Close

Member Login

Logging In
Invalid username or password.
Incorrect Login. Please try again.

not a member? sign-up now!

Signing up could earn you gear and it helps to keep offensive content off of our site.

PRINT DIGITAL

ABCs For Families On Skis

ABCs For Families On Skis

Everything you need to know to travel, and ski, with your family.
By Moira McCarthy
posted: 12/24/2005
A family outfitted in helmets at Deer Valley Resort

When the clan mobilizes for a long-anticipated Vacation, success is in the details. Here's a parental primer on how to keep it fun.Altitude Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) strikes children more frequently and severely than it does adults. It's caused by a lack of oxygen in mountain air above 6,000 feet, which leads to an imbalance between gases in the lungs and blood and changes the distribution of salts in the cells. Those affected feel flu-like symptoms: nausea, headache, shortness of breath. In severe cases, which are rare, pulmonary edema can occur, requiring medical treatment. A week before travel, start your children on a well-rounded diet of six small meals per day rather than three large ones. Avoid sodas and juices and instead get the kids to drink as many as six glasses of water a day, before and throughout your trip. Once at altitude, it's a good idea to have an acclimation day before you start skiing. Most people adapt to higher altitude within a day or two.

Area boundaries and treeskiingIt's fun to take kids into the trees but, especially at an unfamiliar resort, make sure they know when it's OK to venture off-piste by themselves, according to their age and ability. Stress the importance of sticking together off-piste and never skiing past area boundaries—because, of course, that's where the child-eating abominable snowmen live.

Babysitting Plan ahead. You probably won't find Mrs. Doubtfire in Breckenridge, but ski towns are full of young people looking for work, plenty of whom are capable of playing the Finding Nemo DVD and getting your kids to bed. To find experienced babysitters, raid the local preschools as well as the ski area daycare and ski school. If you're staying in a hotel, the concierge should be able to provide you with a list of sitters. Some (Cliff Lodge, Snowbird; Four Seasons, Jackson Hole) even pre-screen and coordinate childcare. Larger ski towns also have agencies (Mountain Mammas, Crested Butte; Aspen Babysitting). Remember, many ski-town locals don't have cars. And they'll expect more cash than you may be used to spending—as much as $16 per hour.

Bedtime You can either let them stay up late because it's vacation, or get them up at first light to beat the crowds, but you can't do both or everyone gets cranky. Plan ahead, communicate the plan, and if it falls apart, go with the flow. Remember, travel can be exhausting: Extra sleep can improve moods all around, which might be more important than catching first chair.

Communication Cell phone coverage can be spotty at resorts. If your service is poor, ask about loaner phones and pagers. Also consider two-way radios; most now have sufficient range, and kids love them. At Steamboat, Mountain Watch enrollees get GPS wristwatches ($5 per day) that allow them to track each other as well as check lift status, recommended routes and weather reports. They can swipe them on kiosks to communicate with each other. Perfect for families.

candy, treats, etc. Lighten up on the nutrition rules. It's vacation, and breaking out the surprise chocolate bar on the quad keeps everyone happy and humming along.

clothing Prepare for the coldest weather, but don't overpack (see "laundry, below). Each child should have ski socks, synthetic-fiber base layers (top and bottom), warm fleece midlayer, waterproof/breathable pants and parka, warm gloves, fleece neck gaiter. Dry things out at night. And keep extra layers in a daypack.[NEXT "D - E"]Daycare For tots too young to ski, resort nurseries can be handy and far less expensive than sitters. Regulations and licensing vary by state. Some, such as Vermont, require a license, which ensures certain requirements are met. In Colorado, ski-area daycares don't need a license, but most meet state requirements anyway. The employees are key. Call ahead to get a feel for the staff, and ask the following. Ages accepted: This varies widely from resort to resort. Proximity: At larger resorts, make sure the location is convenient.

Communication: Ask how they get in touch with parentsand what they would consider reason enough to do so). Background checks: Are employees thoroughly vetted? Cost: Ask about multiple-day packages, half-day and hourly rates. Ratio: Make sure there's at least one caregiver for every five kids and one for every three infants.
Activities: Do they take the kids outside or just watch videos all day? Schedule: Are nap, snack and lunch times flexible?

Medications: Some resorts won't administer them. Remember to leave plenty of time for check-in and transition, but if you have to leave them crying, do. Check back later (without letting them see you). And at day's end, remove name-tag stickers immediately: They make a mess in the wash.[NEXT "F - G"]Education If you're letting the kids skip school to ski, don't feel guilty. Any ski trip comes with a full course load. For math, kids can figure out how many vertical feet per hour they averaged. History abounds in ski country—the mines of Colorado, the settlers of Wyoming, the river drives of Maine, etc. Most resorts can provide a science lesson's worth of information on its snowmaking system, and you'll be surrounded by the flora, fauna and geology particular to your destination. You might learn a thing or two yourself.
Embarrassment Maybe you still feel hip, but in the eyes of your teen or tween, you're likely to be a complete embarrassment. A few rules: Never hug them when they're going off with friends. Never try to speak their language. And never enter a terrain park without consent. Give them space and time to be with their crowd and feel like it's their mountain. In exchange, insist your child take a few runs with you. Do watch the terrain park action from a comfortable distance, to see how much fun they're having, and know that deep down, they still think you're pretty cool.

energy, après Keep expectations real. Remember, your children have spent the day exerting themselves in the cold air. They'll be wiped out, and so will you, so don't plan long, late dinners at fancy spots. Instead, look for reasonable alternatives: The kids will want to go to the pool (if it's outdoors, you won't be able to avoid it). They'll last perhaps an hour there and then be ready to eat and crash. Look for short, fun things that kids will like. Is there an après bonfire and marshmallow roast? Can they rest or nap and then wake up to hit the torchlight parade and fireworks one night? Can you just plan on letting them frolic in the in-room hot tub then dine by candlelight after they're fed and asleep? You'll be pleasantly surprised: Sometimes they're asleep by 8, and an in-room bottle of wine can be the après-ski of your dreams.

First-aid Don't leave home without aspirin (for first-day altitude headaches) and ibuprofen (because even young muscles can get sore). Most important, bring a blister remedy such as Second Skin: It can save a vacation.

friends (bringing of) The ski-trip friend is a tricky matter requiring diplomacy. An easygoing companion can take the pressure off parents who don't want to entertain their kids every moment of the vacation. One who doesn't quite fit in can make things worse—and make your child behave worse. And since they're not your kids, it's difficult to discipline them. Look for the perfect ski-friend match, or don't try it at all.

freedom Your child, who has long loved nothing more than skiing with you, wants to head out unsupervised. Is it time? You know your child best, but if he or she can read a trail map and understands the rules and responsibilities of skiing, then it's safe to let go. Plan a regular meeting place and time, and go over what they should do in an emergency. And be sure your children have your hotel name and room number written down and stowed in a pocket, along with your cell number. Don't trust their memories.

Gear Kids ski best on their own equipment, especially boots, so if you can bring it instead of renting, so much the better. Don't worry about wider skis for a Western trip. Pull out boot liners to dry each night. And remember that with seasonal leases, you may be able to rent skis, boots and poles for an entire year back home without spending much more than you would to rent for a week at a resort.

Helmets There is no longer any reasonable argument against wearing a helmet while skiing or boarding. Today's designs are comfortable, warm (and vented) and even look cool. Make sure the fit is accurate. And to set a good example, wear one yourself.[NEXT "N - P"]NASTAR If you're making a week of it, there's no better way to measure progress than to put in a couple runs a day in the gates. When they get back home, kids can check out their results on the Web and see how they stack up. And there's no bigger thrill than beating dad for the first time. See nastar.com for more information.

organization Designate a spot in the hotel room or condo where each child is to store his or her ski gear, well separated from that of any siblings. Make it each kid's responsibility, at the end of the day, to see that his or her gear (base layers, ski socks, boots, pants, parka) is present, accounted for and, if necessary, arrayed so as to be dry in the morning. The site might be a hotel ski locker, a dresser drawer, or just an orderly pile in a designated spot on the carpet in the bedroom, but knowing exactly where it belongs makes it easier to keep track of.

Packing Packing for a family of five could be the ultimate Survivor challenge. It's all about planning. Here's one approach: Buy a roomy backpack of a different color for each family member, and make it the permanent home of that family member's ski stuff. Boots (if there's room), gloves, socks, layers, pants and helmet should be cleaned and returned directly there after each ski trip. That reduces additional packing to stuff you need for any trip: pajamas, toiletries, street clothes, bathing suits, etc. (all of which is relatively easy and inexpensive to purchase if forgotten). How much you pack depends on whether you'll be able to clean it mid-trip (see "laundry). Check your clothing bag, but carry on boots and ski packs so you'll be able to ski if luggage gets lost. It's all about planning, and that backpack is key. If they know where gear goes, they're less likely to lose it.

Patience Your kids, too, had expectations of what this vacation was going to be like and how great it was going to be. At some point during the vacation, the experience will fall short, and the child will deal poorly with that. Spoiled? Maybe. But know it's coming, so you can deal with it calmly and in a way that won't escalate the tension and ruin a bigger chunk of precious vacation than it has to.

picnics If the weather's nice, bring a backpack lunch of cheese, meat, fruit, nuts, bread, tea and chocolate. Find a cozy picnic spot and dump the pack, then return when the masses are jamming the lodge. Arrange your skis as benches: side-by-side on the snow, bottoms up, with kicked-out trenches for leg room. Kids love a picnic, and the memories are as good as the food.

praise Don't underestimate how important it is to them to hear you say it, out loud, in front of everyone in the liftline: "You're really ripping today. That air was huge. Blowing a little well-timed smoke does wonders for attitude-maintenance.[NEXT "R-S"]Restaurants If you were a waiter trying to get by in a ski town, whom would you prefer sat down at one of your tables: a party of six adults that might spend $75 each or a family of seven that needs a high chair and four kids menus? Remember that as you settle in—and especially as you compute your tip. Eating early is always a good idea. Try to minimize the amount of roaming your children do in a busy restaurant. Ask around for recommendations on good family restaurants so you don't end up searching with hungry kids in tow. And when you find er. Don't worry about wider skis for a Western trip. Pull out boot liners to dry each night. And remember that with seasonal leases, you may be able to rent skis, boots and poles for an entire year back home without spending much more than you would to rent for a week at a resort.

Helmets There is no longer any reasonable argument against wearing a helmet while skiing or boarding. Today's designs are comfortable, warm (and vented) and even look cool. Make sure the fit is accurate. And to set a good example, wear one yourself.[NEXT "N - P"]NASTAR If you're making a week of it, there's no better way to measure progress than to put in a couple runs a day in the gates. When they get back home, kids can check out their results on the Web and see how they stack up. And there's no bigger thrill than beating dad for the first time. See nastar.com for more information.

organization Designate a spot in the hotel room or condo where each child is to store his or her ski gear, well separated from that of any siblings. Make it each kid's responsibility, at the end of the day, to see that his or her gear (base layers, ski socks, boots, pants, parka) is present, accounted for and, if necessary, arrayed so as to be dry in the morning. The site might be a hotel ski locker, a dresser drawer, or just an orderly pile in a designated spot on the carpet in the bedroom, but knowing exactly where it belongs makes it easier to keep track of.

Packing Packing for a family of five could be the ultimate Survivor challenge. It's all about planning. Here's one approach: Buy a roomy backpack of a different color for each family member, and make it the permanent home of that family member's ski stuff. Boots (if there's room), gloves, socks, layers, pants and helmet should be cleaned and returned directly there after each ski trip. That reduces additional packing to stuff you need for any trip: pajamas, toiletries, street clothes, bathing suits, etc. (all of which is relatively easy and inexpensive to purchase if forgotten). How much you pack depends on whether you'll be able to clean it mid-trip (see "laundry). Check your clothing bag, but carry on boots and ski packs so you'll be able to ski if luggage gets lost. It's all about planning, and that backpack is key. If they know where gear goes, they're less likely to lose it.

Patience Your kids, too, had expectations of what this vacation was going to be like and how great it was going to be. At some point during the vacation, the experience will fall short, and the child will deal poorly with that. Spoiled? Maybe. But know it's coming, so you can deal with it calmly and in a way that won't escalate the tension and ruin a bigger chunk of precious vacation than it has to.

picnics If the weather's nice, bring a backpack lunch of cheese, meat, fruit, nuts, bread, tea and chocolate. Find a cozy picnic spot and dump the pack, then return when the masses are jamming the lodge. Arrange your skis as benches: side-by-side on the snow, bottoms up, with kicked-out trenches for leg room. Kids love a picnic, and the memories are as good as the food.

praise Don't underestimate how important it is to them to hear you say it, out loud, in front of everyone in the liftline: "You're really ripping today. That air was huge. Blowing a little well-timed smoke does wonders for attitude-maintenance.[NEXT "R-S"]Restaurants If you were a waiter trying to get by in a ski town, whom would you prefer sat down at one of your tables: a party of six adults that might spend $75 each or a family of seven that needs a high chair and four kids menus? Remember that as you settle in—and especially as you compute your tip. Eating early is always a good idea. Try to minimize the amount of roaming your children do in a busy restaurant. Ask around for recommendations on good family restaurants so you don't end up searching with hungry kids in tow. And when you find a place you like, treat your servers extra well and develop a rapport. They'll continue to take care of you, no matter how many sodas you spill.

Rendezvous At a huge resort, it's easy to get separated. Before anyone starts down the hill, make sure everyone knows what lift you're headed to next. If there's a problem, the child must know what you expect him or her to do next, and more important, that no child ever stayed lost at a ski resort. See also "communication, above.

Rentals If your kids don't own their own gear, you'll need to rent. Many shops now offer online reservations, which greatly expedites the process. Breeze Ski Rentals, for instance, offers free children's rentals with adult rentals, and online rentals are 20 percent off the walk-in price. Ask your shop about overnight equipment storage. Many base-area locations offer it, making for more pleasant après-ski strolls through the village. If you drive to ski, consider renting at home and bringing the equipment. Your local ski shop may be significantly less expensive than one at the resort, and many offer a day or two grace period for returns.

rivalry (sibling) Family unity only goes so far, especially in the close quarters of a long trip. Make sure each kid gets some time away from his or her brother(s)/sister(s): a shopping errand with mom, a walk to the liquor store with dad, some time not spent having to look after the younger sibling, etc.

Safety Parents need to make sure their children understand the safety rules of skiing, for their own good and that of others. For starters, children must know and understand the Skier Responsibility Code (skierresponsibilitycode.com). Then give them a few on-snow driving lessons: how to merge onto a trail, how much room to allow between skiers, when to ski slowly, how to spot a snowboarder riding a blind (heel-side) edge, etc. And don't leave it to the patrol to dole out consequences for poor behavior: an hour of time-out in the base lodge while the powder gets chewed up can really drive home a point.[NEXT "T-Z"]Travel skills As you make your way from home to hotel and back, put the kids "in charge of getting the whole family from point A to point B. Let them figure out, as much as possible, what highway to take, which terminal is yours, what bags need to be checked, how much to tip, where the tickets should be stowed and how the ground transportation works. It keeps them engaged, fosters independence and teaches travel tricks they'll use all their lives.

Warming tactics If their hands get cold, give them your gloves on the chair while you stuff theirs next to your skin for a moment to warm them up. On the slopes, let them warm their hands on the skin of your belly. If a child's face is cold, put a warm hand over his mouth and snuggle him close for a moment. A $2 set of chemical heat packs can work wonders—and save a $50 ski day. Food and hot cocoa help too, of course. And always have neck gaiters and an extra fleece layer close at hand.

Water Make sure they're getting enough, especially on Western trips at altitude. If they resist, hydration packs are cool and fun to use.

Zen and the art of family ski management Some sayit takes a saint to pull off a major family ski trip without at least one stress-out moment. The secret is your ability to embrace the imperfections. Worthwhile things often require some struggle. So plan and prepare as best you can, but then be in the moment. If the room's too small, enjoy coziness. If Day One is a whiteout, find a fire and huddle by it, cooking s'mores. Windy? Show the kids how peaceful the trees can be. Raining? Plunge in the outdoor pool, with rain pounding down on you. Kids are sick of skiing? Trust them to head off on their own while you enjoy skiing alone with your spouse, the way you used to. In the end, the memories won't be ones you planned for, but the moments of unscripted fun and discovery, are, in the end, are what family ski trips are all about.

December 2005lace you like, treat your servers extra well and develop a rapport. They'll continue to take care of you, no matter how many sodas you spill.

Rendezvous At a huge resort, it's easy to get separated. Before anyone starts down the hill, make sure everyone knows what lift you're headed to next. If there's a problem, the child must know what you expect him or her to do next, and more important, that no child ever stayed lost at a ski resort. See also "communication, above.

Rentals If your kids don't own their own gear, you'll need to rent. Many shops now offer online reservations, which greatly expedites the process. Breeze Ski Rentals, for instance, offers free children's rentals with adult rentals, and online rentals are 20 percent off the walk-in price. Ask your shop about overnight equipment storage. Many base-area locations offer it, making for more pleasant après-ski strolls through the village. If you drive to ski, consider renting at home and bringing the equipment. Your local ski shop may be significantly less expensive than one at the resort, and many offer a day or two grace period for returns.

rivalry (sibling) Family unity only goes so far, especially in the close quarters of a long trip. Make sure each kid gets some time away from his or her brother(s)/sister(s): a shopping errand with mom, a walk to the liquor store with dad, some time not spent having to look after the younger sibling, etc.

Safety Parents need to make sure their children understand the safety rules of skiing, for their own good and that of others. For starters, children must know and understand the Skier Responsibility Code (skierresponsibilitycode.com). Then give them a few on-snow driving lessons: how to merge onto a trail, how much room to allow between skiers, when to ski slowly, how to spot a snowboarder riding a blind (heel-side) edge, etc. And don't leave it to the patrol to dole out consequences for poor behavior: an hour of time-out in the base lodge while the powder gets chewed up can really drive home a point.[NEXT "T-Z"]Travel skills As you make your way from home to hotel and back, put the kids "in charge of getting the whole family from point A to point B. Let them figure out, as much as possible, what highway to take, which terminal is yours, what bags need to be checked, how much to tip, where the tickets should be stowed and how the ground transportation works. It keeps them engaged, fosters independence and teaches travel tricks they'll use all their lives.

Warming tactics If their hands get cold, give them your gloves on the chair while you stuff theirs next to your skin for a moment to warm them up. On the slopes, let them warm their hands on the skin of your belly. If a child's face is cold, put a warm hand over his mouth and snuggle him close for a moment. A $2 set of chemical heat packs can work wonders—and save a $50 ski day. Food and hot cocoa help too, of course. And always have neck gaiters and an extra fleece layer close at hand.

Water Make sure they're getting enough, especially on Western trips at altitude. If they resist, hydration packs are cool and fun to use.

Zen and the art of family ski management Some sayit takes a saint to pull off a major family ski trip without at least one stress-out moment. The secret is your ability to embrace the imperfections. Worthwhile things often require some struggle. So plan and prepare as best you can, but then be in the moment. If the room's too small, enjoy coziness. If Day One is a whiteout, find a fire and huddle by it, cooking s'mores. Windy? Show the kids how peaceful the trees can be. Raining? Plunge in the outdoor pool, with rain pounding down on you. Kids are sick of skiing? Trust them to head off on their own while you enjoy skiing alone with your spouse, the way you used to. In the end, the memories won't be ones you planned for, but the moments of unscripted fun and discovery, are, in the end, are what family ski trips are all about.

December 2005covery, are, in the end, are what family ski trips are all about.

December 2005

reviews of ABCs For Families On Skis
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • No HTML tags allowed

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.
All submitted comments are subject to the license terms set forth in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
Google+