In the middle of ski season, we found ourselves relocating from Pensacola, Florida to Denver, Colorado. My husband has been snowboarding for a few years on occasional guys’ trips to the mountains, and he couldn’t wait to get all of us on the slopes. What he didn’t expect was that there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to skiing with the whole family — younger kids included. Below is a guide for families learning to ski Breckenridge:
Before you ski :
Get the right gear
The gear doesn’t have to be expensive to start, but you want to have good base layers, ski pants and a jacket, a neck gaiter and a pair of warm ski gloves. Knit mittens are not going to keep you warm enough, because the wind cuts right through them and they get wet easily. The neck gaiter will help prevent windburn on your neck and face. Leave the scarves for an outing on the town; your children are going to have a hard enough time as it is without worrying about a scarf getting caught on a chairlift.
Though sunglasses might work on a beautiful day, ski goggles are great for beginners because goggles stay strapped to your head. You might be tempted to wear more than one pair of socks if it’s cold, but they can move around in your boots, causing sore spots, so you will want to pick up some wool or high-tech fabric socks that will keep your feet warm.
Wear the gear before your first day of skiing
Ski clothing is bulky, and your child may not be happy all wrapped up in it. Plan a fun adventure in the snow so your kids can get used to all the gear. We like to go sledding, tubing or go for a walk in the snow to get the kids used to all the clothing.
Rent your equipment the night before
If possible, rent your equipment the night before so you have it and are ready to go. If the rental shop is busy, it can sometimes take over an hour to process your entire family. The downside to picking up your equipment the day before is that you now have to carry it with you to the slopes the next day. Picking up your equipment slope side will ensure that everybody will be ready to go and not be exhausted from wrangling the equipment all morning. If you do rent your equipment the morning of your ski adventure, show up as early as possible or wait until the lifts open to avoid some crowds.
Bring a large bag that folds up
A reusable shopping bag or a tote that folds up will come in handy to carry ski boots when little ones are tired of walking in them. The amount of equipment needed to ski can be overwhelming, and you will probably end up carrying some of your children’s equipment, too. You can either keep the bag in a locker or fold it in an inside jacket pocket.
Enroll your family in ski school
I tried skiing once a long time ago without ski school. It was a complete disaster, and I vowed never to do it again. Enough years passed that my husband was able to talk me into ski school. Ski school will give both you and your children the basic knowledge that every skier needs, as well as the confidence to try it on your own.
During your ski day:
Stay close to the Quicksilver chair
If you are hitting the slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort for the first time, stay close to the Quicksilver chair until you get more comfortable. One of my biggest fears is making a wrong turn and ending up on a more advanced trail, but sticking to the Quicksilver Chair lift ensures that you will stay on green trails. Our favorite trail was Silverthorne, and we spent much of the day working on our skills there. There are a number of blue and black trails that eventually meet up with Silverthorne but because of the beginner nature of the trail, I didn’t feel like I was dodging more expert skiers and snowboarders.
Take time for breaks and eat your snacks
There is a reason why the Ski and Ride School takes a lot of breaks throughout the day. The kids get hot chocolate, snacks and lunch in between skiing. It keeps up their energy levels, warms them, and changes up their day. A bag of M&M’s and a granola bar both go a long way in convincing your child to keep skiing. Don’t forget to pack snacks in everybody’s pockets.
Bring the hand warmers but don’t wait until your kids are complaining about the cold
We were skiing on a very cold day, but nobody started complaining until we had already been out a few hours. We broke out the hand warmers we had packed in our pockets, but by the time they were nice and warm, we were headed back to the car.
Quit while you are ahead
The best time to stop skiing for the day is while your kids are swooshing down the hill with a smile on their faces. They will remember how much fun they had; they will not remember how miserable they were when they tumbled down the slope. Sometimes this means only half a day of skiing, and that is OK.
After your ski day:
Talk to your children
Find out what their favorite part of the day was and what scared them. Talk about what they want to try next time. The answers to these questions can help guide your next day on the slopes.
With a little bit of planning, you and your family can have a successful first-time visit to the slopes. When it is time to go home, everyone will be begging to start planning the next trip.
— Jennifer Close writes about family travel at Two Kids and a Map and is the contest editor for Traveling Mom. She recently moved from Florida to Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two children. They are still getting used to the snow. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.