Winter is here, and the snow is piling up in the mountains! Don’t sit out another ski season for fear of taking a toddler along. With a little preparation (and a whole lot of patience!) you can lay the base for a future of skiing together as a family.

Get Ready!
Get your gear early. Garage sales, e-bay, craigslist, ski swaps and that friendly neighbor with the older kids are all good places to check for skis, boots and waterproof clothes. Some stores offer to buy back skis as you trade up sizes, and the final price tag will be less than a few rentals.  If you don’t want to buy, consider renting locally the day before you hit the slopes. The rental lines at the mountain can be trying for a well-adjusted adult, let alone an excited little one.

Save the splurge for a new snow helmet, as they’re like car seats—you don’t want one that’s already been in a crash. And consider trying out a pair of Lucky Bums plastic skis …they’re lightweight, have no metal edges, and once kids get used to the sensation of sliding around on the snow, you can think about real skis.

Get Set!
Try on clothes, skis and boots at home in the warm and dry before you hit the slopes. Wearing ski boots and mittens–heck, trying to bend over in a snow suit–are skills that a rain-belt kid probably doesn’t have. Give little ones mulitiple chances to try on their gear when the stakes are low. Have fun with it—let your child walk on a rug or on grass (please no ski boots on the hardwood floor!) to get the hang of it. If you’re feeling lucky, have your kid practice a potty-run while bundled up.

Go!
Expect the first day to be short. Chances are good you will spend more time sipping hot chocolate in the lodge than out on the slopes. In fact, don’t even consider a slope until your munchkin can scoot along a flat stretch comfortably. You might even leave your own skis at home for the first trip—it is much easier to bend over and lift a wee one back onto skis without your own tangling in.

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Embrace the magic carpet or other kid-friendly lift. They are on low-grade slopes, are unlikely to be choked with adults who are on skis for the first time and are operated by people used to handling kids. As an added plus, many places offer a low-buck beginner’s lift ticket so you haven’t blown the bank if your child decides it is too cold.

Repeat!
Keep at it! Once you’ve survived your initial introduction, sign the kiddo up for lessons or ski school. Sure, you might be able to teach skiing, but a professional instructor can do it faster and keep it fun. Some little ones do better in a group of peers than with one-on-one instruction from their own parents.

And, if your kid does not take to the sport right away, that doesn’t mean you have to retire your K2s. Many mountains offer daycare programs that will make the day fun for the whole family. Your little one can play happily inside while you’re out cutting some snow track.

All signs are pointing to an excellent season for skiing! Get out there and enjoy it. Got any tips of your own on how to make the first ski season a positive experience for all? Share them in the comments!

—Karen McHegg