“Children of winter never grow old” Warren Miller
From all the passionate skiers I have met, whether they’re 2 or 82, I do not know any who acts old…
Personally, sometimes I do wish I had embraced this passion earlier.
If I started skiing at the ripe age of 4 and snowboarding at 10, it isn’t until I turned 18 that it really started being more than this casual hobby you do a few weekends here and there.
It could have been worse…my husband didn’t start skiing until he was 20!
Ski adventures are really something that brought us together as a couple, and therefore, there was no question that we would want our child to learn to ski…
To love to ski will be up to her obviously.
Learning the skills and confidence required to be a proficient skier is much easier at an early age, no matter how athletic one is.
We also feel like there are a few things we can do as parents to at least spark a tiny light of passion into our child.
We believe that passion for skiing in comes with 3 crucial things. On the parents’ side: a laid-back attitude and a good sense of humour and from the kid’s side: good gear.
In a previous post, I have listed the items we take on climbing trip to BC in the (wet) spring time. Now it’s time to share what I have learned about gearing a child up to enjoy BC’s Interior cold snowy winters.
Nothing is whinier than a cold kid!
Here, the same principle applies as for adults who know a thing or two about dressing up for the backcountry: love your layers!
It starts with good thermal underwear #goodoldlongjohns that will wick away moisture and keep the skin dry. Polypropylene, merino wool, polyester…many outdoor companies now make excellent first layers for infant & toddler as small as size 0-3 months! We usually like to stock up at MEC (REI in the US or Decathlon whenever we go to Europe) as their home brand is pretty good and inexpensive. Long sleeves thermal underwear, tops and bottoms, are a must every season in the great outdoors!
Avoid cotton like plague as it will keep the moisture in and make your little guys cold…and whiny. Even if they typically don’t have a stinky sweat, children sweat too, even in cold weather.
Over the thermal underwear comes the insulation layer in the form of a fleece or wool sweater (here again, no COTTON). The thickness can vary depending on the temperature and multiple insulation layers can also be added depending on your child’s tolerance to cold temperature.
A good pair of ski socks to keep the little feet & toes warm to complete the outfit and voilà!
I personally love the brand Kombi for their ski socks and mitts. This Canadian company sometimes sells socks and mittens in combo-packs, which is great when a pair is wet and makes it a great value for your money. The ski socks are thick and super stretchy which will often allow you to get two or more seasons out of them. The “animal” mittens are super cute and greatly contribute to the fun of getting dressed up.
The outer layer, the protection layer, has to be warm and waterproof, well-fitted and allow a great ease of movement. My preference for ski suit goes to the fabulous “one piece” that, although not practical for toilet-trained children is warmer and more snow proof than the two-piece bib & jacket.
This year I have invested in the Kids Legacy Ins Suit by Helly Hansen and I rate it 5 stars. Well designed with a fully waterproof shell and fully seam sealed, it is light and thin yet really warm as insulated with PrimaLoft. It also features some great details such as an adjustable elastic waist, arm and leg cuffs for a perfect fit over the boots and mittens, snow gaiters with a removable rubber band that prevents pants from riding up, removable hood, and zippered pockets. While a little more pricey than the average kids ski suit (great to strike on an end-of-season clearance), I am really impressed by the design and functionality as well as the style.
2018 update: Our daughter wore her one piece Helly Hansen through two winter seasons which confirms that the investment was worthwhile. This year, she is 5 and we have purchased a two-piece snowsuit made out of the K Legend Ins Jacket and the K Vertical Ins Bib and I am really happy with the quality. The only detail that I think could be improved is the addition of cuffs to keep the snow out of the sleeves. I sure hope that we get two winters out of this set!
The infamous MEC “Toaster” suit that we had when my daughter was littler is also very popular at our local ski hill and also offers great warmth and style at an affordable price point.
Finally, to top it all up, a nice fleece balaclava keeps the head, neck and face warm and the helmet well fitted.
From my husband’s experience in working as a ski patrol, and from my own experience spending so much time outside in the winter and absolutely despising the cold, the quality of clothing does make a huge difference and is essential in having a positive relationship to winter.
#2. Safety and protection
Because we all can deal with a broken limb but no parent wants to deal with a head-injured child, a well-fitted proper ski helmet is mandatory.
Unlike feet, a child’s head grows at a very slow pace and therefore it is not recommended to pick a helmet that is too big, hoping the child will grow into it.
The helmet also has to be snow sports certified and hold at least one of the following international standards ASTM F2040, CEN 1077 or Snell RS-98. A ski helmet should also be regularly inspected and discarded at any show of apparent damage or after a significant impact. More information on helmet safety standards and how to choose a helmet properly can be found here: www.skicanada.org
Goggles are also very important as they protect the eyes against the wind, the cold, the snow, potential poky entrants and the UV rays, which are accentuated on the snow.
Because I always look for great performance and style (#skiprincess) but I am also very mindful of value (#Iamcheap), I like that Smith Optics propose a helmet/goggle combo for kids in many fun colors.
Without any major accident and if properly cared for, helmet and goggles could last for 2 to 3 seasons at least.
Another piece that can fit in this category is the ski harness.
Currently in the middle of her second season, my daughter still skis in her harness as she isn’t 100% able to stop on her own nor turn quickly to avoid obstacles. Because we all find more exciting to ride the big chairlift as a family rather than doing laps on our double black diamond bunny hill, we are big fans of the harness.
A mom once offered the advice to wear it around the hips and waist rather than on the shoulders and we do feel that it works best as it isn’t pulling the child backward and allows for a more neutral leg position and straighter torso. It also makes it easier for us to help stir the hips and correct the trajectory.
# 3. Skis & boots
If I wouldn’t advise on saving dollars and cents on cheap clothing, I am a little more flexible when it comes to gear for small children. One thing I would recommend however is to pick boots that are recent enough to provide cushy padding for comfort and warmth. I recall the boots weren’t all that cushy back in the ’80’s. I think it’s okay to pick next or second next size up as the boots are nicely tied around the ankle with the single buckle #pragmaticmom.
The second thing would be to pick the appropriate length of ski for your child’s weight and leg strength. I regret picking 77cm-long skis last winter as even this year, they feel a little too long and hard to put on the edges for our lean 26 lbs 3 1/2-year-old. With the assistance of the Edgie-Wedgie, a little piece of rubber that tie both ski tips together and another controversial accessory amongst parents and ski instructors #lifeordeathmatter, she is able to perform a nice-enough snow plow #pizza.
Gear exchange stores, ski swaps, hand-me-downs, and online clearance are all excellent ways to put your hands on new or used ski gear as toddlers rarely shred damage their skis. Your local ski shops may even have a trade-in or seasonal rental program. In Kimberley, Kootenay Mountain Works offer an excellent trade-in deal and the KAR rental shop offers a seasonal rental program with an end-of-season purchasing option. Check them out!
#4. The little extras…
A large sled can be useful to haul child and gear from the parking lot (or from home in our case) to the bottom of the slopes or to haul a toddler in melt-down mode back to the car at the end of the day #wetnoodle.
Packing lots of healthy snacks and even a nice home-made healthy lunch can also prove a great way to make the skiing more fun. As well, bringing a whole whack of small change to be spent on ski hill french fries, hot dogs and sugary hot chocolate is considered good planning, as those items will always be more appealing to a kid (and a father) than the healthy lunch you spent precious energy to make.
To make the skiing experience enjoyable for the whole family, I recommend bracing yourself with a relaxed attitude as a ski day with a toddler is sometimes made out of a single run and lots of warm-up breaks.
To conclude on a quote full of wisdom:
” The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway ” Queen Elsa