We have really enjoyed taking our kids on ski vacations over the years. We’ve visited Snowshoe, Deer Valley (2019, 2021, 2022), and Solitude Mountain. This year we are really excited about switching things up and going somewhere none of us have ever skied before, Jackson Hole, Wyoming! We spent some time there two summers ago and it was dreamy. I can’t wait to see it covered with snow.
We first introduced the kids to snow skiing when Hailey was 6 years old and Kaitlyn was 3 years old. Now that Hailey is 11 and Kaitlyn in 8, we’ve had enough trials, tribulations, and successes to share some tips if you are considering a ski vacation for your family. I’m no expert, just a mom that’s been through this circus of a family ski trip a few times. Still, I hope these are helpful. If you are a skiing family yourself, please share your best tips for taking kids on a ski trip in the comments!
Choosing a Location
First, some thoughts about choosing a location. How easy is it to get to? Will you fly or drive? Our first family adventure we drove and it worked out well because we had a lot to pack. Ski gear is bulky! We’ve been able to streamline our needs since then to efficiently pack in carry-ons.
When flying, it’s been helpful for us to consider the ages of the kids and the impact of the travel day. If we have a short ski trip and spend one whole day traveling, will the kids be able to get up and go (relatively happily) the next day? Or should we pick somewhere closer or easier to fly in and out of to minimize the impact of the travel day?
Charlotte has an easy 4 hour direct flight to Salt Lake City, for example, which really helped guide our choice during the younger years. Both Deer Valley and Solitude were easy to get to: a 4 hour direct flight, then a 30 minute car ride. Now that the kids are more seasoned travelers, we can handle a Colorado resort (most which are a flight plus a couple hours drive) or even some layovers if it means a unique destination (we’re coming for you, Jackson Hole).
Other questions to consider: does the mountain you’re considering have a lot of beginner terrain? Ski school? How close is your lodging to ski school and the slopes? You will be carrying your kids equipment and they will be trying to walk in ski gear and stiff boots, which will tire younger children out quickly. Proximity has a big impact! What about fun extras, like the hot tub? It’s always a kid favorite for us, so ensuring there is an option for end of the day relaxing has been a priority.
We’ve had success with condo rentals in the past. Having a kitchen for breakfast, space for the kids to spread out for sleep and play, and a living room area for David and I to sit and sip coffee in the morning before the kids get up has been nice. For our upcoming trip we shifted gears and are going to try a hotel stay for the sake of proximity to the mountain. I’ll be curious what we all think of this switch up.
It’s tempting to skip over this costly expenditure, but lessons are SO worth it. Ski school and private lessons make them safer skiers and makes skiing more fun; when you can do something well, you enjoy it more, right? Plus my kids won’t whine or complain in a group setting nearly as much as they would with us. Ski school focuses on making it a fun experience (games! hot chocolate! snacks!) and gives the adults the freedom to experience the mountain on their own. It feels like a full day date for David and me.
A lot of kids get super excited about the idea of ski school, but mine have historically been lukewarm at best about it. They prefer to be with us. Still, I think it’s worth it to force the issue if you can. The value a ski instructor provides is substantial!
What You Need to Know About Gear
If you’ve accumulated some ski gear, I highly recommend pulling it ALL out about a month before your trip for a giant try on session. See what has been outgrown or what went missing and go ahead and fill those gaps.
Being warm enough makes a huge difference, for adults, yes, but it really makes it or breaks the experience for kids. The key is layers. You want everyone to have a good pair of long underwear as a base layer, a not-too-bulky mid-layer, waterproof bibs, and a well insulated ski coat. I prefer bibs over ski pants for young kids because helps keep out the snow when they end up on their bum. I am a fan of the Obermeyer brand; the pieces have held up so well for us. Check used equipment sales and off-season sales for these items, too, because they’ll last.
Balacavas have been hit or miss for our crew; it makes a difference for warmth, certainly, but little loose hairs and the squeezing of her face drove Kaitlyn crazy. Still, something to consider as it helps keep warmth in and makes getting helmets on and off so much easier.
Warm fingers and toes are important, so wool blend socks and quality mittens (not gloves; and for young kids the longer wrist area mittens can be helpful so snow doesn’t sneak in) are the way to go. You can get the toe and fingers warmers, but I’ve found these to be hit or miss with kids. The warmth is nice, but sometimes the discomfort of “something in my boot” cancels out the benefit of having them.
Borrow what you can from friends. Kids grow so fast it’s nice to not have to buy new clothes each year. We’ve found it worth it to shop after-season sales for quality gear, especially when we know quality gear will be able to be passed down and used by both kids.
We rent our boots and skis. One thing to check before your trip is whether or not there is an equipment rental service that will come to you. We’ve rented from Skis on the Run a couple times in the Deer Valley/Park City area and having them to the fitting and delivery in our condo was SO convenient.
We rent our boots and skis, but one thing we’ve found worth it to purchase for ourselves are helmets and goggles. Comfortable helmets, that haven’t been on a lot of other heads, and clear goggles are not quickly outgrown and pack fairly easily (goggles and mittens inside the helmets, and helmets all go in a single suitcase with other gear like the long underwear, stuffed in around them.
Compression packing cubes will be super helpful, not only for fitting all the gear, but for keeping it organized. Each of us has a cube with our base layers, socks, and neck gator. It makes it easy to stay organized while packing and setting up for a day of skiing.
Attitude and Mindset
Let’s be brutally honest- a family ski trip is going to require some work. Snow skiing with kids is almost the exact opposite of a “sit on the beach and sip a drink” vacation. But don’t let that deter you. Like most things in life, experiences you have to work a little for are often the most rewarding. You will think about giving up before you even leave the condo, but stick it out. A few tips for the tough moments:
- Once kids are suited up, the faster you can get them outside, the better. In the condo it’s going to be a lot of complaining about itching, discomfort, and being too hot. Don’t fully suit them up until you’re ready to go outside where the snow can distract them.
- Leave for the slopes earlier than you think is necessary. Seriously, ski mornings are so chaotic. It’s going to take longer than you anticipate and you don’t want the stress of being late for a drop off to sour your day in the beginning.
- If you have it as an option, let kids walk to the slopes in regular snow boots, then change into their ski boots at the base of the mountain and store the snow boots in a locker.
- Embrace that they might not love skiing initially. Maybe they will! But if not, remember that learning a new skill can be challenging and frustrating. We’ve had days of melt downs from my kids about not wanting to suit up or go to ski school, but at the end of the day, everyone is happily exhausted and proud of their efforts. Just know you might have to force it at first or drop off a crying child. We’ve all been there!
- Pack snacks. Growing up we had a family tradition of everyone picking out a favorite candy bar and in the afternoon we’d find a snowbank with a view and sit to enjoy our treats.
- Hydrate! Before you even leave for the trip, start upping everyone’s water intake. Altitude sickness is real and hydration helps. We all drink electrolytes at least once a day (the kids split a pack). On the slopes, David usually wears a camelback and can squirt water into any thirsty mouth.
- Keep expectations low. Depending on age and weather, the amount of actual skiing you’ll do might vary drastically. On cold days with young kids, it might look like doing a run, going inside to warm up (not a quick process) and repeating. It can be painful knowing you paid for that expensive lift ticket and you’re spending an hour watching skiers go down the mountain from a picnic table, but adequate breaks will lead to happier kids, which will make it a more enjoyable experience for all.
Whew, that was a lot!
Fellow ski moms, what did I leave off? Any tips to add or questions to ask?