When it comes to heading to the snow, be prepared! Pack well, get a jump on bargains and lock in reservations. If you follow these strategies, you won’t get stuck with last-minute trips to the store or waste any time or money. Of course, be up-to-date with COVID-19 closures and restrictions.
1. Reserve a cabin or hotel accommodations close to town or the ski resort, so you are not driving too much during your trip. If booking a hotel, secure one with the amenities your kids will love off the slopes. A hot tub, indoor pool or on-site play area will often do the trick. A hotel that includes breakfast, in-room microwave and refrigerator can be a parent’s best friend. See if the hotel offers a free shuttle to the ski resort.
2. Equip the car with essentials: snow chains, ice scraper, battery jumper cables, maps and flares. Bring blankets, healthy snacks, tissues, plastic bags, first-aid kit and extra sets of toys and books in case you get stuck in traffic.
3. Install apps to help you navigate. On the Snow, Ski and Snow Report app covers 2,000 ski areas around the nation with up-to-the-minute conditions. The Gas Buddy app tells you where to find the closest gas station. Download the app of the ski resort or location where you will be staying.
4. Nab discounts as early as possible. Check on deals for food, rental gear and excursions. Buy ski lift tickets online. Check for discounts with Liftopia.com, Costco or local sporting goods stores. If you plan to ski often, buy a season pass which usually comes with discounts for food or rentals, and bonuses such as lift access at other resorts. Sometimes, a season pass comes with free lift tickets for your friends.
5. Select a ski resort to fit the needs of your family. If the kids are just learning to ski, find a small property with experienced instructors. If your child suffers from separation anxiety, sign up for a family lesson so everyone can stay together. Be sure not to stress out if your child does not want lessons or did not excel during a ski or snowboard class.
6. Find resorts with parent exchange passes if both of you intend on skiing or snowboarding. These passes allow parents to share, so that one of you can watch the kids while the other skis.
7. Keep the kids healthy, warm and hydrated. Limit play time, so they do not get too wet, tired or cold. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech and clumsiness.
8. Prepare simple games for snow fun. Activities such as tag or making snow angels never get old. Bring along a snowball maker, leftover gloves and hats to decorate a snowman, in addition to plastic sand toys.
9. Dress in layers. Kids should not be so over-bundled that they cannot move. Bring lip balm, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, water-resistant gloves (not mittens) and snow pants. If possible, buy items with clips and small loops so your young skiers can attach accessories to their helmet or snow clothes. Practice at home.
Avoid choking-hazard apparel, which includes scarves or hoodie strings. Label items with first names and phone numbers. Bring extra dry clothes to the resort so kids can warm up right away.
10. Prepare a family meeting point at the ski resort. Keep instructions simple, and make sure it is a large and unique landmark to prevent confusion. Make sure your children know your cell number, but have a plan in case there is no cell service.
11. Have your little ones recognize what official employees are wearing so they feel comfortable asking for help.
12. Try something new. Go snowmobiling or dog sledding. A sleigh ride, anyone? Attend signature ski resort events.
13. Be safe, not sorry. Find safe landing at official snow play areas, not unauthorized fields of snow on the side of the road. That patch of snow may be sitting on top of a body of water.
The Bay Area is blessed with many winter wonderlands that families can reach on one tank of gas. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Mammoth Mountain and other magical, wintery destinations are yours to enjoy. Prepare well, let go of performance expectations and savor those childhood memories.
Kathy Chin Leong writes frequently about family travel for Bay Area Parent.
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