Should Your Non-Skiing Family Consider a Ski Vacation?
“Should I consider a ski vacation for my family who has never skied before?”
This was a question recently posed to me by a friend, who was inspired by pictures of other families smiling on slopes covered with glistening fresh powder and their kids clearly having a blast in ski school. And how about those images of cozy après-ski activities from hot tubs to fire pits or other fun ski resort activities such as ice-skating, snow tubing, snowmobiling or even dog sledding? It all looks alluring, but many non-skiing families feel completely intimidated by the whole “ski thing” and are not sure where to even begin.
I must agree that ski vacations are more involved than, say, beach vacations. However, but once you plan your first ski trip, subsequent ones become less daunting (similar to how I feel about Disney vacations). Plus, I suspect your family will have so much fun, you will want to do it again. And again.
To help you decide if a ski vacation is something you should consider, here is a list of common concerns along with a few tips.
Skiing for Beginners: Addressing 6 Common Concerns
Concern #1: Learning to ski is hard
Yes, it takes time and practice to become a good skier, but so do many other sports or activities. I can assure you that you don’t have to be Lyndsay Vonn to have fun on the slopes. I grew up in Slovenia, where most kids learn how to ski by the time they are age 2. Not the case in my family because my parents were not skiers. While I tried the sport once or twice as a teenager, I did not start skiing until my late twenties here in the U.S., and I ski at most once or twice a year. Bottom line, I am far from a phenomenal skier since I don’t have a lot of regular practice, but I love it and have a ton of fun on the slopes.
My biggest advice is to invest in professional ski lessons for your yourself and your kids. It’s so worth it. Some resorts, such as Vail, offer private lessons for the entire family so you can spend the day together.
Concern #2: We are not fit enough to ski
Being in good physical shape is of course helpful for any sport, but as a beginner, you won’t be skiing so hard or long that that you must be in a top-notch shape to hit the mountain. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to be a bit sore (legs from pressing down on those turns or arms from pushing yourself around with your poles), just like you would be from any new or unfamiliar workout.
Concern #3: Chairlifts seem so intimidating
Chairlifts are an essential part of skiing, but they can cause anxiety, especially for novices, both kids and adults. First of all, they are very safe. They are meticulously maintained and tested regularly and if there is even the smallest concern, immediately taken out of operation.
Second, my son who is extremely afraid of heights has never had any issues on ski lifts. Perhaps it is because it actually feels less high when you are on them than it looks from afar, or because you are moving, or simply because skiing is so much fun that the anticipation of going on another run makes you forget everything else.
Finally, getting on and off a chairlift does take a little bit of practice, but it is something usually covered in ski school, particularly for beginners. Most chairlift operators go out of their way to help load and unload kids or newbie skiers. Also, no shame in asking for help when it’s your turn, they will be happy to slow down the lift and pull the chair down to make it easier for you.
Concern #4: All that ski equipment…where do I begin?
Here is a quick list to help you prepare for your first ski adventure:
Items you may already own (unless you live in one of the warmer states in which case you will need to buy or borrow):
- A winter sports jacket which can work for skiing: It should be waterproof, thick enough, not too long so that you can move freely and ideally have plenty of pockets where you can store tissues, a chap stick, a granola bar or two, etc.
- Ski pants or a bib: Kids who live in colder climates often already have these for activities such as sledding, tubing, ice skating or even just school recess.
- Socks: Make sure they are warm enough and they are moisture-wicking.
- Neck warmer (gator)
Rent, do not buy:
- Skis, poles and ski boots (or snowboards should this be your choice)
- Helmets, particularly if you expect you might not ski regularly
- Ski gloves: Not just any gloves will do; they should be ski gloves which means waterproof and very warm.
- Ski googles: Ensure the right fit, especially for those little faces and make sure straps will fit over the helmet.
Concern #5: Skiing is expensive
Yes, ski vacations are generally not among the cheapest vacation options for most families, but the good news is that there are many ways to save money and extend your family budget. Here are some ideas:
- Depending on where you live, driving to local ski resorts will likely be much cheaper than flying to another state.
- If flying, book airfares early, as with any vacation, especially if you will be skiing during peak times and/or look for specials. Same goes for lodging.
- If you have flexibility, visit at off-peak times (outside of holidays or spring break) when resorts offer significantly lower rates for lift tickets, equipment or lodging. Also, skiing mid-week can often save you a lot of money.
- Avoid booking your room at slope-side chalets (as charming as they look) and consider staying just outside of the resort where prices can often be significantly lower.
- Make sure to buy lift tickets ahead of time online to avoid window rates which are usually higher, and look for multi-day packages (a 5-day ski lift pass is cheaper than five individual days). At some resorts, kids ski free, but check the age requirements.
- Shop around for ski equipment, especially at big resorts with many shops. If you are a beginner, choose a Standard package versus Demo. Demo means higher performance but also higher cost. If you are signing up for ski school, check if their packages include ski equipment. Kids ski schools often do, or they have great specials.
- Save money on food by cooking your own breakfast and dinner if your accommodations have a kitchen. Many families pack lunches or snacks to cut down on the often costly mountain dining options.
- Ski clothing and other items can often be found at a bargain prices at the end of the season when retailers are trying to get rid of their inventories. Another great resource is Craig’s List or Facebook seller groups where you can purchase used clothing and equipment for extremely low prices.
Concern #6: There is so much to plan for a ski vacation
It is not as hard as you think and it gets even easier after you have done it once. Here are the key steps:
- Choose your ski destination/resort by talking to friends or doing research on the internet. Make sure to pick one with plenty of beginner terrain.
- Book flights and secure lodging.
- Pre-purchase lift tickets to save money unless your lift tickets are included in the price of ski school. Make sure to check ahead of time.
- Rent the equipment at the ski resort. Try to do some research before you arrive to find the best prices. Also, some ski rental places offer discounts for pre-booking online.
- Enroll in ski school to jump start your fun on the slopes.
- Research dining and other options for fun winter family activities in the area beside skiing. Book restaurants and activities ahead of the time especially in busy seasons.
I hope I’ve convinced you to give skiing a try and that your first family ski trip is successful with many more to follow.
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