How to Plan a Family Ski Trip

Tips to get you and the kids out on the slopes

Photos courtesy of Vail Resorts

Planning a winter getaway for your family? Your first instinct might be to flee Ohio for someplace warm, but such a trip can be both time consuming and expensive. Why not consider staying closer to home to enjoy some cold weather fun?

Parents who have never gone skiing might be daunted by the idea of trying it out with children in tow, but Andy DeBrunner says the snow sport can actually be a perfect family activity. 

“This is one of those truly great things that you can do with the very earliest beginners to the most expert,” says DeBrunner, a father of three young children who serves as senior manager for communications and marketing for the Vail Resorts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. “Everybody’s still going to have a great time because you’re out on the snow, enjoying the outdoors. I think that’s what’s pretty magical about it.”

Vail operates four ski resorts located within about two hours or less from Toledo by car: Mad River Mountain, Alpine Valley, and Boston Mills Brandywine in Ohio, and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Going skiing for a weekend or even just for the day can be a great way for families to try the sport without making a huge investment. Regardless of the length of your trip, here are some tips DeBrunner shared to help families make the most of their first skiing experience:

  1. Plan Ahead
Photos courtesy of Vail Resorts

Planning ahead is crucial, especially when traveling with children. DeBrunner recommends purchasing all rentals, ski lift tickets and lessons in advance to save money and time and avoid waiting in lines the day you arrive at the resort. 

For longer trips or for families that intend to go skiing more than once in a season, buying a pass can be a valuable investment. Passes usually go on sale around April, which is when the prices will be the lowest, and provide discounts on lift tickets, rentals, lodging, food and lessons. “It will pay for itself multiple times over, depending on how long you stay,” says DeBrunner.

  1. Don’t Skip the Lessons

If this is the first time skiing for everyone, DeBrunner says booking separate lessons for the kids and the adults will be a stress reliever as you figure out the basics. “If you’re just doing it for the first time, you’re going to have a much better experience and a much faster progression if you start out with a lesson or two,” says DeBrunner.

If you are just going for a day, everyone can do their lessons in the morning, reconvene for a meal and still have time to hit the slopes for the afternoon. 

  1. Dress for the Weather
Photos courtesy of Vail Resorts

Ski equipment rentals include boots, skis and a helmet. DeBrunner says families do not necessarily need to invest in a lot of expensive winter gear, but they do need to dress for cold weather just as they would for sledding or playing in the snow at home. If you make one purchase, snow pants are his top recommendation. 

Dress in warm layers, avoiding cotton garments as they retain moisture. Don’t forget warm socks, gloves and hats. Goggles or sunglasses can be a good idea to protect your eyes from sun, wind or snow. Since snow is reflective and magnifies the sun’s rays much like water does in a pool or lake, sunscreen is also recommended!

  1. Take it Slow, Keep it Fun

What age is the best to introduce your child to skiing? It all depends on the kid, says DeBrunner. Beginner classes are available for children as young as age three at some Vail Resort locations, but not every child might be ready to try it then. 

If the kids decide they’ve had enough skiing and you need to take a break, all three Vail Resorts in Ohio also have snow tubing parks which can be a fun way to enjoy the snow without the learning curve. 

Try not to put too much pressure on the experience, especially if it’s the first time. When his three-year-old daughter goes skiing, DeBrunner says they get her in boots and on skis and slide her down a very small hill a few times. “As soon as she’s ready to stop, we let her stop. That’s our approach,” he says. “Like anything else, I think taking it slow and keeping it fun is really crucial.”