Skiing with kids is completely different from skiing with just adults. I’ve been skiing since I was a kid myself, but when our froggy family started taking ski and snowboard trips together, I realized I had a lot to learn about managing lessons, clothes, equipment and cold little fingers and toes. Having a partner who was learning to ski with the kids was a whole other learning experience. (Not much different from having a third kid for me to take care of, but that’s a completely different discussion — love you, Leap!)
I’ve learned a few things about taking our tadpoles to the ski hills over the years. Whether you have toddlers or teens, or anyone in between, our tips for skiing with kids will make it so you can all enjoy your ski vacation.
Our Top Tips for Skiing with Kids
Here's what you need to know about keeping your kids warm and smiling in the mountains. Plus you'll be making hoppy family memories together in the snow!
Lessons, Lessons, Lessons
Do not teach your kids how to ski yourself. Leave the teaching to the professionals. You'll all have a much more positive experience, and your kids will learn good ski skills and habits in ski lessons. Frustrations can mount when parents get involved. If you are learning yourself and you want to stay together, family lessons can be a good value. But if some of you progress at different rates, don’t be afraid to split up so you can each get the attention you need. In my case, I use the lesson time as my tadpole-free ski time. Hey, it's my vacation too! It’s daycare and a lesson all rolled up in one. The tadpoles have a blast making new friends and enjoying fun kid programming while I steal a few quiet runs at my own speed. When lesson time ends, I ski at their level. Which brings me to my next tip.
Stay at Their Level
You may have dreams of racing your kids down the hill. We promise it will happen sooner rather than later, but when you ski with them, ski at their level. Find out what runs they skied in their lesson and then let them show you what they learned at their level and on familiar runs. Fight that urge to push them to go on a harder run. You want them to gain confidence before progressing. I can remember back to my learning days as a young froglet that it’s no fun to find yourself on a difficult run before you are ready to handle it. You do not want to bring out frustration and tears. Just hoppy smiles and the desire to show off and keep going.
Borrow Rather Than Buy (Or at Least Buy Used)
If you are new to skiing, do not invest in new expensive ski clothes that may only last a year for your growing kids. Can you borrow from cousins or friends? Accept hand-me-downs or scout garage sales and resale shops for jackets, ski pants, thermals, ski socks, gloves and hats. Do not shop at the expensive sporting goods store unless you have a line of kids to hand the items down to.
That being said, only dress your kids in good-quality ski clothing. It’s worth investing in a good pair of gloves or mittens that will keep their hands warm and dry compared to getting the cheap ones with their favorite characters on them. Lily loves princesses, but she loves warm fingers more.
In some ski towns, scout out gently used clothing shops. You’re more likely to find good-quality items near the ski resorts compared to low-quality items at a discount department store. Whenever we visit Park City, Utah, we always take a trip to the Christian Center boutique. We’ve gotten very nice used jackets and ski clothes for the tadpoles and ourselves there for a fraction of what they’d cost in a sporting goods store. Kids grow out of clothes so quickly! That means clothes are gently used and gentler on the wallet.
Rent Ski and Snowboard Equipment
When it comes to equipment, renting is the best plan with kids. Beginner lessons may include rentals, but be sure to find out in advance. We love ski resorts that outfit the kids with equipment at the ski school (such as Palisades Tahoe) so you do not have to make an extra stop or schlep heavy equipment around. Be sure to rent a helmet too! Hop over to our post on renting versus buying ski equipment for more hopful tips.
Look for Beginner and Never Ever Lesson Deals
We have a whole post on ski school tips for finding the best lessons and getting the most out of them. Call ski resorts and ask about programs for beginner skiers. Did you know that January is National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month? That means you'll find packages and promotions during that time. We've gotten toadally good deals on lessons early or late in the season. Any time during the season, you may be able to bundle your services with packages such as rentals or lodging. Shop around as you might uncover other great promotions for beginners at different ski resorts that you won't necessarily find on the lessons page.
If you have easy access to North Lake Tahoe, you can take advantage of a season-long program to help beginners advance in skiing or snowboarding. The highly affordable Perfect Progression Program allows you to take three beginner lessons at Alpine Meadows. After that, you will receive a complimentary unrestricted season pass for Palisades Tahoe! Not only that, but you'll also get free items, lunch vouchers, free lift access and free rentals for the whole season. Once you've completed the initial lessons, you can keep building on skills with 50 percent off of group lessons for the rest of the season. It's an inexpensive way to jump into skiing and get pretty good at it. Want to keep going? There's a Year 2 program too!
Purchase Ski Passes in the Summer or Fall to Save on Lift Tickets
A big way to save on lift tickets is to purchase the Epic Pass or Ikon Pass before the ski season starts off. These discount passes are each good for multiple ski resorts at popular ski destinations and offer several options whether you want to ski just a few days or many times during the season. You’ll save a bundle. Speaking of bundling, when you purchase ski passes or book ski hotels from Undercover Tourist, you can unlock extra savings on a rental car, which you may need if you are flying to your destination.
Pick the Best Time to Ski
It sounds easy, but you want to think carefully about the best time to ski. For beginners, you may want to avoid holiday weekends and crowds so you can have plenty of space to figure things out on the mountain and avoid long lines. For families who don’t like the cold, spring skiing with sunshine, warmer temperatures and groomed runs make everyone hoppier. New skiers don't really need or want deep fresh powder. Groomed snow does the trick. Instead of cold fingers and toes, you’ll need to worry about sunscreen in the spring.
Ultimately the best times to ski for you may fall when schools have a break. If so, take advantage of entertainment that may occur on holiday weekends and book those lessons and fun activities well in advance before they sell out. At least with lessons, you skip the lift lines.
Hop over to our post on the best time to ski in Colorado for a month-by-month guide.
Decide If Skiing or Snowboarding Is the Right Way to Go
Our 'tween, Tad, was not having a ton of luck with skiing. So he switched from skiing to snowboarding lessons in the middle of a trip at the suggestion of a ski instructor, and he's never looked back. As a surfer and skateboarder, he found snowboarding to be a more natural feel on the mountain. He progressed with snowboarding a lot faster than he did with skiing. Now he rides the mountain in search of fresh powder. Give your kids the opportunity and flexibility to discover what works for them.
Visit Family-Friendly Ski Resorts
So much of the mountain experience is the family fun we find off the slopes. You’ll find us tubing, snowshoeing and chillin' in the village with pizza and ice skating. We’ve also been known to try mountain coasters and sled rides or even visit hot springs where available. Family ski resorts that make winter fun easily accessible are our go-to mountains with kids. Here are a few Frog Family favorites for great villages, activities and nearby family fun:
- Northstar in North Lake Tahoe (Epic Pass)
- Palisades Tahoe Resort in North Lake Tahoe (Ikon Pass)
- Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe (Epic Pass)
- Park City in Utah (Epic Pass)
- Breckenridge in Colorado (Epic Pass)
- Vail in Colorado (Epic Pass)
- Beaver Creek in Colorado (Epic Pass)
- Keystone in Colorado (Epic Pass) — Kids 12 and under ski free with certain lodging
- Steamboat in Colorado (Ikon Pass)
- Aspen Snowmass in Colorado (Ikon Pass)
As a parent of children with ski equipment, my heart lies with ski destinations that make life easier for us parents. Both Northstar and Steamboat villages offer free wagons for toting kids and all the stuff around the village. Life. Save. Er.
When shopping for a ski destination, check the mountain's site for a look at winter activities. Check the calendar for upcoming events and entertainment. Look at trail maps to see how many green (beginner) and blue (intermediate) ski runs are available. Are there family learning zones and kids' adventure zones? As your kids progress, are there terrain parks of different levels that might interest your tadpoles who are ready to take on small obstacles? Vail has a trail map designed just for kids! Our tadpoles love destinations that provide free treats in the village in the afternoon such as cookies at Beaver Creek or s'mores at Northstar. Choose ski hotels with pools and hot tubs and family-friendly activities.
Choose a Ski Resort with Beginner and Kid-Friendly Terrain
You want plenty of green runs that do not let your kids end up in danger. Many resorts have family learning areas so advanced skiers are not zooming through. Great ski resorts for beginners include Northstar, Beaver Creek, Deer Valley, Aspen Snowmass and Breckenridge. Keep in mind that while Breckenridge has plenty of beginner runs, it also has a very high elevation, so you’ll want to follow our tips on how to prevent altitude sickness. It might be a better choice for a second trip after you see how your crew does with altitude at other, lower ski resorts. Some people are more sensitive to it.
"Pole" Them Along
Have a long walk in the snow to get to lessons? Put your kids' skis on, have them grab a ski pole and pull them along in the snow. It's easier than carrying skis and having your little ones walk in ski boots. Plus it's toadally fun for them. More than one tadpole? Make a train and pull a couple kids. Woot! Woot!
Before your kids graduate to having poles of their own, lift lines can be challenging with little tadpoles. You can put them between your skis and push them along with you to the lift.
Is there anything cooler than jumping in a warm pool or hot tub after a long day of skiing? Bonus points if the pool is outside. It’s heavenly to sink into warm water while it snows on you.
Take Time to Play in the Snow
Our favorite free activities with kids are going sledding and building snowmen. Snow is so much more fun when you are not worried about shoveling it off driveways or driving in it. If you live in a warmer climate, playing in the snow is a novelty. But no matter what, your kids will never froget the good times you spend playing together.
Try to Bring Food or Cook Some Meals
I’m not gonna lie. Ski resorts have some of the priciest food we’ve seen. You can save some green by eating breakfast in your hotel room. We’ve been known to stuff our jacket pockets with sandwiches and snacks before heading to the mountain. If you have a kitchen or kitchenette, cook or prepare some easy meals to save on restaurant food. Sometimes lunch is included with full-day kid ski lessons, so find out in advance if food is included. Sometimes you and your tadpoles are so tired from a long day of skiing and playing that it’s easier to slip on PJs and have a night in with some home-cooked comfort food. We like to eat chili and stew on ski vacations. If you do go out, hit happy hour for some cheaper eats.
Don’t Overdo It
You want your kids to love skiing or snowboarding and want to come back to do it again and again to create a lifelong sport and many family vacations for years to come. Plan a break day if you have a longer journey so they can rest. Here's how to decide how many days you need for a ski trip.
Try to Stay Organized
"Mom ... where's my ... ?" Let's talk parent to parent. One of my top tips for skiing with kids is to stay organized. There are a lot of pieces to keep track of when it comes to ski clothes. Develop an organizational system and teach it to your kids. If the place you are renting or staying at has hooks or cubbies, assign each kid his or her own hook or cubby. If not, assign them a specific place to put their stuff. Have them store their items there immediately when coming in and taking them off. If they do it right, it should all be there when they go to put it back on. Purchase gloves with clips to hook them together and fasten to the jacket or ski pants. I can't tell you how many single mittens are in my ski bin.
Organization starts at home before the trip. Before each trip, have family members try everything on and identify what fits (and what doesn't and needs replacing) — darn that stubborn "quarantine 19." Oh right, this is about the kids growing. Then, we like to pack like items with like. I like to pack each family member's belongings separately and each person takes a certain responsibility for their items. But you might want to bundle underclothes (like socks and thermals) together and outer clothes that get put on later (hats, goggles, ski jackets, neck gaiters/balaclavas and ski pants) together. Here's some advice on how to pack for a ski trip.
You have enough to worry about. You need your ski and snow clothes for outside, a swimsuit for pool time, PJs for bed and something to wear to dinner and for travel. Unless you are going to Aspen, this is not time to be fashionable. Keep it simple to avoid overweight bags and even more to worry about toting.
Do you have any tips for skiing with kids that we have not listed? Please share them in the comments section below. Did you know we now sell both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass? We can also help you save some green on ski hotels and rentals cars, especially when you bundle your purchases at checkout. Ribbit!
Related: All of the Details for the Ikon Pass