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planning family ski trips

Posted on | October 22, 2008 | 9 Comments


CAM and BigB at Snoqualmie

It’s just about that time of year when, in my household, we start thinking of winter sports. It’s hard not to, we get mail or email almost daily from one of the many ski resorts in Washington or British Columbia enticing us to buy season passes or to book a ski trip early this year. Ha! Not in this economy. But since we’ve skied for the past ten years with our kids (you have to do something to get them outside in the wet and miserable Pacific Northwest winters) I have some tips on planning a ski trip with kids which hopefully, you’ll find useful.

If you are planning a ski trip, the first step is obviously to choose where you want to ski. Start by choosing a region: e.g. the Rockies; the Northeast; British Columbia. Once you have made that choice, you will probably find that there are multiple resorts in that area. The Lake Tahoe area in California is an extreme example of this: there are 15 different ski resorts around Lake Tahoe. When we visited this area in 2004, we skied at three different resorts during the five-day trip and even the kids enjoyed comparing the resorts.

BigB, three years old, first time on skis – again at Snoqualmie – taking lessons with Powder Pigs, a local ski school.

Childcare Facilities
A must for any family with infants and toddler. Not all resorts have childcare facilities for infants. Even where such facilities are available, advance reservations are usually required since the number of available places is limited. Additionally, the location of these facilities is also important: the best option is that the childcare is on the ski hill for ease of access for you in case of emergency.

Ski Schools
Most resorts have some form of ski school. If you are looking for lessons for children, it is important to look for a school which advertises this as Kid’s Clubs or Kid’s Programs. For younger children look for small group sizes and half-day lesson options paired with a suitable childcare program.

Choosing a resort
For ease and comfort, choose a resort where all the off-mountain facilities are clustered in a village-type location at the base of the mountain and select accommodation which has convenient access to services. Get a copy of a resort map either from the resort website or by calling guest services in advance to help with this.

Most ski resorts provide a variety of accommodation types: from typical hotel rooms to condos and houses. Check a resort map before you book your accommodation choices. For example, if you know you’re going to use the childcare facilities and they are located down the mountain from your ski-in-ski-out condo, you will find yourself trudging uphill every evening most likely carrying your child and his or her equipment.

Skiing is expensive. You can pay up to $90 for a daily lift ticket at some of the major U.S. resorts. Ticket prices will vary across resorts within a region and over time during a ski season, based on holidays and school closures. Christmas is more expensive than any other time during the season for lift tickets and accommodation. Equipment rental prices do not usually change within a season.

Additional Activities
Cross-country skiing, snow tubing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, snowshoeing. These are all winter activities which may be fun if you want to take a break from downhill skiing or snowboarding.

Equipment rental
Renting ski equipment at resorts is usually more expensive than off-mountain. To save money, look for a retailer in your neighborhood from whom you can rent equipment more cheaply than at your resort. However, if you are flying to your ski resort, keep in mind that your airline may levy additional costs for odd-size baggage. If your kids are new to skiing, equipment rental may make sense while they adjust to the new activity.

CAM, my independent skier.

There are no ski resorts in Ireland and skiing was a tremendously exotic sport to me until I first tried it. And then I fell down – a lot. We are lucky to live in an area where day-trips to ski are possible and this has meant that it is more affordable for us to get our kids out on the mountain during the winter. Now I’m hooked. I will watch the weather reports for about six different resorts from now through the end of the ski season. My many years of driving to a local ski hill weekend after weekend in snow, sleet and rain are starting to pay off: last season we skied as a family (i.e. we didn’t have to enroll the kids in ski school) and the boys even took some runs on their own.

Do you have a favorite family ski resort? What are the features or facilities which make it better than others? Do you have a tip for planning a family ski vacation to add to the list above?
Leave a comment with your recommendations and suggestions.

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9 Responses to “planning family ski trips”

  1. MudslideMama
    October 22nd, 2008 @ 11:54 am

    Great post! We love Heavenly at Lake Tahoe. But it is so expensive, it’s painful. I think this year we’re just going to lay down and roll down the slope in our yard instead.

  2. Catherine
    October 22nd, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    We live on a beautiful tropical island, but my kids are obsessed with snow and all things winter (I guess you always want what you don’t have). We were planning a family ski trip to Banff this Christmas (Smuggler’s Notch being our second choice – both great family ski destinations), but we have to reevaluate in this plummeting economy. I think we’ll have to make due with sand angels (sigh!).

  3. Jyl
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:46 am

    Hi there! Linked to you in today’s post over on the new GNO site. Go and check it out at http://mommygossip-gno.blogspot.com.

    Thanks again for the great guest tweet on Tuesday.

  4. wandermom
    October 23rd, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

    MudslideMama: I love Heavenly, and you’re right it is very expensive. I found some of the smaller resorts around Tahoe a little more affordable.

    Catherine, I’m sorry, I can’t really feel sorry for you since you do, as you say, “live on a beautiful tropical island”. But, if you’re thinking of BC, Banff is pretty expensive. Again, smaller resorts like Fernie and Sun Peaks might have better deals.

  5. Latoicha
    October 24th, 2008 @ 7:58 am


    I participated in GNO and Renee of Cutibootycakes told me about this post. We are thinking about taking the kids on their first ski trip…4 years and 1 year old! I really want my 4 year old to learn now..This is a great article and lots of wonderful advice. Thanks a bunch!

  6. niamh
    November 2nd, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

    We live in Ireland and took the kids (10,7) skiing for the 1st time last march to Bulgaria where the cosy of living is much cheaper. They loved it so much we plan to go again at easter, would love Canada but with travel expenses I doubt it.

  7. Amy @ The Q Family
    November 7th, 2008 @ 10:00 am

    I live in Atlanta and I really want to take a family ski trip. But I don’t think we can afford to fly to the ski resorts in Colorado or New England. Do you have any recommendation nearby that within our driving distance? I’m thinking probably Smoky Mountains.

  8. marsha abbey
    January 1st, 2009 @ 7:21 am

    We’re taking kids and grandkids to Innsbruck. Town big enough for after ski activities, and plenty of ski slopes to choose from. Also great for side trips to Germany and Italy

  9. Our First Featured GNO Gal : Mom it Forward
    March 29th, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

    […] (AKA Michelle from Wanderlust and Lipstick, AKA our fabulous guest tweeter and giveaway queen) who talks about skiing with […]

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