6 tips for a North Lake Tahoe ski vacation with toddlers

It's not exactly a secret that becoming a parent changes everything. However, that couldn't be truer than of ski vacations. Before my husband and I had kids, we skied from the moment the lifts opened until the very last lift shut down. Day trips from the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe ski resorts were no sweat, chasing that powder even if it meant sacrificing sleep. 

But like all parents, adding kids to our household definitely changed our North Lake Tahoe ski trip habits. Yet now with a seven-year-old and three-year-old in tow, we have found a new normal that works for our North Lake Tahoe ski vacation. So I'm offering some important tips we have learned from our experiences to make those trips a success. Below you'll find my six best tips for a North Lake Tahoe ski vacation with toddlers.

1. Let your toddler give skiing a try. Nearly as soon as kids can walk, they can learn how to ski. My daughter made her first turns at just 23 months old at Northstar California, holding onto my husband’s ski poles. While that's not the case for everyone, some kids are just fearless and ready to blaze down the mountain as a toddler. So if you think you have one of those kids, then give your fearless child a chance to learn at that young age.

Too young for ski school but old enough for a ski lesson!

Too young for ski school but old enough for a ski lesson!

However, if you are going to brave a ski trial run, prepare your toddler for success in advance. Talk about skiing and even watch a few videos of other young kids skiing before your trip so they can visualize how it is done. Additionally, make a little time for snow play before getting your child into skis and boots so they are used to the cold stuff, especially if you are coming from a place where snow is not a regular event. Finally, choose a good weather day to give skiing a try so you toddler isn’t battling the additional challenge of the elements.

2. Consider childcare. But as I learned by having a second child, not all toddlers respond the same way to the challenge of skiing at a young age. I tried skiing with my son when he was two and a half years old last winter, and it was evident that he was not quite ready. This winter we have avoided some of the resistance by enrolling him in Northstar's Minors Camp Child Care, a licensed daycare center on site at the North Lake Tahoe ski resort, available for children from ages two to six. With his big sister in ski school, my husband and I get some time on the slopes to ski the steeper runs ourselves.

Northstar's Minors Camp is a smart alternative to ski school with kids not yet ready to ski.

Northstar's Minors Camp is a smart alternative to ski school with kids not yet ready to ski.

On other trips, we bring grandma and grandpa along to help with caring for our kids, making for a fun multigenerational ski trip to Lake Tahoe. Also consider booking a local babysitter. Several agencies in the North Lake Tahoe area can match you with a background-checked sitter for the day or evening.

3. Choose your North Lake Tahoe accommodations wisely. While North Lake Tahoe has a wide variety of lodging options, consider them carefully when you have toddlers with you. We’ve stayed in everything with our kids, from The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe to Northstar's Aspen Grove condos (just off the Village at Northstar) to vacation rentals around North Lake Tahoe. Each has its advantages. Condos and ski cabins are excellent for longer trips when we want to cook meals in a full kitchen, but The Ritz-Carlton cannot be beat for the amazingly easy logistics, luxury offerings, and ideal location convenient to ski runs and the Village at Northstar. Bonus points with kids in tow: The Ritz-Carlton always has someone there ready to help handle the extra ski gear that little kids require.

Toddler snow play at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Toddler snow play at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

4. Know when to splurge. On that topic of logistics, skiing definitely involves extra challenges when you have toddlers along. Toddlers can’t carry their own gear, and in many cases, not walk safely by themselves on snow and ice. That's where knowing when to splurge can make things easier on yourself. At Northstar, for example, we have found parking in the preferred paid parking lot is totally worth the cost with two young children in tow. Walking so easily and quickly from the Village to our car at the end of a long ski day is priceless. Additionally, you can take advantage of services like Northstar's Platinum Valet with optional gear delivery to the Big Springs gondola, and The Ritz-Carlton's ski valet, which retrieves your equipment and stores it at no extra charge. 

5. Bring the right gear. While ski gear can get expensive, if you skimp on gear and apparel for your toddler, you may end up paying the price. Therefore, invest in quality snow clothing for your children to keep them warm and dry. A ski bib, ski jacket, hat, waterproof mittens, wool socks, a base layer, and snow boots are the bare necessities. Furthermore, with toddlers, you want their gear to be as waterproof as possible, since they often want to spend so much time playing in the snow, skiing or not. If you're on a budget, buy gender-neutral colors for your kids so you can easily use the gear for more than one child. Also consider season-long clothing rentals or borrowing from friends. Lastly, take advantage of Any Mountain's Junior Trade-In Program, in which you can trade-in your child's winter ski gear as they grow up.

Looking the part with all the right gear.

Looking the part with all the right gear.

6. Find toddler-friendly activities and dining. While your toddler may become a skiing aficionado during their first winter skiing, even the heartiest of toddlers can’t keep it up for too long. As such, plan for other activities on your ski vacation to maximize family fun. Luckily, the entire North Lake Tahoe area is exceptionally kid-friendly, so you can find a lot of things to do and places to eat that work with younger kids. Just a few kid-friendly activities in North Lake Tahoe include ice skating, visiting Truckee's KidZone Museum, and eating at Jax at the Tracks, which has been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. For additional non-skiing inspiration:  

Leslie is a recovering attorney turned travel writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two kids, ages 7 and 3. Her travel passions include all things air travel, wacky roadside attractions, national parks, Disney, and (of course) skiing! Leslie has lived in California for more than a decade, but she still proudly holds onto the last vestiges of her Southern accent, acquired from a childhood growing up in Alabama. When she's not writing for Northstar, you can find her work on her blog, Trips With Tykes. Follow Leslie on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.