Everyone loves skiing and riding and taking a family trip to a ski area is one of the highlights of a lot of families winters. However, there is a lot of work and preparation that goes into the ski trip that goes wholly unnoticed by the excited children! Perhaps the most unnoticed is clothing which, especially for young kids, can make or break a ski vacation. Buying and packing the right combination of clothing and gear is critical to a successful ski trip. As a mom of 12 hard-core little rippers, I would love to share with you my tips for dressing to ensure a great time on the mountain!
Every year at the end of November, our family starts to pull out our winter gear, our snowboarding jackets and pants, base layers, mid-layers, mittens, boots, helmets, etc and every year we find that we need to buy at least a few of the kids new gear, or as luck may have it, Santa finds that a few kids have this essential gear on their list.
I can tell you that now after 15 years of Colorado winters, I have the dressing of kids to keep them warm while on the mountain down to a science. But this wasn’t always the case; in fact, I had no idea that there was more to it than the obvious.
Ensuring your kids are warm is essential to having a fun family ski or ride vacation. And while it’s not rocket science, there is a system and figuring it out can be the difference between an incredible experience and a miserable, never taking the kids anywhere again experience.
The secret to staying comfortable all day long is to use lots of thin layers that are both warm and moisture wicking so your kiddos stay dry the entire time. This also gives them the option to remove or add layers if they get too hot or cold. There are three different base layer weights. First is the lightweight base layer that is a thin layer that goes next to your skin, worn fairly skin tight to be adequately moisture wicking and for the ability to add additional layers over it. Next is the midweight layer that can be worn in replace of the lightweight layer or as a second layer over the lightweight layer. And, finally, the heavyweight layer is almost always worn over a lighter weight layer and as such are worn loose fitting.
Jackets and Pants
Staying dry while skiing and boarding cannot be stressed enough. There is nothing worse than being wet and cold, it can even ruin the day even for the most devoted winter sports enthusiast! Riding in cold weather is pretty much the norm through the winter months and your best bet is an insulated ski or snowboard jacket and pants. The amount of insulation is based on personal preference, we tend to go middle of the road so we can add base and mid-layers on ultra-cold days or simply throw on a T-shirt underneath for Spring or unusually warm conditions. All these jackets and pants have a waterproof breathable shell, pretty much an absolute must have when playing in the snow!
Whether you choose gloves or mittens is totally a personal decision. We are split 50/50 in our family. I personally prefer mittens with a glove insert; they tend to be warmer as your fingers are all in one area, generating heat. The kids, for the most part, prefer gloves with glove inserts. There is no right or wrong choice here. It’s the same for warmth. Glove warmth is determined by a wide variety of options … the type of shell material, the type and amount of insulation, and how breathable the waterproofing is. And, don’t forget to pack a few extra hand warmers on those extra cold days … they really are lifesavers!
Cold feet are the worst! I hate cold feet more than anything else that can go down on the mountain. Not only do they suck, but they inhibit performance and they make for a pretty miserable existence, hence, ski and boarding sock are vital pieces of gear. It’s a good thing that socks are probably the easiest pieces of gear to purchase. Ski and riding socks are tall cushioned socks that are made out of a variety of materials to keep your toes and feet warm and comfortable! They also come in different weight classes. For me and the kids, we opt for medium weight socks as we tend to get chilly up on the mountain while Dan and a few of the older boys prefer the lightweight socks as they never get cold, like ever! When sizing your socks, make sure you get as perfect a fit as possible. Socks that are too big can rub and cause abrasions and socks that are too small can decrease circulation. And, just like with mittens, bring some extra foot warmers, just in case any of your little kiddos get chilly.
I need a new pair of boarding goggles, so I’ve been researching this topic for weeks now. I want the best my limited cash can purchase because it’s obvious that the better you see the better you will ride and I love to ride better. In my research I’ve discovered I need a spherical lens, which curves both vertically and horizontally giving the rider a much greater periphery vision. A flat lens simply curves vertically. I must have an anti-fog lens, and a lens for snowy, foggy conditions and one for bright sunny conditions. Your preferences may differ slightly or greatly, just do your research because there really are some incredibly crummy goggles out there. Check this link out for the best of 2015 … http://www.outsideonline.com/1856121/best-goggles-2015#slide-5
Now while a helmet is not in my top ten for warmth, it very well may save you or your child’s life. Falling when skiing or riding is not a rare occurrence, especially if you are just learning or like to push yourself and your limits hard while on the mountain. And, wearing a helmet definitely reduces the risk and seriousness of head injuries.
A few pointers: 1) Make sure the helmet is specifically made for skiing or snowboarding. A bike helmet does not cut it, sorry budget conscious peeps. 2) Take the time to ensure a perfect fit. A helmet is not something you buy “a little big” so as to fit next season as well. If you are unsure of how to fit a helmet, as a salesperson, they will be more than happy to help. 3) Buy a helmet that meets industry standards. Do your research before buying to familiarize yourself with the varying helmet standards. 4) Buy new. Again, helmets save lives and you don’t want to purchase one that’s been around the block for decades. This is where you splurge to ensure you are getting a product that will perform. 5) When shopping for a helmet bring your ski goggles with you. Some helmets and goggles don’t work together. 6) And, as an adult, always be a good role model for kids. They watch what you do and will emulate you in the future.
We have a hard and fast rule for helmets, it’s not even a discussion. We all wear one, no-one questions it. And really, I’m not sure why they would. Helmets are cool and they look cool!
So there you have it, everything you need to ensure success on the slopes. Oh, but don’t forget to have fun and to be flexible. Kids get tired, hungry, cold and their attention spans, especially little kids, tend to be short-lived. We used to pack a bag with crayons and coloring books and an iPad or two to keep the littlest kids entertained if they wanted to go hang in the lodge. Remember, it’s all about the kids and if you want them to LOVE skiing or riding as much as you, back off, relax and don’t push them too hard. It is one of the greatest sports out there, they will love it … if you don’t ruin it!