We like to hike up the beautiful Wasatch Front Mountains in the warm months, but in the cold months our family prefers to ski down them.
I married into a ski family that has been hitting the slopes on Powder Mountain Utah for generations. I always knew I would be taking my kids skiing as soon as they were old enough, but it sounded very intimidating.
However, I am here to tell you it is possible to take little kids skiing and have fun!
Teaching Riley to ski is now one of the highlights of my winter. I’ve done this for the past two years and feel like I have the science down for having a good ski day with little ones. #skimom
Disclaimer: Know when it is a good age for your child to ski. Ski lessons at several Utah resorts start around age four, but that may be too soon for your specific child. Only you know if they are “ready” and you feel confident to take them on the slopes safely. (Can you confidently help them get on and off the lift chair? Can you slow them down?) Don’t feel like you need to rush your child out at age four if they are not very athletic or mature. Starting at the right age for your little one can make the world of difference.
I am not a ski instructor, just a fellow mountain mama. Take the time to educate yourself on the risks associated with skiing by consulting a professional instructor.
Read on for my Top 5 Tips to Ski Utah with Kids:
- Before Ski Day, Have a Fashion Show: Don’t expect a little kid, new to skiing, to be thrilled when you stuff them in constrictive gear and shuffle them into the cold mountain air. They are uncomfortable, in a new place and nervous about the slippy skis their crazy parents put on their feet. That is a recipe for a full blown, embarrassing MELTDOWN on top of the mountain, even if they are fed and well rested. #beentheredonethat Instead, have your little one try on their ski gear at home and explain why each part is important. It helps if you can get a helmet in their favorite color. (This is also a great opportunity to gather everything you need for their ski bag before the day-of anyway.) Talk to them about what to expect and get them excited for the fun parts.
- Make it Fun: When you ski with kids, the goal is to teach them to love it. It is about them having fun, not you (it is fun enough to show your kid something you love). Don’t snap at them if they are slow to get ready or crying because they are nervous or cold. Don’t freak if they say they need to go potty right after you get all their gear on (I’ve learned to always make my daughter go potty before we get all her gear on). And of course, on their first ski day of the season, choose a pristine day. If you take them on a windy, cold or snowy day…don’t be surprised if they never want to go again.
- Be Playful & Keep Expectations Low: This one goes along with making it fun. Every kid is different, but I found that playing “games” and cheering Riley on whenever she was skiing helped her to relax and have fun. It is kind of scary to ski, but being goofy and cheering on my kid really helps her shake the nerves. While one parent is helping the skier, the other can be “racing” or “playing tag” with the child. Zach will ski backwards or flap like a bird to make Riley laugh. When they fall, say, “You are doing great!” Praise them for their strong little legs and take videos for them to view later. Finally, keep your expectations low. Point out one or two of the basics without stressing them out. Make a goal to get them out on just two runs to start (with a break in-between). You will be surprised how long it takes just to ski two runs with a kid and one run can easily be a couple of miles. Don’t make them ski until they are crying. End on a high note.
- Pack for Success: With little skiers you are gonna want an edgie wedgie, ski leash, ski goggles, tiny skis, ski boots, ski helmet and everything else they need to be warm and safe. I try to dress my little one in layers (the slopes can get surprisingly warm on sunny days). Speaking of sunny days, you will need sunscreen on their little face. The sun reflects off the snow far more than it does off of liquid water (water reflects around 10 percent while snow reflects 80 percent). Finally, pack your child’s favorite snacks to refuel in the lodge and some hot cocoa to warm up. My kids are well fed and rested before skiing, but I still feed them between runs. As soon as they are in the car for home, they are dead asleep. It is an exhausting day for them, even if they only take one run (our favorite beginner run is 3 miles long).
- Set up a Base Camp: Ideally, we like to get a ski-in/ski-out hotel or cabin with kids, but that is not the norm. Usually we set up a little “base camp” in one of the ski lodges. Typically it is a little corner table next to a window. The babe that is still too little to ski can hang out with one of the adults. I pack snacks, hot cocoa and an iPad loaded with movies and games. Usually we don’t even need the iPad because the babe is happy wandering around his new surroundings and eating snacks. We take turns with the babe and it gives everyone a nice break from the cold. We also don’t expect Riley to ski more than 2-3 runs, even on a good day, so the base camp is nice for her to take a break too. Sometimes she is just cranky and we only get one run in and let her hang at the base camp while we take turns skiing. It always helps to have extra family to help too.
In these first two years, we focus on making it fun for Riley, but also teach her a few basics.
She is four so some good basics for her age are “make a pizza with your skis,” “don’t look down, look up,” or “bend your knees a little.” She tends to try and lean on us or hang on the leash so we will also practice “passing her off” to each other so she learns to balance.
At the end of a ski day, we are generally exhausted, but smiling.