This time last year we were preparing for our first family snow holiday to celebrate my husband’s 30th birthday. It would be the first time my husband had actually snowboarded and first time my son (4) would have seen snow! We were pretty excited to say the least. But with a snow holiday, especially when you’re from Queensland, means quite a bit of prep work. So in hope of helping another family get ready for their snow adventure here are our top tips:
What to Wear?
Clothing: If you can BORROW ski gear. Especially for children as they grow fast and ski gear is expensive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anyone we could borrow off, so we started searching Gumtree and eBay for bargains. Our next stop was Aldi for anything we couldn’t get second-hand. Aldi’s snow gear was actually pretty awesome! They were insulated so removed the need for thermals underneath our snow gear. If your snow gear isn’t insulated you’ll need to get a set of thermals to have underneath. So apart from ski pants and a ski jacket it’s a good idea layer up. Kids get very cold on the snow, then they get hot in the cafes and restaurants where it’s heated, so lots of layers are the key.
*HINT: If you don’t plan on going more than once a year, immediately sell your kids snow gear on Gumtree or eBay when you get back. They will outgrow them anyway, and you generally get most of the money you spent on them back. In the end, we sold all our snow gear, so we were short about $40 for the whole family! Which is a heck of a lot cheaper than even hiring snow gear for the week.
Gloves/Mittens: Put small kids ski mittens on elastic through their jackets otherwise they can and WILL lose them. Also get small children mittens! We made the mistake of getting our son gloves which caused a few tears due to the frustration of getting his fingers inside the gloves correctly.
Snow Shoes: Get yourself and kids a pair of snow shoes. We got ours from Aldi, and they were awesome! Having small kids means you spend a lot of time just playing around in the snow. And without waterproof snow shoes, your feet can get pretty cold and wet. Definitely not fun! Also make sure the kids walk around in them a bit at home before the holiday to avoid blisters and sore feet.
Socks: Get good quality socks! I didn’t put much thought into good quality socks, which was another mistake. Too thin and your feet will get sore in the snow boots, and too thick your feet can sweat and be super uncomfortable. I recommend buying actual snow socks… they are designed to keep moisture away from your feet, yet breathable and warm.
Helmets: Make sure kids have helmets on pretty much at all times if they are new to the snow as it’s very easy to slip over when walking around the village. And of course if they are attempting to ski or snowboard for the first time, they definitely need their helmet on. Same goes for adults! Always wear a helmet when skiing or snowboarding. It’s generally cheaper just to hire these, plus it’s not fun trying to fit multiple helmets into a suitcase.
Goggles: I only got my husband and son a pair on goggles, forgetting how important they were. It was near impossible to snowboard down a hill without them on, so I ended up hiring a pair. Sunglasses just didn’t cut it! It gets super bright during sunny days at the snow, plus if it snows while you’re skiing down a mountain it’s really difficult to see without them. Just be sure to check if the local snow gear place where you are staying actually hires them out. Apparently a few places don’t due to hygiene reasons. I picked up my husband and son’s goggles from Aldi which were quite cheap and good quality.
Extras: One thing we didn’t have that we’d probably make sure we had next time was a neck warmer. Although your snow jackets generally come with a pretty good inbuilt neck warmer, we wanted something we could pull up over our noses and mouths when we went down big runs, as your face can get quite chilly.
Where to Stay?
Accommodation can be one of the most expensive things when planning your ski holiday. There are plenty of accommodation options from basic cabins to luxury hotel rooms. You also have the option of privately owned apartments, so check out Air BnB for some good deals. However, I would definitely save your pennies for accommodation on the actual mountain/ in the village, so you don’t need to catch snow taxis or drive up each day. Staying on the mountain gives you the freedom to come back and forth as you like, which is really important with little ones, who need a rest after a few hours.
We were lucky enough to stay with our friends in their ski lodge. It was MUCH cheaper than private accommodation and a chance to meet other families staying on the mountain.
Many travel companies offer pretty good package deals that include lift passes, equipment hire and lessons, which can save you plenty of money. Most times the package deals means it’s actually cheaper to go over to New Zealand for a snow holiday, than it is to stay within Australia.
How To Get There?
Unless you frequent the mountain multiple times per year, you’d most likely just drive to the mountain at which you’re staying, and catch a snow taxi to your accommodation. If you’re hiring a car ensure the car tyres are in good condition and make sure the car is equipped with snow chains in the boot. Practice putting them on before you drive up the mountain.
We paid about $25 per adult and $15 per child for the snow taxi. The price includes 2 items of luggage per person plus 1 set skis/boots/poles or board/boots, and additional luggage was $8.50 per item. You’ll also need to pay for the Car Resort Entry fee to pass the check point, and then a per night rate to leave your car at the bottom of the mountain. Car Resort Entry was about $45, and per night parking fee was around $20.
Ok.. this is another thing that can get a bit pricey. Where we stayed it was about $60 per day per person for a lift pass (larger resorts are easily over the $100 mark). If you have little ones I honestly think it’s better to wait and see how things go. The first day they will most likely enjoy playing in the snow, building snowmen and tobogganing.
Our son isn’t the best with strangers so we never enrolled him into a Learn To Ski lesson. If we could have, it probably would have been good for both hubby and I to get a multi-day pass, so we could have snowboarded while our son was busy at lessons. Instead, we shared a pass and purchased on the spot. The second day we were there, we shared the lift pass. So one would go up and have a run down the slopes, while the other played with our son. On the third day, our friends who are born and bred skiers took our son for a little lesson, so hubby and I could go down a few runs together.
So even though it’s a little cheaper to pre-purchase ski passes online, honestly just wait and purchase them on the spot so you know you’ll get value out of them.
Ski or Snowboard?
To be honest, I’ve never skied. I’ve only ever snowboarded. The first time I ever tried snowboarding, it was a pain in the arse (literally!). I was on my butt pretty much the entire first day. I was warned that snow boarding is harder to learn, but easier to master. Whereas skiing is easier to learn but harder to master. I also found the constant need to unstrap a foot to shuffle on to the chairlift adds an extra level of difficulty for beginners, and I found it a bit difficult to jump off and slide off the chairlift with one foot strapped in and the other having to balance. So I think I would probably suggest most first-timers choose skis over snowboards, especially if you are only there for a few days. However, my husband picked up snowboarding almost instantly (he use to skateboard), and was going down Intermediate slopes the first day.
But at the end of the day, just remember to have fun! Hands down our family snow holiday as been our best adventure yet! My son is a bit sad we aren’t returning this year, but I’m not too keen for a snow holiday when I’ll be almost 8 months pregnant… so maybe next year!