If you are lucky enough to live near a ski mountain, take advantage of that white goodness. Great fitness and the kids love it! Sure it can be challenging to get them there, keep them warm and enjoy your turns too; but by following my top 10 ski tips for beginners, you will have a great day at the snow and a life long activity to do with your kids.
I recently took my two boys (aged 9 and 4) to Mount Buller in the Victorian Alpine region, for a Father's Day to remember. Remember Australia is the opposite weather to the northern hemisphere so to all my friends in the USA, Canada and Europe going skiing in September might seem strange. For me it is Spring and a great chance to get sunshine and the last few runs in before summer takes hold and I exchange my ski boots for thongs and sand.
Australia is fortunate to have snow at all, as we are the driest country in the world, so when we get some snow, people celebrate and flock to the mountains. There are only a handful of mountains that you can ski and Mount Buller is the closest to the city of Melbourne being only 3 hours drive.
Now back to the Fathers Day trip with the boys and my top 10 tips for a happy day at the snow:
Top 10 Kids Ski Tips
- Ski Gear - I invested in skiing by buying all my gear so I don't have to hire anything. For kids every 2 years I buy a few new things to ensure they have gear that will keep them warm and comfortable. I don't spend much, I watch for sales and places like Aldi have half decent clothes for cheap. They only use it a few days a year so it doesn't have to be the highest quality - if the weather is that bad we don't go out!
- Transport - Getting to the mountain can be tricky in Australia. Winding roads, hours in the car, fitting chains. I recommend driving yourself as I hate busses. If you drive be aware of a few things.
- If you have a diesel car you should top up your fuel near the mountain with 'Alpine' fuel. Diesel fuel can freeze and Alpine fuel has anti-freeze in it.
- Ensure your radiator has anti-freeze in it. All modern cars already have this when your car get's serviced, otherwise just check with your mechanic.
- Hire or buy easy to fit chains for your tyres. There is nothing worse than when it is freezing cold, snowing and you have to stop and fit chains and they don't fit properly. I buy them with every new car and they pay for themselves after one season.
- Ticket Box - If you haven't been skiing before, you need to be aware that there is a charge to enter the alpine area. There is a ticket office half way up the mountain which you have to stop and pay to enter. There can be long delays here so take the kids to the bathroom before you head up the mountain! Buller is currently $40 for a day trip.
- Parking - You will be guided to park in a car park or side of the road.
- To remember where your car is, take a photo of the signs, write the car park name somewhere you will not loose it, plus count the number of cars between yours and a landmark. When it has snowed and you can't see your car at all, you will need to know exactly where it is.
- Ensure you have the hand brake fully on and in park for automatic cars and in gear for manual cars. You should bring a small shovel if you are planning on staying a few nights as you might need to dig it out.
- Don't leave full water bottles in the car as they can freeze and burst.
- Oversnow - To get from your car to the lifts you sometimes have to get a snow taxi (Buller $21.50 each) or an oversnow (Falls Creek), it really depends on the resort and how long you are staying. If you are up for the day you can usually walk to the lift.
- Tickets - Are expensive!! Skiing is an investment and you just have to accept that it is going to cost quite a lot. Australian resorts are all over $100 per day per person for the use of the lifts. Watch out for good deals as they have specials which can really help like free skiing on Fathers Day for dads and bring a beginner and they ski for free.
- Lessons - If you are really a beginner and don't have a good friend to show you the ropes, do get a lesson. I started skiing at 18 and thought I was tough enough to just learn. I struggled for many years before I went to Canada for a season and did my Level 1 ski instructors certificate. Now I love teaching beginners as I realise how important understanding the basics are. Kids lessons start from age 3 and go all day (so you can ski) or half day.
- Mountain overview - For first timers you need to know a few basics. A green run is where you will be skiing for awhile, they are the easiest runs. Blue runs are for intermediate skiers and black runs for advanced. Stick to runs you feel confident on as people get hurt when they feel out of control. To get up the runs you will be catching lifts. Mostly there are chair lifts that you sit on but there are a few T bars which you stand on the snow and it pull you up in pairs and pommas where you stand and have a disc between your legs to pull you up. If you have kids avoid T bars and pommas!
- Kids and cold - It is cold in the mountains so it is essential you all keep warm. Dress in layers so if you get hot you can take one off. Always wear a shell, even in warm conditions as snow is quite abrasive. Keep a spare pair of kids gloves as cold fingers ruin more days than anything. Take a break every 2 hours for a drink and ensure the kids have fun.
- Skiing with kids - After all that you finally can ski! Kids love to go fast so be careful they don't get themselves in trouble. I ski with my little one between my legs and he has his arms leaning on my stocks which I hold with both hands. That way he has a bar to grab onto and I can guide his skis with my own. That way he can go a bit fast, have fun, but safely.
Well there you have it, my top 10 tops to a great ski day with your kids. It's a big effort with travel, gear and cost, but so are most things in life that are memorable. I love doing outdoor activities with the kids and skiing is one of the best. Plus it's an investment in my future as I always know that when they are older and dad isn't as cool as he use to be, they will always want to spend time with dad skiing, especially when he is paying!!
Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there and keep an eye out for future posts about my ski tips for adults and other kids adventures.
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