A trip to the snow and a day spent on the slopes with young children sounds like a great idea. You imagine sipping hot cocoa, matching snowflake sweaters, and plenty of insta worthy moments. However, teaching toddlers to ski is quite the endeavor. Like anything with small children, expect some tears (them) and some silent swearing (you) but also some great moments and priceless memories. Picking the right ski area for your family can help maximize the great moments and make for a overall more enjoyable experience.
Soda Springs: Best for first time snow bunnies
This is a very convenient option which makes it nice for families with toddlers. Purchase a ticket to their “Planet Kids” area which is an affordable and easy way for children under the age of 7 to have a fun introduction to snow sports. Included in your ticket is access to the tubing hill and ski/snowboard rental. The rental shop is at the bottom of the bunny hill and aspiring skiers can take the magic carpet, basically a conveyor belt, up to the top of the hill and then ski down. It’s also relatively easy to swap out a snowboard for skis if you’re child decides they want to try something else. If it turns out your child isn’t interested in skiing you can return your gear without feeling like you wasted a bunch of money on lift tickets and spend the rest of the afternoon doing tubing and snow play. Pros: Closer drive than driving to Lake Tahoe. Option of tubbing. On-site rentals for easy returns/size adjustments. Cons: No chairlift. Tiny ski hill. Max age of 7.
Cost: $30 for a child under the age of 7. Includes equipment rental, access to the mini tubing hill and small ski/snowboard practice area. One free parent ticket per child ticket. Check out the Planet Kids website for more info.
Diamond Peak: Best for bold bunnies
If your child is excited about the idea of chair lifts and skiing but you don’t need all the glitz of a higher end resort, this is the place for you. Diamond Peak caters to families and has several deals to make skiing with kids relatively affordable. You can buy a ticket that allows you access to both of the beginner chair lifts which is plenty for the novice skier. It’s an easy and short tram ride from the parking lot to the lodge, making transporting equipment or returning to the car for forgotten mittens a breeze. There isn’t a rope tow or magic carpet so your little one needs to feel confident enough to handle the chair lift. Fortunately the “School House” chair moves extremely slowly and is low to the ground, a perfect intro to chair lifts for both child and parent.. Pros: Affordability. Easy access to ski hill. Cons: No rope tow/magic carpet.
Cost: Kids 6 and under are free. An adult ticket for just the two beginner chair lifts is $44 ( $39 if you buy online in advance. ) Standard adult ticket is $79
Northstar: Best for energizer bunnies
This ski resort has all the bells and whistles; an ice skating rink, shops, restaurants, a gondola and ski runs for every ability level. Unfortunately this comes at a price. It’s $136 for an adult lift ticket and $80 for kids over 4. (Kids under 5 are free) . So to get the most bang for your buck I would only recommend this is you’re going to splurge on ski school and enjoy a day of skiing sans children or if your kids have the stamina to take advantage of the multiple magic carpet runs and beginner chair lifts. Also, make sure that your child has enough energy to wait for the shuttle from the parking lot to the village, walk through the village, and wait in line for the gondola. Our three-year old was pretty exhausted from doing all that in ski boots so we had to take a snack break before even stepping foot on the ski hill. I would recommend considering having your child wear snow boots and change into their ski boots once they reach the lodge at the top of the gondola to make the trek from the car to the ski hill less painful for everyone. At the lodge there are lockers or you can stash your stuff under a table which is what many people do.. PROS: Enough beginner terrain to keep you busy all day. Lots of runs for all ability levels. Gondola ride is fun for kids. Outdoor fire pits scattered throughout the resort are a nice place to get cozy. Cons: Expensive. Time consuming /challenging to get small children from the car to the ski runs.
Cost: $80 for children 5 and older. $136 for an adult ticket.
Other Hints/Tips for a Successful Ski Trip
- Rent your equipment before going to the ski area (unless you’re going to Soda Springs). It’s usually cheaper and will save time on your ski day. I love Tahoe Daves for their great service and prices.
- Ideally go on a day when the snow is fresher, inevitable falls will be less painful
- Throw a few snack bars in your pocket to give your little ski bunny a quick energy boost without having to make the journey back to the lodge
- Test out snow clothes for flaws (like mitten issues) with some fun snow play the day before attempting to skiing.
- Do a final bathroom break before hitting the slopes.
- Expect children under the age of 5 to be interested in skiing for an hour or two max.
- Drink more caffeine than you normally would. Teaching your child to ski is like the double black diamond of parenting.
- Avoid holiday weekends. Crowds and lines are especially painful with small children
- Check REi.com or Liftopia.com for discounted lift tickets