Story by: Natalie Laplante, Canadian Ski Council
Planning your family’s first overnight ski vacation? Here are some helpful tips to help ensure you have a relaxing, memorable, successful – and let’s not forget FUN – family ski vacation.
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Check the weather and determine what to pack
Check the ski area’s weather forecast and be prepared for changes in the forecast. Mountain weather can change hourly, so it’s best to pack a variety of ski clothing. Make sure you pack base layers and thermal underwear for everyone, ski/snowboard socks, neck warmers, mitts/gloves, toques, goggles, ski/snowboard pants, helmets, hand warmers and toe warmers for the little ones (they tend to get cold faster). Balaclavas are great for kids and fit snuggly under their helmets. Our family always brings extra socks, gloves, and neck warmers for our kids because someone always loses something along the way. It will save you from having to buy pricey extras at the resort. If you are travelling by air, be sure to check your airlines’ baggage allowance to ensure you don’t get hit with extra baggage costs.
Don’t forget to bring the standard “Mom, I don’t feel well” meds. Now, you don’t need to bring the entire pharmacy with you but be sure to pack the essentials. Most ski resorts have a small pharmacy or store on site, but it will save you time and money if you need to buy some last minute items.
Oh, and last but not least, don’t forget to bring a camera or use your phone to take photos. You’ll be creating great and lasting memories with your family, so don’t forget to take some time to capture those special moments with your kids.
Do a little research about the resort you are visiting
Before you hop on a plane or get in a packed car with the kids, do your research. Make sure you’ve booked a shuttle or rental car, check to see what time you can check in and check out at the resort, where the ski locker is located or if there is a ski valet, look at the trail map to determine the best places for your family to ski, look to see where you can buy your lift passes (if they aren’t included in your ski package) and rentals and for the kids and where the pool is. Kids love hotel swimming pools so figure out where it is and what the pool hours are.
You may also want to find out what other activities are available at the resort. Ski areas often have tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, spa services, sleigh rides, and even snowmobile tours of the mountain. Skiing for four or five days can take a lot out of the youngsters so make sure you have some backup activities planned for when they are tired.
If you have booked your family vacation during the holiday season, be sure to make restaurant reservations in advance and ensure that they are child-friendly. Ski resort restaurants fill quickly during peak season (Family Day, March and Spring Break and at Christmas) and the last thing you want is to get stuck waiting for a table for 45 minutes with tired and hangry children. Even better, you may want to consider booking a hotel room that has a kitchenette or full kitchen. This also makes it easy on the pocketbook, not to mention makes for some healthier alternatives. It’s also great for keeping snacks or grabbing a quick breakfast if you are looking to catch fresh tracks in the morning.
I am a creature of habit and love having my own “stuff” on ski trips so I always bring my own equipment, even if it means it spending a little extra on airline fees. My children are also grown up and can manage to carry their own stuff when we travel. But when you are travelling with little ones, renting equipment may save some nerves and the energy it takes lugging ski and snowboard equipment for a family of four (or more) around the airport.
If you are driving, look into renting or borrowing a ski rack for your gear. This will give you more space for your luggage in the car and makes for a more comfortable drive (READ – gives the kids space, hopefully avoiding the dreaded “are we there yet?” questions). If you are driving, bring your kids’ devices to keep them busy during long drives. But if you are flying and want to leave the equipment at home, ski areas today have the latest and greatest skis and snowboards for rent, at very reasonable prices that may help save your sanity and prevent siblings from bickering about who’s carrying what. It’s a good idea to book your family’s ski equipment ahead of time to ensure they have what you need available.
As well, almost all ski areas offer a lift ticket, lesson, and rental packages as well for kids that are very economical, not to mention they will help your children improve their skiing and snowboarding skills. Why not sign the little ones up for a lesson so you and your partner can enjoy a couple of hours on your own to discover the resort you are visiting, or to kick back and enjoy a little après-ski on that much-deserved vacation?
These days, family ski trips don’t have to be just about skiing or snowboarding. Ski areas have so much to offer. If the kids don’t feel like skiing or snowboarding one day, have a few backup plans. Choose a few different activities that you can all do together. If you all ski, maybe sign everyone up for their first snowboard lesson, or maybe go snow tubing, try snowshoeing, or go into the local town and do a little shopping. Bring a deck of cards along or a board game and have a games night. Pack favourite books for everyone for those lazy and quiet nights after a full day on the slopes.
The beauty of the ski vacation is the variety of activities that you can all do together, as a family. We are fortunate in Canada to have so many beautiful and scenic ski areas to visit, so be sure to enjoy your family ski vacation and make memories that I guarantee will last a lifetime.