Skiing with Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews


5 year old wants to ski, I don't

Nov 2012

I don't ski but I think my 5 year old would like it. I was thinking of taking the Bay Area Ski bus to a ski resort but I don't see any recent reviews. Any advice? Which would you recommend going to? NonSkiingMommy

Ski buses are great- for adults who want to ski the whole day and then party on the way home. But it's a very bad idea to take a 5-year old first-time skiier on a ski bus. Your child may or may not like skiing. But either way, he or she will be exhausted after a couple of hours on the slopes. Then you will be trapped at the ski resort with nothing to do until the bus is ready to leave at the end of the day. Ski resorts can get pretty boring if you're not skiing. There's generally a small amount of shopping to do and a lot of gross, expensive food to eat. Unless you enjoy sitting in the bar and drinking, you will be dying of boredom by the time the bus leaves.

Also, these buses leave super early in the morning. You'd probably have to get your child up around 4:00 am or earlier to make it. This will probably lead to a cranky, tired child who will not want to ski.

I used to be a children's ski instructor and took my 4-year old skiing several times last year. You want to make sure that your child associates skiing with fun, not with being tired, bored and uncomfortable. Ideally you would drive up the night before and spend the night in a hotel (there are a lot of cheap hotels at South Shore) so that your child can have a full night's sleep before his first day. We always stop at In-n-Out burger on the way up which my son really enjoys and makes him look forward to the trip. Then you put him or her in a ski lesson. After the lesson you have lunch, relax, and see what he/she wants to do for the afternoon. Do not push a tired child into an afternoon lesson. Build a snowman or go sledding instead. Or go home. My son didn't do well when we put him in lessons 2 days in a row. Also, although my son loved skiing and wants to go back, he was always kind of a nightmare after his lessons because he was so tired. Just expect it and it's a lot easier to deal with.

My son did not learn to ski very well last year. But we made sure that every experience that he had was very enjoyable and now he keeps asking when we get to go back this year. I have high hopes that he will get it early on this year and be able to ride the ski lift. He loves skiing and, to me, that's the most important thing.

Many resorts have kids' learn to ski packages. You pay one price and it includes a lift ticket, a lesson and equipment. They are generally pretty good deals. But you will still have to buy or borrow all of the clothing that your child will need and it gets expensive. There are ski swaps around where you can buy used gear but they may have already happened. At a minimum, you will need the following: ski pants, ski jacket, helmet (new, don't try to save money here), goggles/sunglasses (I prefer goggles), gloves, long underwear and ski socks. You may also want to buy a neck gaiter or balaclava to keep his/her neck warm.

My dad always says to remember the Farallon effect. Apparently a friend of his took a new girlfriend sailing for the first time. The guy chose to take her on the Farallons' Race (this is the race where several people died this year). The girlfriend hated it and never wanted to go sailing again. He should have taken her over to Tiburon to have lunch on the deck at Sam's. She might have turned into an avid sailor! To me, taking the ski bus with a first-time skiier is similar to taking a first-time sailor to the Farallons. Take it easy and have fun

Hello! Skiing with 5-year-olds is one area I know something about, so I am going to post my first ever response to a BPN question.

I worked as a ski instructor and coach for many years, and even ran the children's ski school at Sugar Bowl for a time. My best suggestion for you when introducing a 5-year-old to skiing is to skip the weekend if you possibly can, take a weekday off and head up there when the weather is good. Pick a day when it will be sunny and relatively warm, dress your child appropriately (layers, not too many or too few, don't be afraid to tell the instructor to pull off a layer if your child seems overheated) and don't forget sunscreen and sunglasses! A mid-week, non-holiday group lesson is almost always small, and can sometimes even be one-on-one. Basically, you get a private or a semi-private experience for the price of a group lesson!

I love Sugar Bowl, but Northstar or Squaw might be a better fit for you because you do not intend to ski yourself. The villages at those resorts are nice places to hang out while your child is in his or her lesson; you could sit by a fire sipping cocoa and read a book, go ice skating, or go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing if that's your inclination. Sugar Bowl is great because it is closer and smaller. There are not as many frills but it's a great resort filled with very caring people. If you decide on a private lesson, ask for Patty Garza because she is awesome!

My last piece of advice is to try to either take the bus or spend a night up there to relieve yourself of some of the stress of driving up and back in a day. The hotels in Reno always have great ski and stay deals, and the hotels in Truckee have great deals mid-week. The hotels at the resorts are a special treat and may include lessons and meals.

Good luck! Enjoy the mountains! I started out skiing at 10 through an after-school program, and no one else in my family skied. It turned into a lifelong passion and a great alternative to a lot of mischief I was getting into otherwise. You're a great parent to introduce your child to something that is not necessarily your cup of tea. Samara

Hi, My 5 year old son and I just took amtrack to Tahoe and we had a great time. The views from Amtrak were beautiful and we arrived refreshed. There is bus service from the amtrak station in Truckee to the ski resorts including Squaw Valley. The bus costs 1.75 and kids are free on the bus. The California Zephyr train takes a little over 5 hours, travels through all kinds of weather and has a dining car, observation car and snack car along with sleeper cars. The price was also great as well; a couple hundred dollars round trip for both of us and if you plan ahead you may even be able to do it for cheaper! abstractflower 

What's the earliest age we can get our tot on skis?

Feb 2006

my husband and i are avid skiers and we now have a tot in tow. so the question is what is the earliest age we can get our babe on skis? she will be two in april and we were hoping to give her a try on the slopes before the end of this year's ski season. does anyone have any personal success (or unsuccessful!) stories to share? thanks, a family of ski bunnies

Oh my, what an exciting question! Skiing as a family is SUCH a rewarding experience! We had terrific success downhill skiing with our son last ski season, when he was four. And this year, we keep hearing the question, ''When can we go up again?'' And I think that was a wonderful time to start him out in the sport. After returning from our trip, we spoke to friends who also felt 4-5 years is really a great time to start kids out. For starters, he was as excited as could be to be going skiing, with dad (formerly a ski instructor) and that helped tremendously. We rented skis and he carried his heavy skis and poles to the lift and we had difficulty getting him off the hill for lunch despite the fact that it was snowing (brrr)! We have found the fourth year to be quite magical intellectually and physically for our son. At this age, I believe children have a certain readiness (neurologically and physically) which enable them to take on and progress in complex activities such as downhill skiing. I am not saying that there aren't 2 year olds out there on the slopes, but it seems awfully uncomfortable for the adults on the bunny slope who have to support them (aching back) all the way down. Why not snowball fights and snow angels and sledding for the next season or so? That'd be just as fun for a 2 year old!!! We used a harness which attaches to a vest and that was wonderful. Your child skis in front of you and the parent holds the harness straps which help stop (and turn) him if he gains too much speed, like reigns on a horse. The extent of my son's first ski ''lesson'' as my husband says was, ''Whoa, wait for Daddy!'' -- he was off. By day's end, he was skiing down beginner/intermediate slopes from the top of the mountain (without stopping for a break!) and at the end of day came all the way down to basecamp (Northstar). Jennifer

I was up on skis when I was two years old. Find out from the place you'll be skiing if they have the means to get your babe on the skis. if they can walk, they can ski!!

I started alpine skiing at age 4 with a very enthusiastic father. I tried starting my son at about 2 or 3 on cross country skiis but he would just walk around the meadow a bit and be tired. Last year my then 8 year old son started snow boarding lessons and loved it. This year he took a down hill lesson and loved that, heading off on the lift by himself. He and his younger sister (age 5) took a cross country lesson and both were into it and developmentally ready to enjoy it. We have enjoyed sledding previous years. Each kid is different but I would recommend holding off for a couple years until your child is more coordinated, has a longer attention span and is stronger to be able to move the equipment around with minimal frustration. We loved the cross country lesson at Royal Gorge and the staff at Soda Springs give great skiing and snowboard lessons. Both do group or private. Check out Planet Kids at Soda Springs. For $10 you get a rental of skiis or snowboard and access to the kiddie area with a snow carousel, tubing, a moving carpet, etc. For $25 you can upgrade your child to a 30 min. lesson on the lift. kathryn

We started our son skiing at 3 years old. The first year was not a success due to him not being ready and our trying to teach him ourselves. At 4 years old, we put him in ski school at Diamond Peak in Incline Village. The teachers there were wonderful and used language (''french fries'' for parallel skiing, ''pizzas'' for snowplowing) and exercises that we never would have thought of. Our son was skiing well by the end of a week in ski school. At 5, he is a very enthusiastic skiier. We just spent a wonderful long weekend on the slopes with him doing intermediate runs. Of course, he says he's ready to move on to snow boarding now. Carol

Go to Tahoe! We just got back from a weekend in the snow there. At Soda Springs (N. Lake Tahoe), there's a great kid's snow play area (for 8 and under) called Planet Snow Kids. It's small, but it's perfect for that age. For $10 your toddler can go on skis, the tube carousel (a merry go round in the snow), and do snow tubing down a very small hill. If your kid is older they can try a snowboard too. There's even a tiny conveyor belt ski lift to get to the top of the tiny hill! Our daughter wanted to go back and do the skis a second day, and she's only 2 1/4. We rented a cabin in the Tahoe Donner area, which is about 20 minutes drive from Soda Springs over Donner Pass when the roads are good. We've also stayed at a B right at Planet Snow Kids (you can walk to the play area) called the Always Inn (it was OK but B's aren't really our style; we preferred renting the cabin). There's an adult downhill ski area there too. Have fun!

X-country skiing with baby

Feb 2005

I enjoy cross-country skiing, and I'm trying to figure out how to do it with an 11 month old baby. He weighs 21 pounds and I'm hesitant to use a backpack for him since falling is part of skiing for me and it's a long way down from up there. Has anyone else used a backpack for skiing? I've also seen people pulling little baby sleds that attach to their hips, and that looks fun, but I'm not sure where to rent one or how well they work. Suggestions? Ana

Most XC places that rent skis also rent those baby-trailer sleds (they are also called 'pukhs' or something like that) -- but you may want to call ahead and reserve it as there may be only one. We have an Equinox bike trailer that converts to a ski trailer; buying one is a good option if you could also use a bike trailer.

I think my Ergo soft backpack may be a more comfortable solution this year, though I wouldn't have tried it with the heavier and more awkward frame backpack we had for our first baby. I won't know until mid-March though! But the trailer works well enough once you get used to it, and it certainly won't hurt the baby if you fall while using it! Just be sure your baby is well bundled, because sitting in there with just a thin sheet of plastic between body and snow gets COLD -- and don't expect to ski as far or as fast as you used to, because the sled is heavy.

Those little sleds are called ''pulkas,'' at least where I've rented them. It changed my skiing life as a mom when I discovered them. I first rented one at Tahoe Donner (it was helpful to reserve it). We have also rented from Marmot Mountain Works in Berkeley. I'm sure many cross country ski places that rent skis also rent the sleds, but it's a good idea to check first. We bundled the baby up warmly, as he wasn't getting the workout we were. He was NOT crazy about it, but he often slept. My 4 year old daughter loved it, and we found the two of them could go together in the sled, when she was tired of skiing. It also gave me more stability--less of those falls.
snow mama

I have a friend who works at a ski resort and he told me this story about a man who was skiing with his baby in a backpack, fell down and caused multiple injuries to his child. Granted, this was downhill skiing, but since you know you're prone to falling, why would you want to carry your baby like this? Remember that kids, up until the age of four or so, are subject to shaken baby syndrome, since their brains have more ''wiggle room'' than ours and can easily be slammed up against the skull, causing swelling, injuries, death, etc. It seems like people get this idea that they can do anything and everything with their babies, and they don't always use common sense. Pull your kid in a sled if you like and wait until he's old enough to start skiing on his own.
safety first

Single mom skier and her ski-hating 11-year-old

Feb 2002

I am a single mom with an 11-year-old boy who has suddenly decided he ''hates'' to ski. I, on the other hand, love skiing and am feeling very deprived. I've posted a request for a caregiver where I could leave my son for occasional weekends so I can go skiing without him. Any other ideas? He's quiet, spends most all day reading, and likes other kids, older and younger. (I'd also welcome suggestions for sitters in the Donner Pass area, too.) HELP! Thank you.
Ski Bummed

To Ski-bummed: We too had a boy who hated skiing. We had to pay him a quarter each short run so that he could spend time playing video machines in the lounge afterwards, to even get him on the slopes. Then he took a snowboarding lesson and everything changed. Give it a try. It might work for you too. JR

It seems to me that an 11-year old could stay in the lodge by himself - or better, with a friend his age as a companion, especially as you say he likes to read and likes other kids. That way he could go on the drive and share meals with you, but you could spend some hours on the slopes without him. Maybe with a friend he'd at least make a snowman! Bonnie