Ultimate Guide to Skiing With Your Toddler

By Alexa Joy Sherman

Kids and snow are like Ernie and Bert…green eggs and ham…cocoa and marshmallows. They just go together…right? After all, have you ever heard anything but tiny squeals of delight as the first snowflakes fall and, within minutes, the ground is shrouded in a soft, white, wintry sheet?

Doesn’t every child want to race outside and make snow angels…or lick an icicle…or have a snowball fight? Sure, that’s what holiday movies and cards might tell you. That’s what you might even tell yourself when you reflect on the winter vacations of your past-before you had kids, or when you were a kid.

I’m as guilty as the next delusional parent. My husband and I can’t stop talking about the day we’ll get our son Jack on skis or help him build his first snowman. Of course, idyllic as it often sounds, whisking your wee one out to a winter wonderland isn’t always the warm and fuzzy experience you might imagine. But it can be done. And it can be fun. Here’s how.

Planning the trip
If you’re just looking to play in the snow with your little one, the fun may be as close as your backyard. But if you live in a snow-free zone (like yours truly), you’ll need to travel-and since doing so with small children can be challenging, to say the least, you’ll probably want to look for a spot that’s no more than a few hours away (by car or by plane). Here’s a money-saving tip: Book a trip through ski.com and you’ll score rentals, lift tickets and sometimes even airfare free for kids under the age of 12.

Particularly if you’re hoping to hit the slopes yourself, you’ll want to make sure your destination has some sort of childcare facility, preferably a state-licensed daycare. Many of these are connected to ski and board schools for little ones (usually ages 3 and up), so if that’s something you’re interested in, be sure to ask if the daycare fees include snow play, ski lessons and gear, suggests Mike Wenger, certified children’s ski instructor and manager of the Children’s Center at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. Be sure to reserve services like daycare and lessons well in advance-they book up fast!-and avoid peak holiday crowds if your schedule allows, Wenger adds.

Gearing up
As you probably know, good-quality snow clothes and equipment are crucial, but costly. It can be a particularly bitter pill to swallow when you buy said items for someone who’ll wear them once or twice and outgrow them by next winter. That’s why Shelly Schaffer, director of Treasures Child Care Center at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, Vt., recommends buying items at consignment shops or on Craigslist or eBay. “I never buy new,” Schaffer says, adding that you don’t even need a ton of bulky attire: “It’s easier to layer according to weather conditions.” Just make sure each layer is reasonably warm, and not cotton. “Cotton gets wet quickly and can become cold quickly,” explains Kevin Mitchell, Ski and Snowboard School Director at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif., who adds that borrowing clothes-from friends or the resort itself-is another great option. “Many resorts [including Sierra-at-Tahoe] rent the bigger-ticket items like jackets,” he says.