It's All Downhill:
Family Ski Trips
By A. Michael Kundu
Many parents hope to make skiing their family’s winter sport. But the challenge of it all can quickly smack them in the face like a wet snowball. Between getting all the gear together, filling out forms for rentals (and ski school) and keeping track of one another in a crowded base lodge, the whole process can seem overwhelming. A passionate snowsport adventurer, Farewell Travels contributor A. Michael Kundu has been hitting the slopes with his boys since they were toddlers. Here, he offers advice on how to overcome the challenges and enjoy skiing as a family.
In the Kundu house, the first snowfall signals the coming of ski/snowboard season, a fact that our kids eagerly broadcast through posts on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. After a ritual weekend resurfacing and waxing our skis, we’re ready to hit the slopes.
If introduced early enough, skiing and snowboarding can become lifelong family activities. Even college students can often be lured back to join parents, brothers and sisters on ski vacations. Our sons Lars and Erik have had the ski bug since we first took them to the slopes as toddlers. In their mid teens now, they consider our annual ski excursions a special family tradition.
The trick to establishing this worthwhile tradition is how you introduce it. Here are some pointers.
For Your Tykes
• Talk About It Early. Generate excitement and anticipation well before your first trip to the slopes. Involve kids in picking out their snowsuits, mittens, hats, etc., and keep talking about skiing or boarding in positive ways.
• Hot Couture for kids. Young kids love colorful costumes on the slopes. Reuse that oversized Tigger or Dinosaur costume or helmet-cover from Halloween. Zinc Oxide sunscreen also makes for great snow make-up.
• Carry Snacks and Other Fun Necessities. Always have some fun snacks (fruit roll-ups, Skittles, M&Ms) with you. Colored chapsticks are also handy to take along. And…if you’re in an area where there’s wildlife, carry a pocket animal field guide.
• On the Slopes, Keep it fun. It’s okay (and fun!) to fall down in soft snow. Take a break from skill development to make snow angels, have a snowball fight, or make snowbeards and mustaches.
• Communicate Effectively. A two-way radio gives you the chance to offer on-the-fly advice and coaching and stay in contact if you happen to get separated on or off the mountain.
For Your Teens
• Share the Action. An inexpensive camera with video capabilities is a great incentive to have teens share their shredding on Facebook and YouTube; peer encouragement is sometimes more effective than parental support. Their pals will see their escapades and cheer them on.
• Listen to Tunes. Teens tend to want to listen to their music while on the slopes, but it’s important to make sure they can hear other skiers/boarders nearby. Helmets are essential and many manufacturers make them with iPod earphones built in. You can remove one of the earbuds permanently in some of these helmets so your teen can hear what’s going on.
• Snow Bling is Good. If you’re skiing late in the day and losing light, a headlamp or glow bracelets make it easier for mom and dad to spot their teens from the lodge . Plus, it’s a peer attention getter.
• Again, Communication. Offer them some independence, but remember that two-way radios are a good way to stay in touch on the slopes, and are more reliable than cellphones.
• Après-Ski Activities. A busy teen is a happy teen and those new to skiing can be attracted to the sport’s independence and social elements. Pick a resort with a chance for them to hang out with other teens – terrain parks, tubing hills, skating rinks and all-ages après-ski clubs will give them more incentives to accompany you on that next family ski vacation. And get them into a mixed-gender lesson program – with the chance for a pizza party or other après-ski school social event.
Whichever mountains you find yourselves on, keep in mind that skiing as a family is all about having fun. Don’t let learning how to ski become an ordeal. If your kid is taking forever to get out of the snowplow or is afraid to ski the blues and blacks, so be it.
A. Michael Kundu, founder of SeaWolf Adventure Media, is a freelance outdoor photojournalist from Ontario, Canada. Michael and his family currently live in Lake Stevens, Washington.
Photo credits: Top photo and boys next to sign were taken at Sunshine Village in Alberta, by A. Michael Kundu; ski school at Big Sky Resort was taken by Lonnie Ball; boarders at Big White Resort , Kelowna British Columbia was taken by A. Michael Kundu.