Stack the odds in favor of a good time in the snow—for you and the kids. Start with the right gear.
[Editor’s Note: This post was sponsored by REI. At Matador we seek sponsorship only with companies we believe in 100%, and REI is a perfect example. Please click here to see some of our other sponsors and partners.]
Packing for a family ski and snowboard vacation can make the logistics behind Scott’s expedition to the South Pole seem like an easy (and cheap) midsummer outing to the county fair. One ill-equipped team member—one small dose of cold and wet—and the whole journey can end up derailed. But with the right investment in proper outfitting, kids and adults alike can get out and focus on the deep thrills to be had in the wide world of ice crystals and gravity.
1. Proper Long Underwear and Ski Socks
The base layer will make or break the whole adventure. Don’t cut corners and think you’ll get away with those old school waffled-cotton long johns from the big box store. Or last night’s pj’s. Kids warm up fast doing what they do outdoors, especially in the snow. Then they sweat. And when cotton gets wet, the next step is cold. Then it’s game over.
For the sake of pit-stop efficiency, opt for two pieces (separate tops and bottoms) over the one piece union-suit style. Crew neck or Zip-T is a matter of preference. I like the Zip-T. On really cold days add a Turtle Fur neck gaiter for extra roast.
SmartWool also makes some of the best and best-looking socks on the market, socks that wick moisture away from feet and actually keep from slumping and lumping in boots. Again, go light- to mid-weight (a bit of air around the toes is a good insulator). And don’t buy into any old-wives’ hype about two pairs of socks being warmer—it ain’t so.
Extra tip: To avoid uncomfortable shin bruises (that can take all season to heal), don’t stuff long underwear bottoms down into boots. Instead, roll the cuffs up to above the top of the ski boot, but still long enough for sock tops to overlap—or just grab a pair of scissors and cut the cuffs off entirely.
2. Two-piece Outerwear—waterproof and breathable
One-piece snow suits may be required costume for backcountry snowmobiling and ice fishing. But you wouldn’t be caught dead in one anywhere near a lift line, right? So why put your kids in one? Plus, anyone who’s ever gone three rounds with a toddler on the wet floor of a ski-lodge bathroom knows that one-piece suits aren’t meant for access to the interior.
Bibs are pretty much flawless for staying on, for keeping deep snow out, and are also generally more breathable than a one-piece. But still, the jacket has to come off before the pants go down.
Best bet is a good jacket-and-pants combo of high-quality coated nylon (waterproof and breathable). Jacket should hang well below the hips, without a cuff at the waist. And with a real hood. Like .
The best pants—like these (insulated for super cold days) or these (not insulated and thus better for high-energy activity)—have sewn-in elastic gaiters to keep snow out of boots, and reinforced cuffs.
Forget fur. Forget suede. Forget laces. Go with something seriously waterproof, something you can pull on and off easily, with a Velcro strap for cinching it to the ankle and a drawstring over the calf. And good treads. And liners you can pull out and leave by the fire to dry.
5. Waterproof Mittens
Gloves are impossible to put on. Plus they aren’t as warm. Most kids under 12 don’t ski with poles these days, so they don’t need the dexterity.
The vertical rip-and-stick closure option is a good one for the smallest hands. For bigger kids, given the high (and ongoing) loss potential, you’re probably fine with these over these (at more than twice the price).