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Image credit: Sean Thonson/Travel Alberta

Snow babies

How young is too young? Taking youngsters to the snow has its challenges, but families can learn to enjoy the experience, writes Debbie Neilson-Hunter.

It can be a slippery slope for parents exposing little ones to cold for the first time. So what do you need to know?

Safety first
Dehydration is a risk at higher altitudes.
Ensure your little ones drink fluids regularly. New mums may need to nurse babies more frequently. Include time to acclimatise.
At altitude the sun’s rays are also more intense, so be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen – don’t forget the tips of the ears which are often exposed, as well as under the chin and nose.
Dressing is a bigger chore than usual. To avoid tears and tantrums practise dressing in layers before you go. To save on packing consider hiring clothes and gear at your destination; just check size and availability ahead of time. Some hotels, like the Viceroy Snowmass near Aspen in Colorado, also provide baby items from cots to bottle warmers, and even plug covers in rooms.
When dressing infants, limit exposure with a one-piece hooded suit and layer warmly underneath. Waterproof and insulated mittens are easy to put on and keep little hands warmest (attach with elastic to avoid losing). Look out for Aldi’s popular annual May skiwear sale where you’ll find musthave items like beanies, goggles, helmets, warm socks and après ski boots for all ages. Label everything (including the kids) with names and phone numbers. Keep your mobile handy.

Time wise
Expect delays. Give yourself plenty of time to get to and from your destination. If you’re running behind don’t sweat it! Those mountains aren’t going anywhere (at least for a few million years), but ensure you book early into ski schools and crèches – preferably before your holiday begins – as places fill up quickly.
Pick your season. The warmer and sunnier conditions enjoyed in spring will help leave a positive first impression. Parents will also worry less about how their kids will cope with the cold while juniors will be able to concentrate on their snowploughs and turns better. Snowmaking facilities will provide ample white stuff on the ground. Just keep track of weather conditions as they can change quickly.

Image credit: Mont Tremblant Ski Resort

When is the right time for your child to hit the slopes?
General Manager Snowsports for the Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt ski areas in New Zealand, Cesar Piotto, says it really comes down to a child’s readiness.
“Every kid is different. The earlier you can get them on snow, the sooner you’ll create life-long skiers or riders! My daughter was spending days on the snow at one-and-half years old, but at that age it’s all about learning about the environment. It’s really important to get them up there early, because they are willing to give anything a go… as long as it’s fun!”
Booking kids into ski school is a great way to build positive impressions. Most operate half-day and full-day programmes and generally take children from the age of three. They must be toilet trained and it helps if they can wave goodbye to mum and dad without waterworks. At this level infants learn in a kindergarten-type atmosphere with games, arts and craft.
“Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt employ the best instructors from around the world. For us, kids’ lessons are not just about learning to ski or ride but making new friends, having a great time on the snow and learning to handle the newfound independence.”
Snowboarding lessons traditionally begin at eight years, although age limits are reducing as board makers like Burton design more stable and shorter boards suitable for youngsters as young as four.

Image credit: Mont Tremblant Ski Resort

Inside time
Pick your location carefully. Stay on-snow or as close to the slopes as possible. To limit exposure ensure there is a good range of indoor, as well as outdoor, activities to do. Think about the availability of child minding so you can enjoy some free time to relax, explore and ski with just your partner.
At the Viceroy Snowmass rooms can be set up with teepees and games at no extra charge. The kids’ club is equipped with Wii and Air Hockey games for bigger kids and beanbags and toys for the littlies. The lounge library also has a large collection of children’s books.
In Snowmass village, the multi-storey Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center is the ultimate in supervised fun off-snow for babies (from eight weeks up) to teens. The centre employs fully trained and licensed childcare staff as well as a registered nurse.
Victoria’s Mt Buller Kids’ Centre takes non-skiers from three months to six years. Nearby is a cinema, museum and gnome trail. At the base of the mountain there’s even a zoo.
At Big White in Canada babies and toddlers from 18 months are well cared for in the Tot Town day care centre, next to the main mall in the pedestrian village. Trivia, karaoke and Wii nights add to the indoor fun.
The Skiwiland Early Learning centres at New Zealand’s Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and The Remarkables are also fully licensed with experienced Early Childhood teachers to care for children from three months to five years.
If you’re not so familiar with skiing Europe, Japan and now China, Club Med is a trusted name in providing hassle-free all-inclusive family snow holidays. The hotel company pioneered the kids’ club concept, so they know exactly what growing families need.

Image credit: Sean Thonson/Travel Alberta

Image credit: Big White Ski Resort

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