Spending time at the snow is hands down my most favorite thing to do. Skiing and snowboarding has been a life long hobby so naturally I couldn't wait to take my son to the snow. He was 17 months old the first winter we took him up the mountain. I bought the cutest little snow suit, boots, beanie and mittens and eagerly set off for a weekend of snow play. It was loads of fun but it wasn't without its challenges. So I thought I would share some insights for first time snow trippers and their toddlers. This article is in no way designed to discourage you. The plan is to arm you with as much information as I have to prepare you and your toddler for your first snow adventure.
Snow activities for toddlers are limited - There really aren't a lot of activities for your toddler to do at the snow. Everyone is different of course but usually toddlers are simply too little and their attention span is too short to do the usual activities like toboggan, build a snow man, have a snow ball fight, ski, snowboard, hike or appreciate the view for an extended period of time. Riding the chair lift freaks most parents out the minute their child begins to wriggle simply because getting a good grip on them whilst wearing snow gloves is difficult. Just playing in the snow can get boring for them quickly so work out exactly what activities the snow resort offers and how long you are going to stay out in the snow before you go. Consider going with friends who also have children so they can play together.
Stay on the mountain - if you can. Staying on the mountain has the advantage of being able to bring your toddler indoors when they get wet, tired or the weather gets bad. It also offers better bottle or food warming options and allows you to have a warm place to rest yourself.
Don't pack a pram - the steep hills and snow will make it impossible to use. Be prepared to carry your toddler for most of the day as they will easily tire in the snow. You may wish to opt for a carry harness or, if they can sit by themselves you can tow them around behind you in a toboggan (which is what I did). Be sure to check behind you once in a while to make sure you haven't lost your bundle of joy off the back.
Plan your travel stops - Work out what towns or roadside rest areas you will stop at for feeds, toilet stops or nappy changes on the way. Stopping by the roadside can be dangerous due to cars and trucks passing at speed.
Prepare your onboard entertainment - arm yourself with plenty of toddler drinks and snacks, books, little toys, music, DVD's (if you have a portable DVD player). Place these in easy reach of your seat (passenger only), not in your boot. Be sure to charge all electrical devices.
Take a travel partner - so you can concentrate on driving while they concentrate on the toddler. Taking your eyes off the road when travelling at speed or on winding mountain roads to check on your toddler could cause a serious accident.
Give yourself plenty of travel time - so you aren't rushing and can make stops as necessary.
Take scented nappy disposal bags - to mask the smell in case of an emergency nappy change in a place where you can't appropriately discard the soiled nappy and it has to travel with you for a while.
Have warm clothing on hand to put on upon arrival - it will be cold when you arrive at the mountain so have your gear and your child's gear easily accessible to put on. Digging through your car boot or bags to find items will only frustrate you. See our article on what to wear at https://www.backtotheslopes.com.au/post/for-the-snow-first-timer-what-do-i-wear
Tread carefully - Ice and snow is slippery so be extremely careful when walking holding your toddler or when they are walking by themselves. This applies to hard surfaces like roads, carparks, footpaths and stairs as you wont always notice the ice on these surfaces.
Forget nap time - There really aren't a lot of places for your toddler to nap at the snow unless you are actually staying on the mountain which gives you the option of going inside. Restaurants and cafe's are usually extremely packed especially on bad weather days. The floor is often wet from people trekking snow in. Finding a place to sit, let alone nap could be a challenge. The car is often parked some distance from the village and will be cold, so sitting with your toddler in the car while they nap isn't a great option either. Prepare for a long day and hope of a quiet car ride home while toddler is sleeping.
Take food for fussy eaters - food options are often limited on the mountain. Check whats available before you go. Pack some food for your fussy eater if you need to. Also consider that their may not be facilities to warm bottles or heat food. Check before you go.
Pack light - Depending on the resort, you will often need some sort of over-snow transport to get you from the carpark to the main village, tourist area or accommodation venues. Carrying a toddler and heavy bags whilst wearing snow gear will make this trip more difficult than it needs to be. Only take what you absolutely need. If you are going on a day trip find out whether there are locker facilities to leave your items or simply leave them in the car and be prepared to make the trip back to get them if you need. Also be prepared for long lines for over-snow transport at the beginning and end of the day when crowds are most likely to be arriving and heading home.
Be prepared for cold hands - I am yet to meet a parent whose hasn't struggled with keeping mittens on their toddler (buy mittens as it is near impossible to get 8 fingers and 2 thumbs in exactly the right hole in a pair of gloves). Most toddlers don't like to wear them for long and inevitably pull them off. It can be an all day struggle to keep them on and keep them dry as they are constantly discarded in the snow. Look for mittens you can tighten around the wrist, challenge your toddler by putting jacket sleeves over the mittens and tightening sleeve tabs. Monitor hand temperature and head indoors if they are getting too cold. Low quality mittens may also get wet quickly if your child has their hands in the snow quite a bit. Take a second pair if you can, to change into. See our blog on what to wear for more info.
Protect exposed skin from sun and wind burn - soft toddler skin, particularly on the face, can burn when exposed to the elements so don't forget sunscreen (even on overcast days). Cold snow can also sting when it is falling heavily in icey pieces on the skin, so a face mask, scarf, or neck warmer and a jacket or suit with chin protection and a hood are essential.
Check out childcare options on the mountain - I have never used this option so I can't comment a lot on this, but I do know that some resorts offer childcare. If you are staying on the mountain and want a little bit of personal time to ski or snowboard yourself you might want to look into childcare options. You may need to pre-book so make this part of your early planning if this is something that interests you.
One piece suit or two? - There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of suits. In short, one piece suits offer warmth and a guarantee that your toddler will not get snow up their back or down their pants however nappy changing or toilet stops will mean taking most of the suit off. A two piece suit will provide more convenience for nappy changes. They are also warm and waterproof (if you buy the right gear) but you might not want to risk snow getting in under the jacket as your toddler rolls, slides and crawls in the snow. Both options are good - it's really just a matter of personal preference. Do what works for you and your child. We have both options available at www.backtotheslopes.com.au
Snow boots are essential even for toddlers. Snow is wet and normal sneakers, shoes or boots will soak through quickly. If you are planning to let your toddler walk in the snow then they will need appropriate boots. Gumboots are waterproof but offer very little warmth. They also have a large opening at the top that can easily let snow into the boot, soaking socks. Keep this in mind when making your footwear decision.
All that said, I can honestly say that spending time with my son at the snow and watching him grow from sliding on his bottom and eating snow to now snowboarding black runs as a teen and flying off jumps, it was all definitely worth it. I cherish our snow time as a family and all of the memories we have made along the way.
Obviously every child, parent and circumstance is different. Some of this may apply to you and some may not so please use whatever information you feel is useful for you, talk to other parents or even email us if you have any question. I hope you and your child have a wonderful time at the snow.