Sunday River Resort’s annual Children’s Festival Week (Jan. 9-13, 2017) is upon us, which is a fantastic deal for any family looking to save on their next ski or snowboard vacation.
The gist: During this annual week in January, kids ages 3-12 can stay, rent, ski, learn, and eat breakfast FOR FREE when staying with a paying adult. Any ski parent will tell you, this is a fabulous deal.
Of course, every year, this week brings with it a mix of families who have either mastered family ski/snowboard travel or are tackling this challenge for the first time head on. In an effort to help those of you who are new to this, I crafted the handy-packing-list below. Of course, you may need or want to bring more/less depending on your own kids, but having been down this road more than once, it’s a good list to start from.
I also took to the interwebs via Facebook to ask my mom and dad ski friends: “What are the essentials to bring/do/consider when taking your next ski vacation with kids?” Their tips are pure gold.
1) Organize, organize, organize…
Moira McCarthy (Ski Magazine + Boston Herald): Years ago, after too many 8:20 a.m. “OMG, two left mittens AGAIN?!” moments, I went out and bought four ski bags—red, blue, black and green—and assigned one to each of us. At the end of each ski day, trip or whatever, I clean and repack EVERYTHING we need for each person in their bag. Long undies, mittens, neck warmers (ALL OF IT), and there it stays—always. Over the summer, I just put the bags away for the winter …. and forever after I have never had to rush to the base lodge shop to buy the forgotten (fill in the blank here) again.
(Editor note: Lost and Found can also be your best friend if your kiddo does leave behind a mitten, glove, or whatever.)
Tom H. (Rutland, Vermont): Make sure each kid has their own boot/gear bag!
Lindsay L. (Woodstock, Maine): I pack/organize everything the night before. Load skis in the car; long underwear, socks, ski pants and snow boots are laid out and ready to be put on before loading up. Ski boots, jackets, helmets, mittens, etc., are all zipped tight in small bags then chucked into one big bag left sitting by the door. Lunch/snacks are also packed ahead of time and ready to go; granola bars, gummy bears, cheese sticks, are all great to keep in a pocket. I even prep breakfast: Cut up fruit and pre-scrambled eggs. Delaying departure by 30 minutes to look for a pair of goggles or bickering over breakfast fare and/or one’s “outfit” is a total buzzkill. By being prepared in advance (and you can totally drink a glass of wine while you’re doing it!), you get to wake up, eat a good breakfast, smile, and be excited (instead of the grouch who didn’t have time to slurp the rest of her coffee and forgot her half of bagel on the counter). Taking twin two- and now three-years-olds out to shred the gnar solo is hard enough work. By prepping the night before, I actually get to enjoy the day along with them. It’s also important to just wind down and do something mellow when you get home. I don’t plan anything else on ski days.
Sara S. (Bethel, Maine): Always leave 20 minutes before you think you should.
Angela H. (Bethel, Maine): We make sure we have our packs full of gear and our season pass! We are always very excited to get our skis from Doug & Joyce at Stor-a-ski (on-mountain storage) and love saying hello to snowmobile Bob. A ski by Eddie the Yeti’s house and a ride up the Chondola to the Peak lodge are a couple of our favorite pit stops. And to end the day, a hot chocolate next to the firepit! It’s almost surreal to watch my 4-year-old cruising the slopes. I love everything about it!
Shanna G. (Winter Park, Colorado): Dress them in BRIGHT colors (neon orange or green are my go to), always pack pockets full of snacks (the bribery kind), be aware of all bathrooms (I once had my son pee all over me trying to go on a tree), and be ready for the day, sooner than you expect, when your child out-skis you in the trees and down that mogul run.
Melissa D. (Bozeman, Montana): We don’t leave home and/or begin skiing without the kids using the restroom first. Bribery snacks for the youngins, a flask for the adults, and a healthy dose of patience. Give yourself plenty of extra time for spur-of-the-moment meltdowns.
Dave P. (Big Sky, Montana): Although it is great to teach your kids to ski, a lesson or seasonal program is a really great place to learn. Kids, at least my kids, seem to listen to instructors much better than they do to me. The instructors also have some great tricks to teach kids.
Amy D. (Bethel, Maine): Cellphones! For when you have teenagers that don’t want to ski with you anymore.
Marcie F. (Scottsdale, AZ): I duct tape their gloves on! It keeps the snow from going up sleeves.
Jamie I. (Cumberland, Maine): Rent everything. Carry nothing. 30 degrees or warmer.
Jim T. (Minnesota): [I’m] not a parent but [I] work in the ski industry; make sure they plan ahead and get their ski equipment adjusted before they come out.
3) Bribery can be an effective tool…
Kristy B. (Cumberland, Maine): Chairlift games! We play “I Spy” and put new words to our favorite songs…usually potty words, but I deemed the chairlift to be a “potty-talk” approved zone.
Abby T. (Truckee, California): [I keep] Gummy bears or M&Ms in my pocket. They get handed out on the chairlift 2-3 per lift ride. It treats low blood sugar faster than hot chocolate and keeps ’em going.
Emily D. (Hong Kong): My mom always gave each of us a twin Twix bar for our pockets! Bites of frozen Twix on the chairlift all day long kept us going! Easy to hold with gloves on also. And we never broke for lunch at the crowded times—we always pushed til later, which was way better.
Katie S. (Bethel, Maine): Cookies and cinnamon buns are always used for bribing.
Todd M. (Portland, Maine):“Hyper Buns” (cinnamon buns) at the Peak [Lodge] are motivational and very much appreciated on cold mornings. We also made up a game called Trail Trivia. We used to play it in the hot tub apres-ski, but now we do it everywhere. You take turns and start off something like “I’m thinking of a trail on South Ridge that is a green circle and a lift line.” Then the kids have to guess the trail. The best part is they now know every trail name and don’t just mindlessly ski around the River!
Jim D. (Bozeman, Montana): [Foggy] Goggle fries when they start getting cold.
Dave B. (Bethel, Maine): Cinnamon buns and hot chocolate at the Peak Lodge.
Jeff C. (bethel, Maine): It is supposed to be fun, so let them get the hot cocoa or the cinnamon bun or the mini donuts from the Coffee Hound. They can eat carrot sticks and kale chips another time.
Lindsay L. (Woodstock, Maine) adds: To tag on to Jeff’s comment (above): And don’t forget to get one for yourself! I think parents forget that THEY can have fun, too! Kids will love it if you love it.
My husband: “Baileys Irish Cream (for him). And hand warmers (for the kids).”
The best part about skiing with the kids…
When asked what the best part of skiing with kids is, John Kimble, father of two and Freestyle/Freeski Program Director for Gould Academy’s Competition Program, says “The best part of skiing with the kids is simply skiing with the kids.”
And it’s true. The best part of skiing with your kids is actually skiing with your kids. You’ll share in the ups and downs of packing and traveling, you’ll probably lose a glove or two, and you’ll find yourself consuming way more treats than you ever imagined possible (and then donning a swimsuit so that the kids can hit the pool shortly thereafter). But when it comes down to it all, just being out there with your kids on snow and on the chairlift, while talking about nothing and everything, really is everything you could ever want and then some in a family ski vacation.