8 Tips for Planning Your First Family Ski Trip
Compared to other vacations, a ski trip is pretty involved. You will be staying in an alien environment of high altitude and cold weather. At the same time, you’ll need to get accustomed to wearing different clothes and footwear, and using unfamiliar ski kits. So, how can you prepare for a ski trip in advance? Which things need organizing?
Getting organized before the vacation is the key to making the most of your first family ski trip. There are numerous items to organize before you leave, so use a family-friendly vacation company that can advise on what you need. Using ski school for the kids is a personal choice, as it’s expensive but does create free time.
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For your first trip, it is much better to book with a family-friendly firm, which can talk you through the entire package. You could save money buying all the vacation elements individually. However, if this is your first trip, you’ll find the experience of buying through a packaging firm will guide you through all the options more easily. The company should be able to offer advice on clothing to wear, transfers to and from the resort, accommodation, eating out, lift tickets, ski and boot rental, and general information about the resort you’re staying in.
If you can find ski-in/ski-out accommodation this will make your skiing days much easier. The advantage is that you can ski directly from your front door in the morning and directly back to your front door in the afternoon. It eliminates all the carrying of your skis and poles to the lifts and back. The only downside is that it’s more expensive. Getting all these matters sorted out well beforehand will enable you to enjoy the vacation.
1. Don’t be too ambitious with your resort
The bright lights of a headline resort might be initially dazzling but if you’re starting out skiing with the family, you’re more likely to enjoy the vacation if the resort is located nearby and suited to your current abilities. If you are traveling with the whole family, it’s best to minimize travel time. So, if you are flying, choose an airport which is a short rental car distance from the ski resort. Similarly, if you are driving from home, limit the driving time as much as possible.
Conditions on resort roads during winter can change very quickly, so minimize your risk. Ideally use a shuttle transfer or taxi from the airport to the resort if you don’t need to use the rental car during the week. Talk to your vacation company to find a smaller ski resort, which has a ski school. A smaller resort will be more relaxing because it has fewer skiers and will likely be less expensive.
2. Book or buy as much as possible in advance
Generally, the prices of accommodation, airport parking, flights, and car rental all increase the later you book, so booking early counts. Booking early will also get you the pick of the accommodation and facilities.
Pro Tip: To find cheap flights to ski resorts, we use Skyscanner, which searches all airlines in one go.
Use travel search engines when searching for flights, airport parking, car hire, and accommodation rather than booking directly. The competition between search engines is fierce, so they will be able to offer better reductions.
Lift tickets don’t increase in price, but they do run out sometimes, especially in the US. Some US resorts now have a daily allocation. So, if you’re going to be visiting at peak times it’s best to book early. Practice putting on your ski clothes well before you go away. You will discover if anything doesn’t fit right and get used to the feel at the same time. If you have your own ski boots practice putting them on and taking them off the right way.
3. Rent your Ski Equipment in Advance
For your first skiing trip, it’s much easier to rent all the equipment. Ski rental websites will most likely have agreements with the ski shops in your chosen resort. The websites are easy to use where you can input your height, weight, and foot size so that the equipment you collect should fit everyone.
Even with this preparation, it does take some time to fit out a family so arrive early. Most ski shop technicians are skiing enthusiasts and will be happy to pass on their knowledge about the equipment and the local mountain. Often, it’s possible to go for your equipment fitting the afternoon before your rental starts. The staff will be less rushed and more able to give you some demonstrations.
If you’ve never worn ski boots before, ask the technician to show you the right way to do them up. Boots can be awkward unless fitted well - it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
4. Dress in layers & don’t forget Sun Cream, Lip Balm & Sunglasses
Wearing the right clothing for skiing has always been a tough call. You’re going to be outside on the mountains, where the temperature can be -5° C+ at the bottom and -20° C+ at the top.
Then you’re going to be doing a lot of aerobic exercises, which makes you hot, and finally, you’ll be sitting still for a few minutes on a chairlift in a biting wind. Get it wrong and your teeth will be chattering, or you will be boiling hot and soaked through with sweat. So, what can you do?
By using layers of clothing, you can plan for all eventualities until you get a handle on the general conditions during your vacation. Take a backpack so you can take an extra layer or if you’re too hot take a layer off. Make sure your base layer is made of polyester. It is much better at wicking moisture away from your body, while a cotton T-shirt isn’t. Cotton will absorb 7% of its weight in water and polyester only 0.4%. At the same time, polyester traps air between the layers, which gives great insulation and warmth. Generally, two base layers and a good ski jacket will keep you warm on all but the coldest of days.
Write a simple checklist of all the items and equipment you’re likely to need during the day. There is nothing more annoying than arriving at the first chairlift to discover someone who doesn’t have their lift ticket. Even if it’s slightly cloudy always use sun cream. The sun is more intense at higher altitudes and its reflection off the snow will compound this. Similarly, always take lip balm, as moisture from your breath and the wind will take their toll. Always wear sunglasses or goggles, even on partly cloudy days. The intensity of the sun can easily cause permanent damage to your eyes.
5. Ski school is expensive. Should I teach my kids to Ski?
These four questions should indicate if you are suited to teaching your kids:
- Am I at least an intermediate skier?
- Am I a patient person when things don’t go well?
- Can I devote time to teaching, even though I’m losing my own vacation time?
- Are my kids enthusiastic about skiing?
If you answer ‘yes’ to the above questions, then it is well worth trying to teach your kids the basics of skiing on small slopes and introducing them to making turns.
The following tips will help to keep your kids interested and comfortable as you teach them:
* Get used to the Gear
When you’ve picked up your skiing equipment practice walking in your boots in the snow to get the hang of how they feel. You’re bound to slip and slide at first so don’t carry anything. Demonstrate to your kids how they will carry their skis to the lift and back to the hotel. Kids’ skis are very light so it’s easiest for them to carry them on their outstretched arms curled around them.
* Take a Backpack
Having a backpack while you’re out on runs can be a great advantage. So long as you don’t overpack, you won’t need to remove it to ride the chairlift. Take a bottle of water, treats and snacks, underwear for small kids, and spare mittens. Kids often soak their mittens, which makes them miserable.
* You’re on vacation to have fun
Treats and snacks provide much-needed energy and motivation on cold mornings. Stop for hot chocolate mid-morning and eat a proper lunch to keep your spirits up. Energy can flag in the afternoons, so use a snack to energize.
* Break off to play some Games
Tag in the Snow and One-Minute Snowball Fight are great games to do something different and warm the kids up at the same time. Sometimes if the chairlift seems to drag try I-Spy to liven it up. Try to follow the leader on some easy slopes. Lead with a parent and ask the kids to try to catch up by following. Everyone will be practicing turns without even realizing it.
6. Reserve your Kids places in Ski School
If you’ve decided you’re not suited to teach your kids to ski, then hand over responsibility to the ski school. It will be more expensive but at least you’ll have the knowledge they are in good hands and learning some new skills. Many families find it is money well spent, where the kids are occupied, and the parents have the freedom to ski alone and enjoy their well-earned vacation.
Spend some time with your kids the day before their first day in school and give them an idea of what happens during the lessons. This will help to limit any anxieties they may have about what they will be expected to do. It is valuable learning time as it also teaches them independence and how to fit into a group.
If after the first day you hear from the instructor your kids struggled in the class, then accompany them the following day or days to provide support and encouragement. Ski school costs can quickly mount up, so make sure you are getting value.
Always take time to chat with the ski instructor when you pick up your kids. Ask them what progress they’ve made and what they struggled with. Ask for tips on how you can help them practice in the areas they found difficult. Ski instructors have a wealth of knowledge so make the most of it. When you next ski with your kids ask them to demonstrate the skills they’ve learned. Join in with their demonstration and have fun with it. This will give them a good confidence boost.
7. Plan for successful days where you don’t waste time
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. At altitude, it can be difficult to fall asleep so do yourself a favor and limit alcohol and caffeine in the evening. Skiing is an energetic sport, so you will burn lots of calories and use many of the body’s muscles. Sleep and rest are when the body can recover.
Get up early. There are a lot of small things to organize each skiing day that can eat into your skiing time unless you get organized. Use checklists so you don’t forget to take essential items Does everyone need a mobile to keep in touch? - keep them well inside your jacket. The cold can make a mobile battery die quickly. Skiing is an energetic sport so you will lose a lot of water through sweating and breathing out. It’s easy to become dehydrated, which makes you feel terrible. So always make sure you have enough water for the day.
Restaurants sometimes provide tap water to refill bottles. Take advantage of this as everything on the runs is very expensive. Take enough breaks during the day to help your body adjust to the altitude, as well as give your legs a much-needed break.
8. Towards the end of the vacation, take some Videos and Photos
At the end of the week, everyone will hopefully be skiing more confidently, so capture this improvement with some photos or a video. Get the kids to show off their new abilities, it’s fun to compare progress from year to year.
Lastly, don’t feel you have to ski every day, skiing isn’t cheap but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every minute on the runs. Choose something different to do one day. Everyone tends to feel tired halfway through the vacation, so use that day as a natural break to do something easier that you enjoy.