4 Tips For a Fool-Proof Family Ski Vacation
Jan 13, 2016
By: Ann Whittaker
Or how to not teach your children to hate skiing for the rest of their lives.
It could be argued that the number-one nemesis to your family ski vacation is that age-old circulation-oppressor: cold weather. As long as you can keep the kiddos warm and distracted from the fact that they can’t feel their fingers and toes, you will be victorious. And this is possible. Why else would there be human beings who claim “ski bum” as a legit job description? People, who were once children, overcame Old Man Winter’s chilliest spells with memories of speeding down slopes, winding through snowy pines, and jumping off…yes, cliffs.
Will your kids cry? Yes. Plan on it. Will they whine? Absolutely. And who can blame them when their eyelashes are frozen to their eyebrows? But, (but!) they will whoop and holler with pure joy; they will speed past you with scornful glee as you realize your youthful body left you years ago; they will ask to go through the trees again and again and again; they will scare the bejeezus out of you when they hit that first jump a little too fast; they will share their last French fry with you; they will tell you knock-knock jokes on a breezy lift ride; they will courageously go down the black diamond that terrified them on day one; and they will most certainly find solace in the winter mountains for the rest of their lives.
So, as ski town junkies, here’s how we keep our kids stoked about skiing cold winter mountains and requesting ski vacations year after year:
1. The Resort Matters – Choose Wisely
Ski resorts have personalities influenced by terrain, tradition, age, and the crowds they attract. The last thing you want to do is show up at a resort with your 3-year-old where the majority of riders will be flipping, zooming, and speeding by your golden child with proximities that make your Mama Bear thermometer burn somebody’s face off with swears you’ve never even heard before. Nor do you want your teen yawning like they’ve been forced to watch 87 hours of live C-SPAN because green-run-overload can make even a grown woman weep tears of boredom.
Allow us to demonstrate:
Snowbird Ski Resort: named Snowbird for good reason. This is a resort where your teens and college kids will take flight. The terrain is epic, steep and deep. Sure, there’s a couple classic green runs, but speed and height are on everyone’s minds.
Alta Ski Resort: Embraces all skiers—no boarders. It’s a classic resort with a bit of a split personality: drop the kids off on Sunnyside where they can stick to green groomers, or get their first taste of easy trails through the trees while you head over to Collins for steeper slopes gone gangbusters.
Solitude Ski Resort: Kids and all the people stay warm because you’re not wasting time standing in long lift lines, and there’s always an open table at each of the lodges—get those kids fed with no delay. Smaller acreage makes it easy to keep track of the entire crew.
Powder Mountain: Adventure central for explorers who are comfortable with vast terrain and want to keep things interesting. This one’s a global experience as you’ll run into skiers from Denmark, Italy, Peru, and, well, all the places.
Here’s some questions to ask as you’re researching resorts:
What’s the acreage?
How many lifts?
How many green, blue, black runs?
Are there ski-in/ski-out options?
How long is the shuttle ride to the lifts?
Is there a pool & hot tub?
Are rentals available on site?
Is there a restaurant in the lodge or nearby?
How far away is it from the airport?
Is it near a city where you could escape to museums and movies?
Do they offer Nordic or backcountry skiing?
Is there sledding available nearby?
Are there yurts to snowshoe to for dinner?
What’s in the package? Full day? Half day? Group? Private? Lunch? Snacks? Ski rental package?
2. The Case for Ski School
You’re a pro at this ski thing by now, and you want to make sure your kid learns the right technique…from you? Not so fast. Thou shalt not teach your own kids or your own significant other how to ski—thems the rules. Especially if you like your kids and/or your significant other and you want them to like you back. Everyone will be so freakin’ happy you didn’t tell them what to do when they were falling on their face.
And the best part? Throw your kids in with a ski school group, and they end up with immediate friends for life—if you keep coming back year after year, they’ll start a skiing commune with all their besties where spread eagles are currency and Immigrant Song is the anthem. Relationships and traditions are born on the ski slopes.
Our favorite ski schools?
Brighton Ski Resort – Where the Utah locals learn to ride.
Deer Valley Resort – Every single detail is thought through (tissues at every lift!)
3. Keep Those Bellies Full
There’s ski resort food, and then there’s ski resort nourishment for body and soul. Of course, we’re in for a good burger from the grill and a bucket of fries—an entire bucket. But have you ever felt the joy of walking into a lodge on the mountain to find they serve up flatbread pizzas, healthy salads (to go with your bucket of fries, obviously), homemade chili, and bread from the local bakery? A resort like Park City Mountain has all the things that will make you and your littles love each other once again after a long morning of shredding, yard-sale-ing (code for total wipeout), and mogul dominance.
Keep your pockets brimming with chocolates, candy canes, and anything calorie-packed to keep the crew warm and happy.
4. Keep Those Bellies Full
Tip No. 1: Cotton is not for skiers
Cotton is the best thing to cozy up in when you get off the mountain and want to snuggle every single one of your chilled children. But, seriously, cotton is the coldest thing to wear when you’re out in the snow. It gets wet fast, and dries ridiculously slow—which makes you wet and cold forever. Miserable. Invest in some capilene underwears for the whole family. Or wool. It’s magic. Not itchy.
Of course you’ll pack all the obvious warm layers, right?
Fleece or Down Jacket Layer
Pack along some games to play while drinking gallons of hot cocoa and sitting ‘round the fire.
Books. Ya. Bring those old things along for a rare afternoon when you all need to just cozy up inside.
You got this. Get ready for a crazy awesome family ski vacation.