by Rachel Walker
There is no end of advice for how to optimize your ski vacation. Countless websites offer discounted lodging; less expensive lift tickets can be found for those who sleuth; and for the family that wants to ski together? The blogosphere has you covered. But what if the problem—i.e. that obstacle between your driveway and the mountains—isn’t motivation, but simple confusion?
I had this thought recently, as my family and I headed out on our umpteenth ski trip for the season. Because we go somewhere new almost every weekend, and because my husband and I don’t mind strapping our four and six year old sons in the car and driving for hours, we have got this head-out-the-door-for-skiing thing dialed.
But that wasn’t always the case.
We’ve forgotten ski pants, skis, poles, boots, and ski passes. We’ve spent triple the amount that we should have for snacks because we forgot ours at home. We’ve almost run out of gas on a very long drive home to Colorado from Jackson, Wyoming. Which is to say: we have a lot of hard-won insight on how to get out the door and to the slopes, and I’m going to share it with you here. Let this be your ski vacation checklist.
- Put it on the calendar and pony up a deposit. Nothing like having some skin in the game to make that ski vacation happen. If you don’t plan and commit, there will always be an excuse that crops up and tries to persuade you to cancel your trip. (This happens to me regularly, even though I live to ski and make my living writing about it. But because life is busy, I almost always feel torn just before we leave for the trip; fortunately I ignore that emotion and, trust me on this one, I’ve never once regretted going skiing.)
- Organize your gear at home. Both kids, my husband and I each have our own dedicated ski boot bag. Inside the bag you’ll find our ski boots, helmet, goggles, several pairs of gloves or mittens, buffs and neck warmers, ski pants, ski jacket, ski passes. These are packed and lined up on the floor in our garage. When we get home from a ski trip, either my husband or I will wash anything that needs to be washed and then repack the bags. Sure, we double check before heading out to make sure everything is where it should be. But it always is. This makes packing infinitely easier.
- Simplify the rest of what you bring. In my clothing bag, I pack long underwear, pajamas, a comfortable sweater, extra ski socks, and my bathing suit (always pack your bathing suit!). Same for the kids—though I don’t know why I bother packing them clothes, as they always insist on hanging out in their long underwear after a day of skiing. We’re not posh and we rarely go out to dinner when we travel to ski, which makes it easy to keep it simple. Why is this important? Because the fewer bags you’re lugging around, the more fun you’ll have. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that proves this.
- Stuffies stay home. If you’re not a parent of young children, go ahead and skip this one. If you are, consider limiting your kids’ toys and stuffed animals and books to just one of each. Less to keep track of. Plus, the kids are pooped after days on the slopes and are generally happy to play with the condo’s board games or to color on scratch paper or, better yet, play in the pool (note: try to rent lodging with pool access).
- Allow for break in time. We rarely put the kids in ski school on our first day of a ski vacation, particularly when it’s somewhere new. This is because we don’t want to rush. We’d rather figure out the parking or bus situation, make sure we’re all well fed and hydrated, and explore on our own schedule.
- Keep meals simple. Our food cache on ski weekends is straightforward: peanut butter, jelly (don’t forget to bring zip lock bags!) for lunch. Carrots and apples for snacks. Tortilla chips. Pasta and some sauce (we’re nuts for the Costco pesto) and some frozen meat (it stays frozen during the drive and thaws out in the fridge for quick cooking). This is not the time for gourmet meals (except that one New Years in Crested Butte, when my husband prepared coq au vin, but that’s another story). Basically we bring the staples, treat ourselves to one or two meals out, and just think of food as fuel. Again—our whole purpose is to simplify. One day we’ll get really organized and do some crock pot chili…but until then, we carbo load and don’t complain.
- Enjoy your time on the slopes. The key to this, especially with little kids, is to find gratitude in the details like the scenery and the mountains and, if the weather gods cooperate, the snow. It’s gorgeous out there. You’re skiing downhill on wooden planks with metal edges. You’re with people you love. It really doesn’t get much better than this. So cut yourself a break if you’re not thrilled with your technique on this particular day, and don’t worry if your four-year-old refuses to carry his skis. Either bribe him with hot cocoa or just carry them for today. Life is short. Skiing is bliss. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get yourself out there and pat yourself on the back. You’re going to have an amazing day. I promise.
- Don’t forget these things. Sunscreen. Ski passes. Gloves. Goggles. Boots. Ski socks. A mid-layer. Ski pants and jacket. Skis or snowboard. Neck warmer. Sunglasses. Chapstick. Nail clippers.