How to have the perfect Ski Week
Last week the stars aligned and gave us pretty-darn-near-perfect weather for a family ski vacation. After months and months with not a snowflake in sight, the Tahoe skies finally produced some snow -- but obligingly stopped the morning that we left, so we could drive up without any traffic delays, and enjoy soft powder and sunny skies.
That said, luck can only take you so far; the perfect family ski vacation takes careful planning. During weekends, when ski resorts are more crowded, it takes even more careful planning. During holiday weekends, particularly Ski Week -- that period of vacation time in February, on or around President's Day Weekend, that many Bay Area families use to head up to the Lake Tahoe area to ski -- it takes planning and decision-making worthy of a military campaign. Here are some tips I have to achieve the Perfect Ski Week and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable, stress-free experience:
1) Send your kids to a school district that gives you several days off for the Presidents' Day Weekend (i.e. Ski Week) -- but gives them a few days before any of the other school districts, so you don't head up to the mountains with the rest of the school crowd.*
2) Head up to the mountains a day or two before your Ski Week officially begins, so you don't head up to the mountains with the rest of your school.
3) Head up to the mountains on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so you don't head up to the mountains with the rest of the working crowd, and you get the ski resorts practically to yourself.
4) If you're a beginning-level skier, choose a small ski resort so you don't get terrorized by expert double-black-diamond skiers schussing down the green slopes at breakneck speed on their way to the bottom of the lift, or screaming at you to get out of the way as you're struggling to get off the lift at the top. If you're one of those double-black-diamond skiers, by all means, please ignore this advice and head to the bigger resorts; hopefully all the beginners will heed my advice so you won't have to be bothered by us slowpokes!
5) Put an energy bar and a small bottle of water into your ski jacket pocket so you can spend all your time on the slopes instead of wasting time lining up at a restaurant when you need a snack or a drink.
6) Give the kids a square of chocolate at the first hint of crabbiness. Skiing and snowboarding takes more out of them than you think, and a Twix (okay, fine, a granola bar -- but give them a treat and make it a chocolate covered one!) can do wonders restoring their energy levels.
7) Wear a diaper underneath your ski clothes so you can spend all your time on the slopes instead of wasting lining up at a restroom when you need to pee.**
8) Take extra fleeces and neck warmers, just in case it's windier than you thought. You can always leave the extra layers in the car if you don't need them -- and if you do need them, you'll avoid the misery of skiing with chattering teeth.
9) Helmets, please; even for the grownups. Think safety first, and set a good example for your kids!
10) Watch the weather forecasts like a hawk, and be ready to abort -- i.e. cancel or reschedule -- the whole trip if there is any indication that you'll be driving and/or skiing in a blizzard. Believe me, it isn't worth it!
*For diehard ski afficionados only (or dot-com/VC/Facebook millionaires who can afford to buy multiple houses to ensure that they can always be in a school district that schedules Ski Week separately from other schools -- or hire private tutors).
**For diehard ski afficionados or children under 3 only. Alternative method = force yourself and your kids to take a potty break before you start skiing, even if they claim they don't feel like it.