- Insider’s Jennifer Cunningham and her husband took their toddler skiing in Vermont in February.
- As skiing novices, they focused on practice hills and stayed safe by visiting on off-peak days.
- An instructor also taught their 2-year-old the basics of skiing before hitting the slopes.
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After almost a year of barely leaving our apartment, courtesy of COVID-19, I knew my family was long overdue for a vacation.
My husband is reluctant to take airplanes, and our 2-year-old is a bit mask-averse, so our options were limited. After analyzing trips within driving distance around the Northeast, where we live, we settled on skiing in Vermont.
With mountains, fresh air, plenty of snow, and a rural atmosphere, a Vermont ski holiday in February seemed like the antidote to the several stir-crazy months we’d spent at home.
At the same time, we had major concerns. We’d never skied before. Was it dangerous to ride in a ski lift with a rambunctious toddler? How would we keep the baby out of harm’s way on the slopes? And above all, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, would a ski trip be safe?
Doria Ware, a preschool teacher and ski instructor at the Suicide Six ski area in Pomfret, Vermont — which is where we visited — said that parents and caregivers can enjoy the slopes with a toddler all while keeping them safe.
“You have to have a sense of humor and fun,” Ware said. “You have to be prepared for mood swings and be ready to make changes. They might see a snowman and want to play, and the child may need a break.”
Despite our worries, we enjoyed a memorable time in the snow — and thankfully, without any injuries. Here’s how we skied safely with a small child.
Don’t skimp on the ski gear
You wouldn’t send your kid outside to ride their bike without a helmet, and the same rules apply at a ski area.
Aside from the helmet, parents should invest in a warm jacket, ski pants, mittens, and ski boots — and practice putting all of the gear on before the trip, Ware said.
Back away from ‘the face’ and the chairlift
My husband and I were not at all comfortable with the idea of bringing our 2-year-old onboard a moving chair lift. And the prospect of skiing down the ski area’s “face,” or primary ski slope, also seemed out-of-reach for our family of ski novices.
Instead, we spent our time skiing around Pearson’s Path, a smaller hill set aside for practice.
There, skiers rode to the top via a J-Bar, a metal hook in the shape of a “J” that gently towed us up the hill.
Like the one we visited, most ski areas have dedicated paths for beginners.
Sign up for ski school
We opted to hire a ski school teacher who had experience working with small children. As skiing novices ourselves, we wanted to leave it to a pro to teach our toddler the skiing basics.
In instructing our child, Ware, our instructor, also gave us peace of mind.
Research a ski area’s COVID protocols before your time in the snow
Make sure you and your child are complying not only with the state’s COVID-19 safety protocols, but also with the ski area’s rules and regulations.
Suicide Six, for example, had a face covering requirement, temperature checks, and social-distancing rules in place, and the traditional après ski meals, which are usually inside a ski lodge, were moved outside.
Try to ski mid-week, when there are fewer people
Although skiing and snowboarding are naturally socially distant sports, we visited on a weekday during an off-peak time. The crowds were thin on the mountain, and there wasn’t a wait to warm up with s’mores and hot cocoa for our après ski.
When skiing with a child, stay together on the slopes
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s especially important that parents and caregivers know where their child is at all times while skiing.
Not only will this give the adult peace of mind, but Ware also said the child may look to the parent for reassurance and support.
“They want to know you’re right there if they fall down or need their mittens put back on,” Ware said. “Any little thing, they want to know you’re close by.”
All in all, taking our toddler skiing was a great decision for us. We got to safely experience an invigorating new activity together in the outdoors — and our tyke was so pleased with our day on the mountain that she burst into tears when it was time to leave.
“Ski! Ski!” she said.