Family Ski Trip Stressful? Pack Up Your Troubles



EVER packed for a family ski trip late on a Friday afternoon, stuffing the car so full that the back hatch window is an impenetrable wall of fleece and long underwear, then driven away and realized an hour later that you neglected to pack a single pair of socks for any of your three children?

Ever packed all the skis but forgot all the poles? Ever realize you packed for the entire household, then left one person’s gear, suitcase and snowboard on the front porch?       

I did that once. And it was my stuff.       

Packing for a winter family trip is so daunting, overwhelming and stressful — goggles, boots, mittens, ChapStick — that many people give up and simply refuse to go away in the winter. And if you can get past the thought of packing to leave for the family ski trip, there is the unsettling reality that you will have to unpack everything from the car once you get to the mountains, probably in the dark. Then you will repack when you leave, which may be only two days later.       

So, admittedly it’s not easy, especially for the uninitiated. But as parents of three children — the eldest now a college ski racer — my wife and I have performed the pack/unpack/pack operation maybe 150 times. There are tips for making it less hectic.       

Not only that, with a system, you might even leave on time and — imagine this — might even have a good time. There is a bit of a tactical approach, but you don’t have to be a West Point grad to pull it off.       

The first important piece of advice: Train each person to be responsible for his skiing or riding gear and have him pack it separately from his other clothes and apparel.       

In other words, everyone gets a backpack or boot bag. There are many made specifically for this task that cost about $80. Then make a list for each family member of the articles that go in that bag: boots, hat, goggles, gloves, sunglasses, helmet and a bandana to protect the neck and face. You should be able to fit your snow pants, which are bulky and difficult to fit in a suitcase, in the boot bag or backpack, as well.       

The key to this is getting young children — and doddering adults — accustomed to the idea that all the ski/snowboard-specific items go in this one bag. Why is that so important? On the morning of your first day of skiing or riding, not only is there only one place to look for all that stuff, should you have to drive to the mountain from your lodging, everyone takes his bags, carrying everything he needs into the lodge.     

And when the trip ends, all that gear can be stored in the boot bag.       

There is another benefit.       

“It teaches your kids responsibility,” said Diane Mueller, who along with her husband, Tim, operates the Crested Butte, Okemo and Mount Sunapee ski resorts. The Muellers have two children, one of whom, Erica, is a former member of the United States snowboarding team.       

“I would put the list of things they needed to pack on their beds,” Mrs. Mueller continued. “It was up to them to make sure they brought what they knew they would need. Once you get used to the system, it’s really not that big a deal.”       

Part of any system is also making a list for all the off-the-snow wear, food and accessories you will want with you, like blue jeans, a sweater and toiletries. These goods belong in a separate bag or suitcase. And here are some important things to put on that list along with the basics: bathing suit, sneakers, workout clothes, pajamas, a camera, a winter hat, books or games and shoes or boots for going to dinner, not just for walking in the snow.       

It’s also a good idea to bring two sets of gloves because the ones used for skiing might get wet and need to be dried by the radiator or fireplace. You will be happy to have additional warm gloves for walking around at night.       

Then there is my all-time secret to a good ski trip: instant oatmeal.       

With a dozen instant oatmeal packets, which cost about $4, you can feed the whole family a breakfast on Saturday morning and be on the slopes while everyone else is still ordering in the hotel restaurant. Use the coffee maker that probably comes with your room to heat up the water for the oatmeal, bring along some paper bowls and plastic spoons, and everyone gets a nice hot meal that will last until lunch.       

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