As we rapidly approach March (already!?), it is time to start thinking about Spring Break. During March and April, families from all over the world will start to descend on ski areas for their annual spring break ski vacations. Some kids are just naturally into adventure and whatever the rest of their family is doing. Others need a little more convincing. Here are some tips on raising a skiing family...and what to do if they just don't like it.
I'm talking about your expectations here. I am as guilty of this as any other parent who still remembers what it is like to ski lift open to lift close...sure my 5 year old can do a 5 mile hike, sure she can ski for 4 hours straight, of course she wants to go for a bike ride. Well, I'm here to say that isn't always (or usually) the case. Our hikes are "nature walks", skiing involves more breaks than skiing, and bike rides are around a mile or two and usually end at an ice cream stand. Part of raising a kid to enjoy doing the same things you do, is to remember that they are still kids, and that for a relatively short period of your life, you have to dial back your expectations. When you are out with your kids, focus on making it fun for them. There will be less fighting, a lot more laughing, and it will all be worth it when THEY are initiating the outdoor activities because they have such fond memories from when they were younger.
Ski school is another great option so that you can get an "adult" ski day in. Yes it is expensive, but they really can learn a lot from the instructors, and there is nothing quite like skiing with peers to kick the motivation factor up a notch. Now only if your "parenting" legs could handle a full day on the mountain...
Food, Water, and the Right Clothing
Does your family get "hangry" like mine does? I am the worst of all of us, but our kids turn into piles of sobbing mush when their blood sugar gets low. Even if you are the type who can ski all day on a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, there is a good chance that this is too much for your offspring. Your ski clothes have a ton of pockets for a reason, stuff them full of trail mix, granola bars, PB&J sandwiches, cut up apple, clementines, packets of hot cocoa (you can usually get hot water for cheap/free) and our daughter's favorite...candy. If things are starting to look a little dicey, offer a few snacks on the chair lift or take a break in a lodge to refuel. Please don't forget about the water too - water helps you maintain the proper temperature and is critical to your body functioning at its best. Try wearing a Camelback and refill it at lunch if needed.
Make sure that they are dressed for the weather - kids are not happy when they are freezing cold or hot and sweaty. If it is going to be cold, windy, and snowy out there and you are still determined to get everyone on the hill...don't skimp on their gear. They need warm coats/pants, baselayers, mittens, a good helmet, goggles, and socks just like you do. I know it is expensive, and that is where Threadlyte can help - shop secondhand!
Let Them Lead
If there is one thing kids love, it is control. We are always dragging them around and rushing them to do something (school, bath, bed, brushing teeth, putting on clothes, taking off clothes...). Break out the trail map and sit down with them to go over the areas you can ski and what they want to do. Our daughter loves doing this and it is extra motivating for her to get out there and explore the trails she has picked out. This is all within reason of course (you don't want to take your blue-cruising 5 year old off a double black just because the name of the trail is cool), but you may be surprised at how much your kids enjoy being a part of the planning.
So they hate it, now what?
Let's face it, not everyone loves to ski or be out in the snow. For younger kids, there is usually an on-mountain daycare option that can be pricey, but may be worth it so that you can get your skiing on. My husband and I trade off hanging out with our 1 1/2 year old...which is even more fun if you have friends with kids the same age and you can all take turns skiing or hanging with the little ones.
I've talked to families who have older kids who don't ski and just hang out and read books by the fire in the lodge. They meet up with the skiing part of the family for lunch, and then all get together again for après at the end of the day. Remember, there are other things to do on the mountain (tubing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing), talk to your kids about how they want to spend their day while everyone else is skiing. Maybe take a day (or afternoon) off to hang out with them as well. After all, they won't always be interested in coming on vacation with the family.
If you have a ski trip planned with the family this winter, or if you live in the mountains and are raising little skiers, I hope that you and your family make some awesome memories out on the hill. I've already shed a few happy tears watching our daughter learn to love this sport that means so much to us, and I can't wait until the four of us are ripping down the mountain together...that is, of course, if the youngest likes it too. :)