Whether you’re a veteran ski mom or fresh faced bunny sloper, planning the family ski vacation is never effortless. Also, there’s no such thing as the perfect ski vacation, just knowing that should take off a little pressure. Where to go? How to get there? What to pack? Ski school, no ski school? Mittens or gloves?
TravelingMom has done some of the legwork for you and asked veteran skiers and renowned family travel experts for their best advice – just for you – because we love you.
Location, Location, Location
Not just in real estate is this maxim true, Mara Gorman, Founder of Mother of All Trips tells you to think about the Three A’s: Access, activities, and atmosphere.
Resorts with slope side accommodations mean less schlepping of your own and your kids' gear and more fun skiing.
Family activities other than skiing (like snow tubing, ice skating, face painting, or even giant indoor play areas full of inflatable slides) will keep children entertained when they get tired of the slopes.
And you want an atmosphere that's fun, but appropriate for kids who aren't yet in college. Two of Mara’s favorite ski areas that meet all of these criteria are Smuggler's Notch in Vermont and Keystone Resort in Colorado.
Make your List and Check it Twice
Pack WELL in advance of your departure.
Print out a packing list and use it. Get your must have items locally, you can buy a box of hand warmers from Costco for what a pair will set you back in the mountain gift shop.
Just Say Yes to Ski School
Don’t try to teach your kids to ski, even if you are a former Olympian. Debra Abrams Kaplan believes in ski school (and so does Traveling Mom)
For families with kids new to skiing, I think it's a good idea to put the kids in lessons. Some parents might be good teachers, but I think most kids will learn better from someone else, and then you can spend time with the kids later, without telling them what to do the whole time. Make sure your kids are properly dressed in layers, so they'll be comfortable on the slopes. We learned a lesson by not getting our son goggles when he skied. His face was cold and the goggles made a huge difference in keeping him warm. Also try getting the kids ski clothing that doesn't look like everyone else's. Red and black are such popular colors for boys that you'll have a difficult time spotting your son on the mountains if he looks just like everyone else.
Know Before You Go
Just as not every mountain is the same, neither is every ski school. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment – or worse – teaching your crying three year old to ski. Amie O’Shaunessy from CiaoBambino reminds you to do your research.
Every resort has radically different rules around kids' ski school. Understand all applicable parameters before you book including minimum age requirements, if they offer weekend only and/or half-day lesson options, and if you have a toddler, if the childcare program accepts only potty-trained kids. Otherwise most resorts have at least some beginner terrain; the key is to understand how it's configured. Are the beginner runs sufficiently set apart from the advanced terrain? Nothing is scarier than worrying that an out-of-control skier will run into your child on the slopes. Finally, convenience is key. Opt for accommodations that have easy transportation to the slopes or better yet, are ski-in/ski-out. Get more tips about finding the best family ski resorts and learn about our favorite ski accommodations with kids on CiaoBambino.com.
The Family that Learns Together – Skis Together
Amy Whitely, founder of Pit Stops for Kids, shares the secret that sometimes a private lesson can SAVE you money. You heard us right.
If you're visiting a new-to-you mountain, and plan to pay for ski or snowboard lessons, families can actually save money and time by booking a private family lesson instead of group lessons for their kids. Skiing families assume private lessons will be too costly, but this is usually not the case, because most resorts will allow up to five people in one private lesson, allowing kids to ski together, get individual attention, and enjoy private lesson perks such as front-of-the-line access. If you don't need lessons, consider a mountain tour. Most major resorts now offer mountain tours, led by a ski instructor or mountain employee and usually free. Tours usually last about an hour, are scheduled at the beginning of the day, and provide a good opportunity to learn where you're going on the mountain before setting off on your own.
Tips on Tipping
Many parents don’t know if or how they should tip their child’s ski instructor. Don’t forget this person is working for meager wages and has just spent the day helping your snow bunny to the bathroom, to lunch, out of the pile of snow they fell in (crying), has likely wiped a nose, a bottom and cleaned their ketchup face. Your child has been returned to you safe and happy. That’s worth a thank you, with a $5, $10 or $20 slipped in there.
Plan for Altitude Sickness
If you’ve not skied at altitude before, you might not even realize how important this is. Award winning travel writer and Epic Mom Kara Williams gives you the 411 to keep you and your brood feeling chipper on the slopes.
For families planning ski trips to the high-altitude slopes in the U.S. West, I highly recommend taking care to prevent symptoms of altitude sickness, which might include nausea or headaches. On the slopes -- at, say, 11,000 feet in Aspen -- you and your kids will feel the thin air if you're coming from sea level. To help thwart the effects of the high altitude, I recommend drinking a ton of water in the week prior to your trip;, and also acclimating, if you can, in Denver for a night (at 5,280 feet, Denver is high, but not *as* high as some mountain towns). Also pack Advil, eat light meals and take it easy your first day in the mountains!
For more tips - including things you don't want to forget to pack - check out this post: Ski Vacation Packing List: Key Items You Don’t Want to Forget
It’s the Gear, Stupid
A good fitting boot can make or break your time on the slopes. If you’ve ever worn painful, pinching, chilly boots – you know this is true. Did you know you can get custom fit boots? Sandra Foyt, founder of Albany Kid gives great tips on gear for you and your little speed demons.
As a mom to two young ski racers, I've learned a few things about planning ski trips. My best advice is that good fitting equipment makes all the difference to an enjoyable ski experience. While it may be tempting to forgo packing ski gear in favor of renting, think again. Very young skiers can do well renting gear for the season from local ski shops, but anyone who is serious about skiing will want to invest in the right gear. Turn to a professional boot fitter to find the best ski equipment to suit your personal needs and build. Even if you already have all the ski equipment you need, consider setting up an appointment with a boot fitter before hitting the slopes this season. An expert boot fitter can help you get the best performance even from last year's model. This is article that I highly recommend: The Ski Boot Fitting.
Kim-Marie Evans, Luxury Travel Mom and veteran Snowmama gives you all the advice you need on when, how and how much when it comes to the delicate art of giving the cash thank you.