Kids and snow — sounds good in theory, but without preparation your enthusiasm could melt faster than a snowman in December. Take heed of these tips from Nicole Wyllie, mum of four seasoned young snow bunnies.
What to wear
• Polypropylene and merino under garments, layering essentials.
• Simple nylon over-trousers are adequate with long johns and perhaps polar fleece pants underneath, but not cotton track- pants.
• Windproof, insulated jackets that fit well. Don’t use jackets with fabric cuffs as the snow sticks.
• Neck muffs are great for warmth and easier to manage than scarves.
• Hats and gloves are essential but mittens work better on small children.
• Gumboots will suffice, with two pairs of thick wool or thermal socks and elasticated over-trousers that go over the boot to stop snow getting in the top. Insulated kids’ snow boots, even cheap ones from The Warehouse, are better.
• Sunglasses or goggles are an absolute must have. Practice wearing them beforehand and if your children won’t wear them on the snow then you’ll have to retreat indoors due to the real risk of snow-blindness.
• If your child is going to ski or board then a helmet is a good idea. In addition to the safety benefit, helmets keep kids’ heads warmer and it’s easier to keep goggles in the right place. It may be possible to hire a helmet.
• Practice dressing up at home and even go outside to test the gear on a cold night –just moving around in the extra layers can be a challenge for littlies. Make it fun beforehand and it will be easier on the trip. If you’re investing a reasonable amount of money on a ski trip, then a few hours at an indoor venue like Auckland’s Snowplanet a few weeks before is a good investment –your child will get a feel for the cold and an appreciation of why they have to wear all that warm gear.
Coping on the slopes
• Spring is a good time to make your first family trip to the snow as the air temperature is warmer but there’s still plenty of snow on the ground to have fun.
• Make sure everyone has a good breakfast and be prepared for an early morning tea –by the time you actually get on the snow some time will have passed.
• Have a pocketful of snacks and treats that you can easily dish out through your layers of warm clothes. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate in your backpack.
• Don’t underestimate how cold an inactive toddler or baby can be in the alpine air. Check their body temperature regularly and keep them wrapped up in a warm café if they’re not running around. Be especially aware of the wind chill factor which means it is a lot colder than the base air temperature.
•Kids can get wet quickly because they spend so much time in the snow rather than on it, so encourage them to get up quickly when they fall over and to dust off the snow. Use the bathroom hand-dryer to dry wet gloves.
• If you’re keen skiers then don’t expect to have a satisfying skiing day on your toddler’s first trip to the snow. If you can share the experience with another similar-minded family then there may be the chance to “escape” for a few runs and share the childcare. Better still, bring the grandparents to look after the kids while you hit the more serious slopes.
• Don’t leave boots or clothing in the car overnight in alpine areas because they will be really cold in the morning and no one will want to wear them.
• Remember the weather can change very quickly in the mountains so check the forecast to know what to expect and don’t stray too far from the warm base area when you have littlies in tow.
Don’t forget to pack:
• Carrots for snowmen noses
• Spare clothes to keep in the car
• Bandanas to wipe runny noses and keep hot chocolate spills off the ski gear!
We concentrate on giving the kids an enjoyment and appreciation of the alpine environment –so many new things to touch, taste (don’t eat yellow snow!) and see. There is plenty of fun to be had sliding on Mum and Dad’s skis, throwing snow balls, making a snowman, sliding on toboggans and drinking hot chocolates. Have realistic expectations, do your planning well, be prepared and be patient. Whatever happens, plan to finish each day on a good note. A bowl of hot chips in front of the fire always goes down well. Form family traditions if skiing is an activity you want to establish as a family passion.