The best tips for skiing with kids

Learning to ski, ski school
Boy learning to ski, ski school.

Take your kids on a family ski holiday and save them the embarrassment of learning to ski as adults. They will thank you for never having to awkwardly snow-plough as an adult, down a green run whilst little ski bunnies zip pass with ease.

With the courtesy of Niseko Powder Connection, here are some of the best tips for skiing with young kids:

Choose a family friendly ski resort

A family friendly ski resort is finding a good balance for both parents and kids. Too small and there may not be enough facilities to keep all family members entertained. Too busy could mean long queues for chairlifts, large ski school classes and long wait times around the village.

Here are some things to consider when finding a family friendly ski resort:

  • Ski school program

    Look for resorts with a ski school. If your kids are old enough to ski, they can meet friends and begin the love for the powder early. Mum and dad also get a chance to hit the slopes before coming together in the afternoon for family activities.

  • Family ski zones

    Family zones or slow zones are ideal for kids learning to ski.

  • Easily accessible nursery runs

    Look for wide green runs that are close to the bottom of the mountain or within easy reach of a gondola.

    Loading and unloading young kids on chair lifts is not for the faint hearted, look for resorts with long green runs that require few rides on chairlifts. This means maximum time on the snow and less hassle of coordinating chair lifts with kids. Check out kidsonlifts.org for more information on how to safely load and unload kids from a chair lift.

  • Family friendly après ski

    Includes activities such as: tobogganing, snow tubing, outdoor playgrounds, organised family entertainment and events.

  • Casual dining

    Look for a resort with a variety of restaurants with relaxed settings, ones with kids menus are and added bonus. A good tip is to ask a ski operator where they go for a bite.

  • Kids clubs and child minding

    Put the kids in a creche’ or kids club where they can interact with other kids and parents can have a holiday too.

  • Easy to get around

    Ski resorts that provide an easy way to transport your gear from the slopes back to you accommodation is a winner. This could be as simple as a free and frequent shuttle bus, on-piste accommodation or a central village.

Easily accessible nursery runs are ideal for kids starting to ski.
Easily accessible nursery runs are ideal for kids starting to ski.

Choose your accommodation wisely

Where you stay is key for a happy family holiday. The further you are away from the slopes the more frustrating it is to get to and from the ski area with kids. You want this journey to be quick, easy and with the minimum amount of effort required. Carrying the families ski gear together with young kids is not fun.

Look for accommodation that is:

  • Located close to ski school or the main chair lifts

    This requires less time to get to and from class.You can stay further away from the slopes if there is a shuttle bus that arrives at close to or preferably at your accommodation. This enables your family and all the gear to travel easily around the resort.

  • Offers plenty of facilities

    Large hotels not only have adjoining rooms, but also heated pools, hot tubs and warm indoor spaces to explore.

  • Self catering

    An alternative to a hotel resort is to stay in self-catering accommodation. A chalet or apartment means more space, separate bedrooms and the comforts of a kitchen to cook your own meals and do some laundry. Some chalets and lodges offer half and full board.

  • Has ski-in ski-out

    Ski-in Ski-out accommodation is very convenient, be mindful of where it’s located on the slope and what style run it joins. It could be the end of a blue run and depending on abilities be tricky to ski down. Also if skiing down is not an option for the young ones, be mindful if the shuttle bus services the chalet and how often they shuttle down to the village.

Consider a on piste chalet.
Consider self contained ski-in ski-out accommodation, this was ours in Val-d’Isère

Save money on kids ski clothing

Ski clothing is expensive and for kids can be a waste of money as they outgrow their gear quickly.

Be wary of spending a fortune on ski gear. If it’s your first trip to the snow, you may discover it isn’t their thing.

You can save by borrowing ski clothes from friends or hiring your ski clothes.

If you are considering purchasing the kids ski clothes, look out for end of season sales or buying second hand.

Other tips including checking out budget retailers such as Aldi’s annual ski sale or keeping an eye on end of season mark downs if you know you are going skiing in the next year.

Read more detailed information on how to save money on ski clothing coming soon.

Dress in layers for skiing with kids

Ski clothing though expensive is an absolute necessity. Borrow, hire or buy good ski gear to keep the kids warm and comfortable.

Keep kids warm by dressing in layers
Keep kids warm by dressing in layers

Layering is key to keeping warm in the snow and consists of three layers:

  1. Base layer including thermal top and leggings.
  2. Mid layer including a fleece jacket and optional fleece pants when it’s very cold. For babies and toddlers look for the fleece onesies with built in mittens and socks.
  3. Outer layer including insulated shell jacket and snow pants.

Other must haves are:

  • Goggles to pretect your eyes.
  • Quality Marino Wool socks.
  • A neck gaiter to prevent exposed necks.
  • Waterproof mittens.
  • Snow shoes for après ski.

Check out our comprehensive guide to Dressing your kids for snow travel, for more detailed information on what to buy, tips and suggestions.

Toilet first before ski clothes

Always ask little ones to goto the toilet before putting on the kids ski clothes. Ski clothing is cumbersome and the aim is to minimise the amount of time putting on and taking off layers.

Be sure the family is covered for snow sports

Check your insurance policy and make sure the family is covered for snow sports, which is often an added extra.

Read the Product Disclosure Statement carefully and understand what is and isn’t covered. Some policies do not cover theft of rental skis or pay benefits per adult and not per member of the family. Check if these benefits would realistically cover your entire family.

Got family cover for snow? Read your PDS carefully.
Got family cover for snow? Read your PDS carefully.

Look out for deals and packages

If you are plan on a skiing with kids holiday, there are plenty of ski resorts around the world that offer something to attract families. Make the most of it and research the best deals online, with travel agents and ski holiday specialists.

There are often great packages deals which bundle everything from accommodation, ski hire, ski lessons, transfers, lift passes, free kids club and meal deals.

Travel with friends

Travel with like-minded friends and you may have an extra set of hands. One thing you can do is to trade nights out in the village with babysitting the kids. You can also take alternate turns skiing and child minding. The only con is that you can’t ski as a group.

Particularly handy when travelling with friends is the hotel room setup. It’s not lights out for everyone if you organise adjoining rooms. Kids can be put down to bed in one room whilst still enjoying a quiet night in the other.

With a large group of friends you can also manage costs splitting a chalet or apartment together. This is nice also as kids have ample space to play and the adults have good company after a big ski day.

Hire the ski gear on mountain

There is no travelling lightly especially skiing with kids, winter and ski clothing is bulky. Minimalise the luggage by hiring skis, boots, poles, boards and helmets on the mountain.

If you are considering hiring your ski clothing, check if you can do this on the mountain to reduce your luggage even more.

Rentals at the ski resort maybe slightly more expensive, but it’s worth that little extra compared to the pain and effort of carrying cumbersome gear through airports and transfers.

Take a baby carrier and leave the stroller

Although most of the village walkways are snow ploughed and tolerate strollers. Be mindful of steps, shuttle busses crammed with skiers and steep hills.

It’s best to use a baby carrier to navigate icy paths particularly when there is a fresh dump of snow. Baby carriers work better at village restaurants and shops as well as being handy for gondola rides up the mountain. If taking a stroller, consider ones with all terrain wheels.

It wasn't the easiest with this stroller. Baby carrier is best.
It wasn’t the easiest with this stroller. Baby carrier is best.

Stock up on food and beverages before the mountain

Ski resorts can be expensive where everything is marked up. Stop into a supermarket at the nearest town before the resort to stock up on food and supplies.

Load up on water, snacks and drinks including alcohol prior to arriving.

Get in early and always pre-book

Organise ski gear the night before when skiing with kids

The start of the day can be busy for organising ski hire. Kids can get impatient waiting in lengthy queues to select and fit ski gear. Try to organise

ski hire the night before you hit the slopes. This way you get a fresh start the following morning. During peak times, ski hire retailers are open with extended ours.

Some ski resorts have ski hire available at the hotel, which makes life easier and a great time saver. Better still, if you have some cash to spare, some chalets offer a ski butler where skis are delivered and fitted personally at your accommodation.

Book ski school, kids club and babysitting early

If you know the dates you will be skiing or the evenings where you want a night on the town, pre-book as other families are probably thinking the same thing.

Enroll kids in ski school

Kids aged three years and older can learn to ski in a fun setting. Some resorts allow two year olds to participate. Classes are usually small and qualified ski instructors teach your kids the fundamentals of skiing with a focus on safety. Not to mention they look incredibly cute!

Depending on your resort, ski school programs tend to run in the mornings with half-day or full-day programs with lunch covered. Mum and dad get an opportunity to explore the mountains which sounds blissful.

Some kids especially first time round may tire easily and be overwhelmed with new skills and information. Consider taking a day off between lessons.

Little ones learn to ski with new friends
Little ones learn to ski with new friends at Ski School

Consider Childcare or babysitting

As well as ski school, some of the larger resorts offer casual daily child minding with crèche’s available. Age limits vary from each ski resort, with some offering services for kids as early as 18 weeks to 5 years. The more common minimum age is from 18 months. Childcare is separate to ski school, where they may play outdoors in the snow, but do not learn to ski.

Childcare rates are usually charged per day. If you know which days you would like childcare, pre-book before your trip as they fill up quickly.

An alternative to childcare is to hire a nanny on mountain. There are nanny agencies that specifically service ski resorts. Going through an agency means that nannies are experienced, qualified and have been background and reference checked for added peace of mind.

Rates vary depending on country from buying a block of 6 half or full days to casual on-call daily and hourly rates.

No ski school or childcare? No problem, take turns up the mountain

If you don’t like the look of the childcare center and the kids aren’t old enough for ski school. You can still get a chance to ski. It’s a matter of taking turns up the mountain as the other parent stays back to mind the kids. It works out a little more economical as you are only sharing the one lift pass.

Taking turns skiing allows some time to enjoy the slopes on your own. You need not feel guilty as it will be your turn soon enough.

Mums turn up the mountain
Mums turn up the mountain

Stay safe when skiing with kids

Here are some tips to keeping kids safe on the slopes:

  • Wear helmets

    Helmets protect little heads from bumps, falls and collision and are compulsory for ski school programs. You can hire kids helmets along with your other gear on mountain and have it expertly fitted. Be sure to call in advance to reserve a helmet during peak times, as these are hot items.

  • Remove hats under helmets

    It’s best to wear a helmet without a hat as manufacturers test the safety of a helmet based on use without a hat underneath.The concern is that a hat will cause the helmet to become loose and less effective in an incident.Most helmets come with ear flaps and a lining that keeps heads warm enough. If kids get particularly cold consider a thicker neck gaiter or balaclava.

    There are many kids that have beanies on and if this is the only way to keep kids warm, make sure it’s a thin hat without adornments such as mohawks or pom poms. Have the helmet fitted professional with that particular beanie on.

  • Have a plan in case your child gets lost

    Like any holiday with large crowds, always brief your child on emergency procedures should they accidentally get lost.For little ones, identify a common meeting point and communicate who to ask for help should they become lost. A meeting point can be a souvenir shop before the chairlifts. It must be an easily locatable and visually stands out.Discuss safe strangers which can be: shop owners, ski operators and other mums. Teach them what to do when the realise they are lost which is to stand still and let someone find them rather than wondering off.

  • Carry a phone

    Have a phone that is contactable on hand and store it an inside pocket to keep it safe and dry. You can either activate your global roaming or purchase an international SIM.  This is the number to contact you on in case your child gets lost. Take a daily photo on the phone of the kids. This helps explain what your kids look like and dressed in on the day.

  • Brand the kids

    There are wrist bands with an emergency contact number which can be purchased for such event. Or you can brand your kids with a marker or on their clothing. Show the kids where you’ve hidden the number in the event of an emergency they can show a safe stranger. Never write their name for safety reasons.

Keep kids safe and buy or hire a helmet
Keep kids safe and buy or hire a helmet

Pack sunscreen and lip balm

Kids burn easier at high altitude with the sun’s rays reflecting off the snow. Apply a high SPF protection long lasting sunscreen, particularly to exposed area such as face, neck and hands.

Lips become dry at altitude and from the wind. Carry lip balm or paw paw ointment to prevent sore lips. There are brands specifically designed to clip to your jacket, the only tricky bit is not losing the lid.

Keep hydrated

Kids burn allot of energy on the snow, even when they are not skiing. The high altitude and cold dehydrates kids quicker. Carry a drink bottle in your pack and take drink stops frequently.

With ski school kids take regular stops and have breaks for lunch, a drink and the toilet.

Carry snacks

As kids exert calories on the slopes they tend to get hungry quicker. Carry a few snacks on you for a quick pick me up. Muesli bars, trail mix, apples and carrots are all snacks that don’t get too squished.

Go slow

Take your time, it’s a family holiday and the aim is to enjoy each other’s company. As tempting it is to be first on the mountain and to wait for the very last chair lift, little kids do not have the stamina. As well as rests throughout the day, take rest days from skiing and enjoy the other parts of the resort.

Go slow, kids tire easy. Take frequent breaks and pack some snacks.
Go slow, kids tire easy. Take frequent breaks and pack some snacks.

Explore the village and surrounds

The village is the heart of the resort and one that you should explore with the kids. You may find interesting shops, great tips from the locals or discover delicious treats.

It’s particularly exciting if you’re exploring an international resort, from meeting street vendors in Niseko, admiring the lakes in Whistler or walking through perfect chocolate box villages in the Swiss Alps.

Exploring the village with a teeny Liam
Exploring the village with a teeny Liam

Dine out sometimes

Take a trip up the mountain for a scenic lunch, there are ski resort restaurants that offer some spectacular views over the alps. Alternatively start your day at the top of the mountain with a hearty cooked breakfast.
It’s also fun and part of ski life to enjoy the village at night, depending on how tired the kids are from the days activities, dine out and enjoy a casual meal in the village. Try for an early dinner to beat the crowds and prevent meltdowns.

Niseko Crab Ramen by David McKelvey, on Flickr
Niseko Crab Ramen by David McKelvey, on Flickr CC

Eat in mostly

It’s much easier to eat in especially at night. You don’t need to bundle the kids up to dine out in the village, wait for shuttle busses or meals at a busy restaurant.

Self catering, half board or full board options means that kids can go crazy in the comfort of your own accommodation, away from the prying eyes of the public.

Sip hot chocolate

There is nothing quite like reenergising with a warm cup of cocoa. It’s absolutely mandatory particularly if you’re in Switzerland home to some of the finest chocolate in the world. Taking breaks out of the cold means happy kids.

Take day trips

Part of the magic that is an international ski trip is being so close to wonderful cities or exotic attractions.

Plan a day trip off mountain to experience the culture and diversity of the country you are visiting. It could be taking a dip in the natural hot springs in Noboribetsu an hour from Niseko. Or exploring the ‘Old Town’ of Salzburg 1.5 hours from Austria ski resort Zell am See.

Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse in Salzburg, Austria. Picture by Horst Michael Lechner, Wikipedia CC
Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse in Salzburg, Austria. Picture by Horst Michael Lechner, Wikipedia CC

Build a snowman

No family especially an Aussie one can forget to build a snowman with the kids. This is the stuff memories are made of. It’s optional to have the Frozen soundtrack playing whilst you do so, though I’m sure the kids will be singing along regardless.

Build a snowman with the kids
Build a snowman with the kids

Discover Après ski for kids

There are some amazing Après ski activities including: zip lining in Whistler, sleigh rides in Austria, tube rides in the Canadian Rockies and dog sledding in Bormio Italy.

Resorts also organise festivities and entertainment. Particularly around the Christmas and New Years with bouncy castles, firework shows, ice-carving competitions, live music, carols and family races.

Light fireworks (if you can)

Personal fireworks are legal in some countries including France and Japan. It’s a case of when in Rome do as the romans do, stand back and light them up.

It’s also a good time to look up as the stars are magnificent in the mountains on a clear day.

Always soak

After a big day skiing it’s always good to soak. Spas and hot tubs can be a great family affair, sit back and rejuvenate achy. Your little monkeys can enjoy a splash outdoors and watch skiers take their last run down the mountain. 

The monkey's are onto a winner, soak daily after a big ski day. Image Brian Jeffery Beggerly Flickr CC
The monkey’s are onto a winner, soak daily after a big ski day. Image by Brian Jeffery Beggerly Flickr CC

Heading to the snow with the kids? Have you got any tips to add to this list? Please reply below:

7 Comments

  • Hi Rene,

    Came across your blog and you seems like skiing is a part of your family.
    I’m wondering how easy will it be to navigate a stroller in Niseko? As we are traveling with or kids of age 5,3 and 1 to Niseko is late December. I’ve read about the snow ploughed streets and it seems impossible to have stroller veered through.
    With 3 kids and winter wear, quite impossible to travel light… What are your thoughts?
    Would be great if you can share!

    • Sorry to miss this ER. We have taken the stroller to the snow and if the streets are ploughed, you can push the stroller without much trouble. However, stairs and unploughed snow is a slippery nightmare. I’d take it just in case and if it doesn’t work out, just collapse it and use it at the airport. They do come in handy. The lighter, more nimble the stroller. The better.
      If you have a harness for the 1 year old and perhaps one for the 3 year old. Then there is an option of leaving the stroller at home.

      Thanks for reading and please let me know how you went?

      xo

      Rene

  • Great tips guys, very thorough. While Niseko looks awesome for kids, can’t speak highly enough of Hakuba! We’ve skied nearly every continent and all the major resorts around the world and nothing compares to Hakuba powder (except I expect Niseko?).

    Our son also had an awesome time there and loved the ski school… giving us all the time we needed to head off-piste and amongst the trees for the incredible powder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHzXMtspjC0

    • Thanks Fil 🙂 I hear good things about Hakuba. How good does it look on your video! Isn’t Aiden just awesome. Puts me to shame.

      Planning on hitting Niseko in 2016 but might have to look into Hakuba now. Happy travels and thanks for stopping by xo

  • My big tip for skiing with kids are Club Med ski holidays. We have been thrilled with our ski vacations in Japan and China with Club Med. The kids club was amazing giving us the chance to ski ourselves and ski lessons were included in the kids club. For us based in Australia it was cheaper (and more exciting) to travel to Club Med in China for skiing than to go as a family to the Victorian ski fields.

  • You look like you’ve skiied everywhere! Don’t tell P – he’ll be jealous.

    Definitely yes to the beginner run with gondola access. Nursery slopes at the bottom are an option but P felt very grown up when he got to the top of the mountain where a big, long green run awaited him going all the way down (at Nozawa Onsen, Japan).

    Also, I found low-impact options like snow shoeing were great when I was pregnant.

    • We were making up for the lack of snow growing up. I am still pretty hopeless though, I might look the part but it’s all a big mess when I’m on the slope. Also, being pregnant and snow shoeing isn’t really something I’m all too keen on. I’m trying to visualise how I would be able to do it without face planting into the snow. xoxo

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