wicker lining. And that’s just the start. Rock Your Socks Most people think wearing multiple pairs of socks will keep your feet warm, but those people would actually be wrong. When you do that, your socks typically have less room to breathe, and cold air will be able to seep in between the layers causing your feet to get even colder. A pair of SmartWool socks is all you need for optimal moisture control, warmth, and odor protection. Stick the Landing Some of the most common ways kids suffer ski and snowboard injuries include crashing into other riders, repeated falling, and stumbling while getting off the lift. Sometimes all it takes to avoid a trip to the emergency room is simply wearing a solid pair of knee pads, wrist guards, and goggles.
#2 Don’t Make Last Minute Plans We’ve all felt anxious about the future. Maybe it was a first date, a job interview, or asking your boss for a raise. Those are huge life events, but if your child has never skied before there’s a good chance he might feel that same level of anxiety about sliding down the bunny slope. If he is anxious, talk to him about why he’s feeling that way and do your best to address his specific fears. Most often the primary concern is falling down and getting hurt. Why not sit down with him and watch these funny videos about falling on the slopes. You’ll both get a laugh and he’ll be more at ease when it’s his turn.
#3 Rent the First Time Around When it comes to equipment like kid’s skis, snowboards, helmets and boots, we suggest renting the first time around, especially on kid’s snowboards and skis. That way, if they hate it (even after all of your careful planning) you won’t be stuck with expensive equipment that sits in your garage collecting dust and cobwebs.
#4 Avoid the Lectures Ski classes are amazing. Not only do they let the instructor take on the stress of teaching kids the basics, they’re also a great way for kids to meet others their own age. They’ll also find some comfort knowing they aren’t alone as they watch their new friends struggle to stay upright as well. Then, once they’re comfortable enough to leave the bunny slope and ski with you, you can be a facilitator. When they get frustrated all you need to do is calmly ask questions like, “What did your ski instructor say to do?”
#5 Make Learning a Game It’s never a bad idea to test what your kid has learned. It’s relatively easy with games like pizza/French-fries and red light/green light, which can be fun for the entire family.
#6 Keep Track of the Pack You’ve seen stressed parents running around a mall or grocery store asking people if they’ve seen a lost child. Now imagine a scenario where those same people are flying down the slope on skis instead of meandering through a store. A great way to get your kid’s attention on the mountain is to bring a birdcall or whistle. And not only will they be more apt to hear you, other skiers will hear you too, and there’s a good chance that they’ll try to get out of your way while you gather the pack back together. Even though this one is an oldie, it’s still a goodie. If you have a big group why not enlist the buddy system? Pairing an adult with a kid is a great way to keep you both at ease. You’ll know where your child is and she’ll feel safer knowing that you’re around. For the older kids, it’s always a good idea to ask them where they plan on going before they actually head out. That way they’ll have the freedom to roam the resort within the boundaries you created, and you’ll feel at ease knowing (generally) where they are and when you’ll see them again.
#7 End the Day with a Treat There’s nothing like a cup of steaming hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows or whipped cream after a long day of riding. So treat the kids (and yourself) and reminisce about the day. And don’t forget to share all the selfies and videos that everyone took. Which reminds us, if you have one, be sure to bring a GoPro® with a chest harness. The video you get will be worth it!
#8 Have Fun! Taking the kids to a ski resort can be stressful, but the memories are going to be well worth it as long as you remember to enjoy yourselves. We also collected some of our gear recommendations below. And as always, you can find a full list of snow sports gear on our website here. Base Layer: Patagonia’s Capilene Selection Mid Layer: The North Face Fleeces Outer Layer (pants): Norröna Lofoten GORE-TEX Pants Outer Layer (jacket): Norröna Falketind GORE-TEX Shell Jacket Gloves: Burton, Outdoor Research and More Socks: SmartWool Socks Goggles: Oakley Crowbar Snow Goggles Knee Pads: Burton Basic Knee Pad Wrist Guards: Burton Wrist Guards Stay safe, have fun and happy riding!