Here in Central Oregon, we love taking our families skiing in the winter. Mt. Bachelor is an amazing mountain, with tons of acreage and ample terrain for every skill level. However, taking a family ski trip for the first time can be tough.
If your kids are too young to be in ski school or you just want to teach them how to ski yourself, you can bet that having young kids with you on the mountain will be a great deal of work. (Picture: tantrums, tears, whining, hauling extra gear a million miles, and moving at a snail’s pace for everything.) But you can also bet, it will be 100% worth the effort, with smiles, laughing, family bonding, and the thrill of watching your children learn new skills.
Family ski trips with young kids don’t have to be daunting. In fact, they can create some of the best memories of your lives! We’ve put together some do’s and don’ts to help your family get off on the right ski and keep everyone smiling by the end of the day!
DO: Buy your lift tickets ahead of time.
Booking your lift ticket online not only makes your wait in the ticket line much shorter, but kids 12 and under can ski for free if you buy your tickets online before your trip. Adult lift tickets are also cheaper the earlier you buy them, so be sure to book your lift tickets ahead of time.
DO: Practice putting ski gear on at home.
One of the biggest obstacles to teaching kids to ski is honestly just getting them in and out of their ski clothes. Trying new things that are outside of the normal routine are especially hard for toddlers and young kids.
Practice makes perfect! After you decide to book your ski trip, start getting your kids excited to go. Practice putting on all the layers, walking around in those clunky ski boots (if you have them at home), putting on a helmet and goggles, and wearing gloves. You don’t have to actually go skiing: Just get all the gear on and play outside, go sledding, or do something fun. This will make it way less dramatic when they have to put on all that gear for the actual ski day!
DO: Get your gear ready the night before.
Pack a bag the night before with your child’s gloves, ski helmet, outerwear, socks, goggles, sunscreen, hand-warmers, snacks, and change of clothes. Set the bag right by the door of your rental, so it’s ready to put in the car. Note: Don’t store the gear in the car overnight, as the big, plastic ski boots will be too cold and stiff to get on little feet easily.
Getting kids up, fed, and dressed in the morning is enough work as it is. Don’t make it more stressful on yourself by running around, trying to find your child’s goggles at the last second. Pre-packing for a ski day will also ensure you don’t forget any essentials!
DON’T: Be afraid to park at Sunrise.
Sunrise Base Area has all the kid-friendly, essential amenities with about HALF the walking. The lodge has food and restrooms, and if you enroll your child in ski school, most of the children’s lessons begin here. The Sunrise Base Area has access to all levels of terrain, but is especially convenient for small children with lots of green runs, parks, 2 magic carpets, and the Easy Rider lift/bunny-hill.
DON’T: Try to be a hero when carrying all the ski gear.
Kids are generally not strong enough to carry their skis very far and often drop poles and gloves on the way across the parking lot. Don’t try to juggle all your gear AND all of theirs at once. Give yourself an extra hand by bringing a sled or wagon to pull all the family gear from the parking lot to the base area. If there’s no room in the car for a sled, pick up a ski carrier from your local sporting goods store, that will secure your poles to your skis and will make it easier to carry multiple pairs.
DO: Take lots of snacks and breaks.
Nothing motivates a child like a good snack! Avoid the “hangry” meltdown by keeping a steady supply on-hand of goldfish, gummy bears, granola bars, or whatever your child’s favorite “special” treat is. Take off the gloves, and take a break at the bottom of the runs to refuel frequently.
If your kids are getting cold, head inside to warm up. Keep a game, book, or toy in your pocket or backpack for impromptu breaks in the Sunrise lodge. If your kids are comfortable on green runs, the mid-mountain Pine Marten Lodge can be a perfect stop for a mid-day hot cocoa, or a kid-friendly slice of pizza.
DO: Keep it fun.
The point of bringing your toddlers to the mountain is to foster a love of skiing. If they are not having fun, they probably won’t want to come back.
For younger children, take breaks to make snow angels, throw snowballs, read a book in the lodge, play tag, or even try snow tubing. If they are too small for tubing, pack your own sled and do some laps just outside the parking lot.
For kids who have some basic skiing skills, try spicing up the day by playing some games on skis. Try skiing through the trees to add a fun adventure, going over small jumps to add some challenge, or play follow-the-leader to work on turning skills and speed control.
DON’T: Forget to have some adult-only fun too.
Let’s keep it real… Spending a full day on the slopes with little kids can be exhausting. If you are doing a multi-day trip, consider booking at least one day in ski school or using Mt. Bachelor’s excellent childcare program. Mt. Bachelor’s Gravity School is one of the best kids’ ski programs around, teaching kids age 3.5 years and older.
Booking a day of lessons or childcare means you get some adult-speed runs in, while your kids have a total blast playing in the snow with their peers, and learning new skills. Don’t feel guilty – it’s totally worth it. Parents need vacation time too!
Plan your childcare and ski school days well ahead of time, because the programs do fill up.
DO: Go home while everyone is still smiling.
Most young children don’t have a lot of stamina on the slopes. Skiing is hard work when your muscles aren’t fully developed yet. Toddlers may only last an hour, where 5 year-olds may last a half-day or longer. Regardless of age, plan to quit while you are ahead!
If your kids start falling a lot, that’s usually a sign they are getting too tired. Pack it up and head back to the lodge before they start losing their “fun factor” and potentially avoid a meltdown in the process. .
It can be frustrating to feel like you aren’t getting your “money’s worth” out of a ski ticket, but play the long game and remember that the goal is to get them to develop a passion for skiing!