Here is the litany of a skiing mom on crisp, Vermont winter mornings: Four pairs of ski socks? Check. Four pairs of long underwear? Check. Four helmets? Check. Four pairs of goggles? Check. Eight mittens and four neckwarmers? Check.
While my children squirm impatiently I insist on double and triple checking that we have everything we need before I will even get in the car. I’ve learned from experience that a fun day of skiing depends on everyone being warm and dry – and that it’s all too easy to forget something critical.
One of the trickiest aspects of skiing with kids is the sheer amount of gear it requires. Add to this that children have a pesky habit of growing from ski season to ski season (or even from day to day). If you’re new to the family skiing game it can be overwhelming to try and figure out exactly what you need.
While it’s never exactly easy to get an entire family ready to ski, there are some things you can do to make the gear game go smoothly:
Get ready in advance
You don’t want to waste precious hours of your ski vacation tracking down gear. Making sure you have everything you need all together in one place before you head for the mountains will save you time and money that you can spend on lift tickets and hot chocolate.
Know what ski gear you need to buy
- An appropriately-sized helmet and goggles
- Skis and poles or a snowboard
- Ski or board boots (and a strap or bag for carrying)
- A neck/headwarmer
- A good pair of ski socks – Darn Tough makes awesome ones of high-performance wool right in Vermont. They come in sizes for the whole family.
- An under-layer (long underwear, running tights, etc.)
- Ski pants
- A ski jacket – either a heavy one for colder days and a lighter one for warmer days or one that has removable layers to make it adjustable
- Ski mittens
Invest in bags
With all this stuff, you’ll want containers to carry it in. When my kids were younger I bought in a huge duffel bag that held everything except skis, poles, and boots for my family of four in one place – this came in very handy when we flew. Now that my kids are older and can carry their own gear, I’ve gotten each of us a ski backpack or bag – these are big enough to hold helmets and a bunch of other gear. Some also have holders on the side for ski boots, although my family uses boot straps.
You’ll want to think also about how you’ll carry all that gear in your car. Investing in a rooftop box, or renting one for ski trips is also important, especially if you drive a smaller car.
Double up on critical ski equipment
Mittens get lost, neckwarmers get wet, and kids at in-between sizes shoot up and outgrow their long underwear. It’s never a bad idea to have extra pairs of mittens and neck warmers as well as ski pants and long underwear in the next size up for growing kids. I also like to make sure there’s a spare pair of goggles or two floating around, because sometimes they break or crack. Visit ski swaps or sales or trade gear with friends who have growing children too.
Think about a seasonal ski equipment lease
If you aren’t ready or able to commit to buying skis or a snowboard for you children, consider a seasonal lease from a ski shop that’s near your home. The benefit of a lease program is that you can swap out equipment mid season if your children grow and need bigger boots or longer skis. If you’ll be skiing for more than four or five days over the course of the ski season, this is a more economical option than renting by the day at the ski resort.
Check in with the experts
If you’re wondering whether that helmet you bought last year still fits, whether the ski boots you picked up at the ski swap are a good size, or if your skis need sharpening, your best bet is to swing by your local ski shop for a consultation. Getting your equipment sized and checked means you’ll know for sure that it works well and is safe.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
A few years ago I arrived in Vermont from my home in Delaware for a ski trip only to discover that the brand new snow boots I purchased for my 11-year-old son expressly for the trip were still sitting in his closet. What to do? He had to wear sneakers or his ski boots on our trips to and from the car. It didn’t kill him, and was a good lesson in learning to take responsibility for his own things when we are packing to leave.
If you forget something truly necessary, like mittens, your first best bet is to check and see if there are any you can borrow for the day from the lost and found at the resort’s main desk or ski school. If there’s nothing that’s appropriately sized, a quick visit to the ski shop at the base lodge should take care of most critical needs.
One final tip…
Let your kids have fun customizing some of their gear. Mine have decorated their helmets with stickers and I’ve seen other children with fun covers that turn their helmets into colorful mohawks. If your kids like their ski clothes, just maybe they’ll make sure that the things they need come along to the mountain with you.
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.