Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a heli-ski veteran, if you’re a parent, chances are good you’ve been dreaming about seeing your mini me on the slopes since since about two minutes after their first steps. And while you obviously love a pow-day adventure, skiing with a little one is an entirely different kind of adventure than charging with your buddies. Here are five simple steps to make it a day you both remember for all the right reasons.
1. Don’t underestimate the road trip.
Unless you’re one of the fortunate few to live in the heart of a ski town, chances are good that you’ll spend an hour or more in the car before you even put on snow pants. This time helps set the tone for the morning, and can be the difference between starting the day with a kid who wants to ski versus starting the day with a kid who just wants to throw a tantrum. Make the car ride part of the adventure by bringing special toys or activities, playing fun podcasts (my preschoolers love ‘Story Time’ and ‘Brains On’), or making a point of learning new songs together (I highly recommend working your way through The Beatles 1. Kid tested, parent approved).
2. Snacks, snacks and more snacks.
One day, your kid will love skiing. Today? They love snacks. Embrace it. Snacks for the car, snacks for the chairlift, snacks to celebrate a successful first run of the day, lunch snacks, mid-run picnic snacks, après-ski snacks—snacks are your friend. Dinner won’t be mad that you spoiled it as long as it’s name of adventure. So, stuff your pockets full of trail mix, fruit leathers, crackers, granola bars, mandarins and raisins. You can even fit a juice box in the chest pocket of most ski jackets … or so I’ve heard. Stave off hunger and delight your little one’s taste buds to make the day an immediate win for them while they build up their love for skiing.
3. Consider signing them up for an actual lesson.
It’s no secret that kids are often on their best behavior for the non-parent adults in their lives, saving their tantrums for mom and dad. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you’ve observed this phenomenon first hand.) For this reason, I opted to have an energetic young ski instructor teach my son about “pizza skis” and “zombie arms” while I had two blissful hours of solo skiing. At the end of the lesson, my son was thrilled to show me what he’d learned, and I was happy to spend the rest of the afternoon with him on the bunny hill, my black diamond itch sufficiently scratched for the day.
4. Leave them wanting more.
New skiers often find themselves cold, exhausted and overstimulated at the end of the day, which means the snow isn’t the only thing at risk of a meltdown. As soon as you detect waning energy levels, ask your kiddo if she or he wants to call it a day. While it’s tempting to try to “get your money’s worth,” you don’t want to risk leaving a bad taste in your kid’s mouth. Dialing back your own expectations for those first few days on the slopes together is a long-term investment in raising a kid who truly loves to ski.
5. Après-ski: Where the memories are solidified.
Although your pre-kid après-ski traditions may have been a bit boozier than today, this can still be a fun time of indulging and storytelling. Hot chocolate and cookies, recounting the day’s breakthroughs and adventures, and dreaming up outlandish ideas for next time are likely to be some of the sweetest moments of the day.
Having kids that are finally old enough to start sharing in some of your favorite hobbies is a red letter day in the annals of parenting. One day, these kids are going to beat us down the mountain. But today, seeing that first spark of stoke in their eyes is enough to make you fall in love with the sport all over again.