It’s vital to have suitable outerwear for skiing and worth spending money to get this part of your child’s skiing wardrobe right: they need a good-quality waterproof jacket (with taped seams) in a breathable fabric. They can build up quite a sweat while skiing and sledging and if this moisture cannot escape, they will quickly feel chilled. Make sure the jacket has an elasticated snowskirt and adjustable cuff tabs to minimise the amount of snow getting inside the jacket after a tumble. A built-in hood is also useful, plus pockets for ski pass and other winter essentials (tissues, lip balm, sun cream, etc). Make sure your child has plenty of movement. Can they swing their arms and bend their knees? Make sure their movement is not restricted.
As with the jacket, it’s imperative to have quality outer garments. You need fully seam sealed waterproof and breathable ski trousers with inner gaiters to stop the snow coming in. If your children are beginners, it’s worth hunting out a pair with extra fabric on the knees and bottom to give them more protection when they fall.
Thermals form a vital underlayer of clothing for providing warmth. The general rule with ski-wear is to put on several thin layers, which can be reduced/increased as the weather changes. Thermals form your constant base layer – their wicking fabric draws moisture away from the body, keeping your little ones snug and dry. If this moisture cannot escape they will feel chilled. Rather than fork out for expensive thermal long-johns, tights and leggings can reduce costs on your bottom half, but we recommend proper long-sleeved thermal top layers to reduce the chill factor when your child sweats. They don’t have to be purchased from pricy specialist sports shops. Some large supermarkets now sell good value thermals as well. We highly recommend Decathlon too.
One (or, at the height of winter, even two) thin fleeces on top of your thermal layer provides excellent insulation beneath your waterproof ski jacket.
Scarf or neck warmer
If it’s bitterly cold, your child will be glad to have a scarf round their neck. Comfort is the key: fleece or silk are best, as wool can be a bit abrasive. Neck warmers are excellent, as there are no loose ends to flap about as your child whizzes down the slopes and they can roll them up over their chin or nose if it gets really chilly.
You simply can’t have too many pairs of ski socks. A minimum of two pairs – one pair on and one pair drying! Special ski socks with a proper heel and strategic padding are generally better than tubular socks. These should be snug-fitting – not too tight, nor too loose to slip down and cause lumps and bumps to rub inside their ski boots. Avoid wearing two pairs of socks for extra warmth: not only are you increasing the chance of pressure points for blisters but, unless both pairs are moisture wicking, the children will have cold, sweaty feet. Also, if there’s room for two pairs of socks, it’s quite likely that their ski boots are not correctly fitted either! There are plenty of fun designs for kids. They’re not cheap, so add them onto your children’s Christmas present list… or on a letter to Santa!
As with the socks, you can’t have too many pairs! It’s important to have good quality too, as their fingers (and toes) are often the first parts to suffer from cold on the mountain. Make sure your children’s gloves are warm, waterproof, padded (to protect against injuries), with good grip, sufficient insulation, and long enough to cover the wrist. The gloves should be snug but not too tight, to allow some airspace within. There should also be a buckle or Velcro strap fastening at the wrist to prevent heat escape. If your child is especially prone to cold, you might consider gloves with inner, detachable fleece mittens for extra warmth. Older children might benefit from a pair with a special pocket in which to slip a hand-warmer. Very young children often find mittens warmer than gloves, and easier to put on. Some of our participants with Down’s Syndrome prefer mittens rather than gloves too. It’s a good idea to attach the gloves/mittens to a length of string or elastic, to thread through the sleeves of their jackets so they don’t lose them. Some gloves already have a ‘don’t-loose-them-cord’ attached, and even a handy nose-wiping strip on the thumb!
Goggles are essential to protect your children’s eyes from the glare of the sun reflecting off the snow and the ultraviolet rays, and to form a snow-proof seal around their eyes on snowy days. In bad weather, you need a decent pair of goggles so you can see where you’re going! High quality, wrap-around sunglasses are also useful on the nursery slopes if the weather is fine.
Woolly hats are useful for general snow play, when helmets would be too cumbersome, also for evenings out. It is a good idea to pack the woolly hats into your hand luggage in case it is cold or snowing during your transfer from the airport to the resort. Pack a spare, in case one gets drenched in over-zealous snowball fighting.
Let’s face it, we all like sledging… and there’s nothing worse than freezing cold feet. Wellies are simply not man enough for the job – they are too cold and have poor grip. A pair of chunky snow boots are the best footwear to keep your children’s feet warm and dry when they play in the snow, to provide good grip in icy conditions and in general for wearing round the resort. We recommend getting your kids to travel in them, as they are bulky to pack. ‘Too-cool-to-roll-in-the-snow’ teenagers can probably get away with sturdy waterproof walking boots (but be forewarned – they usually end up sledging too!).
It is very easy to get sunburnt in the mountains, due to the high altitude and reflection from the snow – even in thick cloud – and no holiday is fun with sunburn. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of UV radiation. Your usual summer sun protection is not sufficient in the mountains. Make sure your children’s faces are protected by high factor products specifically manufactured for skiing conditions. The Piz Buin Mountain range, for instance, is specially formulated for high altitude conditions, with advanced UVA/UVB sun filters and a special ‘cold shield’ moisturising complex to protect the skin from the extreme cold.
As with the sun-cream, make sure you choose a balm with a high SPF. Many companies sell handy pocket-sized combo tubes to fit in the ski jacket – one end contains the cream, the other has the lip salve attached.
A small rucksack is vital for kids – not for skiing but for carrying all the bits and bobs between the hotel, slopes and our Fun Club. This should contain a spare pair of gloves and socks, a woolly hat, a change of clothes, sun glasses, sun cream and a favourite snack (optional).