Skiing is different this year. But I’m happy to report that it can still be done! As a two physician household with boys 5.5 and 8, we have given a lot of consideration into how to ski safely and recreate responsibly this season as a family, and want to share our experience and tips.
We cancelled our last planned ski trip in March 2020 right before the pandemic was announced. Thankfully, we made that decision – because had we gone, the ski resorts would have shut down a couple days in. Then, we started the 2020-2021 ski season by cancelling a much anticipated trip to Utah over New Years due to concerns about the significant COVID19 surges after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and the California stay at home order.
Instead on planning a big ski trip this winter, we shifted our focus to smaller 1-2 day ski trips during less busy times (avoiding weekends, holidays, and school breaks at your destination). We’ve also considered the thoughtful recommendations made by Recreate Responsibly. Here are some tips pulled from their winter edition, modified by us, with skiing in mind.
- Know before you go: Some areas can be dangerous during winter conditions. Research your destination, as roads and certain facilities may be closed. Many mountain areas require snow chains during storms. Most resorts have limited outdoor dining options. We chose to bring all our own food on our ski trips.
- Explore locally: This is a general recommendation during the pandemic to help prevent the spread of COVID19 from one community to another. If possible, head to local ski areas. We are fortunate to have Big Bear within 2 hours of home. However, we recognize not everyone has this option. If you do travel to ski, please be mindful of your impact on ski communities.
- Plan Ahead: Check the local conditions and weather before you go. Pack extra layers, waterproof clothing, and blankets in the car. We did not do any backcountry skiing, but if you do – please be aware of avalanche risks, and have safety gear prepared.
- Play it Safe: Know your limits. Stay within your comfort zone and ability to reduce your risk of injuries. If you get injured, your treatment options may be limited, especially in small mountain community hospitals that may be impacted by COVID19.
- Wear your Marks and Practice Physical Distancing: Every ski resort we have visited (Snow Summit, CA; Brian Head Resort, Utah) has required masking to get onto the resort and chairlifts. We have found wearing masks to be comfortable and even help keep us warm in mid 20s and above. They do freeze up a little when it’s colder, but it’s still bearable. If you have a long day of skiing planned, you can always bring a second one to switch into. When possible, take your breaks and eat your meals outside. The ski resorts had a few picnic tables set up outside their lodges. We spent a little bit extra this season to stay at ski in ski out condos (here’s the link to our airbnb in Snow Summit, Brian Head), because this allowed us to return to our own space to rest and eat. When did drive in for the day and parked, we brought picnic food for apres ski tailgating (more on this in another blog post!)
- Leave no trace: As we have seen more people head outdoors (which we are happy about!), we’ve also seen a lot more litter and trash everywhere. This is really disappointing and discouraging. Let’s keep our winter playgrounds clean. Pack out your waste – food, broken sleds, etc. Please be respectful of the land.
- Build an Inclusive Outdoors: Skiing has traditionally not been a very inclusive or diverse sport. The gear and lift tickets add up. Whenever possible, try to borrow, or purchase skiwear (especially for children) second hand. We have found some ski resorts where kids ski free, and this helps save some money when skiing as a family. Lastly, we try to avoid holidays and weekends which are often considered peak times and are more expensive (and tend to be more crowded as well)
With some planning and modifications, we have had a great time on our ski trips this winter. We hope these tips help others get on the slopes too! For general tips on skiing with kids, check out this blog post!