Skiing with Toddlers and What to Expect

Posted by Katie Grabner on

One day you may find yourself in my predicament, 'I grew up skiing, my husband grew up skiing, we now have kids.. and we want to go skiing.' When is the right time to start your little ones? What can you expect when you go? I recently shared on my Instagram Stories that I took my two kids skiing and everyone wanted to know what tips I had and what I learned. Since I really had no idea what to expect at all before we went and since so many of you were curious about our "outing," I figured I'd share my thoughts, what I learned and the tips that worked for us.

I'll paint a picture about our scenario first. First of all, all of this information pertains to the first and only outing we have had so far with Parker and Charlotte. We took my son, Parker, who is 3.5 years old, and my daughter who literally just turned two the week before we went. (Please keep in mind when considering your little ones and ages that Charlotte has always been advanced in her milestones, especially early walking etc). One thing I will share, is that the older you are, the harder it is to learn to ski. This is not always the case, but it is a pointer you may want to consider. I started skiing at a young age and so did my husband. He actually taught skiing as an instructor in Colorado for two years as well. He agrees with this. And it was also easy to see that the *some* of the 12-16 year olds out learning were struggling with it as well (I don't know how many times they've tried, or how athletic they are, this is just a general observation I made when out on the bunny hill the particular day I wen skiing with my kids).  

Parker and Charlotte don't have their own set of skis so we obviously had to rent theirs when we got there. I grew up skiing but I switched to snowboarding when I was 13 years old and haven't skied since I started snowboarding, except for the day we went last week. So I had to rent a pair of skis too (I obviously couldn't teach them how to ski on my snowboard). 


One thing that I think you should definitely prepare yourself for when going out skiing, and knowing that sometimes kids and toddlers only have so much threshold where they feel up for something (especially with the lunch hour on the horizon or maybe even naps), is that renting skis takes  t i m e . The resort we went to, on a Thursday morning, didn't open up until 10 am. So that is when we got there. By the time we all rented our skis, purchased our tickets, paid for a locker and geared up to go outside, a full hour had passed. *Print your rental ski form out the night before you go and fill it out at home.* We did this, and it definitely helped to shave off a little time for us. Also, when we got there, there was absolutely no line for anything.. So depending on where you go skiing and if you are going on a weekend or not, you may need to add in some time into your day for waiting in line too. (please keep in mind that our kids need help dressing themselves at their ages, so if yours are older maybe it will take less time for you to get on the slopes). I just wanted to start by saying this so you can prepare your ski trip around this. Moving forward, we may consider renting skis at a local ski house before we go skiing again, to avoid this. I am a mom and I realize that younger children only have so much time before they are over something, so I had to share this from one mother to another.

Luckily, the resort rented helmets (for $10 a child) as well. We weren't really sure how often we would go skiing so we decided to wait to purchase some until after trying it first. Helmets keep you very warm and also very safe. Rent or buy helmets and keep yourself and little ones safe. 

Also prior to our trip to the ski resort, which was only 35 minutes away, we only put our kids into their first layer of clothing. If you plan to go skiing with kids, I will say from someone who frequently skied growing up, that you will DEFINITELY want to layer your kids up in two pairs of pants and a long sleeve shirt and vest and/or sweater under their jacket. We did a pair of tight fitting pajama pants and then sweatpants under their snow pants. I do this too - thank goodness I did not donate my terrycloth Juicy Couture pants (who would have thought these would ever be needed again).  There is nothing worse than being freezing when you ski. You can always remove layers if your too hot though or unzip your jacket. The reason I am saying this all is that we regret not putting their second layers on before getting into the car. Just picture two adults dressing themselves in second layers, snow pants, coats, taking shoes on and off for said snow pants etc etc etc, outside of our car door in a snow-filled parking lot, then having to do the same to our kids. It took time. It was frustrating. An argument or two may have happened.. that may have been revolved around a certain toddler who was not listening.. that wanted to climb up to the driver seat while the car was running, while said layering up was occurring. So, layer up before you go as much as you can (to safely put your kids in their carseats and not overheat, obviously). You will thank me. (For us this means I would have put their sweatpants on and maybe their thing fleece vests too). If you are taking a ski trip and staying close by, obviously layer up before you go too. Growing up, we jumped in the car for the short drive in everything but helmets and gloves.

The night before we went, I also watched a YouTube video of other parents skiing with their three year old for the first time. For whatever reason, this was helpful for me to understand what another three year old was capable of. Perhaps consider watching one that fits into your category of ages.

Once we finally got out on the slopes, here is how the experience went for us.


We started for the first 15 minutes on this almost completely flat area, that had the slightest of incline and a little carpet to shimmy yourself up on with your skis on.

Parker: Parker was able to balance on his skis on his own. He was able to do some downhill skiing on his own on this almost flat area (with falls) with the practice of bending his knees etc. The whole idea of being on skis was a little upsetting to him at first. It took some encouragement, but that quickly passed and he did a great job. His age was definitely right on par with starting to learn how to downhill ski. It was wonderful to see his balance and his ability to listen to Jeff's tips. 

Charlotte: Charlotte was not able to stand up on skis on her own for long, or for much downhill skiing by herself without holding my hand. Everything I did with Charlotte quickly turned into her being between my legs, because it was physically easier than walking next to her and holding her hand. We went down this flat-ish area together 4-5 times, without moving hardly at all, and with me needing to pick her up while she was in her skis and while I was in my skis to carry her back up to the top. It was at this time that I realized that I was very hot and that we were barely moving and that this was a lot of work for not a lot of reward. I took her up a carpeted lift that you stand on that took us half way up the bunny hill. All I needed to do was hold her up with my hands under her armpits. I was SURPRISED with how easy this was.


Please note how ridiculous this looks (me holding Charlotte in her skis to walk back up the slight incline where we first started to learn).

Above is the beginners "chair lift" that you stand on to go half way up the bunny hill. It was really easy to get on with Charlotte between my legs and ride up together.

We graduated and went up the real chairlift. I put her in my lap as this felt like the safest thing to do for such a tiny human (please do not gasp, she was very very safe in my arms), and her ski fell off as soon as we got on the chairlift. So fair warning.. we had to wait up at the top of the hill while I held her off the ground, because of her little foot with just a sock on. Skiing back and forth across the bunny hill (while carefully checking that I had room and no one was behind us), was really quite easy in my opinion, especially considering I had not skied in forever (only snowboarded in the last 16 years). I felt very in control with her between my legs and she really just went with me at whatever speed I was up for. We actually went faster than I imaged we would have in my head.

Above is Charlotte and I skiing downhill from the top of the bunny hill together. We just did nice big passes of back and forth across the hill. We were able to go at a pretty fast pace. It was fun for both of us! I would have felt comfortable taking her down longer blue diamonds at most resorts. (Anyone familiar with Mardi Gras at Holiday Valley in Ellicotville, NY? She would have done great).

Jeff and I eventually switched and I took Parker down. He was also just as easy to ski with between my legs. I could NOT figure out how to use poles with them, so renting them and bringing them outside was really a waste. Perhaps it would have been beneficial after skiing a little longer for Parker's age, but definitely definitely not Charlottes. She needed my full support holding her up. I am referring to holding the poles up in front of them for them to use as a bar to hold on to. I saw it in the YouTube video, and I just felt like I didn't have enough hands to carry poles and that I couldn't figure out a way for the kids to use them. Also, we had a nice little ski rope for ski training and we didn't need that either. Perhaps it would work for someone else 3+ though for their first time on skis, but not for us. (FYI: when I took Parker up the chairlift, right before we got off, I sat him in my lap to get off together and his ski also fell off on the slope). 

Also as a little side note, I did not wear my gloves for any of the skiing. I felt warm enough with my other layers and also with all of the work I was doing in helping them. I personally felt more secure holding them without my gloves on, you may too. Luckily, I had a big pocket in my snow pants were I was able to tuck them in.

We made it out on the slopes for about an hour before it was lunch time and Parker was just NOT having it anymore. Had the ski rentals and gearing-up taken less time, perhaps we would have lasted longer on the slopes. 

So strangely enough, my biggest take away from all of this is this.. bring food! Oh-my-gosh do you need to bring food with you. Jeff likes to ski with chocolate as a little pick-me-up on the slopes. For whatever reason, he brought some ziplock baggies of M&M's and Reese's in his coat pocket. The kids were both very timid when they were first in their skis, so this was seriously the best thing ever when we first started. And I also have a warning too. We do not usually feed our kids candy or chocolate. Charlotte needed the M&M's to get her excited about just about everything and I am beyond happy that I had them for her. I was surprised because she is my little dare devil child, I figured she would have been a little more like this with skiing too. Parker became quite irritable after some time and it was partially about the chocolate (wanting to hold it himself in his pockets), partially that it was lunch time, and partially that the chocolate was making him irritable too (my warning). Figure out what your treat is or what your power food is and bring something for your little ones in your pockets. Fig newtons or chewy bars were a personal favorite when I was 10-14 years old. But if you plan on skiing for an hour or more with little ones, definitely consider a special treat for your adventure. It might just make all of the difference in your experience -- and we definitely don't use bribery on a normal basis, it just really helped us.


Overall, our first day out skiing was a success. I am so happy we were able to take the kids out skiing, and with more practice I know they will only improve. I'd love to know if you take yours out and if our experience was helpful to you at all!

So all in all:

- Layer as much as you can at home

- Bring snacks/rewards/treats in your pockets

- Fill out the rental form at home before you go 

- Rent skis elsewhere or the day before your ski day to help avoid kids getting restless

- Plan for an hour of time at the resort before getting on the slopes if you do rent there on the same day

- You can rent helmets at most places

- Layers, layers, layers

- Depending on the age of your child, you as the instructor may just want to ditch your poles all together and maybe even your gloves too

- Little ones in skis at 2-3 years old, cannot scoot along to get from point A to B.. so plan on doing a lot of carrying with an awkward amount of things in your arms

- I'd recommend gloves that go over their coats to avoid snow getting in like these 

- Patience is everything!

I hope you enjoy!! 


Neck warmers: Zara (just ordered these for next time), Charlottes Coat: Ralph Lauren, Parker's Coat: Zara, Gloves: Patagonia  


Comes in blue and other colors too
Comes in Blue and Pink too
Comes in blue, black and other colors too

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  • Thank you so much for sharing all of your tips! I have a daughter that just turned two and after a little ski trip of my own (with my mom) last weekend to Jackson Hole, I have been wondering just how early is too early for her to learn. Your family outing has truly inspired me! Thanks again!

    Jamie on

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