Avoiding tantrums: The essential guide for a fun family day on the snow

Nothing like a family selfie to tell the world about your epic day on the snow

Be Prepared

Before going anywhere near the snow, organise appropriate clothing. Obviously, you need to be prepared for cool weather but fun on the slopes can be hot work. It’s like any other form of exercise and being overdressed can quickly induce heated behaviour.

Layer up with:

  • thermal baselayers
  • a fleece or merino sweater
  • good quality snow jacket and pants
  • snow gloves (cold wet hands will end your day abruptly)
  • a pair of quality merino socks or snow socks
  • a beanie
  • snow goggles
  • sunblock

Unless you’re planning multiple snow trips, or have subsequent children to wear hand-me-downs, you can borrow or hire snow clothing. And refrain from suiting up until you get there, unless you want to deal with “hot under the collar” children before you even arrive.

Hurry Up and Wait

Ski trips can feel hectic and stressful. During weekends, school holidays and on bluebird days, the mountain can be as busy as a pre-Christmas shopping mall. There can be queues of traffic approaching the ski fields, delays catching the shuttle buses, a queue for hire equipment, and lines for the chairlifts. Slow down, switch into holiday mode and be prepared to wait. Where better to be slightly delayed than amid the mountain air and rugged scenery?

Fuel Up

Stuff your pockets with treats – gummy bears, jet planes, snakes – to reward, enthuse, coerce, and revive your little ones. Ski field café queues can sometimes be lengthy and spare tables fill quickly, so either plan your breaks to avoid the masses, or take plenty of food with you. A home-made bacon and egg pie and a thermos of hot chocolate can work wonders on flagging children.

Learn a Lesson

Initially, forget about learning! A child’s first few days on the mountain are not about learning technique – they are about having fun and creating a positive association with the snow.

Don’t even bother donning skis yourself. Stay on foot and tow your child around with ski poles. Encourage them to shuffle their skis and start sliding. Make up silly games. Laugh a lot. Have mock towing races against other parents and kids until the adults keel over (not really). Then take a break for hot chocolates and snacks.

Once you think they’re ready for the next step, let the pros do the work. Ski school instructors will teach your children correct basic techniques, while you enjoy child-free time on the slopes. There are kids holiday programmes available too with lessons held over consecutive days providing a noticeable boost to skill levels.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Unless your child is a natural-born athlete, it’s unlikely they’ll learn to ski in a day. Let go of your expectations and listen to your kids – if they don’t want to do something, don’t force it (despite the fact you may have just emptied your wallet paying for everything). If they balk at lessons, let them play on toboggans or throw snowballs – it all helps get them accustomed to being on the snow.

Let your children see you laughing and having fun. Play games like “Follow the Leader” while snow-ploughing down the learners’ slope and “I Spy” while riding the chairlift.

Don't be afraid to change the itinerary if you see energy levels fading – a few hours on the slopes is plenty for small children. Call it a day and head for the hot pools.

More Tantrum-Free Tips

  • Check for road restrictions on the snow report before heading up the mountain (two-wheel drive vehicles may require chains). You need to be comfortable and competent driving in potentially icy conditions.
  • Make use of the free shuttle buses between the mountain car parks and the base area of the ski field, reserving kids’ energy for on the slopes.
  • To avoid the drive altogether, catch a shuttle bus to Mt Ruapehu from Taupo, Turangi, National Park or Ohakune.