Warning: Skiing with kids can be one of those activities that parents do with their children that leave everyone wondering whether or not they are actually having fun. But I’m here to tell you that skiing with kids can be fun. “Fun” in the way that going to the beach with children is “fun.” Or going out to dinner with kids is “fun.” Or, let’s admit it, doing ANYTHING with kids is “fun.” If “fun” means that despite a few (even major) setbacks, you can still smile at the end of the day and say that you had a good time, then skiing with children is definitely fun.
But before you head outside and hit the slopes, it’s good to set reasonable expectations and to be prepared. The most important thing to remember is that being lucky enough to have the chance to ski, to enjoy the outdoors, and to be with good friends and family already makes skiing a great family activity. That way, when the chaos, crying, and money-hemorrhaging set in, you can remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
What You Need
For starters, let’s talk about the gear. There is no doubt about it: skiing is expensive. My husband and I have skis from before kids, so that offsets some of the cost. But ski rentals for the season for kids can run about $100-$150. This is worth it if you are planning to head out a few times during the season. It also saves you from waiting on long rental lanes at the base of the mountain. If you rent at the mountain, you can expect to pay between $40-$50 for the day for kids and $50-$60 for adults (this will include boots, skis/board and poles). You’ll also need to have warm snow gear: coats, snow pants, snow boots, gloves, ski/snowboard helmets, and goggles.
Another thing you should consider is the physical act of CARRYING THE GEAR. Older kids can wear their ski boots and carry their skis, but we are skiing with a 5 and 3 year-old (and also carrying around a 3 month old in a Baby Bjorn), so we are inevitably carrying and keeping track of their stuff at all times. It’s physically exhausting – especially when your 5-year-old is melting down because her leggings got wet before she put on her snow pants and then she doesn’t want to ski and you’re carrying her limp body that is even heavier because ski boots are like 2 anvils attached to her legs…but I digress. In other words, it might take you some time to actually get to the act of skiing when you reach the mountain, so plan accordingly. We usually divide and conquer, with my husband carrying the stuff and parking the car and me getting the kids suited up and ready.
Finally, you may want to pack food since meals at the lodge can be expensive and lines can be long at lunchtime. We prefer to pack our own sandwiches and snacks and break for hot chocolate when it’s not too busy in the lodge.
Where You Should Go
An important thing to consider while you plan your trip is how long you plan on skiing. There are several mountains in CT, NY, and western MA that can be done as a day trip. My favorites growing up were Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, CT and Butternut in Great Barrington, MA. Both mountains offer trails for all levels of skier or boarder, and Mohawk also has lights for night skiing until 10 p.m.! Tickets range from $20-$25 midweek and $50-$65 weekends and holidays. Should you choose, lessons at these locations are also available for $75-90 (this includes lift ticket and lesson). I have friends who have also enjoyed skiing and lessons at Thunder Ridge in NY and Mt. Southington and Powder Ridge in CT.
If you’re interested in a longer trip, Vermont has some great family-friendly mountains as well. These mountains are more expensive, with lift tickets costing upwards of $75 midweek and closer to $100 on weekends/holidays for adults. Children’s tickets generally run about $15-$30 less depending on age, with some mountains offering free tickets to children under 6.
For the past three seasons, we have taken our growing family skiing at Okemo in Ludlow, VT. The mountains in VT are definitely a weekend trip (it takes us a little over 3 hours to travel to Ludlow from our house in CT), but the mountains are considerably larger than the ones in CT. We ski at Okemo because the magic carpet is FREE for EVERYONE. Yes, FREE! We can do 2 runs and break for hot chocolate without getting frantic that we paid a few hundred dollars for a lift tickets. If the kids, want to quit – ok! If they want to keep going, even better!
I also have a soft spot for Bromley Mountain where I grew up skiing as a kid. Prices are slightly lower there than other mountains in VT (closer to $75 than $100 on weekends for adults) and the mountain tends to be less crowded, making it a great option for families. Other family favorites nearby include Stratton, Killington, and Mt. Snow.
Should you do ski school?
Most locations offer ski schools, which can be a great option if you feel more comfortable having someone experienced teaching your kids. We haven’t done a lesson for our kids yet, but I know many parents that enjoy the longer ski school hours as a chance to ski on their own while their kids are learning with peers. Note that these ski schools can run around $150/kid in VT because lessons are typically half or full-day. Lessons are less expensive at CT and MA mountains, primarily because the mountains I’ve researched offer 1.5 hour lessons. Many mountains offer options for private lessons as well.
With a little preparation, you can really enjoy a winter day on the slopes with your family. It feels so good to spend the whole day outside…and the hot chocolate (or beer) at the end of the day isn’t bad either! Below is quick list of nearby ski mountains. Always check their websites for the most up-to-date skiing conditions and pricing.