Family-friendly ski vacation tips By Mimi Slawoff
Plan an unforgettable first family ski vacation with these helpful tips. (Flickr: Marcus Hansson)
Skiing together as a family is a fun, bonding experience. Swooshing down snowy mountains, enjoying spectacular views from chairlifts and warming up in a lodge with hot chocolate is all part of the experience. And let’s not forget about family-friendly après-ski activities, a cozy way to wind down a day on the slopes and share ski adventures.
With lighter ski and snowboard equipment and new methods of learning, there’s no better time to book a family ski vacation. Teaching kids to ski when they’re as young as four or five will make the winter sport second nature to them.
These 6 tips will help you plan your first family ski vacation as a family.
Resorts for Beginners
While most resorts have a beginner area, some are more conducive for first timers than others. Small, laid-back resorts like Brian Head in Utah or Wolf Creek in Colorado get lots of snow and might feel less intimidating. But many small resorts don’t have onsite lodging. Large resorts like Heavenly in Tahoe or Deer Valley in Park City, Utah offer many amenities and fun après-ski activities. They also typically offer family-friendly ski in/ski out lodging, making it a snap to ski directly from your condo to the slopes.
Rent, don’t buy – yet. Ski gear isn’t cheap, so it makes sense to rent skis, boots, poles and helmets. At least until your family gets the hang of it and plans to ski regularly. You can rent equipment from your local sports shop or wait until you get to the mountain resort. Better yet, Ski Butler (available at many resorts) is a service that brings rentals directly to your hotel or vacation home. Count on quality equipment and a good fit. The service picks up the equipment at the end of your family ski vacation.
The best way to learn is with a lesson. Group lessons are cheaper, but if you can swing it, you and your kids will probably learn more quickly with a private instructor. Many resorts offer great beginner packages that bundle rentals, lift tickets and lessons. If possible, look for resorts that feature Terrain-Based Learning (TBL), a new style of teaching that makes learning to ski and snowboard easier and more fun by using shaped snow features to naturally turn and stop skis. Sierra-at-Tahoe in California, Snowbasin in Utah, Mountain Creek in New Jersey, and Killington in Vermont are among resorts employing TBL.
No need for fancy apparel, but proper ski attire will keep your family warm and comfortable. Dress in layers, wearing thermal underwear, ski pants, a ski shirt and jacket. Wear just one pair of lightweight ski socks, but bring one or two extras to change out. Hats, gloves, and neck warmers (not scarves, which can get tangled on a chairlift) are essential accessories.
Fun on the Slopes
Download a mountain resort app or carry a trails map along so you don’t wind up on runs above your family’s skill level. Tuck granola bars, trail mix (or your favorite candy bar) in your jacket pocket to enjoy with kids while riding a chairlift or during a break from skiing.
After a day of skiing, family fun continues with ice skating, tubing, sledding, sleigh rides, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and even zip lining. Find a bungee trampoline at Northstar California Resort, a winter coaster at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort, dog-sledding at California’s Squaw Valley, and a snow tubing park at Camelback Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania.
Note that the annual Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month takes place in January, when beginner lessons, rentals and tickets start at just $45 depending on the resort.
Mimi Slawoff of Planetfamilytravel contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.