The first time we took our kids snowskiing, they were four and five years old. We not only skied but also built snowmen, ate ice cream and took them swimming while snow fell on the ground around us. One trip became two which became an annual tradition and some of our favorite family memories. We loved the skiing, but we also found our favorite bookstore, ate the best tacos and played in the park at night. We learned some tricks and tips, both on and off the slopes, that can help your family have a fun-filled ski vacation.
Plan short ski sessions. Just like any new sport, learning to ski is hard work, and kids will get tired. I know it's hard to see part of a lift ticket "go to waste," but overly long days are a quick detour to cranky kids or ones who don't want to come back the next year.
Incorporate fun into your days. Does your child love hot chocolate and French fries in the lodge? Yum! Prefer running around a playground in the snow? Do that too. Skiing is great fun, but it's only one part of a memorable trip.
Reconsider any aversion you have to bribes. You might need to leave a trail of gummy bears or M&Ms down the slopes. For a child who is tired, frustrated and struggling with a new skill, a little candy-coated motivation can go a long way.
Bring extra mittens for everyone. When kids aren't skiing, they're making snowballs, eating snow and rolling around on the ground–and their mittens will get soaked quickly. Bring an extra pair for everyone, and plan to switch to dry ones mid-day if you can. Hand warmers can help too, especially if the weather is unusually cold or wet.
Get ready to help them learn a new walk. Maneuvering in ski boots (and on skis) is tricky. Practice in a warm, dry place, either at the condo or in the rental shop. Help your kids step into their bindings and slide forward and backward on skis before there are other distractions, like snow, ice, slippery surfaces and other kids in lessons. Check out more practical beginner tips here.
Pack extra patience. You or your kid will fall down and get stuck. They may get frustrated in the new environment or even get scared of a new hill (even if they've skied it before). Pack extra patience, and remember that a bad day is often made better with extra marshmallows in a cup of hot cocoa.
Find a favorite place (or two) near the ski hill. One of my son's best memories has nothing to do with the slopes. He bought a book an author had autographed and returned to the shelves at the local bookstore. He still treasures that book today. Ski towns are full of local shops and restaurants that are perfect for young exploring minds.
Take a day off and do something else. There are so many other ways to enjoy the vacation, and change is a good reset button. Go ice skating, tubing, sledding or take a walk around town. Skiing is tiring, and the whole family will likely need a day in the middle to recoup.
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