Taking a toddler or preschooler on a ski trip can be daunting for many traveling families. Ski trips are hard enough with older kids with the gear, logistics, and weather involved. Throw in the additional challenge of a little one, and it’s no surprise that many families decide to wait a few years.
What’s a skiing loving family like mine to do? No way were we going wait a few years! So we threw caution to the wind and took our toddlers anyway. We have skied regularly with both of our kids through the toddler and preschooler stages. My younger child is three and a half years old this ski season, and we are definitely in the thick of it as he learns how to ski. Yes, it’s hard at times. But it’s worth it.
For other families considering taking on the challenge, here are my very best tips for skiing with toddlers and preschoolers.
1. Prepare Your Toddler Before Your Ski Trip
Before you head up to the mountains, do a little pre-trip prep. This is particularly important if your toddler or preschooler isn’t used to seeing snow. Watch videos of kids skiing on YouTube. Talk about snow and what you will be able to do, see, and feel on your vacation. Try on the heavy snow clothing – ski bibs, helmets, googles, and mittens – so your toddler gets used to the newness of it all.
2. Make Time for Snow Play
When you get to your ski resort, make time to allow your child to get acclimated to the snow and cold air. Let your toddler or preschooler have time to make snow angels and play in the stuff in their heavy ski gear. All this snow prep will make doing other things in the snow – like skiing – less unfamiliar and frightening.
3. Check Ski School Ages
Check the ages that ski resorts you are considering accept children into ski school if you’d like to consider having your toddler or preschooler learn to ski. (Note: I highly, highly recommend having someone else teach your child to ski. They will learn more quickly with a professional and you will save yourself a lot of frustration and parent grief.)
Some larger resorts will accept children as young as 3 as long as they are potty-trained. Others won’t accept kids until age 4 or later. (If you are headed to the Lake Tahoe area in California and Nevada with kids, my complete guide to Tahoe resorts with kids lists the ages that each resort in Tahoe accepts children into ski school.)
If there are no ski resorts in your area that will accept younger toddlers, inquire about a short private lesson. Some ski resorts will take younger children with their parents in a private session. We did a one hour lesson with my now 7 year old when she was just 23 months old, and she loved it!
4. Consider a Ski Resort with Childcare
In the event your toddler bails on skiing on the very first morning of your ski vacation, having a backup plan for childcare is important. A few full-service ski resorts have on-site daycares for non-skiing kids. These are lifesavers for parents who want to ski together and not spend their entire ski vacation on kid duty.
We recently had the chance to try one of these childcare centers for the first time. On our last visit to Northstar California in Lake Tahoe, my 3 year old son spent the day at Minors Camp, the daycare center on-site. He adored his “snow preschool” and will be making a few return visits this season when not skiing. We enjoyed it because we were able to do some kid-friendly activities at Northstar with our older child.
Even if your ski resort doesn’t have a childcare center, consider also hiring a babysitter. Many resorts or your resort hotel’s concierge will have a list of a few local agencies that other guests have used. We’ve hired successfully hired babysitters from agencies on our travels in Hawaii and Disneyland. The process works much the same way at most major ski resorts.
5. Ask about Parent Switch Tickets
If you think you and your spouse or other adults in your family are going to be trading off ski time with childcare duties for a non-skiing child, one great money-saving solution that some ski resorts offer is the Parent Switch ticket. These tickets have different names at different resorts (interchangeable parent ticket, parent predicament ticket), but they work the same way. Two adults who have a young child “share” a single day lift ticket at no additional charge. The parents then pass the ticket between them as they pass off child watching duties. It’s a great money-saving alternative for parents who can’t ski together because they need to watch a little one.
6. Sleep Schedules Are Especially Important
Skiing and playing outside in the snow at high elevations can be exhausting for even the most in-shape adults, so prepare for the fact that the experience may exhaust your toddler or preschooler too. If your child still naps, try to make time for that some days. If you miss nap time, try to aim for an early bedtime so your child can catch up on rest. I’m usually one for being more flexible on naps and bedtimes when my family travels, but I have found I can’t do that for long on a ski vacation with young kids without paying a price.
7. Pick the Right Ski Lodging
Skiing with young kids can involve a lot of logistics, so make it easy on yourself by picking a convenient place to stay that minimizes those logistics. Obviously, a slopeside hotel or ski-in, ski-out condo are going to be some of the easiest options, but those are usually priced accordingly. Check resort maps closely to see what your best and closest options are at your budget. Find out if your ski resort has a shuttle system you can use. If you can’t get a close accommodation, consider paying for premium parking so you at least don’t have to walk too far to the slopes with a toddler in tow. The bottom line? If you have some flexibility in your ski budget, the toddler and preschooler years are definitely the time to splurge for convenience.
Have you skied with a toddler or preschooler? What tips or experiences would you share?
Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador for Northstar California and Vail Resorts during the 2016-2017 ski season. As always, all opinions are my own.
This is sponsored content written by me on behalf of Northstar California. The opinions, text, and photos are all mine.