Ready to embark on the adventure of family skiing?
Wondering how to get started? Here is a helpful checklist to cut through the confusion, make the process easier and up your odds for success for a safe and fun day on the mountain.
Sign Up For Lessons
Even if you are an experienced skier or snowboarder, start your child off right (and save your sanity) by signing up for at least one lesson.
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in the U.S. This means deals, galore.
Look for “never ever” packages including rental equipment, lift tickets and instruction. These packages offer big savings and are the easiest way to get started. Some of these packages offer just one lesson. Others offer a series of lessons.
Pro Tip: Three is the magic number. By the end of three lessons, beginner skills are anchored and most children are ready to explore more of the mountain.
Gather the Gear
Skiing takes a lot of stuff. Because winter weather is variable, it’s better to be prepared with too many layers that not enough.
But you don’t need to buy everything new or purchase the most expensive brands. You may even have many of these items at home already or have friends with children from whom you can borrow some of them.
Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need for you child. (For an expanded list and specific suggestions please visit Braveskimom.com.)
Wool socks. We recommend two pairs – one to wear and one to change into if little feet get wet.
Wool or polypropylene long base layers. Also known as long underwear, your child’s PJs are not a suitable substitute, especially if they are made of cotton.
A fleece or wool pull over or full-zip jacket. This midlayer top adds extra warmth on cold days. On warm days, this layer may double as your child’s jacket.
Waterproof, insulated ski pants and ski jacket. Choose warmth and waterproofing over style. Look for sales online and in local ski shops. Lightly used hand-me-downs of good quality are totally acceptable (and smart!).
Mittens. Mittens are warmer than gloves and easier to put on. Waterproof materials and good insulation are key.
Helmet. If your child doesn’t own a helmet, rent one at the ski school. Helmets for children are mandatory at most ski areas and they’re a good idea for adults, too.
Goggles. Goggles are necessary for eye protection and visibility. The top of the goggles should fit snuggly against the brim of the helmet.
Other necessities and handy items. Sunscreen. Lip balm. A neck gaiter, balaclava or facemask. Mitten liners. Disposable hand warmers. Snacks. Snow boots.
Pro Tip: If more than one person in your family skis, save your sanity by packing everyone’s gear in individual bags. The night before you go skiing, put the clothing your child will wear in their bedroom. Put everything else in the bag. Do the same for all members of the family. In the morning, just get dressed, grab the bags and go.
After skiing, clean items as necessary and repack the bags so they are always at the ready.
Ski and Boots: We recommended renting skis and boots for beginners (beginners don’t use poles). This ensures the fit and sizing are correct and that the gear is tuned and adjusted properly for your child.
Pro Tip: If your child will be skiing more than three times, ask the rental shop about long-term or season rentals.
At the Ski Area
Know where you are going: Some resorts have separate ski school facilities for adults and children.
Rentals: The rental process takes a bit of time. Make sure your child has on her ski socks, base layers and ski pants, but don’t put on everything else. Overheating while trying on boots and skis is uncomfortable.
Pro Tip: Putting on ski boots and outerwear is much easier indoors. If your child’s lesson includes rentals, she’ll put ski boots on in the lodge or at the ski school.
Otherwise, get dressed and put on your boots in a lodge. Look for lockers or bins where you can store bags and extra items.
If no lodge is available, bring a folding chair or waterproof picnic blanket. This will make booting up in the parking lot much easier.
Lift tickets and passes:
Pro Tip: Never pay full price for a lift ticket. Same day lift ticket purchases are often more expensive at the resort. Plan ahead and purchase tickets from Liftopia.com. If your children are in grade school, find out if your state offers a “ski free” pass for kids of certain ages.
The only reason to go skiing or snowboarding is to have fun. Whenever you ski with your child, keep the focus on fun. Avoid the temptation to push your child beyond her ability or to try to teach skills for which he isn’t ready.
Pro Tip: Ask your child’s instructor where you should ski with your child and what skills you can reasonably expect your child to know. If you’re interested in helping your child progress, ask the instructor for specific “next steps.”
Let your child choose where you’ll ski together and let her set the pace. When your child is ready to go in for a drink of water, to warm up or whatever, follow his lead.
Pro Tip: Relish this time with your child. While it can be frustrating to spend time on the bunny hill when your friends are scoring face shots, skiing with a beginner child is a gift.
Soon enough, your child will be stronger and faster than you (at least that’s the goal!).
Use these early days to set a good foundation for future family fun.
Eat and Drink
Staying well fed and hydrated is important when you exercise in the cold. A full tummy and lots of liquids will keep you and your child warm, as well as help you both ski your best.
Eat a nutritious breakfast before you ski and drink plenty of water. Take at least one morning break to drink water and take another break in the afternoon (in addition to a lunch break).
Bring snacks. M & Ms are a perennial favorite, but if you don’t want to over-do the sugar, try nuts, cheese, crackers with peanut butter, or any other combination of protein and carbs that your child likes and will easily fit in your pocket.
Pro Tip: Bring your lunch. Some ski areas have brown bag areas or picnic tables. Bringing your lunch will save a bundle and give you more money to spend on future lessons and lift tickets.
The Next Steps
While these tips are geared toward families with beginner children, most of them apply to skiers and snowboarders of all abilities and ages.
After your child has taken lessons and is skiing independently with you, the next steps are to keep having fun, to spend as many days skiing as you can, and to enjoy this lifelong sport together.
Skiing and snowboarding are among the best multi-generational sports. They are truly enjoyable for all ages.