Are you ready to take the family on your first ski vacation but not sure how to plan it? Or, you weren’t totally happy with the experience you had last winter. Here are some tips to stack the odds in favor of a trip your entire family will enjoy.
Start by choosing a family-friendly area, then check into the kids’ ski-school programs. Do you want to visit a resort for a week and put the children in a ski school they will enjoy? If so, choose a resort that has lots of play options. Smugglers Notch in Vermont, for example, developed specific programs for ages ranging from 3 year olds to teens that keep students entertained while learning to ski or snowboard. The resort even offers night school for boarding and jibbing. The ski school at Vail, Colo., has teachers who enjoy working with youngsters and take them to kid-friendly areas like Chaos Canyon. This ski school also offers private family lessons. (The instructor shows you how to continue helping your young children, too.)
Book early if you are going to ski country during a school holiday, to get first choice of lodging and ski packages, because other families will be planning trips. (Flight prices will escalate, too.) If your children are pre-school age, or you’re willing to take them out of school, consider going early or late ski season. Lodging costs less and some resorts have lower-priced lift tickets. Mid-January or around the February holiday weekend are other choices. Be aware that during the early season all of the slopes might not be covered with snow, and late in the season the snow may be disappearing.
Set a budget and stick to it. Besides the lodging, lift tickets and meals, do you want lessons and adventures off the slopes? Will you need a sitter for a parent’s night out? (Some resorts offer evening activities to keep children entertained while parents go out to dinner.)
Look at ski vacation packages then compare the ones that interest you. Some resorts, such as Keystone in Colorado, have Kids Ski Free packages. Other resorts offer packages that include ski school. If you don’t choose a package that includes lift tickets, check the resort’s website, because you may save big bucks buying lift passes before you go. Compare packages carefully, then add on expected extras to confirm the package you want still is the best deal.
Choose your lodging wisely, especially if the children are young and you are going to have to carry their equipment to the slopes. Slopeside or near slopeside lodging is expensive but has value when it’s an easy walk to the slopes. In large villages, there is usually free bus service and lodging near a bus stop is less expensive, so a good choice. Some properties provide a shuttle to and from the slopes. If looking at Airbnb properties pay attention to previous visitor comments to confirm the pictures and location are accurate. If the lodging property has a variety of units, call to discuss which unit would best fit the size of your family and the age of the children.
Save money staying in a condo and eating meals there. (Check local papers for restaurant deals.) If you’re going for a week, choose a condo with enough bedrooms, so there’s space to spread out. When choosing a hotel, check if there are kid’s programs, teen rooms or play rooms depending upon the age of your children.
Before leaving your hometown visit a local ski shop and outfit the children. Get helmets for everyone and a ski harness for young children so you can control their movements on the slopes. If flying, check with the resort’s central reservations office to find out where you arrange to rent equipment you can pick up (or have brought to your lodging).