If taking your kids to the snow for the first time this year, memorise this simple formula: warm kids = happy kids = happy parents.
For Australians, a visit to the snow for the first time can be daunting at the best, terrifying on average. Throw in a rugrat or two, and the concept for some becomes overwhelming, almost untenable. That’s where we come in – we’ve done it a few times now; we know what works, and what doesn’t. We also know it’s totally worth it.
And….contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your kids warm and comfortable in the snow. Intrigued. We knew you would be. Here’s a few simple tricks and tips.
Warm heads are happy heads
And that means beanies for snow play and helmets when skiing or snow boarding. Beanies are easy. They’re readily available and inexpensive, and let’s face it, granny would probably jump at the chance to knit a few for you. Children’s helmets are compulsory in most resorts these days (or should be at least), and luckily they’re readily available through most hire outlets. A good fit is more important that style. Helmets are very warm, and as an added bonus the kids don’t mid wearing them – I think they actually like the idea (my 6 and 8 years think they look hardcore in helmets).
The only other consideration is to ensure your child’s helmet is compatible with their googles. Nothing like having a huge ‘gaper gap’ between the helmet and the googles to encourage a frostbite or sunburnt fore-head. Truth be told, my kids wear adult googles which seem to fit perfectly with many hire helmets (no gap). Nothing wrong with oversized lenses, as long as you can adjust the strap to fit. They wear their goggles big these days anyway.
Layering is king
Kids get hot and sweaty before you’ve even left the drying room! (as do parents). Having layers so that they can unzip a jacket without the risk of hypothermia is kinda important, because they will unzip – even in a blizzard (trust me). My kids typically wear a thermal base layer under an insulated, highly water resistant jacket. When we’ve skied in Japan they wear an additional microfiber mid layer over the base layer. Mid-layers need not be expensive either; mid layers can pretty much consist of anything; old skivvies, jumpers, cheap fleece material (available from Target or K Mart).
Having said that we swear by high quality merino fibre base layers; they’re warm even when wet, and they breath like you not even wearing anything. They are also super comfortable. Our kids tend to wear their merino thermals morning, noon (while on the snow) and night (around the lodge and even to restaurants). As an added bonus, they tend not to smell even after days and days of skiing. So one garment per child is typically enough. So, if you are going to spend money, invest in good thermals.
Sock, socks and more socks
Appropriate ski socks will be essential to ensure a comfortable day in ski boots. Make sure you don’t just use thick winter socks. They bunch up and may cause boot pain, despite the illusion of cushioning. Thermal socks with appropriate length will keep your mini me’s toes snugly 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.
Don’t skimp on outer wear
Outer wear is always a controversial subject when buying for kids. Kids a closer to the ground and consequently spend a lot of time on or in the snow. So some level of water resistance is important. Here it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as water proof, unless your talking about plastic raincoats. The downside of plastic is that it doesn’t breath, so after sweating for an hours you end up wet on the inside anyway.
Water resistance is measured in units of 1,000’s as is breathability. For Australian and New Zealand conditions (i.e. slightly warmer in average than some northern hemisphere destinations), we recommend you dress your kids in outer wear with water resistance and breathability ratings of a least 10,000-15,000 (for both). In dryer, colder climates like Japan, you could even get away with less. In really cold climate (with little change of ran or thaw) its probably more important that you focus on warmth, and that means lots of layering (see above). No need to spend a fortune on the latest European brands. Shop around and if you can, try and support local brands, like XTM Performance, Rojo and Rip Curl.
High quality gloves – the piece de resistance
Age will be a big factor in 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.
If it’s raining – then all bets are off. Even the most expensive outerwear with the highest water proofing ratings will leak EVENTUALLY, especially if your kids are rolling around the wet snow. If you have to ride in those conditions, proper rain coats over the ski jacket will do the trick as will plastic garbage bags with holes cut out sleeves and the heads may not win any fashion contests, but it will keep the kids 100% dry, guaranteed.