Why the best big family vacation may be skiing

Jan 31, 2022

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Freezing temperatures, bulky gear and a learning curve to figure out how to make it down the mountain in one piece may sound more like the opening setup of a survival story than a family vacation, but those are indeed some of the components of a family ski trip.

While I’m a big fan of waterslides, roller coasters, swim-up smoothie bars and relaxing resorts, after 12 years of taking a wide variety of trips with my kids, I’m ready to declare ski trips the winner in the best family trip category.

Despite the gear, the temperatures and the occasional wipeout, it’s consistently the best all-around family travel experience. You may question my thinking given how much work family ski trips entail, but hear me out: Sometimes the most memorable trips are the ones that require a bit more planning and effort.

Here are my top reasons for why ski trips make the best family trips.

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In This Post

Skiing is pure magic

Let’s start with the obvious: the skiing itself.

I’ve yet to sprout wings and fly, but when skiing down a trail with fresh powder beneath me and more floating down from above, it is as close to truly flying as I can imagine. When the powder is just right, you hardly hear anything else around you beyond the sound of your skis slightly slicing below you. Everything is calm and still as you are soaring down a trail with the wind in your face.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Even on days when the powder isn’t falling, skiing is magical in another way.

Blue sky days allow you to take in the majesty of the mountains around you and see for miles and miles. Although it’s true that there is some work involved with skiing when you are gliding and taking it all in, you’re sometimes just floating in a reality all your own with hardly any effort required.

The experience is both exhilarating and peaceful at the same time, a feeling I’ve yet to encounter during other kinds of trips.

Related: How to use miles and points for a family ski trip 

Telluride (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

These trips build confidence

There’s no doubt that unlike a resort or beach vacation, a ski trip isn’t just about relaxing and unwinding. In fact, it’s sometimes the opposite of that and can be about pushing your limits.

But amid that initial frustration and learning curve, you get to watch your family’s skills grow. You and your kids get to progress from the learning hill with the magic carpet to the easiest green run complete with a real lift to other runs with slightly more challenging terrains.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

My kids love to talk about when they skied their firsts (think: green run, tree trail, little jump and more) in a way that you can sense the pride they have in getting better and having more of the mountain open up to them. Even though we live in Texas where snow rarely falls, this pride and periodic talk of their time on the ski runs absolutely follows them home.

Related: The best age for kids to start skiing 

You get to cheer each other on

Anyone with multiple kids probably knows that sometimes sibling rivalry and a dash of competitiveness can creep into almost any equation. I’m not saying that can’t happen with skiing, but my experience is that a camaraderie of cheering each other on is far more common than any true rivalry.

The better everyone gets on skis and boards, the more fun everyone can have together on the mountain. As a result, I’ve seen lots of high fives and compliments flow between skiing siblings as they encourage each other to keep improving and trying new things. I’ve never had that happen at a beach resort type of vacation destination.

Skiing Steamboat (Photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Maps and decision-making skills are part of the experience

While ski resorts are moving away from printed trail maps in favor of digital versions through resort apps, the use of maps is still an important part of a ski trip.

Regardless of whether the trail map is in an app or on paper, I’ve found that having to actually read maps and make a plan to get down the mountain naturally creates a rare opportunity for my kids to work together. Seeing them plot out runs they can do together as they eat breakfast or lunch is a great skill for them to use and develop.

Although they do make plans of attack when visiting, say, Disney World, there’s a different level of gravity to the choices on the mountain than there is if you end up at Big Thunder Mountain instead of Splash Mountain.

Related: How to make your next ski trip the best one ever

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Old-fashioned outdoor fun comes standard

A ski vacation is a naturally healthy, outdoor-focused experience.

Ski trips have you up early, outside all day, off the mountain by 4 or 5 p.m. and then relaxing in the evening as you plot out doing it all over again the next day. The focus of the entire trip is on being outside and active, and that makes it a pretty great family activity in my book.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

It’s not only timeless fun, but it can be pretty safe to do during the pandemic, too, especially if you are able to do a little extra planning to skip the indoor portions of the trip by having gear delivered and meals outside or in your lodging.

Getting ski gear delivered. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

On recent ski trips, we’ve been diligent about packing drinks and sandwiches in our backpacks to just eat while lounging outside on the mountain. Not only do we then skip the packed ski lodge that was never a highlight of the day anyway, but we also avoid shelling out a ton of money for pricey on-mountain food and beverages.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Adults get a moment to breathe

It’s not just the fresh mountain air that makes a ski trip enjoyable; the moments adults get to themselves are also part of the appeal. Whether your kids are good enough skiers or riders to take a few runs without you or they are still learning with an instructor or in ski school, you may get some time to just enjoy runs (or even lunch!) with other adults while the kids are doing their own thing.

Enjoy an adult stop on the mountain. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

They’re ideal for extended family trips

While I feel confident about saying ski trips are the best family trips, it’s the most indisputable when it comes to extended family trips.

Most of my own favorite trips as a child were the ones that involved us teaming up to go somewhere together with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. When I was a kid, these big family vacations were often big road trip caravans from Texas to New Mexico or Colorado to ski.

Back then, I didn’t know why that was the type of vacation we always chose to enjoy with all of the cousins, but now I get it.

Skiing in Breckenridge. (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Skiing automatically comes with a shared trip focus built in while providing plenty of room to breathe and excel on your own.

If you’ve ever planned a big group trip, you probably already know how important this is to keep people from stepping on each other’s toes or debating what to do all day. You’re going to get up and ski, but even with that, you can all branch off and do different runs and meet up for lunch or at the end of the day.

Plus, even those who don’t enjoy skiing or snowboarding can be satisfied during a family ski trip. Since most of the group will probably be gone during the day, there’s space for some to stay behind at the lodge to relax or venture elsewhere to try non-skiing activities, such as ice skating, snow tubing, snowmobiling and sleigh rides.

There’s the ability to be together without the pressure of sticking together, which is the best equation of all.

Related: How to rent a great ski vacation home for the family

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

While I’m convinced that ski vacations are the best type of family trip, I’ll also be the first to say they are not the easiest (or the cheapest).

The process of learning to ski for the very first time isn’t always fun, and there are parts of a ski trip that feel more like work than a vacation. If that all sounds awful to you, then it’s probably not the best trip for you to take.

However, once you get those first few days of learning out of the way and put in some of the groundwork to master the basics of both the sport and the gear (which includes knowing how to layer to stay warm), the payoff is as grand as the mountains themselves.

We don’t live near snow, but my kids are now the third generation in my family to grow to love the gift of skiing and spending time with family in the mountains. I have a strong feeling they won’t be the last to inherit that love.

Featured image by Summer Hull.

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