Chill Out!

Take the shivers and sniffles out of your next ski and snowboard family jaunt with these winter-ready tips
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First Ski Lesson
LEARNING TO SKI: Start 'em young and watch a life-long passion develop (courtesy, Telluride Ski Resort/Tony Demin)

Convenience is king when you’re traveling as a family. And there’s no better way to get exercise and spend quality time in the wild than a day of skiing or snowboarding. While growing up, my five sisters and I felt like we owned our local mountain. Now, I ski with my husband and three daughters, my parents who are in their 70s, and my sisters and their families—and we still feel like the mountain is ours. We’re lucky to live close to a resort—last year my four-year-old twins skied 65 days, our seven-year-old raced in the local ski program and, while making great friends, became a safe, courteous, and stylish skier. The adults get the added benefit of a good night’s sleep every Saturday and Sunday.

In the early days of skiing in the U.S., guys like my father postholed uphill, or shuttled skiers up winding long roads in a farm pickup. They worked hard for every turn. But today everything's different, much to the benefit of resort-goers. Comfortable high-speed quads and heated gondolas whisk you to mountain tops. Faster lifts mean shorter lines and warmer kids, as they spend less time freezing on the chair. Chair lift speed and ease of use has increased so significantly that most of us get in plenty of turns without skiing all day. The die-hards still race to the slopes early for untouched powder and stay until the last chair of the day, but lifts are so efficient that families can pace themselves, with breaks in the lodge to warm toes and fuel up on French fries and hot chocolate. And kids learn how to carve effortless down the mountain, creating memories of hysterical laughter after tumbling into eye-high powder.

Skis or Snowboard?

Most resorts cater to both skiing and snowboarding, with special features like terrain parks, half pipes, and cross courses to entertain the young ones who’d rather catch air or ride rails than cruise down the slopes. Of course kids are attracted to the “cool” factor of snowboarding, but skiing is more versatile—you can walk on skis, plus ski knowledge applies to other, more backcountry-friendly disciplines, like cross-country, telemark, and alpine touring.  Kids can quickly learn to ski in a snowplow fashion—fondly called the Pizza Pie by instructors. It’s easier to first learn on skis, by taking lessons or with parents. Later, if a child wants to switch to boarding, which has a steeper learning curve, they can take on the teeth-jarring falls of the first few lessons.

And the advances in ski technology (even in a pair of rentals) make picking up the sport surprisingly easy. If you learned on 180-cm-length skis or sported angle leashes on a pair of wooden boards, you're in for a shock. Today's skis are miracles of sport technology, with models that cater to powder skiing, groomed runs, and all-mountain cruisers. The skis don't turn for you, but they make turning a lot easier. And the boots have achieved a comfort level formerly reserved solely for the post-ride fireplace. Simply put, what was once intimidating just got a lot more approachable.

But even if someone in the family doesn't want to learn to ski or snowboard, the nice thing about winter resorts is that there’s generally plenty to do. If the weather isn’t great for riding the chair, many resorts feature tubing parks, with super-fast sleds and tows to pull you back up the hill. If you prefer the backcountry experience, many resorts offer pre-groomed trails and access to miles of public land. Perhaps the biggest change in resorts is that lodges cater to families more than ever before. Many offer family-friendly cafeteria seating in addition to brew pubs, gourmet dining, and coffee bars, plus nurseries for the baby-crowd, and indoor and outdoor areas set aside for kids and teens.


Published: 13 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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