11 Secrets for Skiing with Toddlers (and Actually Enjoying it)

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The mountains are calling and you don’t want to stay at home anymore…

We get it! It’s time to grab your toddler and head to the slopes. Let’s be honest, skiing with toddlers is not always the easiest thing to do. With our toddler ski hacks below, not only will your toddler learn how to ski well, but both of you can have a great day at the ski resort together.

skiing toddler smiling

Many parents are reluctant to take their toddler skiing. It’s understandable given how difficult it can be to keep track of a toddler, not to mention the difficulties that come with learning how to ski in general. Trust me, we’ve had that internal debate over and over again as we’ve taught our 5 kids to ski (in addition to all the time that my husband and I both spent as ski instructors). Is it actually worth it to ski with toddlers?

Planning On Skiing With Little Kids?

Grab our Complete Guide to Skiing with Little Kids!
Designed to take the guesswork out of skiing with kids ages 5 and under so you can hit the slopes with confidence and get your child loving skiing from the very start!

Best Age To Teach Kids To Ski

skiing with toddlers

Is there an ideal age to teach all kids to ski? Truthfully, whenever a parent asks us that question, we tell them “NOW is the best time to teach your kids to ski”. You’d be surprised at how young kids can learn to ski, and kids are much more resilient at learning how to ski than their adult counterparts.

Four out of our five kids started skiing when they were only 18 months old. We start our toddlers skiing very young because we LOVE to ski and we’d much rather be on the ski hill with a toddler than sitting in the ski lodge or stuck at home. If you are wanting bring your baby too check out this article.

Generally, for most kids, the best age to start your kids skiing is around age 4 since they can go to all-day ski school, have better motor skills than toddlers, and have enough energy to ski all day without getting too tired.

Looking for specific gear recommendations for little kids? Check out The Best Ski Gear for 1 & 2 Year Olds as well as Best Ski Gear For 3 & 4 Year Olds.

Set Realistic Expectations

skiing with a toddler

Skiing with toddlers can be completely different than skiing with older kids, so make sure that you have realistic expectations going into the day. Know upfront that your toddler will not want to ski the entire day (nor do we recommend it on the first few days), and that their energy and stamina may be short-lived. You might even be stuck on the bunny hill all day. We’ve found it’s best to choose a small, family-friendly ski resort with a lower cost, like Nordic Valley, so it’s not as frustrating if you don’t ski long.

We’ve seen toddlers who only make it 2 runs on their first time skiing and others who can ski for hours before wanting to go inside and take a break. Set your expectations REALLY LOW and just consider everything above that a major win!

Quit Skiing While Everyone is Still Happy

Skiing with toddlers- falling down

The best advice I can give you is to always try and end the day on a happy note. Toddlers can only go for so long, and most of them start giving off cues that a meltdown is on the way. Its always nice to find resorts that let kids ski for free so you don’t feel like you are wasting money. At the first sign that your toddler’s attitude and energy for the day might be exhausted, pack up and head home. It’s a whole lot easier to get your child to want to go skiing next time if they didn’t end this ski trip with tears and frustration.

The same is true for adults. As much as we don’t like to admit it, as parents, we only have limited patience, and skiing with a toddler is going to take all of it. If you literally cannot handle one more game of “I Spy” on the chairlift, or the thought of skiing one more run in a backward pizza makes you want to scream, it’s time to hit the road.

Plan On Taking Ski Breaks

ski break in the lodge with toddlers

Ski breaks are pretty standard when skiing with toddlers, so expect to spend a good amount of time in the ski lodge. When our kids were just learning to ski at ski resorts, we would joke that our special formula for skiing with toddlers was one part skiing to two parts hot chocolate.

Taking breaks is important to toddlers’ ski development, so plan it into your day. Young kids usually need more breaks than older kids because they simply can’t stay as warm (a fleece jacket or lightweight puffy can help with this), but they also need breaks so that they don’t get overwhelmed with skiing both mentally and physically. Sometimes all it takes is some hot chocolate and loosening their ski boots for a few minutes. The terrain is new, the equipment is strange and uncomfortable for them, the ski resort is big, and it can all combine to make toddlers feel overwhelmed. Head into the lodge as soon as you start to see the first signs that your toddler is getting frustrated.

Remember that although skiing may seem natural to you, it’s all foreign to your toddler, so give some extra grace as they learn (breaks are a big part of that).

Bring Ski Treats for Kids

ski snacks for kids

We NEVER go skiing without ski treats in our pockets (even when we just take our teen and tween). Ski treats are one of the best ways to encourage kids to ski something harder or to reward them for a job well done.

To prevent choking, we only give our kids treats on the ski lift and keep it simple and small (so that the treat is gone before they get off the ski lift). Get ski treats that are easy to get out of your pocket and that don’t freeze too hard. For a bigger snack, our all-time favorites are these bars for kids – they’re packed with protein, don’t freeze hard, and the flavors are incredible.

We usually give kids just one treat per chairlift ride (or maybe 2 if the candy is really small), and often not on every ride up the ski lifts either. Here are our favorite ski treats for kids:
Tic Tacs

Make Skiing FUN

skiing with toddlers

If you show your kids that you think skiing is fun, they’re much more likely to think it’s fun for them too. Trust me, all days skiing with a toddler ARE NOT FUN so you may have to fake it at times. Remember that the goal isn’t just to have one good ski day with your toddler, but to get them to love skiing for LIFE.

Take them on a few jumps, cheer out loud when you’re skiing through the powder, and show them some of your best tricks. Basically, just relax and have a good time, and they’ll pick up on your positive energy.

Play Ski Games with your Toddlers

diy ski school with toddlers

Young kids rarely respond well to drills, but they LOVE to play games, so get creative and bust out all your best games on the ski hill with toddlers.

When kids are skiing, their skis are going to go where they are looking 90% of the time, so the best ski games are follow-the-leader type of games that make your kids look at you the whole time. You can really make up any variation of this, but here are some of our favorites:

Car Ski Races: The kids put their hands out in front like they’re holding a steering wheel and turn the wheel whenever they make a turn. This is fantastic for balance.

Do As I’m Doing: Ski backwards while your toddler follows you. Do fun actions like patting your head, shaking your bum, or reaching toward the sky as you turn down the hill.

Red Light Green Light: This classic game is amazing for getting kids to stop. Stand downhill from them and shout out the colors of the light for kids to stop, go slow, or go fast.

If all else fails, take everyone’s skis off and just play in the snow for a little bit. Sometimes a snowball fight is exactly what everyone needs to bring the FUN back.

Use a Ski Harness the Right Way

little boy using a ski harness

During my years as a ski instructor, I HATED ski harnesses, since almost every parent used them incorrectly. Now, as a parent, I absolutely LOVE THEM. While you absolutely need to educate yourself on the right and wrong way to use a ski harness, the truth is that they can be an amazing tool.

Our youngest is 4 and even though we never use the leashes that came with his harness anymore, the handle on the back is a lifesaver for getting him on and off the chairlift and helping him across the flat areas. Check out our top ski harness recommendations.

Try our Secret Method for Teaching Little Kids to Ski

Skiing toddler

As a ski instructor, I learned LOTS of amazing tricks to help teach little kids how to ski. Easily our favorite is our hack for teaching toddlers how to ski. It’s literally amazing and will make it so much easier to teach your toddler how to balance on skis, how to turn, and how to confidently go down the hill, all at the same time.

Check out our step-by-step guide to teaching toddlers how to ski.

Bring an Edgie Wedgie

toddler skiing

Simple but amazingly effective. An edgie wedgie is the best $10 you’ll ever spend on your kids’ skiing. They are hands down the best tool for teaching kids how to stop on skis, so we recommend that everyone get one before they even get up to the mountain! Check out our full article about how to use an edgie wedgie to teach kids to ski.

An edgie wedgie helps keep their skis from getting too far apart and helps them get into the wedge to stop. Since an edgie wedgie holds the child’s ski tips close together, it makes it really easy for them to make a ski wedge.  All they need to do is to spread their legs apart and the edgie wedgie does the rest of the work.

Bring the Right Equipment for Toddlers

When skiing with toddlers make sure your toddler’s ski gear fits correctly. Check all the equipment at home before you get to the ski resort. There is nothing worse than trying to make sure the ski boots fit in the bindings while your toddler waits impatiently.

little kids ski helmet

Helmets are a must, and smaller skis are easier for toddlers to handle. They will need goggles and ski socks to make their feet more comfortable and warm. Don’t forget sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Having the right equipment will make the day go so much smoother. If you need rentals most ski resorts have rentals for all ages.

Dress your Toddler in Layers

toddler downhill skiing

Toddlers can get cold quickly. Dress them in moisture-wicking base layers. On colder days you can add a mid-layer to keep them warmer. They will definitely need a waterproof jacket to keep the snow out and to keep warm in the cold weather.

You can always wear a backpack with an extra layer or just in case they need to take off a layer when they warm up. If they are still getting cold then make sure to take a hot chocolate break.

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!