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December 26, 2012

Five Tips for Keeping the Family Sane on a Winter Ski Vacation

By Guest Blogger

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Mother and daughter skiing (iStockphoto) 119037284

I've been skiing with kids for more than a decade, and while it's sometimes difficult, the rewards have been well worth it. Our family now enjoys a life-long sport that we are all capable of experiencing together. Skiing with kids can be daunting and expensive, but if you plan it right, it can be the savior of your kids' winter blues. Here are five ways to save money, time, and hassle.

Have the right gear.
Quality outerwear and equipment is expensive, but families can reduce the cost by attending ski swaps and participating in "grow with kids" gear programs at local ski shops. Renting gear on the mountain is less hassle if families reserve skis or boards ahead of time and have them delivered directly to their lodge room or condo. (If your ski resort doesn't offer this service, check to see if a local ski shop does.) Warm gloves, jackets, and socks make the difference between a fun day skiing and a miserable one. Consider it an investment. After paying for lift tickets and lodging, do you really want to hear whining all day? Of course not.

Stay close to the mountain.
Ski-in, ski-out accommodations may seem like a luxury, but if you're skiing with young kids, consider it a necessity instead. Getting kids out the door and to the snow can be the most challenging (or downright frustrating) part of a family ski vacation. I've broken a sweat in sub-zero weather trying to wrestle my ski-suited preschoolers out of the hotel room. The proximity to the slopes will ease this burden, allowing everyone to start their day smiling. Slope-side accommodations also allow parents to stop mid-day for their kids' naps, or to eat lunch in their own condo kitchen instead of pricey meals in the resort's restaurants.

Ski half-day.
If you have young kids or beginners, it can be worth the loss of ticket value to ski or ride a half-day. Start out late if your family has a hard time getting going in the mornings, as rushed ski mornings take their toll. If you're all early-risers, plan to ski until lunch, then return to your lodging for a dip in the hot tub and an afternoon playing board games by the fire. If your resort offers night skiing, the family might be ready to hit the slopes again after dinner.

Have a rest day.
Ski resorts offer much more than just skiing. One of our favorite days on vacation to Lake Tahoe was our afternoon snowmobiling with Zephyr Cove Resort. On another trip, we loved our day ice skating and roasting marshmallows in Northstar California's cozy village. Smuggler's Notch in Vermont features an entire indoor playground for kids taking a day off the slopes, and Keystone Resort in Colorado entices families with events in Kidtopia.

Be flexible.
Luckily, lift tickets have become more flexible, allowing families to choose which two to three or three to five days they want to ski or ride. If the weather is terrible, will the kids have fun on the slopes anyway?  If you wake up for another day of skiing and everyone is cranky, should you opt to sleep in? Maybe one kid is anxious to return to ski school, but another is not. A great family ski vacation is made by making the itinerary flexible.

Amy Whitley is a Tahoe native, lucky enough to spend her childhood skiing and ski racing on Northern California slopes. After moving to Southern Oregon, Amy got her three sons on skis from the time they could walk; they're now all avid skiers and snowboarders. Amy is the editor of the site Pit Stops for Kids, and the content editor of the family-travel site Trekaroo. When not skiing, Amy writes about outdoor adventure travel for Outdoors NW magazine and eco travel at Go Green, Travel Green. She and her family spend at least two ski vacations a year at Tahoe resorts, spending every other winter weekend skiing the Pacific Northwest.

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