This is a question we get all the time. It’s also a question we wrestled with when our kids were young.
If you’re looking for a short and quick answer, here it is: It is too cold to ski when you think it is too cold ski.
Temperatures are relative. 5° F (-15° C) on a sunny day can feel warmer than 20° F (-7° C) on a windy, snowy day. There is no definitive temperature telling you when it’s too cold to ski.
So our best advice is to bundle up and try skiing. If you or your kids feel cold, return to the lodge or a warming hut. Eat some soup or drink some cocoa and then try again.
Want to dig a little further into this topic? Keep reading for specific “stay warm” tips and suggestions.
Additionally, since cold weather can cause serious health issues (also covered below), if anyone is complaining of the cold, respect that and call it a day.
Stay Warm Tip #1: The Right Clothing
Wearing the right ski clothes makes a big difference when it comes to staying warm.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive brands. It does mean dressing yourself and your children in the best coat, pants, mittens and layers you can afford.
Look for well-made, basic ski clothes.
Ski pants and jackets should be waterproof and insulated (ideally with natural or synthetic down, like PrimaLoft).
Socks and baselayers/long underwear should be synthetic or wool, never cotton.
Fleece pullovers, down sweaters and down vests are excellent mid-layers.
Mittens and gloves should be waterproof and insulated.
Add Another Layer
Even on temperate days, a good rule for parents skiing with young children is to dress your kids exactly as you are dressed and add one layer. I learned this handy tip (she’s got 10!) from my friend Alyssa at The Kid Project.
Children get cold more quickly than adults and if your child gets too warm, it’s easy to shed a layer.
The same holds true on the coldest days. Double up on baselayers and don an extra fleece or down vest. If you get too warm, take off a layer.
Avoid cold hands with wool or synthetic mitten liners and/or disposable hand warmers.
Close the vents on your helmet and add a thin beanie underneath. Or better yet, pull your jacket’s hood up over the helmet. Instant relief!
Balaclavas, neoprene face masks and neck gaiters also add warmth.
The only thing you should never layer? Your ski socks. One thin pair of good ski or snowboard socks is all you need.
Stay Warm Tip #2: An Electric Boost?
If you or your kids are chronically cold you might want to try an electric coat heater.
It’s very well-designed, easy to use and provides steady heat for approximately four hours.
Stay Warm Tip #3: Stay Dry
Cold and damp ski clothing and ski boots will make you feel cold and damp. Especially when skiing with kids, bring along extra socks, mittens and long underwear, just in case something gets wet.
Also, dry your boots thoroughly, after each ski day. We use fans or hot sticks, but if you don’t have these, remove the boot liners from the shells and drop disposable hand warmers into the liners. Leave them to dry overnight.
Tip from my local ski shop: If you have a hard time putting liners back into your boots, invest $10-$15 on a Ski Boot Horn. It’s a slick piece of plastic shaped like the back of a ski boot. Stick it into the shell and slide the liner in.
Stay Warm Tip #4: Eat and Drink
Hunger and thirst make everyone cold. Take frequent breaks to refuel, rehydrate and warm up. Never skip lunch.
Cold Weather Safety
Extremely low temperatures can cause serious conditions like frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia.
Children are more vulnerable to these conditions than adults, as they lose heat more rapidly through their skin.
Additionally, when kids are having fun, they may not realize that they are cold. If you can, bring your kids in to get warm before they complain of being cold.
Frostnip and Frostbite
Frostnip happens before frostbite. It usually affects exposed skin, turning it red, tingly or numb. Frostnip is best treated by coming inside and warming up.
Frostbite happens when ice crystals form in the skin and deeper tissues. Frostbit skin is completely numb and looks white, grayish-yellow or grayish-blue and waxy.
If you suspect frostbite, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops a few degrees below normal.
Hypothermia symptoms are shivering, having to go to the bathroom, confusion and sleepiness.
These symptoms are broad and general. So, when skiing with kids come inside if your child shows any of them.
Life-threatening hypothermia symptoms include tight or stiff muscles, blurry vision and slurred speech. Seek immediate emergency care for anyone with these symptoms.
For More Information
If you have questions about taking your children into the cold, or their safety in cold weather, please consult your pediatrician.
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