Embarking On Your First Family Ski Holiday And Have No Idea How To Start Planning? Here Are Super Useful Tips For You!
They say that skiing or snowboarding is highly addictive and all you need is to experience it once and you’ll be hooked. This was certainly very true for me. This is in spite of the worse calf and shin pain I have ever experienced, You Tube worthy chair life stacks and sheer fear for my life when I realised I’d wandered into a downhill slalom run by mistake. Trust me when I say that for those of you who are about to embark on your first family alpine experience, it’s going to be epic!
For first time goers, you are essentially stepping into unknown territory and there are situations which can mar your holiday if you’re unprepared. It’s a whole different world on those mountains and you may be faced with scenarios that you have no idea how to tackle. Having just returned from an unprecedented thunder snow storm on the alpine resorts of Australia, we have learnt some valuable lessons. Here are some tips on how to make your first skiing experience a good one.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #1
Accommodation. Unlike city holidays, alpine accommodation requires greater thought and strategic planning. As such, I have written a dedicated blog post with specific tips on what you should consider when researching for a hotel or apartment best suited for you and your family. Click here to view 10 Tips on How To Choose The Right Ski Accommodation.
FIRST TIME SKIIING TIP #2
Discounts. Alpine resorts often offer concessions if you book in advance and/or online. These reductions can be quite competitive so be sure to do your homework before booking anything. Some examples of cheaper rates may include:
- Resort entry. Everyone must pay an entry fee before ascending the mountain and is typically charged per vehicle. The time of entry can make a difference to the price. For example, on our recent trip to Falls Creek, the price of entering the resort is $45 if we arrived before 1pm, $22 after 1pm and free of charge if you came after 4pm.
- Lift passes. Lift passes tend to become cheaper on a daily basis if you book for a greater number of consecutive days. For example, a ski lift pass at Whistler this coming winter season for 3 days is $243 but a 5-day lift pass is $356. Certainly worth considering staying that extra day or two.
- Ski Hire. It’s not uncommon for an alpine resort to have several ski hire companies. Do your homework to see which company offers the best prices whilst also researching if any provide early bird discounts. For example, we were offered a 20% discount on all ski hire if we booked 14 days in advance. With the number of items we had to rent, we saved a bundle just by booking early!
- Referrals. Check if the accommodation you booked offers any referral discounts. For example, our Country Club is partnered with an off-mountain business that hires out snow chains for cars. We got a 15% discount by showing them that we had a reservation at their partner hotel.
- Meals. Look for any discounts that may be available for certain days or times of the week. There may even be discount offers for take away as this helps with congestion in some of these restaurants.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #3
Chair Lifts. One of the things that Hannah stressed about the most was the chair lift. Having not experienced it before, she had a fear that she would fall and hurt herself. To ease her worries, we watched You Tube videos together that showed her exactly how to get on and off chair lifts, pomas and T bars. This really helped her understand what she should do and although she was still nervous on her first attempt, it was less daunting on the day.
In the end, Hannah and I both fell anyway! But it didn’t hurt and she just laughed about it. I on the other hand just got a bruised ego! LOL!
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #4
Chains. In most alpine resorts, it is mandatory for you to carry snow chains in your car, regardless of whether it is required or not. This is especially important if you have no experience driving in icy conditions or if the weather becomes inclement. Every ski resort will have a small town at the base of the mountain where you will be able to stop and hire some. They are not overly expensive. Ours costed AUD$32 for 4 nights and they even had a no charge policy if the chains don’t get used.
If you have an All Wheel Drive vehicle, check if chains are required. If you don’t, do check if your vehicle is front or back wheel drive as that will determine which tyres will require the chains. You only need to put the chains on 2 tyres.
The challenging part about chains is having to put them on and removing them. Incorrect application can cause you a world of pain when you’re trying to take them off. One year, my ex-husband, who is super handy, had to lay on his back in the dirty slush to help a family remove their chains because it was completely tangled. And of course the part that was causing the problem was on the inner part of the wheel and right at the bottom so he had to get under the car. Needless to say, that was a very messy process but were greeted with an immensely thankful family.
Just like the chair lifts, You Tube is an awesome source of “How To” videos. May I suggest you watch a few to get an idea of how to use snow chains.
Also, do pack a towel in case you’re completely drenched so you can dry off before getting in the car. The other handy tip is to invest in some thinner gloves that will keep your fingers dry and warm. Those chains are hard work in the cold with your bare hands whilst your normal ski gloves may be too thick. Your fingers need to be nimble enough to work with the chains.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #5
Shovel & Ice Scraper. If you’re driving up the mountain and leaving your car up there for a period of time, bring a shovel and ice scraper. Our cars were completely buried in snow and it took some hard-working hours to not only remove the snow surrounding the car but to also scrape off the ice on all the windows and mirrors. A reminder not to leave your shovel and scraper in the boot though! Didn’t we learn that the hard way!
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #6
Motion sickness. If you are prone to car sickness, be sure to be prepared for those windy roads. If you prefer non-medicinal solutions, pack some green apples, raw ginger, peppermint and something tangy to counteract the unwanted taste of an impending sick. Organic herbal tablets are also available at your local pharmacy or chemist. If you’re not adverse to taking some medicine, you can get off the shelf motion sickness medication or for something stronger, consult your physician.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #7
Ski Lessons. Ski lessons are a must for all first timers. In fact, I encourage you to take lessons almost every day you’re there. This is the fastest way for you and your kids to learn how to ski and snowboard in a safe and fun environment.
I remember the first time I set foot on a ski resort. When we arrived at the Remarkables in beautiful Queenstown, New Zeeland, I was confronted with a whole bunch of skiers zooming down what I thought was a scarily steep slope. I was like, “there is no way I am going down that run!”. On day 9 and ski lesson number 4, I had progressed onto a more advanced class and after a particularly scary downhill slope, the instructor encouraged us to the turn around and admire what we had achieved. Lo and behold, it was the exact same run I saw on my first day. I couldn’t believe it and ever since then, I became addicted! It got me!
Ski schools are also a great way for experienced skiing and snowboarding parents a chance to get on the harder runs without the responsibility of looking after the little ones. If everyone in the family are first time skiers, perhaps you might want to consider booking a private lesson. That way all of you can learn how to ski together!
If the ski school is a chair lift away, don’t put your skis on. Just carry them. Also, ask the ski school if the kids need their poles. Ours didn’t and all the poles ended in a heap and at the end of the day we lost 3 sets out of the 7!
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #8
Creams, Lotions and Balms. Here is a list of recommended must haves:
- Lip balm. Carry a lip balm everywhere you go on the mountain. Cracked lips are common in such cold climate and annoying to have to deal with when you’re on holiday.
- Sunscreen. The most common mistake people make when skiing is not applying sunscreen on any exposed skins, especially your face. The sun at such high altitudes is harsh. Don’t be deceived by the cold as the sun reflecting off the snow can cause your face to burn.
- Moisturiser. The high altitudes tend to dry you out and if you’re prone to itchiness from dry skin, pack an intensive moisturiser. The wind and the sun will also dry out your face and if you’re out in the elements all day, you’ll start to feel an uncomfortable tightness and dryness.
- Muscle Pain. After the first day of alpine activities, I can guarantee that you will start to feel unprecedented pain in your calves and/or shin. Both from using muscles you are not used to and from the heavy ski boots. For boarders, you’ll start to feel pain in your thighs, lower back and perhaps wrists and knees if you fell a lot. Whether or not they work, bring along some creams to help you get relief from muscular aches and pains such as Deep Heat.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #9
Clothing. Clothing is a very important aspect of your ski holiday. I have a dear friend who refuses to go skiing because when she went at the age of 14, she was ill prepared and she froze the entire day. 30 years later she is still traumatised by the experience. I have therefore collated a comprehensive list of clothes you will need to pack and some handy tips to keep you warm and comfortable. Check out this blog post for more information. 10 Ski Clothing Must Haves For Your Ski Holiday.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #10
Other Alpine Activities. Apart from skiing and snowboarding, all alpine resorts should offer other activities such as snow tubing or even dog sledding. You may find that your children only have a half day ski in them before they become exhausted or have simply had enough. We brought our taboggans with us and spent a couple of afternoons sledding down the powdery snow. The kids can also enjoy simple snow play and you’ll be surprised how much fun they get from just hanging out in the snow, building snowmen and engaging in snowball fights.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIP #11
BYO. Bring as much of your own food, drinks and snacks as possible. Prices on the mountain can be exorbitant as you don’t really have a choice in where you may be purchasing these items. Also, the range available won’t be as extensive and if you have fussy eaters or you have kids that are only used to certain foods, brands or products, bringing your own items would be the wisest decision.
I believe that the most comfortable, affordable and convenient form of accommodation is an apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. We like heading back at lunch time and preparing our own food instead of having to queue up for long periods of time trying to get a table for lunch. It is so hard to manage the kids when they are hungry and cold and having to tell them we have to wait in line for 45 minutes! We also brought frozen home cooked meals for dinner and all we had to do was heat it up at the end of the day whilst being able to relax in the comfort of our own space.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIPS #12
Non Alpine Things To Do. Be prepared for things to do if you’re not outside in the snow. On the 3rd day of our recent ski trip, they closed the mountain at 2pm due to an impending thunder snow storm. We were subsequently stuck in our apartment for the rest of the day. Or perhaps you may have kids who simply aren’t enjoying the skiing experience (for your sake I hope that doesn’t happen!) but if that’s the case what will you do with them? Do pack your usual go to activities to keep them occupied. Bring your devices if you are reliant on them, books, games, arts & crafts and perhaps DVDs.
FIRST TIME SKIING TIPS #13
Travel Insurance. As always, we recommend that you purchase travel insurance for all your family vacations. If you have travel insurance as part of your credit card, check the Terms and Conditions to ensure that it covers the alpine holidays. Sometimes your regular travel insurance company have a dedicated snow pack that needs to be purchased over and above what you would normally get.
So I think you’re now all set to go on one of the best family experiences ever! Did I mention I was envious? Do try and adhere to some of these tips. If you have a laissez-faire approach to travel in general, may I stress the importance of you doing a whole heap of planning for this particular holiday. This is not a trip you want to be unprepared for, especially if you come from a place that doesn’t get snow. You will be entering into uncharted territory and its paramount that you’re organised.
A reminder to check out my blog posts on 10 Ski Clothing Must Haves For Your Ski Holiday and 10 Tips on How To Choose The Right Ski Accommodation