Each phase of my children’s lives brings me a different perspective on what are the essential survival skills for a skiing mom. When the kids were tiny it was the simple fact of remembering that sometimes a “ski day” meant a total of 30 minutes on snow, and then hour after hour of building Lego creations in the lodge, with frequent breaks for cookies.
As they’ve gotten older my “survival skills” have expanded to include having the boys manage their own gear and allowing them to lead me toward more technical terrain. The “mom” in me doesn’t want to believe that they can handle it. The “skier” in me could not be more proud.
I think a successful family ski experience boils down to keeping a balance between the supremely efficient and the supremely silly. Here, in no particular order, are my tips: .
- CREATE HABITS: Knowing that you have to lay out gear the night before so that kids can dress themselves (to the best of their developmental ability) is a great habit to get into. Insisting that they wear all their gear in the car including boots, is another habit. This way you simply have to run down the mental checklist as you eyeball them when they exit the car: Helmet, goggles, neck gaiter, jacket, pants, boots. When you leave the mountain, run through a similar checklist, then again when you exit the car at home. Make sure all the gear is removed from bags, and laid out to dry, when you get home.
- BOOK LESSONS: Ski School is often the saving grace of the family ski vacation. I live here and it has been the saving grace of entire seasons of skiing. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, instructors know how to coach people so that the equipment is doing the lion’s share of the work. People who haven’t had lessons don’t always know what their equipment is capable of doing and the ensuing overcompensating can result in very sore legs. Second, it gives your family the chance to “wow” each other with skills you developed while apart. Third, you acquire only the best skiing skills out of the gate and if you haven’t skied in a while, a good instructor will help break you of some old habits.
- GOOF OFF: Alternate challenging terrain with something less challenging. If your kids are starting to explore intermediate terrain, it’s still important to ski the easier stuff. I have found that my kids get as much of a mental boost out of being the masters of Wide West ski run as they do when they lay claim to bragging rights on Square Deal ski run. Also, some wise instructors have told me that when you catch your “french fries” skier suddenly relying on the “pizza” wedge, it’s time to dial back the difficulty until they find the “fries” again. Plus, some of the obstacles on easier terrain can do wonders to help improve overall skill levels.
- USE YOUR PHONE’S CAMERA: You can create a combo-platter of trail-memory backup and scrapbook-ready photos if you snap photos of your family standing under the trail markers at the beginning of a run. At the end of the day, you can look through the photos and make a note of trails you want to ski again. Share your photos on social media with the resorts hashtag to connect with other ski families and to learn local secrets. We use #SkiTheDifference at Deer Valley Resort.
- CARRY CANDY: If I have said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. A stash of candy in your pocket can go a long way toward keeping kids’ energy and excitement levels high. Recently when skiing with my extended family, my cousin Erica quipped that she’d just enjoyed a “grape smelling” run, as Lance skied in front of her while enjoying a grape-flavored candy.
- AVAIL YOURSELF OF THE BASKET CHECK, LOCKERS and SKI CHECK. If you’re skiing consecutive days use the complimentary ski storage at Deer Valley. If you know your family will have “boot fatigue” by day’s end, stow your snow boots in the lockers or basket check in the bottom of Snow Park Lodge. Basket check is great if you know you’re going to be spending part of the day in the lodge entertaining yourself (book) or a young family member (small bag of toys).
- CONSIDER SEASONAL RENTALS. Some local shops have amazing seasonal rental programs for kids. We have used the one at Utah Ski and Golf for Lance. Many of these programs charge a flat fee for multiple seasons. Seth is in the Surefoot and Jans programs for boots and skis. At Surefoot, we receive credit toward the next size up, at Jans, we trade in skis and bindings for a 30% discount. Buying adjustable poles for both boys has saved us a bundle too.
- SHARE OFTEN. We all have different preferences for lunch. Lance eats a giant bowl of chicken noodle soup, every day. Seth is my pasta friend. I’m partial to the baked potatoes with various toppings. Jeff’s a fan of the daily specials at Snow Park Lodge. We’re all fans of the french fries, so we usually just get one plate to share between us. This is a strategic move that leaves plenty of room for dessert even if that’s just a shared cookie.
- CREATE GAMES ON THE LIFTS: Have your kids count the number of orange helmets they see. Winner gets an extra piece of candy. Everyone in the family can point out skiers who are demonstrating good form, or form we’d rather not emulate. This exercise can help everyone visualize their ideal turn.
- FOLLOW YOUR KIDS: If they have attended even one day of ski school, their instructor let them in on “secret” trails or even special ways to attack not-so-secret trails. From exploring the “whoop-dee-dos” on the side of the trail, to taking a detour through Bucky’s Backyard, your kids will delight in leading the way and more than likely, the upper hand in confidence on the terrain.
- LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: This is another thing that bears repeating. Cut the day a little short, maybe two runs fewer than you think the group can handle. You get bonus points if you receive a ton of protest from your newly-addicted skiers. Remember, when you’re six, “a long time ago” is when you were four. So, no matter how much fun they had before 2:30 pm, if the day sours at 2:45, that may be all they remember. Giving them the opportunity to hunger for more days is a guaranteed way to ensure they’ll be ready for more the next time you ski.
- AVAIL YOURSELF OF APRÉS. Whatever your poison, cookies and cocoa or cookies and creme de cacao, remember that you deserve a reward for shepherding your family through another ski day. I’m a fan of EBS Lounge in Snow Park Lodge, there’s usually live music on weekend and holiday afternoons.