November 9, 2023

How to Plan the Perfect Family Ski Trip

Skiing or snowboarding together as a family is one of those transformative experiences. It quickly becomes tradition, the trip everyone talks about for years to come, or even charts the course for a new life trajectory. Those first days on the slopes have been known to turn into a lifetime of chasing the snow all over the world. This year, make sure you’ve planned your family’s ski getaway so when the snowy mountains call, you’re ready. Reserving your accommodations is an easy first step, but did you know you can skip the dreaded rental line and reserve your gear as well? It’s just one of many things you can do to make this year’s mountain adventure even more turn-key. Here are a few tips to planning the perfect family ski trip.

Choosing the Right Destination

Make sure to research ski resort destinations before you depart. When you’re looking at different possibilities, consider the following:

Terrain Type – If you have beginner skiers or riders in the family, look at the overall percentage of beginner terrain – As new skiers quickly progress, it’s nice to have some beginner and intermediate terrain variety alongside the expert terrain.

Weather and climate – Yes, you want it to be snowing, but if you’re used to bluebird days and wind-free slopes, some mountains’ climate patterns are more favorable than others. The recent weather conditions and snowfall can determine how the skiing is going to be during your stay.

Other activities – Some families can spend the entire day on the slopes. Others enjoy taking a little breaks at the lodge or base  to go exploring elsewhere. Look to see if the resort offers additional on-snow activities such as snow tubing, guided snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Some resorts are located near national parks, providing even more winter wonderland.

Some of the Top Family-friendly Ski Locations Include:

Aspen, Colorado
Banff, Alberta 
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Big Sky, Montana
Boone, North Carolina
Breckenridge, Colorado
Crested Butte, Colorado
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Mammoth, California
North Tahoe, California
Park City, Utah
Steamboat, Colorado
South Tahoe, California
Sun Valley, Idaho
Telluride, Colorado
Vail, Colorado
Whistler, British Columbia
Whitefish, Montana
Winter Park, Colorado


Setting a Budget

For many families, it’s important to know before you go, at least the cost of the trip. Planning and reserving ahead is a great way to manage trip expenses and avoid unpleasant surprises when it’s time to head home. Some costs to consider when planning your family ski vacation include:

Accommodations – Look for seasonal deals and family-friendly packages.

Lift tickets and passes – The world of daily lift tickets is changing. Make sure to talk to the resort about multi-day bundles and whether or not the area you’re visiting is included in any multi-destination pass programs.

Equipment rentals – There are two ways to go about renting your equipment. You can arrive at your destination and spend lots of time waiting as the technicians get your equipment fitted. With Black Tie Ski Rentals, you can save the hassle of waiting on your vacation when you reserve your rentals ahead of time or have all of your gear delivered directly to your door. Whichever route you choose, make sure to consider the total cost of equipment rentals when planning your ski vacation budget.

Meals and dining – Depending on whether your accommodations include a workable kitchen or not, it’s important to factor in budgeting for eating out on your ski trip.

Extras and activities – As mentioned, family ski and snowboard vacations can include so much more than just the time on the hill. Learn more about other activities and events available at your destination.

Ski Trip Packing Essentials

Whether you’re used to colder climes and chillier temps, or you’re coming from a warm, sunny place, it’s important to make sure every family member packs appropriately for this year’s ski vacation. Here are some ski vacation packing tips:

Pack lots of clothing for cold weather – This should include both quick-drying synthetic pieces for layering and long days skiing as well as cozy sweaters, insulated pants, and thermal socks for before and after skiing.

Must-have clothing items for any family ski vacation include:

  • Weather-proof jacket and pants
  • Mittens or gloves
  • Hat
  • Goggles
  • Warm layers, including base layers, facemask, insulating layers and sweaters
  • Thermal socks. Lots of socks.
  • Fleece or down jacket
  • Bathing suit (if a hot tub or sauna is part of your ski vacation)

Think ahead about ski equipment and gear. If you’re a frequent skier or rider, you might have your own equipment. Make sure to locate your ski bag a few days before it’s time to pack, and that all of your equipment can fit in the bag and still weigh in at under 50 pounds. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of traveling with your gear, consider renting ski or snowboard equipment.

You can do this upon arrival, or plan ahead and have all of your gear, including helmets, poles, and boots, delivered directly to your door once you’ve landed.

Every skier and rider should have the following equipment:

  • Skis or snowboard
  • Ski boots or snowboard boots
  • Ski poles (if necessary – most beginner skiers start without poles)
  • Helmet

Pro Tip: A few other things to throw in your suitcase include a small first aid kit for minor bumps and bruises along the way and some travel entertainment for the kids. Books, tablets, doodle pads, and small toys can make a cross-country flight much more bearable.

Booking Accommodations

Consider the type of accommodations best suited for your family’s needs. Most mountain towns offer a variety of weekly and nightly rentals, including condos, cabins, apartments, and entire homes. And then of course, there are traditional hotels, motels, chalets, full resorts, and lodges. Budget will most likely be the primary factor in determining which lodging type is best for you, but also consider proximity to the slopes, amenities, and family-friendly features. Making your reservations early can be a great way to lock in better rates. And just a reminder to look for lodging deals and packages.

Planning Ski Lessons

Ski lessons are an elemental part of a successful family mountain adventure, especially for any beginners in the group. Visit your destination ski resort’s website for more information on ski lesson rates, availability, and package pricing. Talk with the family about whether a group or private lesson is best, and ensure younger skiers and snowboarders are in age-appropriate lessons with a responsible instructor-to-student ratio. If the kids will be in lessons while the adults are cruising the mountain, talk with instructors about drop-off, pick-up, and lunch break times to prevent kiddos getting separated from the group.

Preparing for Safety

Before that first day skiing or riding, it’s important to have a family chat about proper on-mountain safety.

  • Familiarize everyone with the ski resort rules.
  • If you can, pick up a trail map and talk through signage, especially with new skiers, including the meaning of green, blue, and black runs as well as terrain parks and other resort features.
  • Set up a meeting place in case someone gets separated from the group.
  • Know how to get in touch with Ski Patrol.
  • Consider putting an AirTag or other tracking device in young skiers’ and snowboarders’ jackets.
  • Talk through avalanche and mountain safety, making sure everyone in the group understands ski area boundaries and the terrain and risks that lay beyond them.
  • If you’re skiing in clouds or fog, or at an area where tree wells are common, make sure everyone has an easily-accessible whistle.
  • Always wear a proper-fitting helmet.

Entertainment Beyond Skiing

Mountain towns offer a variety of enticing activities beyond skiing or riding. Learn a little more about the opportunities at your destination before you go. Possibilities include:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice skating
  • Tubing
  • Winter carnivals
  • Cultural experiences
  • Local attractions and nearby state and national parks
  • Après ski activities

Final Tips for a Memorable Trip

Family ski vacations are unique in that they’re subject to weather, travel delays, snow conditions, and other unpredictable factors. Manage expectations by creating a flexible itinerary that allows for last-minute changes of plans.

Make sure to take lots of photos and videos! These will be a reminder of the progress everyone makes during the trip as well as how much fun the entire family had on the mountain.

Embrace the winter wonderland and spend time connecting as a family. It can be easy to get swept up in powder days, ski lessons, and fresh groomers, but don’t forget to revel in your unique and beautiful surroundings. It’s hard to beat the joy of a well-planned ski adventure. Family members of every age get to tap into the magic that is time in the mountains. Once the details are set, enjoy every second and snowflake during your family getaway to a winter wonderland.

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