When our daughter was three and half, we took her to Park City, UT with friends whose children were the same age. We signed them up for ski school and high fived ourselves for nailing this parenting thing. That is until we got the call. An hour into our first day on the slopes our child had been crying uncontrollably since we dropped her off. She hated being away from us and refused to return to ski school for the remainder of the week. We made the best of it, but the disappointment lingered well into the next winter. We spent a great deal of time and money on flights, lodging, meals, lift tickets, ski school and rentals to not actually ski. We knew she needed to experience the joy of being on the slopes while still being with us. Our dream of family ski trips to Colorado or California would have to wait until she was chair lift ready.
Last winter, we began doing day trips to Appalachian Ski Mountain and enrolled her in private lessons. As much as I love my child, I lack the patience to both parent and teach her the skills she needs to love the sport. This I leave to the instructors (especially since my husband and I snowboard). My role is to facilitate this endeavor in the most efficient way possible. Most of the credit goes to my fellow travel savvy friend Anne Carroll who mastered these day trips with 3 kids and shared it with me.
If you’ve spent any time at a ski resort with children, you know how difficult it can be to wrangle kids, ski equipment, bathroom breaks and meals. Not to mention having to park far away and take a shuttle to and from the lodge in icy conditions. This quick and dirty guide is ideal because there are:
- No overnight accommodations required
- No parking shuttles to and from the lodge
- No standing in long lines for rental equipment
- No pressure to get a ski lesson spot, reservations can be made in advance
- No need for meal breaks in the lodge
- No need for you to ski if you choose not to
There are many great places to learn to ski in North Carolina. I’ve specifically chosen Appalachian Ski Mountain because it’s a short 2 hour drive and no matter where you park, it’s a short walk to the lodge. We don’t have to wrestle with parking shuttles. They also offer a discounted 8 hour flexible ticket. Which means your lift ticket is good for eight hours from the time you purchase it and unlike other ski places, they don’t close the slopes to groom the trails between 4:30-6pm. Appalachian Ski Mountain also offers a free ticket for children under the age of 5 with the purchase of an adult ticket. This is the last year we’ll be able to take advantage of this. Finally, the most important reason I choose App Ski Mountain for lessons is because The French Swiss Ski College allows you to book your lessons in advance. At other ski places, you have to show up in person in order to book it and spots are not guaranteed.
Getting Your Child Chair Lift Ready in 10 Easy Steps
- Rent skis at Alpine Ski Center in Charlotte. A one day rental allows you to pick them up the day before (after 2pm) and return them the day after (before 2pm). Alpine does not rent helmets. My recommendation is to purchase an adjustable ski helmet for your child. You can pick one up for about $50. Or, if you’re truly new and not sure you want to invest in a helmet yet, you can rent one at Appalachian Ski Mountain for $6. The idea though is to avoid having to rent any equipment at the ski resort. The lines are often long and you’ll spend more time getting ready to ski than actually skiing.
- Call to make your reservations at the French Swiss Ski College in advance. Select times and phone number are available on the website. The 12:30 or 2pm time slots are ideal for day trips. I also recommend that you purchase a two hour private lesson. With an hour lesson, it seems like it ends just as your child is getting the hang of it. If you’re going to spend the time and energy getting there, give them the time to be successful at it. It will add more to the joy of learning. Note: if your child is younger than 4 or 5, I’d stick to an hour lesson.
- Pack lunches for the drive up to the mountain. There are few places to stop and eat along the way and it’s a great way to avoid fast food. Get their bellies nice and full on the drive up.
- Dress your child in long underwear or fleece pants for the drive up. Once you arrive, put on ski bib, jacket, helmet, gloves and snow boots while at the car. Carry the child’s skis and skis boots to the lodge. Walking in ski boots is cumbersome for adults, don’t expect this of your child.
- Purchase a lift ticket, use the restroom and check into the ski school.
- Once your child is in their lesson, you have the option to ski yourself or just hang out and watch them from the deck.
- When the lesson is over, if you have a lift ticket, you could continue to ski with your child on the conveyor belt (sometimes called magic carpet). I’ve typically ditched my skis to do this on foot with my child.
- Head back to the car about 4:30pm and change your child into warm socks and pajamas and have a light snack in the car.
- Drive 10 minutes into Blowing Rock for a casual sit down dinner at Town Tavern or Mellow Mushroom.
- Finish dinner by 6pm and head home to put your child in bed by 8pm.
UNDER 5 YRS CHILD/ADULT SKI $173
Adult Lift Ticket $64
Adult Ski Rental $24
Adult Helmet Rental $6
Child Lift Ticket $0
Child Ski Rental $18
Child Helmet Rental $6
1 Hour Ski Lesson $55
OVER 5 YRS CHILD SKI $125
Lift ticket $45
Ski Rental $18
Helmet Rental $6
1 Hour Ski Lesson $55
*Ski lessons are $55 per hour per person, but you can add a sibling to that private lesson for $20.
Although I’ve spent most of my young adult life snowboarding out West, I’m still a beginner when it comes to parenting and teaching kids to ski. What are some tips and tricks you’ve learned? Where are some of your favorite places to ski? Do you know of any great ski in and ski out places nearby? Please share with me in the comments below.