A snow holiday can be a fantastic bonding experience for families. Spending time on the slopes is a sure fire way to spend great quality time together and something that 3 generations can enjoy together. That said, with so many other people enjoying the piste, it's essential to know how to keep your family safe. Here are our 11 tips to making sure your kids are safe on the slopes this Winter.
1. Harness & Ski Tips
Your little ones have hit 3 years old and you’re frothing to get them on skis for the first time. We understand. We’ve been there. Girls have more co-ordination at 3 years old so it can be easier for them to get the hang of skiing quicker. Boys are normally better from 4 years old, but, as always, it depends on the individual. Our top tip for safely getting your kids used to the motion of skiing is to use a harness and ski tips. Speed is always going to be your enemy at first and flying into the fall line is enough to scare your kid senseless. A harness is brilliant for controlling speed on a baby slope. Ideal for 2, 3 or 4 year olds the harness fits around the body with an easy grab handle, which means you can pull them up quickly if they start to go too fast. Ski tips are always brilliant for first time mini skiers. Buy them online or in a local ski shop, they simply fit onto the tips of the skis so they form a fixed triangle so your child automatically assumes the snowplough position.
Rather than trying to control speed and 2 legs at the same time, your little one can simply slide down the baby slope in a stable fixed movement and get a feel for the motion.
2. Pocket Note
Put your child’s name, your accommodation telephone number and address & your mobile number in a pocket of your child’s ski jacket. A no-brainer really but how many of us actually do it? If your child does get lost, at least someone can help get back in touch with you or your hotel. Remember to put the +44 (0) in front of your mobile number if you have a UK mobile with you.
3. Walkie talkies or mobile phone
Consider giving older children a walkie talkie or a mobile. These can be a real help when older children are getting confident of their surroundings and want to do a run by themselves. Generally we wouldn’t advise this unless a/ the resort is very small and they know it extremely well and b/ they are not skiing solo. You know your children better than anyone so only you can make this call. Are they sensible enough to stick to the piste & wait in the allocated place to re-connect to your group? Remember mobile batteries run out much quicker in the cold so can’t always be relied on. Walkie talkies are a really good way to staying connected to teenagers who know the resort well and want a bit more freedom. Mountain weather can change quickly so if you are thinking about letting your older children ski a run or two by themselves make sure they 1/ have a mobile or walkie talkie with them 2/ stick to the piste 3/ know what to do in bad weather 4/ have the local pisteur station or security telephone number in the phone and know where to find it if they need to use it 5/ know the arrangements of where to meet the rest of the group.
4. Don’t let kids ski too far ahead
Never let your kids ski ahead in bad weather. This is a golden rule. We’ve all heard the horror stories of children going ahead in bad weather, skiing off-piste and going off a cliff. The truth is, if bad weather comes in - and it can come in quickly - it can be really hard to distinguish where the piste edges are. It can be very disorientating in a white out so ski close together. Shout out if necessary, to make sure you all stay close. Look for the piste poles to follow and take your time to get down the mountain slowly or if you come across a mountain restaurant, hole up for a hot chocolate - a white out can sometimes pass as quickly as it comes in.
5. Use sunglasses or goggles + sun cream
Did you know UV rays are more dangerous in the snow than on the beach. With less atmosphere to absorb the radiation and snow being highly reflective, skiers can be exposed to almost double the UV exposure. Plus UV radiation density increases by 10-12% for every 1000m increase in altitude. Sunglasses and goggles are essential for kids as well as adults. For babies or toddlers, sunglasses with head strap are easy to find in resorts. A high factor sunscreen +50, as always should be used for kids.
6. Know your kids’ limits
Don’t ski all day, everyday with your children. Yes you’re on holiday and you might want to ski every last inch of that piste before the lifts close but bear in mind little legs can only take a couple of hours skiing max before they’re done. Remember skiing uses muscles you haven’t used all year or may have never used, so times that by about ten and you’ll realise how shattered your little one might feel. Fatigue leads to mistakes and potentially to injuries so quit while you’re ahead. Think about whether you really need that one last run. For smalls who’ve been at ski school all morning, take time out to sledge in the afternoons and stoke them out on just being in the snow. The more you force skiing, the less they’ll embrace it. Top tip: book an exciting snow highlight such as husky dog sledging - something your kids will never forget.
6. Piste map love and meeting points
Have a conflab before you all set off down the piste. Grab a piste map for everyone in the family and pour over it, making sure they understand where the main lifts are and restaurant/meeting points. Make a plan to meet at a particular restaurant on the half hour or hour if you get separated. As above remember - mobile phone batteries die quickly in cold conditions (especially iPhones) so don’t count on being able to call each other if you get lost. ALWAYS have a back up plan.
7. Ski slopes suitable for your child’s level
Common sense really but understand that if you take your child to a red piste when actually they can only just about get down a blue, then it’s going to be a nightmare. Your child will lose all that confidence you’ve been investing in for X amount of years. Full of fear it could take hours to slip slide or snowplough down steep terrain and years to re-gain their confidence. Wait until your child is fully tanking it down a piste in control and loving it before moving up the piste colour chart.
8. Getting on and off lifts
For little ones lifts can be tricky. Chairlifts have quite a large gap between the seat and the safety bar which small children can easily slip through. Make sure they are sat all the way back in the seat with their bottom touching the back rest and hold on to them tight when you lift the bar on the last few metres before docking. Many resorts now have installed plastic guards (often with adverts) to make chairlifts more child friendly.
9. Ski boots and helmets
It’s essential to make sure ski boots are the right size for your child. Too big and they won’t have the contact they need with the skis or snowboard making it dangerous. Always have boots fitted by the ski shop technician who will ensure that the boots are the correct fit and that the skis are adapted to your child’s weight so that the skis are released in case of a crash (if they don’t release on impact then the risk of injury is miles higher). Helmets also need to be the right size and the strap needs to be tight enough under the chin to not slip away during impact.
10. Hand & foot warmers
We don’t mollycoddle our girls so we would never pack them off with hand and foot warmers automatically. BUT in the event of a lift stopping (which can happen) for up to 10 or 15 minutes in -20 temperatures, the risk of frostbite is very real. We’ve got a couple of emergency packs in our backpack should that eventuality happen. Something to think about.
11. The rules of the piste
Make sure your little rippers know the basic rules of the piste. Read them here in my last blog post 'Does your child know piste etiquette?'
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far