By Clare Shiell
“We love dressing our kids in expensive gear only for them to grow out of it after one season!” – said NO ONE EVER!!!
Kids take a lot of effort – I never had grey hairs before I had kids, just saying – and the snow requires a lot of gear, and when it comes to gear, working out what’s essential and what’s not can be tricky. As the Snowriders Australia – Victoria President, I clearly love skiing, and fortunately for me, my two kids love it too. They also have champagne taste… but I’m a renowned bargain hunter and in my many years of planning and taking ski trips, I’ve got the kids outfitting down to a fine art.
So what are the most important pieces to have?
Layers & Under garments
Kids get hot and sweaty before you’ve even left the drying room! Having layers so that they can unzip a jacket without the risk of hypothermia is kinda important. My kids have typically worn a thermal (polypropylene or merino wool are best) and then a thin microfiber shell under an insulated jacket. When we’ve skied in Japan or NZ, they’ve often worn an additional vest over the microfiber fleece for extra warmth. Look for regular sales at your local ski shop for bargain basement thermals.
Do not let your child snap on the skis or step into a board without a Helmet. It’s true that most ski schools require helmets and hire packages generally include them for a nominal fee – but your little snow terrier will love having their own. Mine love to collect stickers from our skiing adventures and curate their personalised helmet with them – also I can leave the head lice spray at home. A top tip is to ensure that you look for a helmet with an adjustable back toggle/dial, this will ensure a snug fit. Ear warmers always go down well – particularly in those windy snow blasts. There are many budget options, including Aldi and Giro which are generally under $100. Ensure that your child tries it on for best fit – it should be snug but not migraine inducing! Don’t forget to bring the beanie when not wearing a helmet – in my opinion, total overkill for the whole beanie under the helmet thing – just equals a big sweat ball head.
Gloves V Mittens
Age will be a big determiner of the gloves vs mittens debate in your house. Little snow grommets just can’t manage the finger thingies and your sanity will be saved by mittens. Older kids generally like the flexibility and freedom gloves offer. In my opinion gloves are something you shouldn’t scrimp on. Shop around, but ensure they are appropriately lined and have a waterproof outer. Gloves with wrist straps are great as when the gloves are taken off (always when it’s a blizzard and your about to kick off – guaranteed) they won’t fall into the snow. If no wrist straps, do what Nanna did and sew a piece of elastic to each glove and thread it through the jacket sleeve – those gloves are never far from those frozen pinkies and you wont have to go rummaging around in the lost property bin at ski school! Cold fingers means guaranteed whingeing so it’s worth splashing out on gloves to ensure they are really toasty.
Flat, interchangeable, cylindrical, fixed, overcast suitable, coordinating with the outfit – Seriously! If you’ve got some cash to splash, kids ski googles are not what I’d be spending it on! Main points with goggles is fit and function; they need to fit over the helmet and sit snug on the face. Also try and buy the models with double lenses – they’re less likely to fog. My kids have skied in Aldi, Oakley, Smith and Rossignol goggles (I know – hoarder comes to mind) and we’ve never had an issue with any. So find a fit for the budget as much as the face – Aldi often have them in their snow gear sale for about $25 – total bargain.
Now here’s where your eyes can start to water at the cost of outfitting a kid that’s likely to be two inches taller next season. If you followed former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello’s 2005 advice and had one for the country, you’re probably all over the hand me down deal. But it needn’t be this way. Top tip – get organised and buy your gear in the off season. If you want quality brands at bargain prices, you need to buy when demand is low. I’ve purchased $400+ Phenix kids jackets for under $100 in the off season (I always buy two sizes too big). Often I am reselling them for more than I paid a couple of years later. E-Bay, Gumtree and Buy Swap & Sell sites are all excellent locations to find lightly used quality ski gear for your kids. Ensuring that your kids stay warm is key, so go for jackets with snow cuffs to ensure that after a tumble, only limited snow ingress occurs! Go for bold bright colours – so much easier to spot on the hill. Some of the higher end jackets have ‘grow sleeves’ which can mean two seasons use instead of one – Spyder is one such brand, but they can be pricey. Also buy from US eBay sellers; Columbia, Spyder, North Face and other premium brands are much cheaper in the US and are readily available second hand. Know your sizing and get in at the end of their winter and you’ll be set.
Après Ski Boots
A really essential piece of kit – sorry, but runners, gumboots and Crocs (yes…I’ve seen it!) don’t cut the mustard for snow play, walking to and from a chalet or just hanging out waiting for mum to finish her cocktails! Kids will need an insulated boot. Again, doesn’t have to be top of the line, but should have some thermal insulation, fur or synthetic thinsulate and if it has a snow cuff or drawstring all the better – as once snow gets inside a boot, wet whingey kids! Budget ranges include offerings from Aldi and Columbia with more premium offerings from Northface and (my personal favourite) Sorel .
Appropriate ski socks will be essential to ensure a comfortable day in ski boots. Make sure you don’t just use thick winter socks. Thermal socks with appropriate length will keep your mini me’s toes snuggly warm and ensure there’s no nasty digging in. Just ensure the top of the sock extends well past the top of the boot for maximum comfort.
Best $1.95 I ever spent
One (well maybe five) of those neoprene/fleece face masks with the breathe holes and little tepee for your nose. EBay sell them, I love them. Easy to velcro across the back of the head, they don’t get in the way of the helmet and my kids were convinced they were bandits without looking like terrorists.
Unless you’re heading up to the slopes every weekend or part of a ski club, I would recommend hiring skis, boots and poles. Let the expert fit your powder hound according to their ability and age rather than splashing some serious cash on boots that will certainly not fit next season. Ski resorts have some great gear to cater for beginners to advanced.
It’s true, you’ve picked and ‘exey’ sport! But…with these tips you’ll not only save some cash (to spend on that ridiculously priced après cocktail) but will ensure your little and big snow fairies are warm and snug whilst ripping up the hill!
If you’re attending Warren Miller’s, ‘Here There & Everywhere’ in Melbourne (24 – 28 May) come and say hello to the Author, Clare Shiell, and ensure you’re subscribed to snowriders-australia.com.au