Let’s just say if you are looking for a relaxing family holiday (if there even is such a thing) then stop reading now. A family trip to the ski field is not going to be your thing. There’s all the early mornings, the mountains of gear to organise, carry and keep track of and the cold, tired children to deal with. It’s enough to test the patience of a saint.
Yet every year we do it. We pack the car to the gunnels and head south for our annual ski holiday. And every year we come home having had the best time. How? Here’s my guide to surviving a ski holiday with kids:
Rent good accommodation: You’re all going to be together 24/7 so having space to spread out, your own room to sleep in and a kitchen for some self-catering will make the trip more comfortable – especially if you get a day when you can’t ski. Even if you do want to eat out at night, it makes life easier if you can sort your own breakfasts and organise snacks and lunches to take up the mountain. Renting a house can be an affordable option and sites like www.bookabach.co.nz have plenty of accommodation for groups of all sizes.
Go with another family (or two): Going skiing with another family makes house rental even more affordable. Even if you aren’t all staying together, hanging out on the slopes together means a higher adult to kid ratio which can make everyone’s day a lot more manageable- especially if you have a range of ages and skiing abilities. Having friends on tap – for both the adults and the kids – makes the trip much more fun.
Plan some kid-free time: If the members of your family are all at different ski levels, then a little bit of planning can ensure everyone gets some time to do what they want. Sitting the kids down with husband for a hot chocolate can buy me a good hour of kid-free time on the grown up slopes. Likewise, volunteering to do the lunchtime shift can give others the chance for a ski.
Some ski fields offer a crèche where younger kids can be looked after all day and even have some ski lessons of their own (Turoa ski field has the Yeti Club).
Or you can book the kids into a group lesson. Not only does this improve their skiing skills, it buys you up to 2 hours to head on up the mountain.
Take a slow cooker: The last thing you’ll want to do after a long day on the slopes is cook. The second-to-last thing you’ll want to do is get organised enough to prepare a weeks’ worth of frozen meals to take with you. Popping something into the slow cooker in the morning means dinner will be ready when you return.
Make your own lunches: Or at least pack your own snacks. Ski fields aren’t the cheapest places to eat and the queues and waiting times to order food will eat into your ski day. Plus finding a table takes more tact and cunning than getting a carpark at the mall on Christmas Eve. Packing some snacks and sandwiches into a backpack means you can refuel on the go and you can do your bit to reduce all the packaging and waste that gets carted down from the mountain each day.
This year our favourite ski field at Mt Ruapehu sold reusable Keep Cups and then offered a 50 cents discount off hot drinks when you used the cup.
Be prepared: When kids get cold the day turns to custard pretty quickly. Take spare pairs of gloves so they have a warm, dry pair to layer up or swap into (or to replace the pair that they’ve lost) and also spare socks for any cold feet. A neck warmer that can be easily pulled up over the face is also handy – especially on the chair lifts. Goggles and helmets are a must for everyone – as are regular applications of sunscreen and lip balm.
Go for layers: Layering is the best way to dress for the cold. Go for good quality wool, merino or polyprop – they’re easy to stuff in a pocket if layers need to be shed unlike a big chunky jersey or fleece. Three layers under a waterproof ski jacket and long johns plus ski pants on the bottom half should do the trick.
Off piste fun: if your kids are too young for skiing then most ski fields have good tobogganing areas and spaces for snow fights and snowman building. If this is your day, then go to the extra expense of hiring snow boots to keep little feet warm. No matter how good their woollen socks are and how many pairs they wear – gumboots just won’t cut it.
Rent gear in advance: look online for deals. Some places offer a 20% discount if you book your gear online before you get to the mountain, and they might even deliver to your accommodation. You get to keep the gear for the length of your stay so you won’t be queueing to hire gear each morning.
Some ski fields also do season rentals – an affordable option for growing kids who need new boots and skis each year.
Download the app: most skifields have an app with regular weather updates and road conditions – invaluable for planning the day ahead. You’ll know how many layers of clothing to dress everyone in and how accessible the mountain road is. If you’ll need chains to get up the mountain try to hire them from town rather than wait in the queues on the mountain road.
Get pay wave: it’s a joy to be able to pay for stuff without having to take your gloves off.
Taking the family skiing is not for the faint-hearted – but with a little bit of planning it can be a rewarding experience for everyone.