We’ve learned some tricks of the trade after taking the girls on four ski trips. Our first trip to Snowshoe, WV at ages 6 and 3 years old was a great first experience, and since then, our experiences at Deer Valley, Solitude Mountain, and Deer Valley again in 2021 have hammered home the importance of preparation in making a ski trip as enjoyable for possible for all involved. I hope these tips for taking kids skiing for the first time helps your prep!
Before jumping into my best tips, one thing to consider at the start is where you are planning to go skiing. All mountains and resorts are not created equally, and for beginners, it’s nice to consider a mountain that offers a lot of green runs so that even the newest skier in your group is able to see more of the mountain than just the couple runs near the base. Here are some of the best ski resorts in North America for beginners.
Now let’s dive into the details! My best 12 tips for taking kids skiing are:
- If you think you’ll go more than once, buy a helmet. Depending on which one you buy, it is the the same cost (or less!) as renting. There are some good options, like this child’s ski helmet, for good prices. It’s nice because then only one head is going into it, and you can pack it in the suitcase stuffed with mittens and goggles.
- Buy a kid-sized balaclava. It’s full head cover. It keeps them so much warmer, keeps girl hair out of their faces, and makes the helmet go on and off easily. If you have girls, French braid their hair into pigtails to make it fit more smoothly and to keep the baby hairs out of their face.
- On the morning of going skiing, lay out all their gear and have them put on their base layer (long underwear), then stop. We use a lighter, moisture-wicking base layer, but if it’s very cold, you might want to consider a fleece-lined option. Get yourself fully dressed, then dress them and get them outside as quickly as you can. If they stay inside the whining will be relentless, but outside they are distracted by snow too much to notice their itches.
- If possible, sign them up for ski school in the beginning. They not only teach the kids, but they usually have awesome instructors that make the experience a good one and creating a positive association with skiing helps so much when they are little (hot chocolate and a cool teenage girl?! Fun!). Book this ahead of time and show up early the first day. It often takes a little more time to figure out where to go and get them settled in the first day.
- If your ski place offers overnight storage of skis, take advantage! It’s easier for everyone when you don’t have to carry skis back and forth every day. On that same note, if you have a bit of a walk, it might be worth letting the kids wear their comfortable boots for the walk, and change into their ski boots at the base of the mountain. Some resorts offer boot storage and ski storage near the base of the mountain and it’s something to consider when skiing with very young children.
- Invest in quality mittens. Our girls prefer mittens because it keeps their fingers warmer, and these mittens that Kaitlyn have are the nicest and warmest pair we own. Cold hands make it a not fun time for everyone.
- The same goes for socks. Quality socks, like these from Smartwool, make a big difference. Fingers and toes are the most likely body parts to get cold and make kids miserable, so doing what you can to ensure they stay toasty makes a difference!
- Start without poles. Though some places offer them with kid ski packages, they are just one more thing to drop off a lift or have get in the way when they are learning. On our next trip Hailey will be 10 and we will get her poles to try, but she’s been fine without any up until this point.
- For ski bibs and coats, quality makes a difference. We bought Hailey a pair of Burton bibs in an after season sale and they’ve been great! Warm, protective, and comfortable. Kaitlyn has a hand me down Hanna Andersson set which is great for building a snowman, but noticeably not as warm or comfortable as the Burton bibs. Helly Hanson and Burton are two quality brands to consider, and they hold up well so they are great to hand down to younger siblings or cousins, or buy second hand.
- With young kids, it’s fun to bring games into the experience. Play I-spy on the chair lift and follow the leader on the runs (one parent leads, the other is caboose). The leader models good turns and the caboose follows up to pick up falls and give pushes on the flat parts.
- Always protect children’s eyes and skin with goggles and sunscreen. The cold can make you forget about the effects of the sun, but on a bright day, it reflects off the snow and can lead to nasty sunburns (just ask my brother, as this happened to him as a kid).
- Plan an early lunch. If you are going to eat on the mountain, many of the places require reservations now. We found that reserving an early time (10:45 AM/11:15 AM) worked best for our crew. It gives time to get in a few runs and then stop for a hot chocolate and a cup of chili before anyone gets too cold or hungry. Also, pack snacks! Especially if you take the early lunch slot. We found an early lunch paired with a fun snack in the afternoon was a winning combination. A chocolate chip granola bar eaten on the side of a slope can really raise everyone’s spirits in the afternoon. This is a carry over from my childhood where mom and dad would get us all a candy bar and we’d find the perfect trail side spot to stomp and chomp.
Most importantly, keep you expectations low. For the price, it’s tempting to want to push to ski for the whole day, but most young kids can’t make it a full day of skiing on their first trip or two, or at the least need frequent breaks.
These tips for taking kids skiing have helped us accomplish our goal of creating a positive association with skiing. Sure there is still some whining and complaining, but following these tips and obliging them by doing their favorite lifts and runs a few extra times, even if they aren’t our favorite, have created some really sweet family memories. Happy skiing!