We couldn’t wait until morning to start our first family ski vacation so we decided to set-out in the evening after all the kids’ activities were over. This meant our very first view of Blue Mountain was as magical as our ski trip would become – completely lit up for nighttime skiers with sparkly snow under the lights on a clear dark winter night. The kids were amazed and almost speechless until my son said “now that’s a mountain! I haven’t seen one of those since we left Alberta.”
Although we lived in Alberta for two years, only my oldest daughter (11) has skied a handful of times in her school gym class. My youngest two have never skied before while my husband and I haven’t skied since high school. Even as non-skiers, I’ve always wanted to take our family on a ski vacation, but kept putting it off because… can you even do that with a non-skiing family?
After spending two fun-filled days and two very relaxing nights at Blue Mountain Resort, Ontario’s largest Mountain village resort (and just 90-minutes north of Toronto) I’m convinced our family will become ski vacation regulars. So if you’re like me and wanting to attempt your first family ski vacation with your non-skiing family, here are a couple of tips we picked up along the way.
Pick Somewhere Family Friendly
When researching where we wanted to embark on our first skiing adventure, Blue Mountain stuck with us because of the many programs and amenities just for kids. We felt comfortable knowing before we even got there that the kids would learn to ski in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment and when we weren’t skiing that there would be plenty for them to do and lots of kid-friendly restaurants to choose from. Every single staff person we encountered made a point of chatting with the kids and going out of their way to make sure they were having fun even when that meant showing “mom” how to attach lift passes to their coats or working up a sweat pushing my two oldest children down the tube tracks at the exact same time so they could race.
Park the Car, Enjoy the Village
I truly believe that one of the biggest reasons our ski trip was so enjoyable is because we stayed at the Westin Trillium House right in Blue Mountain Resort. On top of having every single amenity we could ask for, including a full kitchen, we literally parked our truck, unpacked, moved in and didn’t go back to the truck until it was time to leave. Because we stayed right in the village everything was walking distance including the ski slopes, restaurants and all the activities you could hope for. The kids loved exploring the village and I loved all the time we spent outdoors.
Book Ski Lessons – Non Negotiable
If you’re newbie skiers like us, then ski lessons are a necessity. You may find you only need one to get older kids (and you!) up and on their way, but for the younger kids look for multi-lesson programs just for them or a couple ½ hour private lessons to make sure they are ready and confident enough to hit the slopes (and by slopes I mean the beginner slope of course!). We opted for a private family lesson which started with how to put your skis on and take them off and how to turn around then continued onto the newbie circuit where we learned the basics which mostly involved how to stop. Within a few runs through the newbie circuit my husband and our eldest daughter were ready to ride the magic carpet lift up to the top of the first beginner slope (which still looked pretty high to me!). My son needed a few extra practice runs until our amazing instructor Rob felt he was ready to graduate to the beginner slope and my youngest daughter never made it off the newbie circuit which didn’t bother her one bit!
Be Prepared to Split Up
While fantasizing about our first family ski trip I definitely had visions of all five of us taking the lift up the mountain and enjoying the slopes together, but I quickly realized that because our family was all at different levels this was not likely to happen on our first trip. My husband spent much of his time with the two older kids while I stuck to helping our 5 year old through the newbie circuit over and over and over again. Though my ski fantasies did not turn into reality, I was blown away by how much the kids just loved to ski no matter their level and how much I loved watching their confidence grow and their cheeks get rosier.
Don’t Get Your Hopes Up For Leaving The Bunny Hill
Even with a private ski lesson and kids who were willing to work hard and challenge themselves, they still were not ready to leave the beginner slopes. Perhaps after a longer stay or even on our next family ski vacation we will be ready for the next challenge, but after only two days and one ski lesson we weren’t quite there. On the plus side, Blue Mountain has a Beginner lift ticket which is less expensive than the full lift pass and perfect for kids who are sticking to the “bunny hill”.
Don’t Promise Rides On The Ski Lift
With the last two points above, my advice is don’t promise a ride on the ski lift. After all, what comes up must come down and the coming down part involves skiing more advanced slopes than the beginner ones. Beginner slopes, we learned usually bring you up on a magic carpet which is not the same as a full-fledged ski lift.
Plan Your Meals and Make Reservations for Peak Times
Even though there are lots of restaurant options in Blue Mountain, I found it very helpful to have a plan for dinner every night. With kids tired from being outdoors all day, having a pre-established plan for dinner (and a reservation!) means you’re not stuck asking the question what do you want for dinner? then trying to figure out where to go. We had fantastic family dinners at the Firehall Pizza Co. in a can’t-be-missed Blue Mountain Village building modelled after a real firehall and at Oliver & Bonacini right in the Westin Trillium House where the kids’ meals come with appetizers, mains and dessert (which was “awesome” according to my son).
Enjoy Some Non-Skiing Activities
Another benefit to staying right in a ski village is all the fun activities you can do as a family when the kids need a little break from the slopes. We enjoyed tubing, Crock-A-Doodling, Plunge! Blue Mountain’s very own aquatic centre, an outdoor mountain coaster (yes in the snow!) and my kids’ absolute favourite – swimming outside in sub-zero temperatures at Plunge! and the Westin pools.
Make Après Ski Something Special
After spending all day outside and challenging ourselves on the slopes, après ski for us meant dinner by the fireplace at Oliver & Bonacini where we listened to the kids tell us their favourite parts of the day and watched them smile widely when their s’mores cake came for dessert. Of course, if you ask my kids that was Part Two of après ski. Part One is eating Beaver Tails for lunch and drinking their favourite hot chocolate with whip cream and sprinkles at the Sunset Grill before heading off to the next winter family fun activity.
If you’re like me and have been wanting to take your non-skiing family on a skiing vacation, I promise it’s not only do-able, it’s easier than you may think and promises to be full of magical family memories.
Worried you’re out of time for this season? March Break is right around the corner and the perfect time to book your skiing vacation! If you’re wondering where to go, here’s a little sticky-note I found in my 11 year old daughter’s things when we got home…
See you on the slopes!
A big thank you to Blue Mountain Resort for giving our family the opportunity to experience such an amazing first family ski trip!