The kids are itching to hit the ski slopes but you are overwhelmed by the logistics of it all—we get it! Whether it’s their first time or if you’ve got a future Lindsey Vonn on your hands, read through this list of skiing hacks and tips before you head to the resort. After all, the more prepped you are, the more awesome the experience for the whole family. Keep reading to see them all.

photo: Smuggler’s Notch

1. Make your own “bunny hill” first. Ski gear is bulky and unfamiliar. Get it ready in advance, and let the kids try it out in your living room first. If you are staying at a ski resort or house with a small snow hill outside, use that for some practice “runs” before you spend the big bucks on the lift tickets. 

2. Get the right gear (& where to get it). Sizing for kids’ ski gear can be tricky. Consider renting your boots and skis before you leave home (which is often a cheaper option), borrow from a friend or hit up the thrift store when you arrive at your destination. Mittens are easier for kids to use than gloves, and make sure you get the ones that can clip on their jacket as nothing can stop a ski day faster than a lost mitten!

photo: Squaw Valley

3. Pick the right resort. The biggest and most popular resort might not be the best for your beginning skier. A beginner slope with a tow rope or “magic carpet” lift is great for kids as they don’t have to learn how to negotiate the chairlift. Many resorts offer other non-skiing amenities like tubing, hot tubs and campfire s’mores that bump up the fun level for your ski vacation.

4. Don’t plan a full first day. A good rule of thumb for kids is that most can tolerate one hour of skiing per year of their age (so three hours max for your three-year-old). If you keep this rule in mind, you won’t exhaust them and turn them off skiing for the rest of your trip. 

5. Ditch the poles. Kids learning to ski need to develop basic skills like creating a wedge to stop and learning how to turn. Poles are often more of a distraction for kids so ditch ’em for the newbies. If you’re going to teach your kids to ski there are tethers you can use that attach to the tips of the skis to help your kids keep the pizza pie shape as they ski down the hill. 

photo: Jeff Curtes/Squaw Valley

6. Splurge on private lessons or ski school. You know how your kids behave better for a stranger than they do when they are with you? The same is often true when learning to ski. Splurging on ski school or private ski lessons can take the pressure off you and make the lesson more fun for your new skier. Plus, many ski lessons include the price of the lift tickets or offer free skiing for younger kids. 

7. Fill your pockets (& backpack) with all the essential gear.

  • Chapstick. Not only does it keep chapped lips at bay, it is great when treating mountain-side windburn or even preventing friction on a spot that’s prone to blisters. If your jacket’s zipper gets jammed, lubricate both sides with Chapstick and get it moving again.
  • Carabiners and zip ties. These are great for attaching mittens, ski passes, goggles and more so that they don’t get left behind on the mountain.
  • Sunscreen. Bring a pocket-sized tube or squirt some into a contact lens case before you go. The sun on the mountain can get super intense and you don’t want anyone to burn!
  • Ziploc bags. Mountainside injury? No problem! Fill your Ziploc with some packed snow while you wait for ski patrol to come to your aid.
  • Hot cocoa packs and tea bags. Warm up at the lodge and just pay for hot water!
  • Your lunch. Bring snacks and pack in food to avoid expensive purchases. 
  • Sweet Treats Sugary motivation is sometimes the only way you can get a tired kid down the mountain so be prepared.

photo: Jeff Engerbretson/Squaw Valley

8. Prep for day two. When you’re done for the day, immediately put hats, gloves, boots, etc. near the heater so they can warm up overnight. Tuck dryer sheets into your boots to absorb any offending odors. When you get up to make your coffee in the morning, pop hand warmers in your boots so that you can have toasty toes when you gear up.

9. Safety first. It might not be how we grew up skiing, but helmets are a must in this day and age, for kids and parents alike. Make sure your crew has their noggins covered in well-fitting helmets so that a bump on the head doesn’t mean an end to your ski day.

10. If all else fails, outsource. Don’t let the packing overwhelm you. Companies like Kit Lender and Ski Butlers are ready to ship whatever gear you need, right to your ski destination.

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Got any great tips for skiing with kids? Share your scoop below!

—Kate Loweth