406dad: Skiing in Montana with Kids
Being located in the Rocky Mountains, Montana of course has no shortage of mountains, and subsequently no shortage of skiing. Always a family friendly pursuit that promotes healthy outdoor exercise and a unique opportunity to connect with the kids. Often perceived as an expensive hobby, skiing in Montana can be quite affordable because of an abundance of smaller, less resort focused ski areas.
The kids have been skiing for a while, even in their California days at Mammoth Mountain. Although ball sports and other interests have recently taken precedence.
While usually a wonderful and fun family experience throughout the winter, skiing and snowboarding does pose risks like many other sports and outdoor activities. It’s usually good for parents and kids to go over a few safety tips and sage advice before the season starts.
First of all, don’t ignore lessons for your kids! Strong skiers with good fundamentals that stay in control and make good turns are much less at risk for injuries or other problems. Almost all ski areas in Montana offer some form of lessons, either group or individual.
Once on the mountain, know which slopes are appropriate for your child’s skiing ability. If the trail map is ambiguous or unclear, feel free to ask the ski area management or the local ski patrol about the relative difficulty of each slope and whether it’s safe for your kids abilities. Also, try to have a plan in case of separation. Encourage kids to ski to the bottom of a lift and ask the attendants for help.
Pay attention to warning signs, particularly the “Slow Skiing” or “Caution” warnings that may indicate a crowded area, or a confluence of trails that could lead to collisions. And of course, don’t ignore that “Out of Bounds” sign for obvious reasons. And pay attention to your surroundings! There may be ski racers practicing nearby, or a large group of teenagers flying by, or a snowmobile coming up the slope. As a parent, have fun and a great experience with your children – but stay alert while on the mountain.
The right equipment and clothing can make the difference between an enjoyable day and a miserable experience. Always have a trained professional fit and maintain skis, boots, poles, and bindings. Technology gains in recent decades has made skiing a much safer sport, but poorly maintained and ill-adjusted equipment often negates those safety advancements.
A well sized and fitted helmet is also an essential component of safe skiing nowadays as well as properly sized goggles that not only keep out harmful sun rays, but also snow and wind that may obstruct vision and create more potential hazards. And don’t forget sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher, even if it’s a cloudy day.
Lastly, and probably the most important tip – focus on a fun and a good experience, particularly for younger kids. Take plenty of breaks on cold days. Maybe stop for a snowball fight at the bottom of the mountain (away from active runs of course). Hot chocolate should be flowing freely throughout the day as needed. And let the professional instructors do most of the teaching – screaming “Pizza” and “French Fry” all day at your kids isn’t always a pleasant experience for them.
A map of Montana’s ski areas can be found here. The National Ski Areas Association Responsibility Code is important for all families to read. The National Ski Patrol is a non-profit organization dedicated to mountain safety and education. During the winter season, current Montana Ski Conditions can be found on the home page of The Missoula Underground.