My favorite secrets to skiing with toddlers

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Skiing is hands down, our favorite activity. It’s also by far the thing I miss the most about Utah. Minnesota downhill skiing is not comparable to skiing in the West. I miss skiing in Utah all the time! I miss the deep, light powder and the steep terrain. I miss skiing through glades of aspens. One positive about skiing in Minnesota has been how family-friendly the little ski hills are. Gentle slopes, low key lodges, and small lift lines have made getting our little ones out easier. Of course, there are still struggles to skiing with two toddlers. The two biggest struggles for us as a family have been nap time and not pushing our kids too hard. We’ve come up with two solutions to this dilemma that, honestly, I haven’t seen used before.

Like most skiing families, we depend on a space in the lodge where we set up for the day. Usually, my husband and I take turns skiing and entertaining the kids in the lodge. We include a few family runs throughout the day, but the kids do typically spend a lot of time in the lodge. In the past, we’ve done plenty of carrier naps to solve the nap problem during the ski day. Our son at 3 still NEEDS his daily nap! Our daughter at 1 is also still a napper. Whenever we go skiing we try to meet their needs while still getting out and having fun as a family. The pandemic has changed how lodges can be used. Most resorts are limiting lodge use to restrooms and patrons eating in the restaurants. This doesn’t leave space for those of us using it as a hangout spot. (And rightfully so! It’s not the year to be hanging out in the lodge!) Before the 2020-2021 ski season began, Richie and I started brainstorming how we could give our kids a comfortable space at the resort, while also keeping our family safe and meeting regulations. We decided that the best option to safely use the resort and provide a space for toddler downtime was to look into a camper. Here’s the catch though: we had a VERY tight budget! (Under $1,000) We scoured Facebook Marketplace for months before Richie finally found the perfect little trailer while he was driving around town. We’re now the proud owners of a 1970’s vintage trailer. We bought it knowing it was a little rough around the edges and it is certainly a DIY fixer upper. We worked on getting it decent for ski season and set up cozy spaces for the kids to play and nap. Knowing that we were going to be using this camper during Minnesota winters, we made it a dry camper. We just did not want to deal with water freezing and all the drama that can come from that mess! I’ll admit that it’s not at the aesthetic we were hoping for yet. It got too cold out for us to want to work on the trailer this winter. However, we’re currently back at finishing the interior and will be painting the exterior this spring! I can’t wait to have our little ski shack completely finished and ready for more adventures.

The camper ended up being a fantastic solution to two big problems- nap space and keeping our family safe during the pandemic. We also had a lot of fun hanging out in there. We had dance parties, cooked lunches, watched movies, and made sure our kids got those all-important naps! Overall, we loved having the camper with us at the ski hill. Yes, it was a bit of a pain to haul a camper on our ski days. But, feeling safe during the pandemic and having space to call our own was worth hauling a trailer around with us.

I also understand that hauling a trailer isn’t going to work everywhere. There’s no way we would have been able to find parking with our camper at Brighton back in Utah. I know a lot of other resorts have limited parking and bringing a trailer up just wouldn’t work. I also know that hauling a trailer requires a vehicle that can tow. But, I encourage you to be creative! If you have a minivan or even a truck bed, you could dial that space in to create a comfortable toddler play area. If you’re taking a ski vacation, consider renting an RV. When we visited Richie’s family in Idaho, we rented an RV and parked it at the top of Lookout Pass for 3 ski days. It was the perfect mobile ski lodge for us.

My second secret tip for skiing with toddlers or babies is (in my mind) genius for extending your ski day. Both our kids used a snowboard at 1. They were not snowboarding on their own but riding between mom and dad’s skis. We only did this on mellow runs and they loved riding on the snowboard. At such a young age, they were only good for a few runs before their little legs were tired. They also didn’t want to be done riding along for the adventure, but we didn’t want to push them too hard. At some resorts, parents can ride the lift with their toddlers or babies in carriers. We’ve done this at places that allow this (like Alta). However, a lot of resorts do not allow babies or toddlers to ride the lift in a carrier. There seems to be no rule about riding in carriers while actually skiing though. We came up with an easy solution to give our kids a needed break, but to continue having fun on the hill as a family. We would ride the lift with the snowboard on our little toddler. Once at the top they would snowboard for a bit through some easy terrain. Then we’d pull out the carrier, put them in the carrier and continue down the hill, carrying the snowboard. Before getting on the chairlift we’d put their snowboard on and get back on the lift for another ride! Our kids both love riding along in the carrier. Their belly laughs while skiing with mom and dad is one of the best sounds ever.

I want to add that if you are not an experienced skier please don’t try skiing with your toddler. You know your own ability and what you are comfortable with. I have fallen way more times with my kids while hiking than skiing. I’ll admit, I’ve had several falls with them in carriers while hiking. I’ve never fallen with my kids while skiing. I’m very intentional about my turns and choosing gentle terrain to take them on while we’re skiing. Also, gentle terrain is all we’ve got here in Minnesota!

Sharing our ski days with our kids has been such a great experience these last few seasons. I know next year we’ll have two little ones who are becoming more independent in their skiing. But, I’ll always cherish those sweet memories of having my giggling baby close to me as we ski down the hill. Oh, and we are not giving up the mobile ski lodge any time soon! That may be a permanent fixture for our family!

Have you tried skiing with toddlers? Do you have any favorite secrets for a successful day?

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