When can I start my kids on the snow? How do I make it less stressful for me, the parent? What are the top things to remember before you even attempt to get on those damn mittens? Here they are, answers from the parents of three-time Olympic alpine skier Erik Schlopy, my husband, and NCAA champion Keri Schlopy Crockett (my sis-in-law).
Marny and Kent's tips:
1. SMALLER RESORTS/MOUNTAINS can lead to MORE FUN for the whole family and keep more money in your wallet. We raised our kids on amazing small hills in Buffalo, NY. We would drop them off in the morning and pick them up at 4 p.m. This still a great option for families, and there are several around the country. For families just starting out, this is less expensive and much more manageable.
2. Weather is by far the most important factor with small children! Pick sunny and warm days! If you have chosen a week vacation and the weather is cold and cloudy, ski for short periods of time and take TONS of hot cocoa breaks.
3. Patience is KEY! Don't set your expectations too high and don't think it is a failure if you have to cut the day short. Also, don't let your kids tell you what they are going to wear with regards to helmet and gloves. Your policy should be no helmet/gloves, no skiing. No exceptions. And be prepared to sit in the lodge until they come around.
4. If this is your kids or your first time out, GET LESSONS! For example, if your family is planning on being on snow for a week, commit to three consecutive days of lessons. (Note - during peak times you need to reserve lessons WELL in advance!!) After the 3 days, you can play it by ear and give the family ski day a try!
5. This one is from me, Summer. CANDY is MAGIC! The last thing you want to do is make getting on all the gear super traumatic…so REWARD them with a little candy. When the kids first started I would put some in a baggy in my ski jacket. Honestly, they only needed a couple and the tears were gone!
6. COMFORT is MOST IMPORTANT. When it comes to ski boots, make sure they are comfortable and to make that happen, rent from someone who knows what they are doing. If your kid says their foot hurts…THEIR FOOT HURTS…trust them and try a different pair. When they get better, then you can worry about performance! And whatever you do, DO NOT leave your boots in the car over-night! Cold boots are almost impossible to get on!
7.CREATE A LIST! I have said this before. Make a list of everything you will need…and check it several times. Also, pack each kid in a separate bag and check it before and after a day of skiing. It is amazing how many single gloves I have in my house.
8. PACK A LUNCH! Most resorts allow you to bring your own food. Please take advantage of this if you are on a budget. You can add to your meal with a hot or cold beverage or desert but if your main meal is from home, your wallet will thank you!
9. Dress in layers. Think about the difference in temperature from the top of the hill compared to the bottom. You can always take layers off…but if you are too cold, you are up a creek!
10. If you are heading to a major resort like Park City or Deer Valley during a major holiday, reserve your skis ahead of time. We didn't even know this until the Peete family came to visit last year after Christmas. All the skis in the major shops were reserved so we had to pull a favor to get them hooked up. Go online or call to get the family set up with gear! And check to see if your resort will store them over-night for you…makes your ski life much less stressful.
Most importantly, Kent says to have fun and not to worry if your kids don't get it right away. When you start them young, you are setting your family up for some amazing vacations and adventures in the future!