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Skiing is hands down our favorite thing to do in the winter as a family, but ever since we started skiing with our kids (16 years ago), we’ve had some pretty solid rules. These are the rules that help us not only stay safe but to have more fun because we know that we can depend on the kids to obey AND to manage our large family. Basically, our ski rules make our ski days easier! Now that we’re out of the toddler phase, our family ski rules make it so that it’s no big deal for just one parent to ski with all 5 of our kids on their own, or to let our kids head out on the mountain with friends.
About Our Ski Family
We were destined to be a ski family from the beginning. My husband and I actually met on a chairlift while we were both out skiing solo. We had both worked as ski instructors, went to the same college and were obsessed with skiing, so there was a lot of natural connection right off the bat. We’ve got 5 kids and most of them started skiing right around 18 months since we just couldn’t stand hanging out in the lodge with them any longer. While we started with our family ski rules from the time our kids were really young, these are very similar to the rules that the ski schools that Andrew and I taught at, so they really can be implemented with all ages.
Fast forward to the present and we’re having a blast skiing all over the mountain with our kids. They’re ages 16, 14, 11, 9, and 6. When they were younger, we could ski similar terrain with everyone and keep a pretty good eye on them the whole time. Now, that’s SO HARD to keep a visual on them because they’re so fast, like skiing different terrain, and have lots of ski friends as well.
The foundations that we set up from the beginning with our ski rules have given us so much confidence when skiing with our kids since we know exactly what to expect from them and they know very clearly what our rules are. It’s no big deal for mom to pull the kids out of school for an afternoon and have all 5 kids solo because we know they’ll do what they’ve been taught. We can let the teens go up to the mountain with a bunch of friends for a powder day, or when our elementary-age kids run into friends, we have no problem letting them take off for an hour or two because we know we can completely trust them to follow our rules whether we’re with them or not. In fact, we’ve had several of their friend’s parents comment to us about how courteous our kids are on the mountain, which goes a long way. Our skiing rules make all of that possible.
Ski Rule #1 – We ALWAYS Wait For EVERYONE – NON NEGOTIABLE!!!
We have one nonnegotiable rule in our family and everyone knows it. We stop and wait for each other multiple times on each run. On runs that we ski a lot we have designated stopping points, but if we’re skiing somewhere new, we’ll simply just point to a spot farther down the mountain and tell everyone to stop there. We also have a rule that any time the trail splits, we stop and wait for everyone.
We’ll let the kids ski fast or slow to get to the waiting point, and they can ski the bumps, trees, and hit jumps – basically they can ski however they want, as long as they wait up for everyone.
There are a few reasons that we have this rule:
When we wait for each other we can make sure that no one has had a problem, and if they do, we identify it quickly. We’ve had times where kids have crashed while skiing in the trees and we had no idea until we stopped to wait. Waiting for each other gave us a chance to hike up the hill and help them out, something that would have been impossible if we had just met at the bottom of the lift.
With a family of 7, we’ve got a wide range of speed and abilities. Our younger kids are almost always at the back of the group speedwise, but having everyone waiting up for them and telling them how great they’re doing has worked wonders for our younger kids ski confidence. Instead of feeling like they’re always left behind, they feel like they’re doing awesome because the whole group is cheering everyone on.
- Not Getting Lost
Since we wait at all trail junctions, we never have to worry about people getting lost. This is especially important when we’re skiing at a new ski resort where the kids are not very familiar with the layout.
What’s the consequence for breaking our waiting rule (aka, our most important ski rule)? You lose skiing privileges and have to sit in the lodge while everyone else is skiing (we have an adult sit with little ones, but usually it’s older kids who break the rule). Every season we have a couple of times where a kid tries to push the limits at the beginning of the ski season and insists that they don’t need to wait. Usually, they’ll just cruise down to the bottom of the lift and be waiting for us there with a smile. We usually greet them with a high 5, tell them how awesome it is that they’re skiing fast, and then tell them to go sit in the lodge until we get them because they broke our most important rule. It only takes once or twice and then all 5 kids follow the rule strictly for the next 5 months!
Ski Rule #2 – Have Fun
What’s the point of skiing if you’re not having fun? I mean, skiing is one of the most fun sports ever, so you might as well be having a blast doing it. In our family, we don’t ski for exercise or for the proven benefits of fresh air at altitude, we ski for the fun of it. When it stops being fun, we stop skiing.
With a family the size of ours, we get a full range of emotions from our kids every day. When someone starts to complain or get whiney on the ski hill, we have them take a break, usually in the lodge with a parent and a cup of hot cocoa (that almost always does the trick). If it’s multiple people, we usually pack up and head home. While I understand that this is a major privilege since we live just 25 minutes from the ski hill, we had the same rule in place when we lived 2 hours from the hill.
Our goal with skiing with our kids is for this to be a sport that we enjoy as a family for LIFE, not just for one really epic day. I grew up skiing with my siblings, parents, grandparents, and entire extended family. I want the same thing for my kids for their whole lives too. Some of my best memories in life are on the ski hill and I want my kids to have that as well, but it only happens if you focus on fun!
Ski Rule #3 – Snacks are Mandatory
This one might be more of a tradition than a rule, but I promise it makes every ski day better. As a kid, my parents would give all of us a package of lifesavers to put in our pocket on ski days for an “emergency”. An emergency soon became anytime we needed a pick me up or to celebrate an awesome run.
With our kids, we’ve carried on the tradition of ski treats. For us, we usually opt for Fruity Tic-tacs or Mini M&Ms since they both come in containers that are so easy to open with gloves on, and you only need 1-2 to feel like you had a treat. We use them as bribery to get our kids down hard runs, to celebrate how awesome they’re doing, and everything in between. Our kids love it so much that when they’re going out on ski days with just friends, they ask for double so they can share with everyone since it just makes every lift ride better.
Beyond our usual pocket treats, we know that most of our kids can’t ski for 3-4 hours hard without some sort of snack to boost their energy. For this, we stash granola bars in the inside pocket of their coat for a mid-afternoon snack. It helps keep their energy levels high, and we don’t have to pay $8 for a ski lodge snack.
Ski Rule #4 – The Safety Bar ALWAYS Goes Down
There seems to be a lot of controversy over this the last couple of years, but in our family it’s non-negotiable. If you’re on the lift, the bar goes down. After all, it’s there to keep you on and safe, so why not use it?
When we’re on the lift with other people, right after we get down, I’ll say “bar coming down” and slowly lower the bar to make sure it isn’t going to hit anyone or any equipment.
We never ask others “do you mind if we put the bar down?” because for us, it’s not optional. If it’s expected with everyone in your family, it just happens.
Ski Rule #5 – Never Ski Alone
I spent a lot of my college days skiing alone after my classes for the day got out. My mother hated it and I absolutely ignored all of her advice on the subject (it worked out okay in the long run since that’s how I met my husband).
Now as a mom, I’m insisting on the same rule that I ignored. We never let our kids ski alone. Not negotiable. There are so many risks and hazards on the mountain, especially for our older kids who ski more challenging terrain in remote areas of the resort, that it’s just not worth it. Ski with a buddy or not at all. There have been a few times that I wondered if my kids were following that rule or just splitting up and meeting each other at the bottom, so I tracked their phones…and they’ve always been right together.
If they get caught skiing alone, their ski day is done. The consequence is they sit in the lodge for the rest of the day while everyone else keeps skiing.
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Ski Rule #6 – Be A Safe, Defensive Skier
When we’re skiing with our kids, we do not push them onto new, and more difficult terrain very quickly. We know that often scares kids and it usually develops bad habits as they revert to the basics of skiing.
This goes along with our rule to ski safely. Our kids all know the skiers’ responsibility code and beyond that, we spend a good chunk of time at the beginning of every ski season talking about being a defensive skier (which conveniently coincides with the arrival of crazy holiday crowds). I’ve written all about what we do to teach our kids to be defensive skiers over here, so head over and read that.
Ski Rule #7 – If You Ski, You Have To Help Put Gear Away (even if you’re tired)
To make mom and dad not resent taking the kids skiing at the end of a long day, we have a rule that if you ski, you clean up. This usually entails cleaning out the car, wiping down wet ski bases, putting helmets and boots away, drying out any wet gloves and pants, etc. In our family, we typically have one parent overseeing the gear cleanup while the other one hurries in to make a quick dinner. Find out how we stay organized here. Our kids are usually moving pretty slowly after a long ski day, but once they smell dinner cooking, everyone perks right up and gets to work.
If we know they’ll need some extra motivation after an especially long day, we’ll grab a pizza, but the rule is you only get pizza if you help with cleanup the whole time. It works every time to get the kids to help!
While none of these rules are probably mind blowing, it’s the consistent application of them that has transformed our family ski days. The kids know exactly what to expect and so do we as parents. This takes so much of the mental work out of skiing so we can put all our energy into just skiing and having fun with the kids (since it basically takes all our energy anyway). If you’ve got great ski rules that have worked for your family, please share those in the comments!