“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”– Amelia Earhart
Winter hiking with kids can be a grand adventure – throwing snowballs, feeling fresh cold air in your lungs, seeing the world transformed under a blanket of snow. Winter hiking can also be awful if you’re not properly prepared. These five tips will help you plan and execute your next successful family winter hiking adventure.
What makes a ski resort family-friendly? A few items to look for include easily-accessible beginner terrain, a family lodge and low prices. A good family ski resort may also offer after-school or night skiing, lesson programs, a local feel and other snow sport activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat-biking.
PSST: Ski Idaho invited my fam to visit this winter and set us up with free lift tickets for Kelly Canyon. I can’t say thank you enough, it was a fun trip.
Easily Accessible Beginner Area
Skiing with kids means spending a lot of time on the bunny hill. If you’re looking for a truly family ski resort, that bunny hill will offer easy-to-access gentle terrain, a rope tow or magic carpet surface lift and a chair lift that serves only green runs.
As young skiers and boarders progress, it’s important that they can ride on terrain that matches their ability. A good family ski resort will have a variety of beginner terrain that’s easy to get to from the base of the mountain.
A lift that only offers access to beginner runs is also important. Nothing’s worse than taking a wrong turn with your six-year-old and ending up on a steep black diamond expert run. I know from experience – Little G, age 6, ended up on a steep run with me by accident and had to take off her skis and hike down.
Family-friendly ski resorts should have a lodge or warming hut close to the beginner area. Kids are more likely than adults to fall, roll and play in the snow when learning to ski and snowboard. That means they’re also more likely to get cold and wet.
A nearby lodge where they can warm up is an essential feature for a family ski resort. Not only do kids get cold, they also can’t ski as long as adults. When skiing with kids, especially kids age 5 and under, expect to spend more time drinking hot cocoa and making snow men than actually skiing.
That’s okay. You’re raising a life-long skier, so if your four-year-old only wants to put skis on for an hour be okay with it and plan to come back another day.
The final checklist item to look for in a family ski resort is discounted lift tickets for beginners. Many ski resorts in the US let kids five and under ski free with a paying adult. Others offer discounted tickets for access to beginner-only areas.
Family ski resorts often offer programs that involve lessons, gear rental and lift ticket packages at a discounted rate. Take advantage of those offers, especially at smaller, local resorts.
Local resorts are my FAVORITE for families. Why? Because they are a great training ground for beginners, they focus on community, and they are often the most cost-effective option for ski families.
Family-Friendly Kelly Canyon, Idaho
One of the best family-friendly resorts I’ve been to is Kelly Canyon Ski Resort in Ririe, Idaho. This local scene resort checks off all the boxes and more.
Easily Accessible Beginner Area – The tow rope and lift 3 at Kelly Canyon are perfect for ski newbies. I loved how close the beginner area was to the lodge and how the beginner runs off of lift three offered a wide variety of terrain – groomed, powder, access to tree skiing, even a small terrain park with beginner boxes. Lots of new skills to learn from that one lift.
Family-Friendly Lodge – Kelly Canyon Lodge is the hang out place for families. Whether it’s locals sharing a picnic lunch or out-of-towners like us enjoying their famous Kelly fries, the Kelly Canyon Lodge offers a great place to get warm right next to the beginner area.
In addition to that, Kelly Canyon may be the only ski resort in the US to offer lift accessible fat biking in winter. I really wanted to try that out, but it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays (we were there on a Monday). Another truly unique aspect of Kelly Canyon is that all major runs on the mountain are lit for night skiing six days a week. Impressive.
One Word of Warning
The only drawback to family skiing at Kelly Canyon for me were the lifts. The two-seater, old-school chair lifts didn’t have room for me and multiple kids.
My two and six-year-olds can’t load and unload a chairlift on their own and with only two seats we couldn’t all go up together. Also the chair lift seats don’t have a safety bar, which made me very nervous when my toddler kept wiggling on the seat.
Despite that, Kelly Canyon is a fun family ski resort and a great place for beginners. I highly recommend it.
NOTE: Smoking and alcohol are not allowed on site and the resort is closed on Sunday.
We finished our visit to Kelly Canyon with a dip in Heise Hot Springs (Mountain Dad is obsessed with hot springs) just down the road. It was a great way to end a ski day.
If you’re out exploring with your family in snowy conditions, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. I’m happy to have guest writer Avery Phillips share these important tips for Emergency First Aid for Outdoor Winter Activities. Enjoy!
There’s no such thing as being too cautious when participating in cold-season activities. Nature is unforgiving, especially during the winter months. Emergencies will happen, and adventurers should be familiar with a few basic travel supplies. First aid kits should be packed accordingly, and safety measures must be taken when camping, hunting or spending any amount of extended time in cold, snowy weather. Continue reading “Emergency First Aid for Outdoor Winter Activities”
Boy was I wrong. That first attempt ended in tears and frustration for both of us.
Fast forward five seasons, tons of research, lessons from professionals and about a million laps on the bunny hill with my three tots. Now I happily hit the slopes with Big E, Little G and Baby L all in tow.