We know you parents do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting everyone ready for vacation. Sometimes when we take the family skiing, I feel like a pack mule, lugging everyone's equipment, and get frazzled, trying to get everyone organized, dressed and safely to their destinations. I have to remind myself that it's my vacation too. Sound familiar? Luckily, I've got the most amazing frog prince a girl could ask for who helps with everything, and we've also got a few tried-and-true tricks up our frog sleeves. Following a few sanity-saving tips for a family ski trip will keep you calm, get you on the slopes faster and help you save your energy for carving the mountain.
The Frog Family's Best Tips for a Family Ski Trip
Do advance planning and research
Buy your lift tickets in advance, and book rentals or lessons early. Find out exactly where you are supposed to drop off and pick up from lessons. It will make everything go more smoothly, prevent you from doing excess paperwork while others are getting first tracks, and help you save money. Pssst…we’ll be booking lift tickets, lodging, and more for the 2017-18 season, so we’ll be able to help you set yourself up for success on the slopes! Also, you should know the time zone of the mountain. We once drove to a ski resort fairly close to a state border one morning and did not realize that we lost an hour on the way when we entered the new state ... which means we missed lessons for the day! Not a fun way to start a vacation!
Stay on the mountain
Our easiest hassle-free ski trips have been the times where we stayed right on the mountain. Yes, this usually costs more money, but being able to hop out the door, walk to lessons or jump onto a nearby lift or gondola is so much easier than piling in the car, driving in dangerous conditions, trying to park, possibly having to walk or catch a parking shuttle, and then lugging everybody’s equipment around. This makes it one of our top tips for a family ski trip. When you stay in a ski-in, ski-out location you can easily pop in for a money-saving homemade lunch, to dry/exchange your wet clothes or check in on non-skiing family members. If you need to add or remove a layer, no problem. Forgot your goggles? Pop back in to grab them.
We recommend you stay close to the tadpoles' ski school. At larger ski resorts, it's conceivable that you could be at a ski-in, ski-out destination but still a 30-minute walk away from beginner and kids' ski school. Trust me when I saw it will make it that much easier, if you're a 5- to 10-minute walk away.
Rent a locker
If you do not stay on the mountain, consider investing a small amount of money for a great convenience by renting a locker. Some resorts offer multi-day lockers. Being able to shed ski boots to walk to and from the resort, store equipment at night, and even store a soft lunch cooler can mean saving time, effort and money. You can stash extra layers or a camera in a locker so you do not have to be weighed down on the lifts the entire day. You can temporarily park closer to the lodge for drop off and pickup.
Find out if you can store rentals on-site
If you rent your equipment on-site, you may be able to store your equipment there overnight. That's a huge relief. Who wants to schlep all the equipment back to your hotel or rental after a day on the slopes? Certainly not this frog.
Buy snow chains in advance ... and bring them
If you are making multiple trips to the mountains in your own car this year, one of our top tips for a family ski trip is to put snow tires on for the winter. It may mean the difference in not having to put on chains. And if you rent from the airport and drive to your destination, we highly recommend renting a 4WD. Most of the time you'll be traversing highways and well-traveled roads with little trouble. But heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions can change all of that, and you'll be glad for the 4WD.
If the forecast calls for heavy snow, you'll also want snow chains. We recommend you stop by the auto store or purchase snow chains online before you leave. Yes, it's one more thing to remember, but believe me, it will be a huge relief to have them if you need them. Keep a flashlight handy in case you have to put them on in the dark. Sometimes you are required to simply show that you have chains to continue on a snowy road. Other times you actually have to put them on to continue. But nobody wants to turn around and go back down the mountain in search of chains.
Try on all clothes before the trip
Tad’s frog legs and feet are growing so fast that I have him try on his clothes and equipment at home every time before I pack for the trip. There’s nothing like heading out for first tracks and realizing that nothing fits and having to pay an arm and a frog leg at the resort for new clothes.
Dress in layers
One thing is consistent with skiing and that is that the weather conditions are always changing. Dressing everyone in layers assures that you are prepared for anything that comes your way. You can always peel things off.
Bring extra gloves
Gloves have a nasty habit of getting wet or lost. Always secure each person’s gloves to their jacket when not in use and have a backup pair in the locker or room for each family member. Nothing can ruin the tadpoles' day at ski school faster than cold, wet fingers.
Eat meals in
If you have a kitchen with your lodging, eating meals in can save a lot of money and stress. You do not have to get everyone dressed to go back out and fight crowds and cold temperatures. You can make simple one-pot meals like chili, soup or stew that are warm and hearty and maybe even last for more than one meal (i.e., leftovers for lunch). Even spaghetti or mac and cheese make for an inexpensive simple meal you can eat in your PJs followed by a family game night or movie night in front of the fire. Keep in mind that high-carbohydrate foods such as pastas, potatoes, breads and fruits can help prevent and alleviate altitude sickness. If you really do not want to cook on vacation (or are restricted to a microwave), you can cook at home, freeze meals for transport and simply reheat on the trip. Or pick up easy microwavable meals from the grocery store when you get in.
Divide and conquer
If you have kids of different ages or levels heading in different directions, one parent may need to manage one group while the other parent takes on the others to quickly meet everyone’s needs. Make a plan to divide and conquer to get it all done efficiently.
Can one parent handle daycare and ski school drop-off or pick-up while the other parent gets some runs in? If you take turns dropping off or picking up kids, you will find that having even one day off from drop-off or pick-up can help you relax and get in more skiing. Just be sure to actually take turns! All-day lessons can be easier on parents than half-day or one-hour lessons because shorter lessons means that you cannot travel too far in fear of not making it back. Sharing a private lesson keeps everyone together and make things easier. If your kids are more experienced and do not need all-day lessons, then you have the fun of getting to explore the mountain with them. It is rewarding for the whole family to be able to ski together or have the kids show off their new skills. That’s when all those lessons finally pay off.
Plan for the unexpected
Let’s face it. Despite the best planning, something may go wrong when skiing with kids. A glove may get wet and cold or disappear. Toes may get cold. A boot might hurt. Be patient, understanding and resourceful to make everyone comfortable. Stash some hand warmers in your pocket or special treats to distract someone from a tough time or to motivate them. And recognize when it is simply time to call it quits for the day and sip cocoa in the lodge. One of our top tips for a family ski trip is to assign one parent per day to be "on call" for these issues. Just because one person needs to stop doesn’t mean the whole family has to be taken down. Make watching the skiers a game. Score points for spotting a red jacket or a silly hat. Better luck tomorrow.
Teach kids to carry equipment early on
As soon as your little ones can manage their own skis, have them help carry their skis or the poles. You can’t do it all, so have the kids pitch in if they can to help you save trips to the car and make them feel responsible.
"Over and out"
Using a walkie-talkie to communicate rather than a cellphone is useful for many reasons. They do not require you to take off gloves to use them (like with Smartphones—although they do make some gloves that work with phones), and your kids without phones can use them. If you have some kind of emergency and your phone dies, the battery stops functioning in the cold, or you have no cell service, you can use the walkie talkie to call for help—roger that. You can usually hear the message better than with a cellphone ring or text blip. Just make sure you are all on the same channel. Look for waterproof walkie talkies with a long range. If you do use a cellphone, keep it in a warm pocket with a hand or toe warmer, and be careful not to drop it in the snow off a lift. Set it up with headphones so you are as hands-free as possible.
Set a plan
In case you get separated, have a plan for meeting for lunch and a plan for leaving the mountain (including specific meeting places). At the top of each lift discuss which lift you are planning to meet at next. What is the plan if you do get separated? That’s where walkie talkies can come in handy.
Get organized the night before
Each night, lay out each person’s dry ski clothes for the next day to help make the process faster and easier in the morning. That way everyone can jump right to it without searching for random items. Put the next day’s lift tickets in the pockets and pull out old tickets—some lift ticket electronic entrance systems will block you from entering the queue if you have an old ticket in your pocket. Been there, done that. Won’t do that again. Load jacket pockets with tissues, lip balm, sunscreen, energy bars, money and walkie talkies. Make sure everybody knows what they have and where it is located so they can be self-sufficient. I make sure money is always consistently in one pocket and the tissues are easy to grab from another.
Get a good night’s sleep
We like to rise and shine early, so we get to bed early. Tips to help us sleep better in the mountains can include ear plugs, not overheating the room (turn down the heat or open windows), using a Q-tip to line the inside of our noses with petroleum jelly to keep breathing passages from drying out, placing a bowl of water or humidifier in the room and having a lot of drinking water close by. Some hotels have in-room humidifiers. Mountain air is dry, and staying hydrated can also help prevent altitude sickness. Keep the water flowing all day too. We also usually bring saline nasal sprays and pain/anti-inflammatory medications in case they are needed for better sleep.
Arrive to the mountain early
Everything seems to take longer than it should when skiing with a family. Arrive early to make sure you are not late for lessons. Beat the crowd for rentals, get your items stowed and send everyone to the restroom one last time. You don’t want to feel rushed, so expect that things will take time and build that into your schedule. Allow extra time on the first day of lessons so you can get outfitted correctly. On your next days, you will most likely be picking up the same equipment that you stored overnight, so you need less time. But you'll still find fewer lines or no lines at all if you arrive early.
Remove as much ski equipment as possible to use the restroom
When the froglets stop to use the restroom, take their coat, hat/helmet, gloves and jacket. You don’t want to lose these items and certainly don’t want to drop them in the toilet. Usually leaving them on the lunch table or hooks works fine.
Get organized at the end of the trip
Once you return home, one of the most important sanity-saving tips is getting organized so you can start out the next trip in even better shape. Wash items, and then store them together. You can store by person or by category. In the Frog house we have large plastic tubs for kids ski clothes and different ones for adult ski clothes. Everything from ski socks to thermals to goggles, hats, helmets, face shields and gloves get put in the boxes so everything is ready to go for next time. Pants are hung with the jackets. Skis and poles/snowboards are dried and wiped down and stored in bags (which also makes them easier to carry), and boots are put in their boot bag. This way, nothing gets lost or forgotten or mixed in with our everyday clothes. I have learned from forgotten ski pants (had to rent for the day), missing turtlenecks and lost gloves (had to buy at lodge—yikes!) that getting organized at the end of a ski trip makes the next trip so much easier and saves money because we do not have to replace missing items.
Whew! We know this is a lot to remember. Believe me when I say these tips for a family ski trip really will save your sanity. But I bet some of seasoned skiers have other tips that have been miracle workers. Don't hold back! Please share them in comments below. See you on the slopes!
Related: Find Your Perfect Ski Resort