When I was in my twenties, early thirties, I barely went into the base lodge. I’d boot up at my car and swing into a mid-station lodge for a quick drink of water and a bite if needed, and sometimes swing by the bar at the end of the day to share a brew with friends. As you, dear reader, already know though, a lot changes with kids in tow.

When I had my first son in 2017 the base lodge became core to my on-mountain experience. When he was a baby, we’d set up shop for the day in the lodge and my husband and I would swap out for runs.  Sometimes we would run into friends who would watch him for a bit while we snuck a run in together. My son would get a bottle while I sipped on my Sip of Sunshine. It was pretty wonderful to share that base lodge community with him.

Then 2020 came along. I had planned to take the family for some spring skiing after I had my second babe in March, but alas that was not to be. As we approached the 2020-21 season though, I became nervous that we wouldn’t get out at all.  How do you bring a baby with you to the mountain without all day access to a lodge? How do you get a three-nearly-four-year-old to spend a whole day at the mountain without having a warm place to snack, color, and use the bathroom a million times? Would I ever ski again?!

Granted, these are pretty privileged problems to have during a pandemic, but to be fair, talking about skiing is my job and I already missed a season being pregnant. I was genuinely worried I’d miss another. But then I remembered humans are awesome. We’re a resilient and creative species. Resorts and customers alike laid plans to make this season work.

Two strong messages came from resorts before opening:

  1. We are going to get creative and do everything we can to get you enjoying the slopes safely. (Read more about cool ways resorts are keeping you warm here.)
  2. We’re expecting you to do the same. Please use your car as a base lodge.

And so began the parking lot base lodge planning…

Got a Van?

Vans are so in vogue right now. Luckily, I went full middle-aged parent and scored one right before the pandemic just so I could stop banging my head on the doorway of my Mazda when buckling up the kids. Turns out it’s also a convenient chariot of fun and warmth.

I decided we needed to step it up and figure out how to manage our kids without a base lodge, and the van would have to do. Our first day out was December 23rd at Smugglers’ Notch. I imagined I’d set up this super Pinterest worthy car-as-a-base-lodge shot to share on All Mountain Mamas, but alas, it was a little messier.

Van Life
Before. And After. And slightly embarrassing.

My car as a base lodge game is hardly gorgeous, but it worked.  With relatively mild weather in the early season, we’ve been able to boot up as a family in the back of the van and hang out in it when my kid needed a rest or snack. It also became a makeshift baby changing station and bar, sometimes both at once, during a few occasions. While we hardly had fancy trimmings, we had everything we needed and made it work, even with a baby in tow.

If we had older kids and more time, we’d probably be able to upgrade like some of the folks who reached out to us on our social channels with photos. From camper vans to RVs to pick-up truck setups, people are doing fun and creative things this season. The lesson? Don’t let a little cold scare you. Balance the weather and your resources, and your family, too, can get out there and get after it.

RV Base Lodge
Danielle Nichols, friend of the Mamas and owner of Cork Winery in Stowe, knows how to do it up right.

Car Base Lodge Must-Haves

  • Blankets and/or towels – to protect you from the salt covered bumper when booting up. Also serves well for providing the kids a clean space to chill and snack.
  • Seating – lawn chairs, camp chairs, a blow-up couch. You get the idea.
  • Cooler – load it up with treats for kids and adults both
  • Hand warmers – great for speedy warm-ups in the car and stashing in mittens for the slopes.

Bonus Ideas

  • Pop up table – If you really want to get comfy, or layout the F&B options, bring a table for prep and consumption.
  • Grill or compatible stove – Who says you can’t power up the George Forman and gets some dogs going?
  • Pop up tents – we’ve seen everything from tarps to ice fishing shacks in the parking lot so far. Get after it!
  • Kiddo to-go potty – Because nature peeing isn’t always kosher in the muddy parking lot.
Pick up truck grill
These folks know what they’re doing.

For more tips and tricks to making it work this season, head to our 2021 season guide, and we’ll see you on the slopes, wearing masks and smiles.

How are you using your car as your base lodge this season? Share your tips in the comments below and enter to win this great addition to your parking lot base lodge – A Rossignol boot bag with a folding bench, plus a Rossignol boot changing mat! We’ll draw a random winner on Thursday, February 11 at noon.


Car base lodge giveaway


Our opening image is courtesy of SAM Magazine and North Pole Designs





  • When I leave the house, I roll up our front door mat, that’s inside our front entry and throw it in the back of my Outback. It’s perfect to set down on the ground (especially in snow ice or slush) for the kids to stand on while I help them get on their boots. I have been kneeling on it helping my kids buckle up and multiple people have commented what a great idea it is! My kids are 4 and 6 so need my help and this speeds up the process while allowing enough room and keeping us dry !!! You could buy a dedicated one to keep in your car but I am fine just using the one we have (it’s an Llbean water hog one)

  • Highly recommend ordering a cargo liner. They’re meant for pets (so you can find them online at places like Chewy, but also Amazon – try searching “cargo liner for dogs”) but have the amazing feature of a large panel that easily folds out to go over your (salty, slushy, laundry-making) bumper. Makes for great booting or snacking seating, and keeps everyone from destroying their pants and jackets leaning up against the bumper.

  • We make sure to bring lots of snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate and we’ve been eating dinner on the way. Our minivan comes in helpful as we open the tailgate to get boots on/off, but I love the idea of the door mat- that would be much easier for helping the kids get their boots on/off.

    • Congratulations Katie! You are the lucky winner of the Rossignol prize package. We will reach out via email. Thank you everyone for sharing your awesome stories and tips! It takes a village, amiright?

  • Laundry baskets instead of ski bags. One for hard goods, one for soft. Foldable stool. Lots of snacks. And feeling grateful to live in VT!

  • We use the back of my pickup as our restaurant for lunch. It’s been pretty mild, but there were a few days when we had to hang out in the cabin with the heat on, though.

  • For us, YOGA MATS are the key! They dry quick, are soft on the tootsies and you can roll them up and stuff them on the corners of the car.

  • Essential this year has been the ability to remote start the car and warm it up before we head to our personal lodge this ski season. So lucky to have this feature on our new Volvo.

  • Depends on the day! For warmer days a folding stool and cargo liner is a must for putting on boots outside. On the cold and windy days lot’s of organization inside the suv is a must! That rossi boot bag/bench is genius!

  • Waiting On a new Bronco to arrive to do some epic apres ski! In the meantime, using a camping chair outside of my little Hyundai and supporting local businesses by ordering hoagies for ski days and keeping a nice growler of local cold beer in the cooler. I have some usb boot heaters which work great to have my boots nice and toasty before I put them on in the parking lot.

  • Seating is key as we cannot boot up directly in the car. It is just too difficult to try to maneuver with knees and boots hitting the dashboard or door. So having chair-in-bag was the easiest option for open/close/carry and space saving. We also have table-in-bag to hold plate, beverage, and phones.

    We do have separate food and beverage coolers so you are not digging into just one and possibly squishing a prepared sandwich. Napkins, Paper Towels and Sani wipes are a must have. Not everyone wants to dunk their hands in snow to rinse off debris, gets them cold and does not disinfect.

    Lastly, we make sure that we each have a set of keys to the car. That way if one of us needs a break we do not have to wait around for the other to head back to our base camp.

  • A few tricks I’ve picked up bringing my 3 year old snowboarding:
    1) cheap plastic sled. It’s key that it’s lightweight. Pop your kid in there with their gear, way easier getting to and from the parking lot. Since sleds aren’t allowed on the hills I usually stash it in the woods nearby with a backpack of essentials (see below).
    2) Backpack essentials. Handwarmers, SNACKS, change of emergency clothes, sanitizer wipes for surfaces, extra face mask for both of us.
    3) Ride Home – lunch in a bento box type container with a few options.
    4) Cooler (I use a softsided basic one) with drinks for him and for me. On cold days I fill a thermos with hot chocolate (and pack a small cup with lid for him).
    5) Blanket – cozy for the ride home while eating lunch or taking a break in the “car base lodge”.
    6) The back of my car is high so the suggestion of bringing a beach towel to drape over the edge was a game changer for keeping slushy dirty snow off my pants and everything.
    7) HAVE FUN! It might be a 1 run day but it’s always worth it. Just need to change your mindset of a “day at the mountain”.

  • My kids and husband boot up at home and then I (the driver) boot up at the parking lot. I use a small throw rug to change into boots. (We keep it up in our Thule box.) We start early and ski until 1:30pm when we come back to the car for a late lunch. We have a big cooler in the back of the mini-van filled with snacks and a thermos filled with hot water (to make ramen noodle soup, hot chocolate, or tea). Most ski areas have porta-potties in the parking lot, but just in case, I have a pop-up “privacy” tent and camping style toilet bucket. Nothing is stopping us.

  • Heavy duty leaf bags are easy to transport, keep your butt dry on wet chairlifts and can also work in a pinch to sit on for putting on and removing ski gear. I always keep a couple folded in my ski bag.

  • We have a Tahoe and use the lined back for snacks etc. we take our camping grill and small picnic basket for plates, utensils etc. I love the door mat idea, and would love to win the boot bag, too! Cheers!

  • In my 20’s, I thought the Lodge was for the bathroom and old people! As I became a parent, the Lodge became a place to organize, warm up, rearrange, and of course use the bathroom. I was afraid to have that taken away from us…but we quickly adapted. It seems that pre-packed sandwiches ($ saver!), some pre-dressing (wear your snowboard pants in the car), a waterproof mat (an old gift from my boss I had never used before), some good tunes added to our playlist for helmet speakers, pee before we leave, a parking lot mask vs a riding mask, and an after riding themed PJ onesie or some sweatpants to warm up was all we needed. This may be one of the things I was forced to adapt to during COVID that we’ll keep for the future (but probably not, I miss the sanctuary of the Lodge!)

  • We have a 3 row GMC. We fold down the middle seats, set the kids up in the back row with blankets, and snacks and they are happy as clams warming up together. We call.it our ” Car couch!”

  • We are also more thankful than ever to live in VT!! (We moved here only two years ago from WV, and had two babies and Covid in that time, so sincerity of true love for this state!) Our oldest is 11 and been completely independent for years from growing up on-resort where I managed in PA, but starting over with 2 more under 2 has been no joke on a good day, and a gaggle of kids & things coming & going with us is new and unfamiliar territory anyway… add to that no common areas and you have one giant potential cluster**ck of a day on your hands LOL!! But humans are adaptive and this family will never give up our love of the mountain and will never be satisfied just looking at it! BAM! Used the clear, flat underbed totes and dedicated them to purposes! Masking tape labels on the outside make it older kid- (and husband HA)- friendly, the moisture stays (relatively) where I want it to… I know which bins need to come in and get handled for the next time, and which bins can stay out on the porch (has made forgetting things much less frequent, and that says a lot too!)… strap together nicely and even weatherproof to go on the roof on the car getting there and back! I don’t even feel bad if I just say screw it, throw a few out on the ground, and lay the kids down in the car instead… there have been cases the lids have been sacrificed to changing disasters of boots or butts the same HAHAHAHA!! We don’t even get to go very often, but they more than paid for themselves in the first trip :-)

  • We’re going this weekend and planning on putting the back seats in our SUV down and setting up a little blanket area and a section for all the gear! Bringing a cooler full of snacks and drinks too!

  • We use caribiners in the back of the car to clip helmets filled with neck warmers and gloves for each family member, pop up baskets for soft clothes, laundry baskets for wet ski boots, and a backpack filled with snacks and drinks so we have everything we need in reach and organized in the back of the car for each ski day. Plus, we’ll sometimes order a pizza on the last run then pick it up and eat it in the “car restaurant!”

  • We have been to our local mountain almost every weekend! While we do miss the playful times we’ve had sitting around a table in the lodge or a sleeping child in my arms by the fireplace, we have made this year work. My SUV has become the place. Place to get suited up, eat, rest, etc. With the seats folded down it is roomy and warm. I picked up a mini Weber grill to use as a mini fire pit and to grill food if we want. Although we usually pack sandwiches and grab pizzas at night. Our 3 kids are just going with the flow (about this- not what lift or trail is next, that’s still a battle, lol). Generally our daughter falls asleep on our ride to the mountain so the boys head out before us and I try to park with the sunlight shining in for added warmth but just out of her eyes so she stays asleep. We’d love to win the cool seat because mom & dad seem to be standing around a lot keeping the kids happy.

  • The weathertech mats in my honda are perfect for standing on to remove shoes and put boots on.

    In the 1960’s after skiing all day, my mom and dad would fire up the Coleman stove and cook hot dogs for our supper. Quiet and peaceful and the hot food was greatly appreciated.

    Seems like people leave NH ski areas in mid-afternoon–sometimes earlier.

  • For my SUV, I use a pet cargo liner that folds out to cover the bumper so we can sit in the back without getting all dirty or scratching my car with ski boots. I also invested in a good backpack (or rather my mother did for my birthday) and have been practicing bringing the essential lodge stop-in supplies with us (drinks, snacks, goggles, extra masks etc).

  • Thank God for a minivan with a hatchback. It is a lifesaver when you can’t get back to the lodge and you need to change clothes and boots. Plenty of room to move around and can even store your wet boots in the under storage compartment so they don’t drip all over the carpeting

  • garbage bags are extremely useful for mats, wet anything! beach towels for boots! lunch always bring rollups! turkey, cheese, good nutrition. hot thermos cocoa and soup! chairs with umbrella so if its precip out, still can hang! Bring 1 treat they like, chips, chocolate, anything! I like heating car for a little to do boot warmers…

  • I have a 4dr sedan, so there a lot of contortions getting changed inside the car’s passenger front seat. All the gear is in the back seat so I can turn around and reach everything. The driver’s seat becomes a closet for discarded clothing. The dash becomes a shelf for gloves, socks, mask and any other things I want to bring with me. Once I am suited up I throw a large spare floormat outside the passenger front door then slip into the ski boots and buckle up. If the wind is blowing and the temperature is close to zero I will skip the outside boot up for an indoor procedure that’s a little more difficult to master, but it keeps my feet a lot warmer. Another great day to start off downhill.

  • As a skier and aspiring Mountain Grandma, I am following all the procedures closely! I just boot up in the front seat without much difficulty, but as the two-year-old gets closer to skiing, it’s clear that won’t work for her. She is still skiing in the backyard now.

  • I’ve re-purposed old car mats for putting on boots in Lot 1 at Smuggs. I’ve also embraced the ski all morning and call it a day. Kudos to all the parents doing this with younger children. It looks hard!

  • We have been booting up by the car using a mat or chairs to sit on. For tailgating foods, trying to support small business by getting local sandwiches or cold pizza. Apres ski happens too with cold beverages, of course. We bring jams on a bluetooth speaker as we hang!

  • I am loving all of the comments on this thread!! , There are some great ideas here that we are going to implement on our next trip up to the mountain. The one helpful thing we’ve been doing is booting up at home, except for the driver. Oh yes, and also packing water bottles and snacks, especially for our two boys who are famished when they’re done at the end of the day!!

  • These are all such great suggestions! Having two middle schoolers has made life a bit easier – they never want to take a break from the trails so we just deal with booting up at the car, balancing on one foot or squeezing into the seats, and get ourselves together as quickly as possible. I did add a couple of extra blankets to cozy up if someone wanted to be done skiing before the rest of the family (most likely me!) and I try to pack a thermos of hot water and some hot chocolate for the ride home.

    The one AWESOME thing about cars as base lodges, you don’t really lose anything. No balaclava, stray mitten left in the lodge! Just check your spot as you are driving away and you are good to go. The chaos of the trunk is another story!

  • We don’t begin our trip without first making sure that the car is filled with gasoline. When we do use the heater in the car we make sure that the windows are down ever so slightly. We are sure to have enough ventilation.

  • I just found this article. Great tips!! We’ve got an inverter large enough to run our house sump pump (from a deep cycle battery — for emergencies) that I am re-purposing to run a microwave — have to run the car to do it, but running the car for a few minutes while the microwave runs isn’t so bad. This will be our first winter using the rig. I’ve made rice-bag boot warmers and am going to make some pocket sized ones too. We’ve got a transit connect — a big-on-the-inside minivan. My 13 y-o and I just started downhilling 2 years ago — at the Living Memorial park in Brattleboro. What an awesome place! Reminds me of going to the beach when I was a kid — Florida transplant. Anyone have some good tips about kids with glasses and fogging goggles? He’s good about not putting the goggles up on his helmet, but still…

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