One of the things I love most about the sport of skiing is that it’s a family-friendly, multi-generational activity. There aren’t very many sports that allow grandparents, parents, and kids to actively participate together.
Even though I grew up in northern Alberta, I had the great fortune to start skiing at an early age – and to ski with not just my dad and uncles, but my gramma too! I remember her making the trip from Calgary to Jasper to watch my Nancy Greene ski race one year, and I remember too her braving the -25C temperatures to ski with me when races were done. We had the hill mostly to ourselves.
So, of course, when my kids were old enough to walk, getting onto skis was the natural next step. With the first-born now old enough to shred double blacks, I’ve picked up some tricks along the way (mainly from making many, many mistakes!) that can make skiing with your kids easier, and more enjoyable for all involved.
Read on to learn my top 5 tips to rock skiing with kids of any age!
1. INVEST IN QUALITY TECHNICAL CLOTHING
Even if you don’t ski, investing in good quality technical underwear and outerwear for your kids makes winter in Canada more enjoyable.
Purchasing good quality base layers and outer layers for your kids will keep them warm and dry on the ski hill (or playing in the yard). Warm gloves and socks are also especially important for littles, who often have less efficient circulation than adults, and tend to have cold hands and feet.
Good quality technical garments are also often more durable than lower quality items, so if you are looking to hand gear down to younger siblings or cousins, investing in higher quality items can actually save you money over the years.
Obviously, budget is an important consideration, especially for fast-growing kids. Good quality doesn’t mean “most expensive”. Shop around, read reviews before buying, and watch for sales at the end of the season and stock up for next year.
There are also many buy-sell groups that offer good quality, good condition used gear for sale. For example, I recommend checking out RadMums which is an awesome social group for active moms in Calgary (but also has buy-sell groups) if you are looking to buy (or sell) good quality used technical gear.
Pro-tip: If you notice cold fingers and toes persisting, invest in hand and foot warmers like Little Hotties. You can buy them in bulk at Costco for a reasonable price. You can also pack an extra pair of warm ski socks to swap out at lunch time. Remember: Dry socks are warm socks.
2. PACK SNACKS
Hungry kids tend to be grumpy and unreasonable (hungry adults too!).
When I ski with my kids I wear a small backpack so that I can bring along snacks that can be consumed on the chair lift (like granola bars, trail mix, cereal bars, etc.) and a small bottle of water.
You may prefer to buy lunch at the hill, but we usually pack lunch to avoid expensive (and often unhealthy) cafeteria food and to speed up lunch breaks. It’s all about personal preference but I’ve noticed my kids have better energy on the afternoon when we forgo burgers or pizza at lunch. But hey, we aren’t against adding a poutine to our homemade lunch from time to time either.
If you do pack a lunch, I recommend packing more food than you think you need – skiing is a lot of exercise for little legs and kids tend to be hungrier than normal.
On that note, if you aren’t staying at the hill for apré, don’t forget car snacks! While I keep snacks in my car anyway for my (hangry) husband, after a long day of skiing it’s normal for everyone to need a little something to tide them over until dinner.
3. REMEMBER: LITTLE LEGS GET TIRED
Especially if you have young kids or your kids are just learning to ski, skiing is hard work!
While snowplow is a great way to get started, it’s much less efficient than more advanced skiing and wears muscles out quickly. Little legs also just don’t have the stamina that older kids and adults have even for kids that are more advanced skiers for their age.
So keep it fun for all involved and take breaks as needed, and be open to the fact that for a few years a full day of skiing may only be 4 hours or so.
Living in Calgary, we’ve taken advantage of the close proximity of both Nakiska and Mount Norquay for this reason. Seasons passes are reasonably priced and both hills are close to the city. This makes it easy to chill on those days when the young person in your life is having a bad day and decides that they’re done after only three runs.
4. Lessons, Lessons, Lessons
Investing in ski lessons for your kids instead of teaching them yourself is the number one gift you can give yourself as a ski-parent!
Even if you are an amazing skier, ski instructors have been trained to teach skiing. Doing and teaching are different skills.
Not only are instructors trained to teach, kids naturally listen better to adults who are NOT their parents.
Just early this season, I gently tried to give my struggling youngest (who has done lessons every year since the age of 4) a tip after noticing one of his legs was “lazier” at lifting off in a turn than the other. I’m not a pro, but I did spend 2 days a week training with coaches and trainers for a good chunk of my childhood so I’m not totally uninformed, and his response was – “You are not a ski teacher!” (picture him shouting this at me with tears and much drama as he lay prostrate on the hill).
Not only do lessons save on parenting angst (we get enough off the hill, right?) but they also give parents the chance to ski kid free! Yes! Get off the greens and explore that hill! (Or drink “fancy” hot chocolate in the bar – no judgment here!)
5. PLAY THE LONG GAME
The quintessential parenting adage is that the days are long, and the years are short. The same applies to ski seasons.
While lapping the green runs can sometimes get dull make it as fun for your kiddo as possible. Ski the little trails at the edge of runs, let your kids know when you see them progressing, and try to find that tricky balance between challenging them to ski new trails and terrain without pushing them too far outside their comfort zone. It won’t be long before your investment pays off in awesome little ski buddies who will probably be skiing circles around you before you know it.
So get out to the hill whenever you can, and have a blast with that next generation of skiers. If you’re lucky, you’ll be out on the hill with the generation after that, too.