I've worked as an instructor and a supervisor in multiple children's programs at different mountains, and invariably, the time things are found missing is at the end of the day. The end of the day is usually a scene of near chaos as parents gush into the room, instructors scribble out lesson cards, talk to parents, and shepherd their remaining kids where they need to be. While I am going to try to give you quality customer service and see if I can find your missing stuff, I still have four kids waiting for their parents, one of which has green snot dripping from his nose, another who is crying for mom, and another one who is determined to go out and ski some more. Here are my best tips for keeping things from getting lost.
1. Label things very conspicuously. Sharpie on a garment tag is fine for going to camp, but on a pair of mittens going to ski school, a strip of orange duct tape across the knuckles will work much better. You don't want a full width piece of tape, usually a 1/4 width or a 1/2 width will do fine. This makes them visually stand out from the sea of black in the lost and found. You can also use hot pink, lime green, or another bright color. And as was said before, colored duct tape is very 'in' on the mountain these days. Snowboarders and freeskiers shred the cuffs of their baggy pants over time, and use duct tape as a good patch. Personally, my pants cuffs are liberally coated with blue duct tape (matches my uniform jacket). When you're talking about a neck gaiter or a balaclava, stitching a bright strip of fabric along the seam or along the neck hole can perform the same function. Tape doesn't work well on fleece, because it can pull off the soft fabric easily, and takes some of the fiber with it when it goes.
2. Keep things together. Typically the things that get lost the most are the small things. I've never had a child lose his jacket for more than a minute, but lost mittens are a dime a dozen. Using the string through the sleeves is a great idea. Not only does that keep the mittens safe while your kid's stuff is in its cubby, it also keeps them from getting lost on the hill. Invariably, your child will decide he doesn't want to wear his mittens at some point, and he'll ditch them. When I turn and ask where they are, he will probably just shrug. Now I have to send him inside to get a suitable subsititute (which is usually the pair of mittens a kid lost yesterday). Now your child is missing out on valuable instruction time.
3. No hats! Hats pose more problems than they are worth. First off, a helmet is always a better option for safety. I am a huge advocate of wearing a helmet, and I never step on snow without one, even when I'm teaching four year olds on a bunny slope. Even if your child will have snow play time, the helmet will still work fine during that time, and it will help a younger child associate being on the mountain with always wearing a helmet (their parents wearing a helmet will help that too). Not only is a helmet safer than a hat, it is also warmer. The hard shell of a helmet keeps out the wind and the snow, and the foam is a better insulator than any knit hat. A snowsports helmet should always be worn alone, without a hat underneath. As far as keeping things from getting lost, a helmet is a lot harder to lose than a hat, which can get crumpled up in a corner. In addition, a ski helmet has a clip that will hold goggles onto it, which goes back to keeping things together.
4. Be patient. If something gets lost, and you don't want to part with it, your best option is to wait things out. When there are 200 kids in the room, there are 400 mittens that would have to be looked for. Tell the supervisor you're looking for something, and would like to wait until the place clears out. After the mash of parents, kids, and equipment drains out, you're left to look through maybe a half dozen items left in cubbies and on the floor. If it still doesn't turn up, leave a description of the missing item with your name and number with the supervisor. My schools have always been willing to ship items back if they're found, or hold them until you come in the next day.
5. Be prepared. Regardless of your labeling prowess, inevitably your child is going to lose something. Next time you're shopping for ski gear, consider buying 2 pair of mittens instead of one. That way, you'll have a back-up pair, and you won't have to pay on-mountain (exorbitant) prices to replace what they've lost. Ideally, buy identical ones. Mittens get lost in ones, not twos.
6. Cut your losses. Does your 4 year old really need those super high tech pair of spyder gloves that cost $75? Considering they're going to grow out of them pretty quickly, and it's fairly likely that they'll lose them before they grow out of them, probably not. An inexpensive pair of Kombi's will work just fine.
7. Put on your nice face. If something gets lost, huffing and puffing and yelling and screaming at the instructor for losing your child's things will get you nowhere. Our goal as instructors is to keep your kids safe, see if we can get them to have some fun, and hopefully teach them some skiing skills along the way. While we'll try to keep track of stuff, things still get lost sometimes. It's not the fault of the instructor, and blaming them for it will just make that instructor less likely to want to help you out.