So you’re taking the kids to the snow… maybe it’s your first time, or maybe you’ve done it before! Either way, it’s always good to go prepared and here are some tips to help you plan for a happy family ski trip.
Tip 1 – the weather app is your friend.
It’s always wise to check the weather in the week leading up to your adventure. Different conditions will impact on what you need to pack, how you will get there and what expectations need to be set for the skiing conditions.
If it’s blowing a blizzard the day you arrive (or the days before you return home) you might want to leave your car at the bottom of the mountain and catch the bus up (note, some bus fares = less than the on mountain access for your car during peak season, especially if you’re there for more than 3 days, even with 4 passengers).
I can say from personal experience – it’s not fun pulling over half way up the mountain to put on your chains in heavy rain/snow. It’s also not fun having to dig your car out from 60cm of fresh snow (and get chains onto it) when you’re getting ready to leave for home and everyone is a bit tired and the light is fading.
Weather also impacts on your gear choices. When you’re away for a few days in a row and the weather looks like a mixed bag then you will need everything from the thermals and water proofing spray through to 50+ sunscreen and sunglasses.
Tip 2 – snacks/food.
Even if your lodge fully caters your main meals: you will still need snacks. We are lucky as our lodge Trackers at Falls Creek has amazing meals (I shared some pictures in my blog post here).
I always carry a few treats on my person for while we are out on the slopes – but also back in our room we have a stash of crackers and fruit for when we first get back from skiing and it’s not quite time for dinner. Some days out on the slopes it can be exhausting just getting in and out of your gear, out of the lodge and up and down the mountain a few times – so pre-empt the hangries with muesli bars and chocolate (on snow tantrums are long remembered by mortified parents, I am still recovering from the 2014 big meltdown; Prue if you’re reading this I am sure you haven’t forgotten either).
If your lodge is self-catered, and you’ve not been there before, try to find out what things they already supply as staples in the pantry so you can just bring the bare minimum. Whilst moving luggage from your car to the lodge can be a pain (so you don’t want to over pack) purchasing items from the on mountain shop is both expensive and limited – so preparation is key.
Tip 3 – have spares.
If you love to ski rain hail or shine then I highly recommend spare clothes for the rain (or snow) conditions; there is nothing nicer than changing out of wet gear at lunchtime into dry gear for the next round! The drying room will be your best friend during these conditions – and be careful to position your gear away from spots where people might come in after you and hang up their ice-laden boots that will then melt onto your hat and gloves. 🙁
Also if you are away for more than a couple of days you might want to look at investing in extra thermals (or borrowing them) so that you can do some hand washing and have them on rotation (same with socks).
Tip 4 – the strategic location of hire shop (or lockers).
If you are hiring your skis and boots on the mountain you might want to consider where the ski hire is located for the easiest access for you. If you’re staying overnight on the mountain some hire services might even deliver your gear to your lodge if you are lucky – some hire places also offer over night storage (which can come in handy if your lodge is a bit of a walk when snow levels are low – take it from me, walking in ski boots any further than 10m is a pain in the shin and add that to carrying your skis, two sets of kids skis and keeping the morale going of two small tired skiers in ski boots = unpleasant).
If you’re just on the mountain for the day make sure you already know where the lockers are so you can dump excess gear, snacks, shoes etc.
Tip 5 – emergency briefing.
So do the kids know your mobile number off by heart? If not make sure you write it on their arm and/or inside their ski jacket. Is there an agreed meeting spot that everyone knows to go to if they get lost? Are there any rules about skiing in pairs, going on chair lifts alone, skiing ahead, keeping on paths, who to turn to for help if they can’t find mum? As your kids get older and more independent you might want to think about equipping them with a mobile phone or walkie talkies so they can have turns doing a few runs solo (note battery life is much shorter in the cold).
To date we’ve been skiing mostly at Mt Baw Baw which is small and the biggest solo action from the kids was me waiting at the bottom of the run while they had two turns going up and down on their own (together) – I could see 70% of the run and they had to wave each time they came down, so that worked well for us… but now they are older, more adventurous and we are headed to a bigger mountain (Falls Creek) I am thinking we might charge the walkie talkies up!
Tip 6 – pre-purchase.
Lots of things are cheaper when you buy them online in advance. For example your mountain pass for the car (if you’re driving), your lift tickets, your ski hire, your lessons – best to check the mountain’s website for details on these points and then book in advance where you can. Also, some ski hire places offer discounts to some lodges, so check with your lodge in advance if they have a relationship with a hire place before you book.
Tip 7 – lessons, lessons and more lessons!
Okay you are NEVER too old to have lessons. Even if you skied before, if it was a while ago then finding your ski legs can be daunting – many mountains offer free or discounted adult lessons with the tickets. Check for special deals when you’re booking your tickets.
If your kids aren’t fans of ski school (like mine, we persisted for the first two trips) it might be a sanity saver to just book a shorter private lesson for the kids – I found a two-hour lesson for the kids much more effective than a day in ski school (I should point out that everyone I know whose kids have ever skied rave about how much their kids love ski school, so I am not sure what that says about us!).
Tip 8 – expectations.
If this is your first time taking the kids to the snow I don’t want to burst your bubble, but they are probably not going to want to ski from 8.30am – 5pm. Depending on their age, enthusiasm and the weather conditions expect that your snow time will be seriously curtailed (if you are a skier who expects to ski from 8.30am – 5pm then either bring a nanny or have a very obliging partner!).
Younger kids will find the gear heavy and hard to walk in. You will most like become a sherper of all their gear. Especially if there is a walk from the lodge to the slopes (and what might work for ski in and out for a confident skier might not work for the beginner). Sometimes divide and concur is the best way to get the most out of your day in those early days – if you’re lucky enough to be one of two parents sharing the trip then taking turns to do the drop offs and pick ups from ski school means everyone gets a few solid hours in before the kids finish for the day.
While I took the kids when they were little – in hindsight, for me, the ideal age is 7+ as they are physically able to carry their skis for short distances and they seem to pick up all the basic skills after a couple of lessons. At 7 years of age – when it’s fair weather, they’ve got their ski legs and they are feeling enthusiastic you can ski nearly all day.
Tip 9 – comfort.
I had these amazing ski boots once. They were racing boots – the best things on the market, latest technology, paid for with precious dollars during my ski trip of a lifetime to Canada – the bees knees in ski boots.
I told the man in the shop they hurt, he said that’s because they were racing boots and needed to be broken in. I spent two weeks in them… 14 days skiing all day. Those f*&#ing boots never stopped hurting – in fact they got worse, not better, and they were so stiff it sometimes took three of us to get me into them (and I would cry a little on the inside as I jammed myself into them). But I owned them and so I wore them for the next six or so years hoping one day they would be broken in. It never happened.
My shins and ankles still remember those boots and their torturous vice like grip digging into me. One day I was with a friend who was hiring skis and I moaned to no one in particular about my hellish boots – the guy behind the counter invited me to try out a pair of hire boots. Oh boy, those hire boots were like cloud 9… they might have been a bit skanky (and we wont dwell on other people’s sweaty feet) but I have never looked back. I was never destined to be pro ski racer (ha!) and I can tell you hire boots are the bomb – and you know why, because if you don’t like them you can take them back and ask for a different pair.
Now imagine my racing boots from hell on a kid. I am not even sure we would make it to the chairlift before everything would go pear-shaped. Moral of this story is: before you go anywhere make sure the kids are comfortable. And that goes not just for the boots but for the clothes, the helmet, the goggles etc…
Weather is also a big factor – it’s easy to be too hot and too cold very quickly. It’s not unusual to be boiling hot one moment and frozen stiff 10 minutes later (if there are a few of you skiing together it might be worth taking a small back pack to store extra layers). Good quality thermals and lots of layers help you cope with all extremes… and comfortable boots are a must.
Finally – before you layer up and get out the door, get everyone to go to the toilet!
So do you have some tips to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!