My family did not ski growing up and Ian, having been raised in South Africa, obviously did not. We got into skiing in college and enjoyed progressing our skills since. Living in Michigan, which has second the most number of ski resorts of any state in the US, makes it a prime place for our family to ski. Several slopes are within an hour of our house.
Here are a few tips to prepare for a family skiing, either day trips or extended big resort trips.
- Get your kids lessons. They are worth the price! I am in no place to teach my children to ski, but even if I was I know how much better then listen to teachers over us (#parentingtruth). Whether it be a short one hour lesson to start the day or several days of ski school, you will be amazed what a difference it makes in your children’s skiing. After a one hour lesson last weekend, Natalie went from just making it down the bunny hill to going down a whole run by herself. I was amazed.
- Get enrolled in a kid equipment plan. One of the large ski stores in Michigan, Boyne Country Sports, does a “Junior has a Fit” program. We paid about $40 to join and then bought a used set of skis (new are available if you wish) in September. The equipment is returned to the store by June of the following year and a voucher is issued for the full cost of the equipment. We return again in September to pick up the next gear for the season. The only cost at that encounter is waxing and tuning. At the end of the program you can take your final voucher to apply to a permanent set of skis. Having our own equipment makes a huge difference. Rental fees are expensive and the gear is hit or miss. We find ourselves going more often to small resorts because we have the gear ready to go. Lots of ski stores and resorts offer similar programs.
- Get organized. The biggest challenge with family skiing is gear management. 4 coats, pants, glove sets, helmets, goggles, boots, skis and 2 sets of poles. Each of us has a set bag for our equipment, which then goes into a large plastic storage bin. When we pack the car, the whole bin gets loaded. We have two ski boot bags, that at this point, each fit one adult and one child’s pair in them. These are great for carrying onto a plane when we travel out west as well. Invest in a decent, padded travel bag for your skis. Works for car and plane travel and ours is large enough for all 4 sets of skis and 2 sets of poles (we had to buy the extra long bag to accommodate Ian’s long skis, but it leaves extra room at the ends for the kids skis).
- Get educated to limit costs. Let’s be real, skiing is an expensive sport. I already talked about the equipment part. Look into specials and programs in your area or the area you are traveling to. Our favorite local resort lets kids 6 and under ski free. 3 and 4 graders in Michigan ski free. liftopia.com offers lots of lift ticket deals nationwide and this can be a savings at bigger resorts. Many smaller resorts offer evening and Sunday deals.
- Get your expectations in line. When you actually take to the slopes with your kids, it is going to be a work in progress. Try to plan ahead of time for how you are going to face challenges. I am a big believer in having conversation about what the expectations are before starting. Otherwise, how are you going to expect them to meet those expectations. I am not embarrassed to admit that we use small incentives and it can go a long way. Recognize when breaks are needed and how that can really prolong your day. Be your kids biggest cheerleader when they make improvements.
Finally… ENJOY! Skiing with our kids this season has been so rewarding. Even when that means I spend most of the day snow plowing along my 4 year old as she makes random conversation on the way down or making slow turns down a hill as my 6 year old follows my tracks. I can’t wait for the years to come!