How To Ski With A Toddler
One mom's guide to navigating the slopes with a new skier in the family.
January is Learn To Ski and Snowboard Month and what better way to kick off a new year and the ski season than sharing the love of the slopes with my almost two-year-old son, Reece?
My love for skiing and riding began sometime between the first time my mom had me on skis at the age of two and the taste of freedom that came when she started sending me off with my friends and we could meet back in the lodge for lunch. The time spent outside, with friends and family, had such a lasting impact that my thoughts are already of "sick" days from school to catch first chair and how many hot cocoas would be consumed with Reece after a day on the slopes.
I was a little ambitious last season when Reece took his first steps and then immediately placed on skis, he wasn't terribly impressed with me and we spent the remainder of the winter in a sled. This year with my toddler in tow, I get to learn a whole new way to love a sport through the fresh eyes of my son and my friend's daughter Lily who we have teamed up to further explore the real-life parenting hacks of skiing and snowboarding with small children.
1. Getting to the mountain
Packing the right thing is the key to a good day at the mountain. We pack water bottles, snacks that won't freeze or are so messy that you can't get a mitten back over the sticky hands. Diapers, wipes, more random snacks that will eventually be found in a pocket, crevasse of a car seat or all over my snowpants. Isn't parenting life glam?! Oh, and of course, the skis, ski boots, ski harness, ski ties and mom's skis that haven't been used since the age of 10 years old because mom decided to become a snowboarder.
I've made arrangements to meet my friend and her daughter at the base lodge and we drop our stuff off at a cubby and head to the "online ticket purchase" desk because we pre-purchased our tickets in advance to skip the lines (kids 5 and under ski free at most mountains) and save some money for the après beverages. Pro tip: Tickets should be placed on snowpants or a low pocket so that it doesn't flip into your face as you ski along.
3. Shop because I forgot ...XYZ.
There's always this moment, I have in my hand one mitten. It may be mine, it may be my child's but I'm off to the pro shop to buy mittens for those tiny fingers to keep warm as we prepare for a day on the slopes. Speaking of getting ready, now we layer!
4. Getting Dressed
The key to this is finding some semblance of balance when getting yourself and your mini shredder dressed or you'll end up sweaty.
- Dress in layers, including a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin, a warm layer, and a wind and moisture resistant outer layer jacket and pants. Next the helmet, the majority of the body's heat is lost through the head and you want to protect that growing noggin.
- Mittens go on before the jacket, trust me on this one, you want those things locked in because a cold hand will quickly need a hot cocoa and your time on the slopes is cut short. Don't worry that they can't hold poles with the mittens on, they won't need poles right away.
- One pair of warm socks, make sure not to double up on socks because this may restrict circulation, which could make feet cold and uncomfortable.
- We struggle with the goggles, sometimes he will wear them, sometimes it's sunglasses and other days we just rock the goggleless look. Sometimes it's the item I have forgotten to pack?
5. Getting To The Lift/Magic Carpet
Ski boots are awkward so it's time to pick up the child (this doesn't always happen, but be prepared), his skis and my own skis to head to the magic carpet. We click boots into the bindings, get ready for a magic ride up, sing songs, and talk about the pizza we'll be making!
6. Pizza for French Fries
Here's the fun part, you have to pizza to eventually french fry. We take our slow pizza "turns" down the bunny slope and retire in the baselodge after a couple runs for a giant basket of hot french fries. It's totally okay to not have a toddler pro skier, they need time to adjust to the feeling and may only have the attention for one or two runs - go with the flow and reward them with fries and ketchup- or m&m's or whatever your tot may enjoy, they've worked hard for that prize.
7. Ski School
Some kids learn better with an adult other than their parents. You can't go wrong with an hour private lesson for your child while you take a few runs and stretch out those tired legs. Here's where I am the proud mom on the sideline, letting the instructor do what they're trained to do and keeping out of eyesight from my son because that means pressures on him to perform or becomes distracted by wanting to run to me. I stealthy snap photos of the entire event to show family and friends.
8. Après Ski
All good days end with a little après ski. you've earned it as much as they earned those french fries. We head to the tavern and grab a local pint and toast with my fellow mountain mama that we have successfully conquered the bunny hill and will be back at it again to see those tots suddenly soaring down the slopes with granola bars in each pocket.