If you’re a downhill skier with school-age kids, you know that one of the challenges is finding time to ski. School holidays are the obvious choice, but unfortunately that’s true for everyone else as well, leading to crowds and long lines. But before you give up in despair, there are some smart strategies you can use to ensure a good time for all. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your time on the slopes, even when skiing on a holiday weekend:
Get a head start. Arrive the night before you plan to ski and take care of signing up for any programs you want to participate in if you haven’t already. It’s also a great idea to pick up your rental equipment the evening before. When we visited Smugglers’ Notch over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend in January, we visited the rental shop on Friday at 5:30 and didn’t have to wait in any lines or waste time in the morning trying on ski boots. And of course, if it’s at all possible, you might pull the kids out of school, arrive around midday on Friday, and catch some runs before the crowds arrive (although you didn’t read that here).
Take a lesson. Busy weekends are a great time for lessons for kids and grownups alike. At most resorts, ski school students don’t have to stand in lift lines. And instructors are likely to know which parts of the mountain are less crowded or have the best snow.
Pack breakfast. Having a big, hearty breakfast before a day on the slopes is a great idea, but a stop at a restaurant (even when it’s slopeside at an all-inclusive resort like Smuggler’s Notch) will cost you valuable time on a busy weekend. We figured this out after our first day at Smuggs and after a quick visit to the resort’s country store were well stocked with fruit, English muffins, and instant oatmeal. Chowing down in our condo saved us time and money.
Ski through lunch. Most people stop for lunch around noon, which can make for long lines inside as well as out. And even if you’ve packed your lunch, it can be tricky to find a place to sit when it’s really crowded. Instead, why not tuck an apple or granola bar in the pocket of your jacket to stave off hunger pangs and ski until the lunch crush has passed. Another option is to scope out the less busy areas to eat. At Smuggs, Matt and I enjoyed some delicious soup at the Top of the Notch, which due to its position at the top of a lift with some challenging runs, was positively serene, even on a busy Saturday.
Use hand- and footwarmers. This may seem obvious, but the more comfortable you and your kids are, the longer you can stay out. Since busy weekends mean lines at the lifts, you’ll spend more time standing around, which can lead to some pretty cold tootsies. You can find disposable warmers at most ski equipment or rental shops.
Close down the lifts. Around an hour before the resort is schedule to close, the lodge fills up and there’s a line out of the parking lot to rival rush hour on the turnpike. But all of a sudden you can ski right onto the lift! And when the lifts do finally stop running, don’t feel like you have to bolt immediately to your car. Gather the family in the lodge to warm up while you talk about your day. Or take advantage of programs like the Hot Chocolate Warm-Up at Smuggs and stand around a bonfire sipping free hot chocolate while being serenaded by a cast of characters from a friendly pirate to a giant mouse.
Try something different. And if the prospect of long lifts lines is just no fun for you, consider trying something new. Many resorts offer snowshoe rentals and guided wildlife treks on the weekends.
Most of all, remember that you’re there to have a good time. When you’re waiting in line, have fun checking out the crazy helmet covers the boarders are wearing. If it’s a nice day, enjoy the feeling of the sun on your face. And when you finally do get to the top let your inner kid take over and have a fantastic time getting yourself down to the bottom again.
What are your favorite tips for making the most of downhill skiing with kids?