How to survive a family ski trip without killing the kids

Deb and her clan in the afternoon

Planning a ski trip with children can be stressful, expensive and logistically challenging.

If you’re heading to the snow with kids for the first time then trust me, with four kids of our own, we’ve done the hard yards for you.  

Take heed and save yourself some tears and tantrums.

Do your research and plan well in advance.

Skiing is an expensive pastime. Whether you’re thinking about skiing in Australia or heading overseas, there are always Early Bird Specials so start planning early to get the best value for money.

Choose your accommodation wisely.

Be sure to find out the size of the rooms before booking accommodation. Even without ski gear, children take up a lot of room with the various necessary paraphernalia they simply have to bring with them.

Make sure you have a room to yourselves. You may think you’ll be able to share with the kids for a few days, but trust me, it’s worth a few extra dollars for unbroken sleep – yours and theirs.

Create a packing list.

Before you leave, create a packing list and get the kids to tick it off as they pack. One vital item not to forget is a pair of headphones for each child – especially for the drive there. It will avoid arguments and relieve boredom.

The drive.

Take a large car, and install roof racks and a pod. For such a long drive it’s best to keep as much luggage as possible on the roof and as much legroom/elbow room as possible inside.

We usually allow one toilet break and one lunch break and take sandwiches and fruit with us. There’s not a great choice of eateries along the way and they’re usually of the Golden Arches variety.

Make sure everyone has a device of some description to occupy them on the journey, a drink bottle within reach and a few healthy snacks.

Stay within your means.

Consider the cost of air travel on top of the cost of gear, equipment, lessons and lift tickets… just how much is it going to cost to take the entire family skiing? If you’re worried about your budget, here are a few tips.

When you’re travelling with two or more kids, even taking into account the exorbitant price of lift tickets and accommodation in the Australian Alps, it’s still cheaper to ski domestically.

In Thredbo kids lift pass prices apply for kids up to and including seventeen and they ski for free each day a parent skis when packaged with participating Kids Stay Free accommodation during June 8 to 21 and September 2 to 7.

At family friendly Falls Creek the Mum Skis Free Program means mum gets a free lift pass, a late start with fresh coffee and a two hour women only lesson for every day the kids are in ski school.

It’s best not to be too precious about staying on snow either. Last season we stayed at The Station in Jindabyne, about a 20 minute drive to the Ski Tube, which takes 20 minutes to reach Perisher’s slopes or a half hour drive direct from Jindy to Thredbo.

While The Station has a reputation for being Party Central I have to say the rooms are enormous and far enough away from the pub for the noise not to matter too much.

All that gear.

Gear is of course almost as expensive as accommodation and lift tickets. We use a combination of hand-me-downs and gear hire. Our gear is kept together, and before each trip we drag it out and have a try-on session where jackets and pants are handed down to the next child and we assess what (if any) new purchases are required.

Because we only ski once a year, and the kids are growing at alarming rates as they all approach teenage-hood, we’ve decided not to buy any more new boots until their feet stop growing.

Eating out (or not).

Whether you’re staying on snow or in Jindabyne, do your food shopping in Jindabyne (and preferably, as much as you can at home before leaving). The mini-markets on-snow charge ridiculously inflated prices.

Take sandwiches, non-squish able fruit and high-energy snacks with you on the slopes each day. Not just to save money, but because the majority of food outlets on snow sell the same small range of reheated pies, pizza and hot chips, all highly likely to leave you suffering from indigestion all afternoon.

The clan have lunch

Everyone goes to ski-school – no arguments.

There are always arguments from the kids over the necessity of ski school, but this is non-negotiable in our house.

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Easing kids into ski school without tears, or at least tantrums

Form a routine and stick to it.

I’ve found that an unvarying daily routine tends to makes ski school acceptable and also helps if anyone gets lost, as they know the next meeting point.

Ours runs something like this… First thing in the morning, younger ones (and me) go to ski school, older boarders and dad (also a boarder) go crazy on the black runs.

We meet up at lunchtime at some assigned place and eat our sandwiches. After lunch we all ski together, exploring the more family-friendly green and blue runs and maybe explore the further reaches of the mountain resort.

We stop for afternoon tea around 3 o’clock, where the kids might get a hot chocolate or hot chips treat, then we split up – grownups to find some lovely long leisurely runs, kids to carve up the terrain parks.

Members of the clan in the afternoon

Know your limitations.

Don’t push yourself too hard. While it’s tempting to ski until the last lift stops to make sure you get your money’s worth out of that ticket – be sensible.

We usually knock off around 4pm and retire to the pub for a beer, while the kids end the day on the lower slopes just outside until they wear themselves out and slink in one by one to join us.


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When parents fail at kids ski school, hilarity ensues...

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When Deb’s not planning dive holidays for her clients – or writing blog posts on the Diveplanit Blog she also writes for a number of travel publications, including Scuba Diving Magazine, Scuba Diver Life, Pacific Island Living, Signature Luxury Travel & Lifestyle and Holidays With Kids.

6 COMMENTS

  1. All good tips. I would also add that kids don’t need a lot of clothes at the snow. They wear their thermals and outer garments all day and then when they come in for the evening they just hang about in their thermals. For a week on snow with my three kids they only need clothes for car trip down, car trip back and another outfit for if we go out for dinner. Don’t count on doing that too much either as after a day at ski school or on the slopes kids are tired little people…as are the adults.

    • We don’t normally take the kids out to dinner at all – but have on occasion gone out without them! You’re right – they’re quite happy to doss about in their thermals, in fact (other than the odd shower) I’m not entirely convinced our boys take them off all week.

  2. Hmmm… I have thought about taking my kids but have chickened out year after year – the expense!! I hadn’t heard of the deals at Thredbo, which are really appealling. Will refer back to this post if I get a grip and make a plan to make a plan.

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