Tips for Skiing with Kids

February 1, 2017 (Updated February 2, 2017)

When Olympic snowboarder Lisa Kosglow ventures to Mt. Hood Meadows with her six year old daughter, she doesn’t race down the hill or instruct Emelia to lean forward, instead she pretends to be a reindeer as the two meander their way down Easy Rider. “I want to keep it fun,” says Kosglow, who represented the United States in the first women’s snowboarding events in 1998 in Nagano, Japan and again in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Skiing as a family can be the ultimate family activity, especially with our epic winter. Here are a few tips to help you have a successful happy day on the mountain, whether you are venturing to the downhill resorts, like Mt. Hood Meadows, Skibowl or Timberline, or out for a cross-country ski at Teacup Lake Nordic.

Mom and toddler cross-country skiing

(Photo credit: Paloma Ayala)


Pick your days wisely — but don’t shy away from “bad” weather.

For the first snow experience, ideally pick a sunny, windless day. However, if that’s not possible, try not to withstand the elements for too long with your newbie. Maybe take two runs, grab some hot chocolate, then go out again. Once you’ve mastered a few days, head up on the more challenging days, which Olympian AJ Kitt says builds good skiers. His triplets race on the Mt. Hood Race Team and love skiing no matter what the weather brings. “Some of our best days are when it’s foggy and snowy.”

Take joy in the little steps and temper your expectations.

Since having fun and being comfortable in the snow is the goal, minimize instruction, play games on the hill and let your child figure out what works, advises United States Mogul Coach Garth Hager. Take joy in the little steps, from getting on the chairlift solo to skiing a black diamond run. Hager also encourages parents to temper their expectations and enthusiasm. He says the kids with the assertive parents seem to be the ones most likely to burn out or quit. “When parents have more passion than their kids, then it’s a recipe for burnout,” says Hager. “The passion has to come from within.”

(Photo credit: Morgan Larson)


(Photo credit: Morgan Larson)

Dress well.

Follow the adages “cotton kills” and “no skin showing” when preparing for the mountain. When cotton gets wet, it makes you feel cold and chilled. Waterproof pants and long underwear made from merino wool, silk or polypropylene work wonders. Turtlenecks or neck gaiters are preferable to scarves which can get caught on a chair life. For young children, mittens with long cuffs tend to keep small hands warmer than gloves. For downhill skiing, helmets keep heads warm and protected. Lastly, goggles and sunglasses protect little eyes. (That’s a lot to gather!) One more idea: if it’s cold or wet, pack an extra pair of mittens and socks.

Feed them!

Kids need a constant stream of food because they are burning calories rapidly. This is especially true on cold day when energy is required just to keep a small body warm. High-energy snacks, such as dried fruit and nuts, come in handy. A thermos of hot chocolate or a stop in the lodge for a warm drink helps create a successful day.

While competing on the U.S. Snowboard team, Kosglow participated in a nutritional study monitoring calorie intake and heat loss. “I learned that I had to eat a minimum of 6,000 calories a day just to keep my body warm on the chairlift. And when I didn’t have enough food, I bonked. My daughter’s also that way,” says Kosglow, who brings snacks, usually trail mix with chocolate and nuts, when snowboarding with her daughter.


(Photo credit: Morgan Larson)

Let them rip on their own.

A ski resort is one of the few places where kids can meander around on their own and assert their independence. Once you feel your child is competent on the slopes, give them some independence to explore the mountain with a buddy and a cell phone. When kids are with friends they inspire and challenge one another.

Leave them wanting more.

It’s preferable to keep the last memory of the ski day a positive one. I’ve learned my lesson: skiing too many runs and omitting food breaks could be a screaming, exhausted child. Remember to leave your children wanting more.

Have someone else teach them.

While it may be tempting to teach your children, sometimes it’s better to have someone else help with the process. According to Coach Hager, “Kids often filter out mom and dad from telling them what to do. Having another deliver the same message can sometimes make it more real.”


(Photo credit: Paloma Ayala)

For more help with snow activities in the Gorge, pick up a copy of “Kidding Around the Gorge: The Hood River Area’s Ultimate Guide for Family Fun” by Ruth Berkowitz and Lisa Kosglow.

About The

Ruth Berkowitz
Ruth Berkowitz is a writer, lawyer, mother and mediator who has sailed with her family to Ecuador and across the Pacific. She recently teamed with Lisa Kosglow to write the third edition of "Kidding Around the Gorge." Ruth urges everyone to get outside, rain or shine.