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If you aren’t already skiers who have the process down, taking a family ski trip for the first time can feel very intimidating! There’s so much to prepare, pack, and know! While Jon and I both grew up skiing and have taken our older kids a few times, we recently took our whole family on a ski vacation for the very first time, and it was a blast! The kids said it was better than Disneyland, and we have to agree! I’m breaking down the behind the scenes efforts to make it easier for other first-timers or those who are fairly new to hauling kids along for the ride.
The most important thing you can do to have a successful family ski trip is have good gear! Nothing ruins the fun faster than a little one who is just too cold or wet to go on. Depending on the season you go (we prefer spring skiing for slightly warmer temperatures) you’ll need varying levels of snow gear, but here’s a list to get you started. I spent so much time researching the best gear that was also affordable for a big family. While I definitely recommend using what you have, and borrowing gear that you won’t use often if possible, everything we purchased worked out perfectly, and I’m happy to share these great finds with you! Each family member will need:
A base layer to wear under clothing and snow gear. This option from 32 degrees is super affordable, and can double as pajamas anytime so you get your use out of it.
Mitten clips to avoid lost gloves or mittens! I saw lots of lost ones around on the slopes, but we didn’t lose any thanks to these!
Snow pants. We like this set of bibs to keep torsos extra cozy.
A balaclava. This isn’t strictly necessary, but some ski schools require them for lessons if it is snowing, and it’s much cheaper to buy them ahead of time than at the resort. If you go this year while masks are required, they also make a great face covering.
Ski goggles. I didn’t grow up using them, but they really make the experience much more pleasant. I recommend them for everyone!
A scarf or neck warmer if desired, and warm clothes for layering.
Snow boots and winter hats are great if you will be playing in the snow outside of skiing, but you’ll rent ski boots and a helmet at the resort, so they won’t be necessary for the skiing itself. We love these gender neutral snow boots, and with multiple kids, highly recommend passing them down since they are one of those items that doesn’t tend to get worn out. These hats are also so cute, cozy and affordable!
Finally, if you have a little one (5 or younger) learning to ski, an edgie wedgie (a contraption that clips the front of both skis together to help them keep their skis in the proper position) can be very helpful. You can buy them at the resort, but you’ll save a few dollars if you purchase one ahead of time.
We loved using packing cubes to separate the snow gear for each family member. It helped us stay organized, and kept me from forgetting anything!
I packed one extra cube with a few extra pairs of gloves, socks and hats. We didn’t end up needing any of them, but it was nice to know they were there in case anything went missing.
I placed all the full packing cubes in a large plastic tote in the back of our van, and it was so nice to have everything in one place that was contained but portable. If you are flying, a large suitcase would do the trick.
We brought a large duffle bag to hold everyone’s boots. I made sure it was washable since on the way home the boots going inside were a bit dirty.
We made sure to book lodging with a washer and dryer to dry wet gloves and mittens between ski days (they can really take a long time to air dry) but extra pair might be in order if you won’t have a dryer available. A blow dryer might do the trick, but standing around blow drying soggy mittens isn’t my idea of a vacation.
We preferred to grocery shop ahead of time for the majority of our food. I brought my instant pot for easy dinners at our lodging, as we were tired and unkempt after a day on the slopes, and not really in the mood to eat out. We packed in lunches, and kept them in a soft cooler in a locker we rented at the ski resort. It saved time and money to have food ready to go. We also brought pocket-size snacks like granola bars and rice krispie treats to keep in our kids’ coat pockets in case they got hungry before of after lunch time. Removing skis to go to the lodge for food wastes precious daylight on the slopes. Also, canned peaches are said to relieve altitude sickness, so for those who will be making a significant elevation increase from their norm to ski, those can be a life-saver in a pinch. Plan on nourishing, filling meals, as skiing can really work up an appetite.
Learning to ski:
I’m no expert on teaching kids to ski, so I hired experts instead! We chose a resort that had affordable lessons (see this post for all the details on where we went and how much it cost), and signed all our kids old enough to ski up for a half day lesson on the morning of our first day. We found that our older girls were a lot of fun for us to ski with after just a half day of lessons, and our four-year-old, learned enough for us to trade off helping him on the bunny hill. It was definitely worth the cost of the lessons, plus Jon and I got a morning to ski together while the kiddos were busy at ski school. We invited grandparents to come along, and they helped with our little ones when they got too tired (and our two-year-old got to stay with her aunt who also came but did not ski). If you have friends or family willing to help, that’s ideal, but we saw plenty of little kids just playing in the snow near the lodge at the resort, so it’s definitely possible for two parents to just take turns hanging out with little ones while other family members ski.
And there you have it. All the inside scoop you need for family ski trip success! I hope you get out these with your kids. It was truly a special experience. This season just has a few weeks left, so if you don’t squeeze in a trip this year, save this post for next!