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Virgin Family Ski Trip

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
OK, so my husband and I are typically a selfish skiing pair and we leave the kiddos with relatives when we go on our big ski trips out west (usually only two per season). We've taken our boys (now 15 and 11) to midwestern "mountains" on day trips when we lived in Tennessee so they know what skiing is and that they like it, but they've never experienced it to the extent of a Rocky Mountain experience. This year hubby and I want a third big trip so we're doing a spring break ski trip to Steamboat (again selfish, but under the guise of a family vacation ).

I'm posting here to get your advice and tips for travelling with kids while skiing (we've done family vacations like Disney World, but never to ski). In particular, kids that aren't able to keep up with their parents and that aren't toddlers or small children. Anyone else experienced this type of trip? I know they are going to need mega lessons, but just hoping to avoid unneccessary drama by gaining your insight without going through all the trauma of learning for myself (again my selfishness).

And as a sidebar here, hubby and I didn't start skiing until very late in life so we were still very green when our boys were younger and probably at a better age to learn along with us.

Can you provide any lessons learned, things to avoid, and/or make sure we address before taking the plunge? We want to make sure the boys have fun while ensuring that we don't go crazy in the process.
post #2 of 20

guilt trip

You have a lot of guilt about neglecting to get your boys into skiing. But don't worry. Take them along, they are at an age where they will progress amazingly fast and probably surpass you and hubby by 4th day :-)
Believe Steamboat would be a fine place for their Western ski baptism.
post #3 of 20
Steamboat is a great place for kids, very family oriented and an easy mountain to navigate. We go to Steamboat every year for the holidays and usually make it out at the end of March as well! For first time kids I recommend trying to stay ski in ski out. Check out for options. It is nice for kids to be able to ski back to the condo at lunch to regroup and will save you tons on lunch expenses. Depending on when your spring break is it may be "low" season allowing you to save money. If you can't do ski in your kids are more than old enough to navigate the easy bus system. Mine are 10 and 12 and we simply ride it with them the first day and point out "take the orange bus line or the green bus line" and where to get off. A cell phone for the older one wouldn't hurt. Plan ahead to go to the Western BBQ at the top of the gondola and I'm sure your boys would also love the tubing hill at night. Both require reservations in advance. If you take a day off book the Strawberry Hot Springs. Several companies offer trips...take them up on it. Don't try to drive there yourself. With kids we always stay in a condo with a full kitchen and a hot tub. They will be exhausted at the end of the day. Don't try to go out (or just leave the 15 y/o to babysit while you go out). Just send them to the hot tub while you make an easy dinner. A really decadent trip to Safeway for a weeks groceries is still less than one night out in a nice place. I buy all of the "bad" things I never buy at home like bakery cookies and mini candy bars. Last, if they are not confident skiers put them in ski school. It's expensive, but Steamboat does a good job of matching kids with other kids and instructors and they will have a great time. Finally, I have learned not to freak out when I spend a fortune to take them west and all they want is to be left in the terrain park. Kids love it and it's really better if you just don't watch!!!! Have a great time!!!!
post #4 of 20
1. Shame on you for being so SELFISH....

2. Lessons for 3 days, then let 'em rip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
post #5 of 20
The decisions you take should include an honest assessment of their emotional and physical strengths and weaknesses. From day trips, you have a sense of their current skills … and yours. How far apart is everyone now? Are the boys similar in ability despite the age difference due to their limited time on snow?

Infrequent day trips don't lead to a continuity of development, but string 5-7 days together and if they're athletically inclined and have assertive personalities, they will start to take off by the 3rd/4th day. Do they participate in sports at home? Ride skate boards or inline/ice skate? If so, they'll find their "ski legs" pretty fast.

If they're strong enough to cruise groomed green/easier blue, my suggestion is to spend at least 1-2 hours/day with them. If you think they'll progress fairly quickly to confidently cruising intermediate terrain, then I'd put them in half-day morning lessons and ski together as a family in the afternoons. Lessons usually start around 9:00-9:30, so you'll have to decide if you're going to leave them for the first hour while you and hubby catch first tracks, or if you ratchet back and take a run or two together. (Don't put them at a disadvantage by getting them to lessons late.)

If they're team sports oriented, they might fit right in with the 5-day (all day - 9 to 3) type programs where they have the same instructor/peers for the whole time. They'll feed off of the group and "compete" with other kids in the program. If they're more individual sports types, they may have their fill of a group environment by Noon, so the structured programs may not be the best way to go. In that case play it day by day.

At some point they'll want to show you what they've learned - that's one reason the 1-2 hours is important. If they're athletic, it may not take more than a few week-long trips before you'll be asking them to slow down and ski as a family occasionally.

If the boys are capable of navigating cruiser terrain already, an ideal (but expensive) option would be to bring in a private coach for all of you. Most of the time the instructor could spend time with the boys, but as you all regroup periodically, you or you husband could peel off with the instructor individually to work on skills each of you would like to improve.

Good luck and have a great time! If you're like many families, you won't have too much time before they turn the tables and you won't be able to keep up with them.
post #6 of 20
How long are you going for?

How much do you trust their judgment (especially the 15 year old)?
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
This is great info, thanks for the advice.
How long are you going for?
We're going for a full week arriving on a Saturday and leaving on a Saturday.
How much do you trust their judgment (especially the 15 year old)?
The are both very responsible and I trust them for the most part. For instance, when we visit a theme park as a family, they are allowed to go off and ride the rides that they want for a couple of hours while hubby and I rest. I trust the 15 year old on his own, but insist that the 11 year old stay with his brother when they away from the adults.

Of course, none of this means that I trust that either one of them wouldn't get out of control on the mountain and go careening off a cliff.
post #8 of 20
For a week-long trip, I think you'll want to mix it up and play it somewhat by ear.

First day on the slopes is Sunday, right? That should definitely be full-day lessons for them (maybe for you too) to get them up and running right and take advantage of the ski school line jump. Depending on timing of lessons and how wiped you are, you might want to take a family run or two at the end of the day.

Second day, i.e. Monday, you might want to ski with them for the morning, especially if you didn't have time or energy for a couple of runs at the end of the day. Since it's a weekday and less crowded, you can probably make a spur of the moment decision about whether anyone should hit lessons for the afternoon.

From there out, play it by ear. Assuming that they're the types who'll be motiveated by it, use skiing alone as a reward for learning. And (assuming that the 15-year-old doesn't try to avoid your presence at all opportunities) try to get in at least a couple of family runs a day.
post #9 of 20
Originally Posted by dburdenbates View Post
...In particular, kids that aren't able to keep up with their parents and that aren't toddlers or small children. Anyone else experienced this type of trip? ...We want to make sure the boys have fun while ensuring that we don't go crazy in the process.
I'll put my money on the 11 and 15 year old turning the tables on you by the 3rd lesson. Don't worry - Steamboat will be great.
post #10 of 20
You might want to consider carrying radios -- Motorola "talkabout" style -- to keep in touch with each other. Wherever you go out West it's going to be much more spread out than midwestern bumps where I assume all runs lead to the same base area. They're useful for checking in about meeting times / places, etc. and I can think of two occasions when they seemed essential -- reconnecting with a lost skier in a whiteout, and another time one kid got hurt and I followed her ambulance to the E.R. (offsite) but didn't have radios to tell the other two kids left behind.

Of course if you're all equipped with cell phones and you're certain of coverage - no need. If not then it's small money well spent -- I got decent Motorolas on eBay for something like $20 / unit.
post #11 of 20
The Motorolas are a good suggestion. As a veteran of numerous family ski trips, here are some others. When everyone gets back to the condo, have a specific place for all ski apparel, whether in the wash or a pile. It's frustrating in the morning when you spend an extra half hour looking for items that have been strewn about. When you ski with the kids, keep in mind that like to different things than adults. Search out trails thru the forest (their instructor will probably have shown them the location of many) Go to the terrain park. You can ski thru it while they do small jumps. If cold is an issue, frequent stops for hot chocolate. A kid whining about his fingers being cold is not fun for you or him. Make sure goggles are strapped to helmet. Boys are very good at losing things(sometimes in between condo and slopes) so keep asking if they've got all their stuff. Verify yourself. I've made many trips back to condo despite being told they had everything.
post #12 of 20
Radios are a good idea, but at a mountian as big as the Boat they will not work much of the time. Mainly because they cannot transmit through terrain features. I try to use mine when at the top of a mountain so I have a better chance of finding my kid in the clear. We carry them but leave them off when skiing together to save battery power. Then, if we split up or accidentally get seperated from each other the radios go on.
post #13 of 20
Let me chime on what you have missed (while being so selfish ). For the second year in a row, we have skied two seperate weeks with our three kids. Last year we were 9, 6, and 4. This year 10, 7, and 5. 4 yrs old was challenging, but she loved it. The biggest kick was watching the other two pick it up so quick. After three days of ski school, the older kids were ripping the blues and greens. So the last few days of skiing were my wife and I splitting days with the kids. Some of the day with all of us, other times with one parent at a time. Riding the lifts with the kids gave us some great conversation time. At Snowbird kids ski free! The evenings were perfect. After a quick home cooked meal we hit the hot tub for a while then sat by the fire and watched movies, played cards, or built puzzles. Like you, we have done all the vacations, Disney World and beach vacations, but nothing has been so satisfying as the weeks we spend skiing. No doubt the most expensive vacations we take, but as you know, the most precious years are the 5-10 range and spending them skiing has been awesome. We all wear helmets and have plenty of the right gear to make sure they are warm and dry. We hate to spoil them, but a bunch of complaining, uncomfortable kids can ruin a vacation pretty quick. I think you will really enjoy sharing what you both obviously love with your kids especially when you witness them falling in love with the sport.

Hope your experience is as fulfilling as ours. Steamboat is great for families. We plan to head there in the future.

post #14 of 20
My theory is that there really isn't anything else that you can do with pre-teens outdoors in which they can more or less keep up with adults. Those are valuable moments.
post #15 of 20
Sounds like a contradiction in terms to me (virgin family, that is).
post #16 of 20
I have heard good things about ski week programs for kids at Steamboat -- same group, race day at the end etc. Not sure if yours are too old (at least the 15 year old).

If you can afford it I love the idea suggested of a private instructor for the family - you can sometimes be together, sometimes send them with the kids and sometimes use the instructor yourself. This assumes the two kids would want to ski together -- groups might give them space and other social contact.

You don't mention what type of skiers you and the kids are. If they have been taking lessons at small "hills" and can ski the toughest stuff there smoothly and easily with good technique then they will easily adapt to the big western mountains. However, if they are snowplowing, beginners it is a much different thing.

If you are going to let them move around the mountain on their own -- get the radios and/or cell phones. Have them get familiar with the trail map ahead of time -- maybe look it over and talk about how you would get home from different places (if staying slopeside). Money and snacks in pockets. Might want camelbaks or something for water. Also agree about thinking like a kid -- they love the woods, terrain parks etc. I'd also agree with the suggestion of a slopeside condo - much easier and allows you to give the kids freedom to come and go. Although at 15 they might like staying in the action -- perhaps something by the base so they can walk around something after skiing?

But I have to say I really think you made a big mistake not taking them earlier! I don't know what the midwest skiing is like -- but in my East coast mind I'm thinking more Connecticut like than Vermont -- bumps not mountains. If you loved skiing enough to consistantly take two trips out west a year why not introduce the kids to it earlier? Skiing with my kids has been some of my greatest pleasure as a parent. The togetherness time and just admiring their skiing. The problem is by now they might not be very interested in skiing with you -- the window for the real family ski experience may have passed.
post #17 of 20

Why so long ... ?

I would have to agree with the suggestions for lessons for the 1st couple days. You will be amazed at the rate of progression they will demonstrate after a couple days of instruction. And, as you know, Steamboat is an excellent mountain for developing skills.

Now, for the real question ... why did you wait so long to bring your kids with you on your ski trips? It is one of the few things you can do as a family and have an awesome time doing it.

We first took a trip to Utah when our kids were 9 and 5. They were in 1/2 day lessons for the fisrt 2 days, then skied with us after that. I was amazed at what they could (and wanted to) ski. By the second trip out there the following year they were skiing Catherines (Alta), Mineral Basin (Snowbird) and 9990 (Canyons). They are now the ones pushing us to become better skiers. They are part of our trip planning process. I couldn't imagine telling our kids "we are going on a ski trip out west ... and, oh by the way ... you will be staying back here with Aunt Millie" :

I say it's never too late to bring the family together and share the passion of skiing.
post #18 of 20
OH Yeah. Lessons on the first three days at least as others have said. the kids will enjoy skiing with other kids too. Make sure they have plenty of opportunity to show off for you. THe half day lessons are a great idea. Gives you some free ski time and them some time to ski with you and for you to assess how they are doing.

Make contingency plans for getting lost. If they have cell phones, be sure your cell and the condo numbers are in the memory. But have a back up too. write your names and phone numbers on a piece of paper that they carry with them at all times and give them money for the pay phone. Have a meeting spot that they know how to get to and is easy to describe to someone in case they get lost. Be sure you go there as a group and say 'ok, this is the place, this is what it's called in case you have to ask directions.' not to be alarmist, but it will give you peace of mind.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
But I have to say I really think you made a big mistake not taking them earlier!
Now, for the real question ... why did you wait so long to bring your kids with you on your ski trips? It is one of the few things you can do as a family and have an awesome time doing it.
Wow, nothing like making me feel even more guilty than I already did. My husband and I only started skiing 5 years ago at age 35 and 36 (anywhere between 3 and 8 days per year) and were not decent (probably debatable) skiers until maybe the last two.
And as a sidebar here, hubby and I didn't start skiing until very late in life so we were still very green when our boys were younger and probably at a better age to learn along with us.
We have always taken some parents only vacations along with family vacations. At some point, though, we started making all of the parent trips skiing trips instead of beach type trips. Our kids are pretty accustomed to seeing Mom and Dad go on a vacation without them and have never griped about it. They know that they get to be spoiled rotten by Grandma and that they will have their own vacation with us at another time.

Aside from trying to justify my decisions , I am also very grateful for the tips and advice you guys have provided. There were definitely some great ideas that I wouldn't have thought of.
post #20 of 20
Originally Posted by dburdenbates View Post
Wow, nothing like making me feel even more guilty than I already did.
Not to worry - it's a pretty hard core group here. Take a vote and most will probably agree that kids should come out of the womb with boards on their feet. You're doing great!

I'm sure they "milked" the relatives for all kinds of good stuff while you were away and wouldn't have traded it for anything. I know I did every chance I got.
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