Learning to ski as a kid would have been a godsend, I didn't learn until I was about 17 and I still go beet red when I recall the exquisite torture of snow ploughing (backwards no less) into a group of good looking lads whilst my friends, (who had promised to teach me with sensitivity and care), doubled over with laughter... Ah embarrassments aside, learning while you still have a low centre of gravity is the way to go and teaching your kids opens up for them a sport that few can rival for a sense of freedom and the sheer awesomeness of nature.
Here's our top 10 tips and tricks for taking littles ones skiing and making sure the entire family have a fantastic time.
1. Location & Logistics
Spend some time with the map identifying the best areas and lifts to head for with the kids. You'll be carrying not only your own gear, but theirs too and little ones can quickly tire if there is too much trekking to get from A to B. If you aren't blessed with ski-in-out accommodation, check for shuttles.
2. Stress Free Lifts......
Chairlifts can be tricky to negotiate with young kids. so look for runs that will minimise on loading and unloading. Aim for areas close to the bottom of the mountain - or easily accessed that have family friendly ski zones or wide green runs with plenty of kid friendly lift options like rope rows, button lifts and carpet tows. Check out Kids on Lifts for more on how to keep little ones safe on chair lifts.
3. Off Piste Entertainment
Young kids just learning to ski will get tired quickly and need to take regular breaks. We've found about 2-3 hours on the mountain is about the limit. So find out ahead of time what other activities are on offer and schedule in some off-mountain time in the afternoons.
4. Hunger / Tired signs
To minimise the chances of any mid mountain meltdowns (or worse on lifts) keep a close eye on little ones for early signs of hunger and tiredness, and allow for the extra time it takes to get them down off the mountain and wrangle with gear etc
5. Pack Lots (and lots) of Snacks
Think high energy and easy to unwrap, hold and eat without removing gloves. Dried fruit bars & small chocolate minis are both good choices, packets of tiny things less so. A thermos of hot chocolate is also a good call for a quick warm boost whenever it is needed - without having to get to a cafe and queue.
6. Insist EVERYONE Goes For a 'Wee' Before Going Out!
Seems like an obvious one, but especially with very little ones, it makes getting out onto the runs a whole lot smoother if you don't have to stop and deal with that once all togged up.
7. Get Their Gear Right
This is really important as being safe and comfortable ensures enjoyment like nothing else. Layering is they key to keeping them warm and comfy on and off piste. Dress little ones in a good quality next-to-skin thermal base layer that breathes, an insulating mid layer i.e fleece and a protective outer shell. A Salopettes/Jacket outer combo is much easier to wrangle with at toilet time than All-In-One styles. Gear like Skis, Poles, Helmets and Outerwear is easily hired & worth considering if little ones are still learning, just in case skiing isn't their cup of tea. Check before you go as often there are discounts for pre-booking your gear hire.
What to invest in....
- Helmets (an essential - hire one if you don't go often)
- Good Gloves. A top tip is to tie kids gloves together with a long bit of elastic and thread that through under their jacket. You know that lone dropped glove you always see from the chairlift? that's going to have come from a kid whose parents didn't do that!
- Choose Wool - Anything that goes right next to the skin is worth investing in. Superlove merino wool base layers are 240gsm and double knitted so ideally weighted for mountain conditions. They nail the brief as a superwarm thermal base layer outdoors, then double as breathable, comfortable loungewear or nightwear indoors that won't leave them feeling clammy and sweaty. Best of all merino base layers are naturally antibacterial so can be worn for days on end without getting stinky. Something that cannot be said for synthetics.
- Socks are another area where choosing merino wool really is well worth the investment. We swear by Smartwool merino socks for kids, they are the best we've ever found.
- Goggles - They stay put and give perfect coverage making them a much easier and more comfortable option for little ones than sunglasses.
- A neck gaiter / buff is a good idea as well. Find ones made from merino wool as merino generates extra heat in cold / wet conditions so these make ideal coverings for face and neck if the wind picks up whilst on lifts.
- Really good Sunblock. We opt for the physical barrier kind with zinc as these formulations are safer much chemically and tend to really stay put. The Badger 'all sport' stick is the fave in this house and super convenient for top ups.
8. Ski School - Highly Recommend It
For little ones 3 and over (or sometimes 2) Ski School lessons are, in our opinion, well worth the investment. Even if you are a skilled skier or boarder with the patience of a saint, the pros know just how to get little ones up & going in the quickest amount of time and are well versed in safety for little kamikazes.
The added bonus here is you get a chance to go and have some time skiing at your own pace, which is much harder to do otherwise. It's a holiday for everyone after all.
9. Team Up
Try to go with family and / or friends with kids so you can take turns looking after the kids vs getting out on the hill. Often little ones will only do half a day, so this is a good way to get in some extra adult ski time here and there.
10. Check Your Paperwork
Have a good look at the product disclosure section on your travel insurance policy to make sure you are all covered for Skiing. If your policy excludes it by default (many do) then call them and and arrange an add on before you go. Don't forget to take your EHIC card too and get one for the kids if you haven't already.