Top 10 Tips for Skiing With Kids

Julia Schneemann | | BrainsBrains
Kids skiing
Family skiing—the ultimate goal when you ski and have kids—but how to get there without the tears and tantrums? picture: Julia Schneemann

Skiing with kids can be the most rewarding yet also the most frustrating thing you have ever done. Here are our top tips to maximize the fun:

1) Choosing a Resort:

Choose your resort very carefully. Avoid long walks with gear or long car trips fully dressed to the lift. Maybe pick a smaller resort with good lift access over a big resort with long distances, long queues, and overcrowded gondolas. Standing in an overcrowded gondola with a toddler who is at the height of everyone’s backside, can’t see, and starts to overheat is not the best way to start the day. Do not worry about t-bars or Pomas. Kids are incredibly good at mastering these as they have a much better balance than adults and tend to just go with the flow.

Lift queue
Long lift queues can be trying for little kids, picture: Julia Schneemann

2) Choice of Hotel or Apartment:

With little kids having an apartment can be a lot easier than a hotel with smaller rooms and a lack of cooking facilities. ‘Pre-child-you’ probably loved a 5-star spa hotel with a Michelin star restaurant. ‘Parent-you’ however has to deal with ‘cactus hour’ and a child that is not waiting patiently for the 7 pm 4-course dinner. That does not mean you have to forsake all creature comforts. Some hotels offer apartments, like the Solaris Residences at Vail or the Mont Cervin in Zermatt. Definitely opt for the kids club if your hotel has one and your kid is happy to go. It is supposed to be a holiday, after all, so make the most of the infrastructure.

Mont Cervin
Family Apartment at the Mont Cervin in Zermatt, cooking facilities are invaluable with little kids, picture: Mont Cervin Website

3) Clothes:

While it might be tempting not to splurge on expensive clothes for someone who will probably have grown out of their ski clothes by the next season, it pays to get high-quality items. Kids get cold very quickly and that ends all the skiing fun very quickly. If you can borrow from friends or family or get hand-me-downs, explore what you can get together that way. If you have several kids and can utilize economy of scales by passing clothes down to younger siblings, buy easily washable items of good quality and they will last across several siblings.

Kid skiing
Keep them warm, keep them happy, picture: Julia Schneemann

4) Ski gear:

Whether you rent or buy is up to personal preference and the amount of skiing you are planning on doing. Any retail or rental outlet will have an expert boot fitter and the appropriately sized skis en masse. Avoid borrowing boots or buying boots online that you have not tried on before. Ill-fitting boots will ruin anyone’s ski experience. The same applies for kids. Don’t worry about poles on your first or even your second ski trip. No beginner skier needs poles. Especially not little kids for whom it is just more stuff to worry about when they are adjusting to maneuvering around in skis on snow. Kids are often magically drawn to them but they are of no use when learning to ski and often mean just more stuff to carry around and more stuff to lose.

Toddler skiing
Learning to ski requires no poles. Poles often cause an upright position in beginner skiers, go without instead, picture: Julia Schneemann

5) Pay for ski lessons:

It might be tempting to skimp on the instruction but this is definitely money well spent. If you have a little kid and your budget allows, go with a private instructor for an hour or two. They will be pooped after two hours and they will learn so much more in those two hours than a week in a group lesson where the instructors struggle to keep all their proverbial ducks in a row. Private lessons will give you the steepest learning curve but can of course be expensive. Group lessons are a good option but depending on the resort might be restrictive and some ski schools only offer full-day options and no part-time. Many little kids find the full day overwhelming. In this case, shorter bouts are going to yield much more enjoyment and progress in the long term. It’s not the quantity but the quality that counts.

Ski lessons
A private ski instructor can make a big impact in just an hour or two, picture: Julia Schneemann

6) Teach them how to use a surface lift:

There are a lot of adult skiers who do not like t-bars. Being able to use a Poma or t-bar gives them their first step of independence as a growing skier since they can manage them on their own. Surface lifts are safer than chair lifts for little kids. Plus the ability to use surface lifts opens up any resort in the world to them in their skiing future.

The sense of achievement when they master their first t-bar in itself is priceless, but even better, it gives them independence on the mountain. Picture: Julia Schneemann

7) Keep them safe:

Teach them mountain etiquette early. Kids are notorious for not looking left or right so in order to keep them as safe as possible, teach them to slow down and look at intersections, to not start off without looking up first, and to yield to those below them (though typically that is not a big issue when learning). Kids are easily distracted and will make unpredictable moves, so minimize their risk of injury by helping them stay safe. It is never too early and little kids respond well to rules.

Kids skiing
Family skiing, picture: Julia Schneemann

8) Breaks:

I know you probably want to maximize your time out on the mountain skiing, but kids get hungry often, as they have a higher calorific burn rate than adults and get colder on the snow, so take breaks often to keep everyone smiling. A little bit of chocolate in their pocket will give a much-needed energy boost while on a lift. Your ski holidays as a family will initially look very different from your ski trips with your mates. So let them have their cocoa break if they need one. Tired skiers have accidents and that is the last thing you want to happen.

Kid snow
Time for a break, little kids get tired quickly and need more frequent breaks, picture: Julia Schneemann

9) Muscle memory:

Little kids have the habit of seemingly forgetting everything they learned the previous season. Don’t freak out. While they may struggle the first day back on the slopes after a year, it comes back quicker than you think.

Kids group
It may seem like they forgot everything, but it comes back quickly, picture: Julia Schneemann

10) Keep it fun:

Odds are, if you’re a SnowBrains reader, you’re a keen skier and you want your child to love skiing. If you want your child to love skiing, you have to keep it fun. Remember, all kids are different. Some learn quicker than others, some are tired or hungry quicker. Some get cold easily, others could be out in the snow for hours. There is not one size fits all solution. Be patient. If your first ski trip ends with a child in tears, it may have simply been too soon for them. Don’t push it. Just try again next season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Keep it fun and foster a lifelong love for the snow, picture: Julia Schneemann

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One thought on “Top 10 Tips for Skiing With Kids

  1. Emphasize 1, 5, 8, &10.
    1&5: After you choose your resort, make an effort to get in early season days when the slopes are the least crowded. Our kids did the kid program at Sierra at Tahoe…drop them off before lift opening, pick them up at the end of the day. Other resorts have you wait in line for gear fittings and rentals and then you go in the regular queue to get to the meeting spot for a 10:00 start with bored kids. Also, an SAT-style program has the kids constantly getting resorted based o the kid’s interest, desire, and ability. Some kids want another run, no problem; some kids want a hot chocolate, no problem.

    8: Plan on taking a lot of quick trips to interior spaces. I notice that most young kids cry or complain that they “can’t do this” starting around lunch time. A late lunch is great for adults trying to avoid crowds, but kids need breaks and refueling, pee breaks, or just a break from repetition.

    10: Beside the breaks, look for the kid places at kid-friendly resorts. You will find that some resorts have kid zones with kid-sized banked turns, semi-hidden setups to find like statues, a cave the growls when you ski by, or other things of interest that let kids have fun with anticipating skiing to a location or showing the locations to their parents after they learn about them in ski school.

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