Sharing my love of skiing with my kids might be the most joyful experience I have ever had. In this blog, I am going to share 5 tips that might help make your family ski experience more enjoyable.
A day on the slopes with children can be incredibly fun and rewarding. The thrill of skiing fast, making it down a new run, or learning a new trick are all examples of how the mountains build confidence and help create memories. Witnessing this progression on skis is an incredible experience as a dad. Every skiing family also knows that these memorable experiences are sometimes met with challenges that come with the territory. Between the added bulk of winter layers, the plastic boots, tired kids, cold toes, or changing weather, it’s important to be prepared, anticipate and manage these situations.
TIP 1: BUILD EXCITEMENT
For newer and younger skiers it is important to build excitement. This is best done beforehand and can be done in a variety of ways. Sharing memories, telling skiing stories, or even watching ski videos before going to the slopes is a great way to frame alpine skiing in a positive light. As a dad, I am a big fan of being aware of how my energy affects my kids. Children can sense how we are feeling more easily than we realize and creating genuine excitement around skiing goes a long way.
TIP 2: KEEP IT FUN
Be goofy, sing songs, and fall. These are some of the things I did to hook our children in and have them want to ski again and again. Skiing isn’t the priority. The experience of going skiing is what matters. I always focused on making sure the positive memory bank far outweighed any negative experiences. It’s easy to have high expectations and want our children to learn how to stop or turn right away. But I have witnessed far too often what happens when the emphasis is put on technical skills instead of having fun. I believe this is true for all sports. If your kids want to keep coming back to the mountain their skiing skills will naturally progress to the next level.
TIP 3: ANTICIPATE AND TAKE BREAKS
This is related to keeping it fun. As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure our children’s basic needs are being met. Whether someone is just learning how to ski or is starting to put in longer days it is important to pay attention to their need for rest. I have been able to notice that when our kids are fresh and well-rested they are more tolerant and resilient to the elements or when they fall. If they don’t get a good night's sleep or have been on the slopes going hard, I make a point to have a shorter day or to have a solid rest. Enjoying a hot chocolate break at the lodge or heading back to the hotel/chalet for a long lunch are two great ways to reset. Also, don’t be afraid to put in shorter days especially when skiing for consecutive days.
TIP 4: CHOOSE THE RIGHT TERRAIN
Terrain, terrain, terrain. I think this is the most important decision that determines the level of enjoyment anyone will have when skiing. For beginners, finding a gentle slope with a transition to flat terrain is key. This is how I made sure my kids couldn’t get going too fast and get out of control. Once they progressed to linking turns we would remain on beginner slopes for a while. Repeating gentle runs helps build confidence and increases the amount of time on skis. As a ski instructor friend says, “It’s all about maximum speed on minimum terrain.”
As much as I love skiing a steep line and finding some small cliffs to drop, when I am skiing with my family it’s all about skiing together. If our oldest kids aren’t challenged on the gentler terrain that our youngest needs to ski, I will often go find jumps on the edges of those runs and even practice skiing switch (backwards). It’s common for us to ski together for part of the day and then separate so that our 6 and 8 year old can ski faster on blue or black terrain.
TIP 5: BE PREPARED BY GETTING PROPER GEAR
It’s important to go skiing with the right clothing, gear, and ski equipment to be comfortable and perform. We start with non-cotton base layers and proper wool ski socks. Unless it’s springtime, we always add an insulating mid-layer (a fleece or micro-puffy) for the kids. Quality snow pants and insulated ski jackets will last longer (hand me downs for the next kid) and provide more warmth.
A good goggle is important or having a helmet/visor combo can make it easier to open and close without taking off gloves. We are a big fan of mittens over gloves as having the fingers together is warmer.
Our boys love that their skis are twin-tipped. Their eyes lit up when they saw them in the Olympics on TV as August (8) was rocking the junior version of the Head Oblivion Ski that some Olympians were also skiing on! We don’t mind a bit of extra room in the kid's boots for toe warmers, but not too much.
Don’t forget to have some pocket snacks and consider bringing some activities to do in the lodge like colouring books or games. This helps improve the overall experience.
I recommend getting out as a family as much as you can. Our kids are only little once and for some reason skiing memories seem to stick around and last a lifetime. Remember to build excitement, keep it fun, take breaks, choose the right terrain and be prepared with the right equipment and gear.