I didn’t come from a traditional “skiing family”. My parents took me once, to see snow and try skiing when I was 15 years old. From that moment I was hooked and did whatever I could to fund a snow lifestyle for most of my adult life. Where and when it was falling, I was chasing.
After having my first child, I continued ski trips with friends, without my daughter or partner. This was justified as; “parenting time out” or “self-care”. My partner was supportive to sit off the piste and stay home and enjoy the Aussie summers while I enjoyed some time in the Northern Winters.
Now nine years old, my daughter has reached an age where she is interested in going skiing with me, and, if I want to ski travel with her in the future, which I do, then she needs to learn to ski.
So it seemed only right to go back to the place it all began for me, Perisher. Time to assume the snow plough position for three days.
My holiday vision was ambitious, Edie and I would be laughing and playing in the snow. She would love every moment of the experience and before long, she would be following me down the mountain like a little cute duckling following her Muma duck across the lake.
OK – so it wasn’t exactly like that.
It was more like I had taken a life size doll to the snow and was responsible for the endless costume, weather, and location changes. I was a sherpa, mountain guide, lifty, official dresser, coach and motivator. But luckily not the instructor as I could outsource that to the experts.
While she was learning her pizza from her French fry, this is what I learned about taking a kid to the snow.
Be OVER organised
I only started to think about my ski travels the week before I was leaving. Rookie error. I suggest you straight away think about the finer details at least a month before you intend to leave. Get into the garage and check out your gear to make sure it still fits. If you live far from a snow retailer you’ll need time to order online and exchange if it doesn’t fit. We went with Rojo Outerwear for girls for comfort, fit and value, but again left it to the last minute so only just got the gear in time.
Book everything ahead of time, I mean everything. Be aware of cut off dates, booking months ahead will save you about 10%. And ski lessons sell out for school holidays way before you would ever expect. Not having a couple of ski lessons for an absolute beginner, can ruin your chances of happy holiday.
Private lessons can save both time and, yes, money
We opted for two private lessons which we attended together. As this was the most efficient way to learn in the short time and an opportunity to stay together. Perisher offer two hour lessons in the afternoon (around $337) for a cheaper price than the morning and you can have up to 6 people from the same group in four our morning lessons or up to 4 people from the same group in two hour afternoon lessons.
So it really is good for a family when you do the maths on group lessons for all. Plus if you have an Epic Australia Pass and book online you’ll get a further 20 per cent off.
It was also a way for me to watch her learn and pick up the language our incredible instructor, Sophie, was using to explain the ski movements and progression. I could continue with the repetition of language, directing Edith after the lesson was over– “make a pizza” “step on the spider” and “hold that stinky fart”.
I also enjoyed that these lessons were in the afternoon at 1:30pm. We could play on the slopes in the morning together not stressing to get somewhere for 9am, go have lunch then come out for the lesson.
You will need military precision in everything
Your gear needs to be assembled in MILITARY fashion. A nine-year-old will have no idea the order in which you dress yourself to go outside to ski. I would come down to the drying room and find Edith in her thermals and boots and wonder how she will get her ski pants on. Follow an order and have a last check before you walk out the door. Also, carry extra gloves.
On-snow breaks, take them
If you can then invest in on-mountain accommodation for this first experience. Ski clubs offer great value. Coming in and having a break, a bite to eat, change of clothes and some quiet time gave us a break versus being in a restaurant jostling for a table.
Tantrums, turns and hot chocolates
There were tantrums. Skiing is hard to learn and sometimes Edith just didn’t want to do it. She had sore legs, big falls and was taken out of her comfort zone most of the day. I’d give her a hug, normalise learning as hard work, agree to get a hot chocolate but also gave some tough love to move us forward. Know where the BEST hot chocolates are, and how to get there fast. Pretty Valley Kiosk is a hit, so is the Mid Station Flake or Oreo Luxe Hot chocolate.
Get familiar with the resort map
Know where you are and where you can go with a beginner child skier. Sometimes there is a blue run to get to a green run and this can unravel a good morning. We got stuck twice on a blue run, getting to a green run. I ended up having to carry two pairs of skis on my shoulders and walk down, with a scared child behind me. Although it was an opportunity to teach how to walk in ski boots down a hill and the importance of moving off the mountain fast.
Sing out loud
Have a song you child likes for the T bars and lifts and for little moments of connection. Maybe some Lizzo; “In a minute I’m a need a sentimental man or woman to pump me up”. Having a laugh takes away any fear and discomfort.
Edith went from the magic carpet on day one to cruising Happy Valley on day three, she loved the experience and is looking forward to our next skiing adventure. We couldn’t have done this without the persistence to keep going despite white out and raining. Skiing in Australia builds resilience.
She’s excited to go again and I feel we are connected and bonded in passion for the sport. I am looking forward to a day where I am chasing her down the mountain and she is showing me where the best hot chocolates on the mountain can be found.
*Justine and Edie were supported with lift passes and lessons by Perisher resort. Edie is “dressed” by ROJO Outerwear for girls.