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- Kids under 12 should always ski with an adult. This is a matter of safety, not ability. Even the most accomplished kids should not be skiing without an adult to help navigate the terrain, make decisions and provide supervision in the event of an emergency. In fact, most of the ski instructors I talk to will not let their kids loose on the mountain until they are at least 14 – and these are kids that literally grew up skiing on the mountain.
- Know your kid’s limits. Many accidents happen every year because parents push their kids beyond their abilities or, in my case, my kids push me beyond my abilities!) If everyone is skiing at different levels, plan for a few days of ski school. It is not funny or safe to have kids skiing out of control on slopes too steep for them – it is dangerous to both them and other skiers.
- Follow the rules. No skiing out of bounds, no speeding through the slow zones, and stay in control. Every lift ticket and trail map lays out the rules of the mountain – know the code and follow it. It was created for your safety and the safety of others. More and more ski resorts are actively patrolling the mountain and will ticket code violators or expel them from the mountain.
- Practice proper ski etiquette and teach it to your kids. Skiers and boarders down mountain have the right-of-way – it is your responsibility to avoid them. Likewise, don’t stop in an area that isn’t clearly visible to skiers/boarders coming down the mountain.
- Stay hydrated! It is easy to dehydrate at high altitude, especially while skiing. Drink plenty of fluids both on and off the mountain to avoid the dreaded altitude sickness.
Most importantly, have fun!
December 7, 2011
Comments off · Posted by Jennifer in Ski Vacations
It’s that time of year when people start flocking to the slopes. Ski school is expensive and parents often wonder if it is worth it. In most cases, I think a few days in ski school are good for both kids AND parents.
- Realistic Expectations. Every year I see hundreds of parents attempting to teach their kids to ski. 95 percent of the time, the day is not going well – the parents are frustrated, the kids are crying and both are miserable. Kids need encouragement, frequent breaks and hot cocoa to have a successful ski day. Parents focused on maximizing their time on the slopes (an understandable goal given the price of a lift ticket!) are often exasperated by the slow pace. Save the frustration by putting the kids in ski school for the first few days of the trip. Once they have their ski legs, you can enjoy a few days of family skiing at the end.
- Fun with Peers. Ski school groups kids by age and ability. The kids learn faster and have fun in a group of their peers.
- Safety. It isn’t funny or safe to have kids skiing out of control down advanced slopes. Ski instructors teach the basics, with safety of self and others being a major focus. Learning etiquette and mountain rules is important; as is learning which slopes are appropriate for a child’s level. Ready for family skiing? Talk to the instructor at the end of the day about what runs are best for family ski days.
- Adult Fun. It is often hard to find alone time on a vacation. Drop the kids off at ski school and head to breakfast or take a nap!
The reality is that familial relationships make it hard for parents to teach their kids some things plus, just because you can do something doesn’t automatically mean you can teach someone else. It is often worth the time and money to send your kids to ski school for a few days – everyone has a better vacation!
November 15, 2011
Emily did a second review of the Planet Explorers Walt Disney World guide book after we returned home.
Hi I’m Emily, (almost 10), and we (my family and I) just returned from a trip to Walt Disney World. These are the things I wish Laura Schaefer had mentioned in her wonderful E-book (Planet Explorers Walt Disney World, a guidebook for kids):
- The E-book was helpful but I wish she told you when the four most popular parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood studios, and Epcot) opened and closed.
- I also wish the author told about the special hours (on certain magical nights) for guests staying on Walt Disney World property.
- I think most people would appreciate knowing there are cards (which are very helpful) you can pick up (found with the park maps) which have the magic hours (regular park hours), times and what kind of shows and parades, where you can meet characters and at what time. An important thing to remember is there is a separate card for all the parks.
- I think she should have mentioned the Disney Meal Plan, or the Disney snack plan. It can save you money and is worth considering.
Now you know my opinion on what I think the author should of changed. Overall, she did a wonderful job, and I still recommend that you read this book!
I also found the book a fun way to let kids help with the overall trip planning. She included just the right amount of information to be useful but not overwhelming.
The book costs $3 and you can find the ebook here: http://www.planet-explorers.net/.
Legal note: We purchased a copy of the guide for review and received no compensation monetary or otherwise for our reviews.
September 6, 2011
The mountain leaves are showing the slightest bit of yellow, the ski resorts are testing the lifts, and fall is definitely in the air, which means it is time to start thinking about that winter ski vacation. A little planning now can save you money on lift tickets, ski gear, and lodging.
1. Lodging: Although this summer was better than last, condo owners are always eager to get their rentals places booked for the season – plus the deposits help with cash flow. It is worth the effort to start looking around now for deals, especially at the bigger resorts.
2. Gear: The stores are clearing out gear and there are great deals to be had on dated merchandise (i.e., still brand new but left over from last year). Even if the nearest ski shop is miles away, many offer free or reduced shipping and with 40-75% off everything from socks to name-brand ski jackets, it is the time to buy. Even the hottest new merchandise is generally on sale through the middle of September so stock up now. We seem to find the best fall deals on socks (50% off or more), helmets, and goggles. Renting gear? You still need goggles, even for kids, as those usually aren’t included. There are limited sizes available in the highly discounted kids ski jackets/pants – it is better to look for those in spring.
3. Lift Tickets: It pays to do some research to score discounted lift tickets and it has to be done NOW, before the prices go up. If you are planning on skiing 4 or more days at the same resort or family of resorts, it might make sense to get a pass. Many areas have great deals on local passes, which can include free lessons (even for kids), discounted lift tickets for friends, and food/lodging discounts (pass holders can get up to 30% off on-mountain dining at some resorts – not a bad deal when a hamburger can cost a small fortune!). A note of caution – check and recheck the blackout dates. Prices go up sometime between mid-September and mid-October and some programs are pulled from the market in the fall so start researching the options now.
February 18, 2011
Comments off · Posted by Jennifer in Ski Vacations
I am a creature of habit. I love to travel because it forces me out of my comfort zone. However, I find the thought of a family ski vacation overwhelming. I can manage the packing and lodging but it is the details that I need. Where, exactly, do I drop off for ski school? Is there parking? Is it close? Are there stairs? Do we need lunch? The resort guides paint a rosy picture of the day but almost never provide the specifics that a parent needs to successfully get kids into ski school. We ski almost every weekend at Breckenridge so, for those of you braving a family ski trip, here is a guide to getting kids to ski school.
Breckenridge offers ski school at three locations: The Village at Peak 9, Beaver Run at Peak 9, and the Kids’ Castle at Peak 8. We always go to Beaver Run because it is the most convenient. Convenient means different things for different people so here is what we are looking for:
- Close parking (yes we are driving to the slopes – it is impossible to get 4 kids in ski boots on and off a bus).
- Close parking.
- Did I mention close parking?
The Village at Peak 9: If you are staying in the Village or Hyatt on Main Street properties, I would choose this location. If you are driving, it is not so great. The parking is across a main road through Breckenridge and quite a hike for little kids in ski boots and parents lugging gear.
Kids Castle at Peak 8: If you are staying at the new properties at the base of Peak 8, by all means choose this facility. If not, there are many reasons to go somewhere else. First, there is no parking at Peak 8. You need to park and ride the gondola up. Now I highly recommend taking the kids on the gondola during your trip but not with ski gear. Another drawback – the local kids ski program (Breckenridge Bombers) meet and ride the gondola up every weekend. There are 400 or so kids in the program – that is a lot of kids on Peak 8. While they do scatter throughout the peaks during the day, the little ones tend to stick around.
Beaver Run at Peak 9: This is the only location with close parking. The lot is located right by the ski school and if you aren’t parking for the day, you can drop off at the door for free. The only downside to this location is that older kids (7 – 14) have to walk up a flight of stairs to get to their waiting room. As a bonus, if your kids are beginners, it is easy to peak over the fence and watch them learning on the magic carpet (or you can watch from the QuickSilver lift). My kids also say the food at this location is the best (why it’s not all the same, I’m not sure).
Drop Off – The First Day:
All skiers hit the slopes by 9 but kids need to be in ski school by 8:45 so the instructors have time to get the classes together by age/ability. On the first day of ski school it pays to be there by around 8:15 – especially on busy weekends. This gives you enough time to fill out the paperwork (a waiver, a form about your child, and a yellow identification tag for their jacket). For kids under 7, you will enter the building from the parking lot (look for the signs by a reddish fence). Stop and complete the paperwork and then an employee will help check you in and print the lift/lesson tickets. An instructor will take the kids to the staging area – parents are not allowed in the back.
For ages 7 and up, you need to climb two flights of stairs to the ski school check-in (yes, with all their gear). Once upstairs, look for the ski school sign. There is generally a greeter at the door to help you through the process of paperwork and check-in.
- If you don’t own your gear, rent it at the ski school. It is a little more expensive but you don’t have to lug it anywhere and it is easier to change out sizes, if necessary.
- Own or already rented gear? Send the kids completely geared up – ski boots on, helmet on, gloves on, etc. That way you know that you aren’t forgetting anything.
- Only one pair of socks – it really is enough!
- For little kids, use gator clips to keep mittens/gloves attached to jackets.
- First timers do not need poles (especially under 7).
- If you are in town the day before, you can complete all the paperwork before 4:30. This is a big time saver in the morning and makes check-in much easier (see day 2).
- Do NOT cut off the yellow id tag – it is needed for every day of lessons.
- Every child is assigned a cubby for their things. If you find you are missing something, ask to check their cubby.
- Put the ski school number in your phone.
- Tuck a business card with your cell numbers on it in your child’s pocket.
Drop Off – The Second Day:
On your first day of ski school, they should have printed out the lift/lesson tickets for every day. For little kids, you can simply hand that to the ski school employee standing at the gate (to the left of the door) and your kids can enter through the gate. Since they know you are coming back, you can arrive a bit later (between 8:30 and 8:45).
For ages 7 and up, you can meet on the snow in the yard (this will make sense once you read about pick up locations) at 9. You need to pre-arrange this with the instructor! And make sure you have given them their lesson/lift ticket – they must have this to attend ski school.
Pick up is at 3:30 – no earlier. For the little ones, an employee will open the gate to the left of the door at exactly 3:30. You can enter the yard and find your child with their instructor. Your instructor will give you a report card outlining what they did during the course of the day. You MUST show photo id to pick up your child.
Older kids are also picked up on the snow in the area behind the little kids ski area. You can enter through the gate and walk straight up the little hill, past the magic carpet and you will see the signs designating the meeting areas for different skill levels. It is pretty to easy to spot your kids as they come into the yard. If you pre-arrange with the instructor, this is the same place you can drop off on subsequent days.
- The ski school provides lunch and plenty of breaks for hot chocolate and snacks.
- Breckenridge tends to be windy – neck gators are a must.
- If your child had a good day, be sure to request the same instructor for subsequent days. They appreciate the repeat business (and get paid a bit more for repeat students). Tipping is appreciated (we generally give around $10).
- It is common to see your kids out and about on the mountain. Some kids have issues separating from mom and dad so watch from a distance but do not engage. If your kids don’t have these issues, it is ok to say hi but don’t stay with the class for long.
- Kids are tired and hungry at the end of the day. Bring a snack for the car – even if you are heading straight to dinner.
Ski School Expectations and a Note About the 3 Year Old Program
Ski school is expensive and it is easy to have grand expectations that your child will be the next Lindsay Vonn or Bode Miller but remember the ultimate goal is for the kids to have fun and build a lifelong love for skiing! The instructors want to have kids on the lift and skiing challenging runs as soon as the kids are ready (after all, it’s more fun for them too!) but trust the instructors to know when kids are ready.
Be honest about your child’s ability. The instructors take all little kids on the magic carpet for a few practice runs before hitting the lift just to make sure the kids know the fundamentals (mainly stopping) and will listen to instructions. They will then take a few green runs to assess ability for harder runs. If you exaggerate their ability, you put everyone at risk.
The three year old program is run differently. The three year olds are given about 2 hours of private instruction during the day. This starts on the magic carpet but, once they are ready, they will go on the chair lift with an instructor in groups of no more then two. Beware that they do let them nap in the program – if you don’t have a napper, let them know. I am not a fan of the three year old program but, in reality it works well because of the flexibility. If your kid masters the basics quickly and listens well, she will be graduated to the four year old program where they ski in a larger group and spend a good deal of time on the mountain. When the younger child starts to get tired, they can stop by the yard for a break in the three year old room and then join back up again later. It is a good balance for the younger kids.
Why ski school?
Everyday I see parents trying to teach their kids how to ski and, 9 times out of 10, both parties look miserable. It is worth the investment to send your child to ski school for a few days so they learn the basics and can have fun skiing with you. The reality is that people die in skiing accidents – learning to ski safely in control is essential for skiers of all ages!