Outdoor activities with kids in any weather can be challenging but also very rewarding. Cold, snow, rain, and wind can add another element to the mix. No matter the age of your kiddo, follow these general tips for a most positive outdoor experience. This article is focused on downhill skiing and snowboarding, but these tips can be applied to any cold weather activity. Our mission is to inspire a lifetime of outdoor activity and starting them off right is the best way to instill a love of nature at an early age.
1. How to dress: Layering Tips
Every body is different no matter the age. You may run cold and wear many layers, but your child may run hot and will sweat through that many pieces of clothing. How do you balance this out? To start, layering is key and works for both kids and adults.
Each layer is explained below, but will change based on the activity. For example, downhill skiing and snowboarding may require a midlayer since they’ll be sitting on a chair lift between runs, whereas cross country skiing won’t require a midlayer because they’ll be constantly moving.
Experiment with how your child feels based on their body temperature in conjunction with the outside temperature and elements. Remember, if heading to a mountain, it’s always colder, windier, wetter - and can change in an instant.
Baselayer: The first step is a moisture wicking and non-cotton baselayer. Materials can vary from wool, polyester and polypropylene which all move moisture away from your body, keeping you dry.
Midlayer: The second step is a midlayer such as thin fleece or knits to quilted down or synthetic.
Outer layer: Your final layer should be water and windproofing against the elements.
2. Extremities: Fingers and Toes
Don’t forget about those fingers and toes! Cold extremities are one of the top reasons that will send a child back inside for hot chocolate and are sometimes overlooked. Providing quality, water resistant / waterproof gloves or mittens and merino wool socks will make a huge difference, especially when sitting on a chair lift.
A thin, moisture wicking liner inside gloves/mittens will move away any sweat from hot hands, keeping them warmer or allow your child to take their gloves/mittens on/off if needed to cool off. Also note that mittens are warmer than gloves - but if snowboarding, your child may need gloves for dexterity.
3. Gear: Why the Right Fit Matters
Considering how fast kids grow, we’d recommend leasing high quality gear from a reputable shop. Most shops (like Skirack) allow you to swap the gear out if a kid outgrows it mid-season. This way, you’re not spending a lot of money on a new set up every year, having your child on gear that is too small or a child that changes their mind if they don’t like it.
When leased from Skirack, our expert fitters will provide your child with the right fitting gear for their current size. It’s tempting to purchase gear that your child will grow into, but gear that is too big will be challenging to learn on.
4. Why a Lesson Can Help
Do you know how many people have had their partner or friends take them to the top of a black diamond on their first day of downhill skiing or snowboarding? You’d be surprised with how often that happens. Assuming this wasn’t the best skiing or riding experience for them, many of them never put skis or a board on again after that, which is too bad.
So think about when you have a child interested in skiing or riding. How can you make it the most positive experience for them and start them off on the right foot? Unless you’re an experienced instructor, a lesson is the way to go. This way, they’ll either be one-on-one or in a group setting with other kids who are learning just like them. And even if you are an experienced instructor, some kids learn better from adults that are not a parent.
5. Baby Steps
Whatever your kid’s level or activity, always start small and build up. If your kid has never tried an outdoor activity before, snowshoeing or cross country skiing on a flat surface could be a great first step. Let them get a feel with how their body heat increases in temperature when moving in the cold and show them how enjoyable it can be.
Having them put on their skis in the living room or the backyard to practice balance can make a huge difference vs. expecting them to know how to use a tow rope right away. Let them explore their new gear - putting on and taking off their boots, snowboards and skis. Show them how to best carry it and encourage them to be self sufficient (depending on the age of course).
From the backyard to bunny slope and then chairlift is the way to get your kid to ski or ride with you sooner, rather than pushing them too hard and they quit.
We hope these tips help you and your kiddo enjoy cold weather outdoor activities together. Kids learn quickly and someday, you’ll be struggling to keep up with them!