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Skiing with the Kids

In theory, a ski trip seems the perfect family vacation--it's adventurous, outdoors, and one of the few sports that people of varying skill levels can do together. But, as many skiing parents will tell you, family skiing can also be frustrating, exhausting, and expensive. Pippin Ross traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado recently to collect some tips on how to make the family ski trip both fun and affordable.

Skiing with the Kids
By Pippin Ross

Listen with RealAudio: Skiing with the Kids

It's the morning of a ski day and we're going through our standard rituals: packing food into our childrens bodies, making lunches to avoid exorbitant ski lodge prices and, my husband's job:

Ross: I'm pile driving, which is taking clothes out of the ski bag and dividing them up into the piles according to whom they belong to. This pile belongs to you; this pile belongs to Nicky, this pile belongs to Becky. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don't.

Although I've skied my whole life, it was just six years ago -- when our youngest son turned three -- that we took up the challenge to become a skiing family.

The first important lesson you learn as a skiing parent is you're not alone. Everywhere I look at the base of Breckenridge's Peak, I see struggling parents with whining children in tow. Waiting to board the lift with her frowining daughter Ariana, Maro Kasparian admits the rewards of becoming a skiing family are not instantaneous.

Kasparian: I don't know what's normal -- sobbing and crying. You know, shoving their feet in their boots in the morning, them screaming, "I don't want to do this!" I mean you just gotta look back and go...I'm not sure if this is worth it! And then, you get out on the mountain and she's shouting, "Yayyyyy!" But it's that two hours before.

Skiing with the Kids

I now enjoy skiing with my children -- it's a lot of fun, especially when they serenade me on the chairlift. We've figured out all sorts of ways to afford it, like packing lunches and combing ski swaps for clothes and equipment -- in the beginning it's not uncommon to ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Vail resorts spokesman Jim Felton, himself a skiing father, says baby boomers (skiing's largest population ever) are bringing along the next generation of skiers because they know there's a payoff.

Felton: This demographic group, upwards of 80 million people, are having their own families. I think a lot of them view skiing as both a way to get back to their own youth, number one, and number two: keep in mind that skiing is a rare activity in that it's one of only a few that an entire family can enjoy, often times in the same ability level.

The secret? Bring in the professionals. Breckenridge resident Jere Lynch says he now skis all over the mountain with his 9- and 13-year-old sons because someone else taught them how to ski.

Lynch: Cause there's good peer pressure in ski school. Whinning -- lot harder to do when your friends are looking at you. Easy to whine to your parents but not as easy to whine when your friends are looking at you.

Pippin: What do you think about that?

Taylor: I think that's pretty much true.

Pippin: Now you're admitting it after all these years?

Taylor: Yeah.

Ross: Oh great....

It's also a good idea to take your child out of ski school with some frequency so they remember the ultimate goal is to cruise the mountain as a family. Something Adrian Smith learned from her son Zack.

Adrian: Tell her what's your favorite part of skiing.

Zack (laughing): You!

Pippin: Your mom is your favorite part of skiing?

Zack: Yeah!

Ski lessons may be the most efficient way to become a skiing family -- but they're not cheap....

Add to that the cost of equipment, hats, gloves, goggles, lodging, meals and airfare to mountain retreats like Breckenridge and skiing quickly becomes one of the priciest, most equipment-intensive sports there is. But, devoted skiing families such as mine have figured out all sorts of ways to reduce costs, such as freeloading off of relatives, dressing like bums and snubbing the allure of the latest equipment crazes. Ski Magazine associate editor Joe Cutts says shopping around for package deals, and season passes -- such as the Colorado card, which offers fifty percent discounts on lift tickets at most of the state's ski areas -- is the most effective way to pare down costs.

Cutts: My advice there is to explore the second-and even third-tier resorts. Everyone wants to go to Aspen and Vail and Stowe but there are some great little ski areas that few people know about outside of their regions. They're really fun places to explore -- they've got soul and, not to mention, far lower ticket prices.

Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, Vermont's Mad River Glenn, or Alta in Utah were among readers' favorites in a recent ski magazine poll of best values. Cutts also advises renting equipment for the season -- it's much cheaper than buying skis and boots your kids will simply outgrow.

One of the ways my husband and I survived the start-up days of skiing with our son Nick and his Colorado cousins, Taylor and Olivia, was to think of skiing as a metaphor for parenting: After years of fixing crashes, wiping noses, drying tears, giving encouragement and spending money -- the kids ditch you.

Nick: Pure daredevilism

Pippin: That's what it takes?

Nick: Yup, if you want to be an extreme skier like Nicky, T, and Olivia, that's what it takes...Let's rock!

Pippin: I'll see you guys later....

From Breckenridge, Colorado - I'm Pippin Ross for The Savvy Traveler.

Pippin Ross is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and a widely published travel writer hoping her kids don't out ski her any time soon.

For More Information:


Waterville Valley, NH:

Mad River Glen, VT:

Alta, UT:

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