Monday, January 24, 2011

Easy Ski With Kids

On Friday I promised we would chat about easy ski-ing and riding with kids. We already know how to ski and ride, we're Instant Experts!  We know that constantly checking our I-thingies on the road for changes in conditions is a nightmare. So today we're ready for easy ski WITH kids. Yes, bit of an oxymoron. Let's just say easy-er.

Me and Kids 

Kevin and I have skied with our four kids - now ages 13 to seven - all their lives. In Switzerland, France, Denver and Utah. And last year we realised our lifeline to enjoyment was our friend Nancy. She and her family have skied nearly every winter weekend for eleven years.  Whenever we make a ski decision it's: What Would Nancy Do?
I won't pretend we've found a way to make ski-ing cheap or insult anyone's intelligence by using the word "inexpensive" but there is a way to spend up-front and ease the stress, the eternal lines, the constant hurry-up-and-wait and the thought: "This run is costing me $100".  Re-calculating on the lift: "No, actually it's more like $120".

Nor will there be an end to those utterly euphoric times when you find yourself re-buying kids' gloves. Or your own. On Saturday I left  my snowboard at the cabin (so $32 rental for the day) and unbelievably couldn't find any of the six gloves liners we bought last month ($16 for a new pair) There will forever be the temptation to spend even more money to make it a slightly better experience -  $20 for parking at the front instead of walking the kids all the way through the lot? Ooookay...

1. Renting a ski house for the season. You can go in with other families - make sure you have vacationed with them previously, you need to have similar parenting styles. We have a three-bedroom cabin with hot tub by ourselves to protect others from the ghastliness of our family's morning communications, but I know four families who share a four bedroom cabin and it's working out fine.

We opted for Tahoe Donner, a nearby village, because it's at least a third cheaper than something on the mountain. You'll pay anything from $7,000 to $20,000 (for a rock star place) for the five months from Dec to May. (To compare, a night's stay will cost you between $300 and $550.) These days you can negotiate the price and ask for fewer months.  A season's house means you take your gear and most of your food just once. You don't dread your ski weekend all week as most of the awfulness of ski-ing is the packing.

2. We signed all the kids up for the "Locals" programme at Alpine, the only ski-field in Tahoe to do this kind of thing. Originally it was for local kids to learn without the commitment and travel of a ski team, but now outsiders can join. Kids can go half or full days, Sat or Sunday, or both. The teachers are on a par with those at Alta, Utah - the best. My kids go all day Sunday which means Kevin can practise for his "cross country races" (We suspect he spends a goodly potion of the day reading his Kindle in a cafe ...and good on him) and I pootle around the mountain on my board and eat multiple cinnamon buns in peace.

4. Pack your lunch. Even easier, get your kids to pack their own lunch. This saves us $100 per day. Alpine even has a microwave where you can zap last night's leftovers. I am such a buy-lunch person so this was a huuuge leap for me, but seriously how many white bread bowls filled with goopy chilli can you take?

5. Leave home on Friday night at 7pm. That will almost guarantee the drive to Tahoe is three hours (as much as anything is guaranteed on snow roads.)  On Sunday night, leave for home at 7pm. I'm sure this applies to places other than Tahoe.

6. This is my one, not Nancy's.  Ensure your kids put on all their gear before they get in the car. Gloves, helmets everything. It makes it kind of hot in the car, but they're even keener to get out in the cold air. 

All of this so one magical day your kids reach the same level as you, allowing you to ski together happily. The angels are singing in their heavens that day; you race each other down, you compare techniques, you laugh, you kid, you study the maps at lunchtime. The years of driving, hours spent queuing, the money spent on ski lessons, it's all worth it. 

The next day...just 24 hours later, they're so, so much better than you. On Saturday, Harley and Jackson waited for me, run after run. Finally they ventured very kindly and slowly:  "Do you mind if we do the jumps? You can stand at the side and take some pictures if you like. You'll be safe there, Mum 'Bye!"

And as the sun worked it's way down the sky and the shadows grew longer,  the lone rider rolled in...for her last cinnamon bun of the day.

The Lone Rider (moi)

What are your tips for easy skiing?


  1. great tips! i don't have a lovely family like yours yet so just me and the hubs. but will certainly keep your tips in mind for when we do have kiddos some day!

    your post makes me want to drive up to tahoe stat!


  2. Ahhh....skiing with kids. We have all paid our dues and now those little buggers can't even wait for us! I love reading your blog but have found hours of time dwindling from laundry, dishes and other mundane tasks that need to be performed over here. No wonder I love to read your blog.
    I love the art of having a bunch of kids seem fun. You do it very well.

    Nice work. I love the new layout as well.


  3. Thanks Nancy! I know you continue to be our guru! Is this like when you (Nancy) save a drowning man (us) and the saved man follows you around for the rest of your life?

  4. oh your too sweet! thanks for the kind words... you and your family look adorable.

  5. Excellent advice! We are headed up to Tahoe in February, and it will be the crumb's first time in snow. Thanks for all these great tips!

  6. Hi Jody! wow, I can tell that I am going to love your blog! Thanks for visiting mine!
    We're planning a ski trip this August - Happy Valley here we come!!
    I know the school principle from your town I think. Bob?
    I'll visit again soon.
    Jacqui (from Auckland now in Osaka - for 15 years).

  7. Love your tips!! (And your blog)
    We went skiing with 6 kids recently and it was such a HUGE undertaking.
    What about managing all the snow gear once back in the cabin? I was thinking having bags dedicated to each kid where they dump all their stuff in as soon as they come through the door. So there's no endless searching for that one lost glove of that hat once it's time to suite up again.
    Leslie (charlotte's mom)

  8. HI Charlotte,
    Good point about the scenario once you get to the cabin. Think that's a great idea about the dedicated bag per child...Kevin (hubby) tries to get do trash bags with kids names on it, but didn't work. Yes you're right - at the door and maybe has to be open baskets. After skiing each night we just dump everything at the fire including long underwear, (it looks ghastly but dries everything out fine)

  9. Thanks for the great advice. We are planning on taking the kids soon so will take your great tips!

  10. Another update on easy ski at Alpine. (and I'm sure exists at other ski fields) If you buy a card of five, VIP parking is just $10 a day. It's free in the next ( carpool) lot if you have four or more people in the car.

  11. So excited - I am finally going to try your tips on Mt Ruapehu in a few days time! linking to you next week!


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