For seamless days on the slopes with the family, you need to strategize.
There is little in this world more precious than the vision of a toddler bundled in a snowsuit, helmet, goggles and ski boots. Talk about a photo op. But getting the smallest of skiers and riders—the toddler set—onto the slopes can feel like a monumental undertaking. Some would say getting to the top of the Seven Summits is easier than getting pint-size skiers to the top of the Magic Carpet. Just remember, you’ll be jumping off cornices with these bundles of joy by the time they’re teenagers.
What follows are tips for skiing and riding with tots.
Keep the Prep Period Positive
The first day of lessons can be like that first day of kindergarten. Parents can be nervous and stressed. When kids sense anxiety from mom and dad, they may internalize that emotion. So breathe, people.
Talk to kids about how passionate you are about skiing or riding. Play up the fun factor. Before the first day, watch YouTube videos of skiing and snowboarding that looks accessible and fun. Maybe hold off on footage of the 80-footer cliff drops for now.
Manage Your Expectations
Don’t expect junior to be ripping black diamonds after one lesson. He was just in diapers a minute ago, right? In fact, if your child is still on the bunny slope or in a pint-size terrain park, but she’s having a blast, consider the day a success.
You want kids to love being outside and sliding on snow. Technique will follow. For a 3-year-old, the experience should be about play and fun—skills not so much.
Enjoy the Journey
To reduce the morning stress level of getting dressed, packed up and out the door, lay out all the clothes and gear the night before. Also pack up snacks and lunches and load skis and boards in your car. (Keep boots indoors, so they stay warm.)
Try to make the preparation process a pathway to fun. That might mean pretending to put mittens on their feet or suggesting your giant ski boots are theirs. Stay goofy.
Junior base layers are as comfy as pajamas and maybe even more fun, with an array of whimsical prints. Let toddlers sleep in their base layers and they’ll be one step closer to being ready in the morning.
Mittens are easier to slide on and they keep little fingers warmer than gloves do. Make sure the mitts are waterproof, because kids tend to be “in” the snow, while parents are “on” the snow. Put disposable hand-warmers in your kid’s mittens on cold days. The best snow-worthy kid mittens also have a long gauntlet that can be cinched up to cover that vulnerable sliver of skin between the mitt and the sleeve where snow sneaks in.
Pack a Bunny
If your child has a comfort item, why not bring it to the mountains? My daughter loved skiing with all manner of stuffed animals stowed in her jacket when she was small. And if your child is heading for ski school, tuck a comfort item (like a little blanket) in their parka pocket to limit anxiety.
If you’ve ever seen a toddler walk in ski boots, you know it’s no easy task. Walking Frankenstein style from the parking lot can be fatiguing for kids. Most resorts, from Copper to Crested Butte, offer temporary drop-off parking. Take advantage of these drop-off zones. Unload kids, gear and one adult, then go and park.
Also look for wagons provided by resorts like Copper, Winter Park and Steamboat for schlepping gear from lot to lodge. These make the trip with kids and a load of gear so much easier for families. Or consider buying one of those cheap plastic sleds or even a collapsible wheeled wagon for a DIY option.
Pack Mule (You)
If you had as many hands as an octopus has tentacles, you’d be in good shape here. That’s how much gear the family has. One solution is to load up a backpack with gear. Most backpacks can carry two pairs of small skis strapped to either side, which will leave you hands-free to carry your own gear—or better yet, to hold your child’s mittened hand.
For tips on getting older kids into skiing and snowboarding, check out “Top Tips for Turning Kids into Slope Potatoes.”