Skiing with kids is a lot of fun, and it is a great sport to enjoy as a family, if you know how to go skiing with kids safely. After many years of lessons, my kids are FINALLY at the age and experience level where we can ski together and enjoy family time on the slopes.
When kids are learning to ski, teaching them to ski safely is of paramount importance. It is all part of learning to be a responsible skier and a good citizen of the slopes. Before you go skiing with your kids, here are our family's tips for skiing with kids safely.
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Pick A Family Ski Resort
In my experience, not all ski resorts are the same. Some SAY they are a family-friendly ski resort, but as you are making your way down with a child, you can nearly get knocked over by a hot-dogging skier or snowboarder who is not looking where he or she is going.
Having kid ski lessons is not enough, in my opinion, to determine a ski resort's family-friendliness. It is important to look at the stats of the mountain. Be sure to check:
Do they have family-friendly ski slopes?
This means that all skiers and riders must travel slowly on these slopes.
What percentage of the slopes are novice, intermediate, or expert?
This will also tell you whether it is a good ski resort for kids because even experienced kids need novice and intermediate slopes to ski on. A good family-friendly ski resort will have plenty of easy and intermediate slopes.
Do they have ski lessons for kids or toddlers and is the program comprehensive?
Be sure to look at reviews and their teaching philosophy. Take note of how the instructors group kids – by age and development – as well as the instructor to student ratio. And note if they have ski lessons for toddlers or daycare for younger kids, as this will also help you identify which ages the family ski resort can accommodate.
Does the family ski resort have additional activities for families outside of skiing?
The types of family-friendly apres-ski activities will also clue you in to how family-friendly the ski resort is, except for smaller day resorts. Sometimes the smaller resorts won't have many apres-ski activities but are still great for families if they meet the above criteria.
Know The Signs And Your Kids' Skiing Ability
When skiing with kids, be sure you AND your kids know what the green, blue, black diamond and double black diamond signs mean. It is important that kids know their own skiing ability and both you and they stay within those limits.
Sometimes kids come upon forks in the slopes. Knowing their own ability and what the signs mean will ensure they stay on the right trail.
Kids should know that:
Means novice or beginner, so these slops are usually easy/easier.
Means intermediate, so it is good for experienced kids, but it could be difficult for beginning skiers.
Means difficult. These are usually very steep and could have moguls (bumps).
Double black diamond:
Means experts only. Generally speaking, only a very select few skiers tend to go down these slopes. Sometimes these slopes can have little cliffs or big rocks.
Check out this video to see glade skiing in action!
Means tree skiing. You can have glades on green, blue and black slopes. But they often require short, tight turns, and require a lot of body control.
The difference between a green, blue, or black glade could mean how close the trees are to each other or if there are other obstacles like bumps. Kids should be careful going through glades and should only do so after they have been taught how to navigate them.
Don't Ski Close To Base Of Trees
In some destinations, skiing too close to a tree can be dangerous. If an area has a lot of snow, sometimes “tree wells” form around the base of trees.
These are areas under the branches that don't get as much snow as the open area and creates a pocket that can sometimes not be seen. They are dangerous to anyone who gets too close because if the snow is deep, you can fall into the tree well and have trouble getting out. If it is really deep, you could be really hurt.
So, we tell our kids to enjoy glade skiing but stay away from the base of the trees.
Stop At Intersections and Communicate
Sometimes our kids ski ahead, and at times, there are forks in the slope. We tell our kids that any time they reach a “fork” or split-off of trails, to STOP, and wait for us to catch up to them.
It is easy to get turned around and separated if kids keep skiing ahead and you don't know which direction they went. They could end up at a completely different ski lift or lodge if it is a large resort and we could get separated. They could also end up on a slope beyond their ability.
Have a plan of where to meet.
Kids should learn to stop at any split off and midway down the slope (on the side) to wait for you to catch up if they ski ahead. But just in case you get separated, communicate where you are heading (which lodge or ski lift) so they know which direction to go.
Communicate which slope you are all heading down.
Look at a trail map together if the kids are old enough and state which slope you are heading down. This includes the slope's name, and what is at the bottom (the name of the lift or lodge) just in case you get separated.
Have a plan for what to do if you get separated from your group.
Decide if you should all head to the base lodge and wait there if you get separated. Or perhaps you agree to meet a certain time or at the top of the lift. Just be sure you have a plan and everyone in the family knows that plan.
Have walkie talkies or phones to communicate with one another.
If you have younger kids, communicate which kids each adult is responsible for so the kids are with someone with a phone or walkie talkie. For older kids, they could carry a walkie talkie or a phone so you can reach them.
Do the “sandwich” approach.
We “sandwich” our kids in between us when going down a slope. I like to ski behind my kids and my husband skis toward the front.
This way, my husband can keep up with our faster kids in the front. And, if one of the kids falls on the slope, I can ski down to them and help them rather than having them fall behind me.
Put contact info inside your kids' coats.
Pin your phone number inside your child's jacket (for younger kids) and instruct them to find an employee if they get lost. This way, you can be reached.
Dress For The Weather
Though kids can feel warm at the bottom of the ski slope, it can often be very chilly going up the lift. At the top of the mountain, it is very cold. Personally, I get colder as the day goes on.
In New England, it can be 0 degrees Fahrenheit some days on the slopes! Other times of the year, you can be sweating mid-day. Layers are very helpful for these conditions.
**Kids should at least have:
- long-underwear/thermals (sweat-wicking)
- ski socks
- shirt/turtleneck layer
- sweatpants/fleece pants layer
- ski sweater/fleece layer
- ski pants
- ski jacket
- ski boots
- warmers for gloves
- kid skis and poles
** This is a general suggestion list of what to pack for a Ski trip but your kids may need more or less clothing and protection depending on where you are skiing, the time of year, temperature, and conditions.
When purchasing gear, double-check that you have ski pants and coats that are best for extreme cold weather, as well as more moderate temperatures. It can definitely ruin the ski day if you are not dressed appropriately.
For kids, I am a huge fan of Obermeyer ski jackets and pants because not only do they keep kids warm. But they have “iGrow” in many of their styles of kid ski jackets and kid ski pants, especially in the younger sizes.
The Obermeyer “iGrow” system is for when your child grows too tall for their jacket and ski pants, you can cut along a specified line and lengthen the fabric, giving longer life to the jacket and pants. We can easily get two years out of an Obermeyer ski jacket and ski pants, if not longer. How amazing is that?
Know The Code and Ski Safety Basics
It is important to make sure your kids know:
- Ski-in control at all times.
- Ski slopes only in your ability level.
- The skier in front of you has the right away. Keep your distance. It is YOUR responsibility to avoid them (not theirs to move out of the way.)
- Always look up when merging with another trail and YIELD to those coming down.
- Pullover to the side if you need to stop. Never stop in the middle of the slope or where you can't be seen from above (especially at the tops of slopes). Never block a trail.
- Be cautious and slow when skiing near the base, lodges, and nearing lifts, where people are gathered. Observe the signs to go slow.
- Always observe the signs of closed slopes.
- Make sure your equipment is secure and won't run away if it should come off while on the slope.
- Know how to board and offload a ski lift. Always communicate in which direction you are going with other skiers when offloading.
The Last Thing You Need To Know About Skiing With Kids Safely
Our family's tips for skiing with kids safely is a general suggestion based solely on our experiences. You will definitely want to do your research before taking your kids to ski and make decisions for what works for your family.
But learning how to ski safely as a child will help kids grow up knowing how to be responsible skiers. And skiing safely will help everyone enjoy a wonderful family experience together.