The enjoyment of a family ski holiday depends on children being warm and dry. To safeguard memories of fun and adventure on the slopes and inspire them to return to the mountains it is important to invest in good quality, well fitted gear to get the most out of your holiday. Here are some principles to achieve this along with a few tips to create a fabulous trip.
Damp clothing dramatically reduces the warmth of the wearer so ensure all your gear is completely dry before you start. Dry boots out over-night and make sure your socks and gloves are completely dry before you start the day. If your child likes making snowballs, carry a spare pair of gloves!
Buy clothing that is designed for winter sports. It will be made of suitable material that provides warmth as well as being wind and water resistant.
Cotton is one of the worst fabrics for skiing. It holds onto moisture and stays damp, whether that dampness be from snow or sweat. Moisture next to the skin will transmit the cold into the body and suck away heat. Instead of cotton choose merino wool or synthetic fabrics such as polyester and polyester blends. These will wick away moisture from the skin.
Layering of clothing
Layers of snug fitting clothes create multiple pockets of insulating air, keeping warmth trapped close to the body. Layering also enables you to regulate your temperature by stripping off a layer or two when you ski hard and adding them back on when you are sitting enjoying lunch on a terrace.
Normally three layers is enough, consisting of a base layer, mid layer and outer layer. A base layer of thermal top and leggings has a primary function of keeping the body dry by taking sweat away from the skin. One or more mid layers of fleece or down-based tops are designed for insulation. Choose mid layers that are not too bulky or restricting.
I have not come across many children that don’t enjoy making snowmen and generally rolling about in snow. Water and wind resistant outer layers (jackets and salopettes) are a must to ensure that little bodies can maintain a comfortable body temperature for a full day out in the mountains.
Protective layers are designed to protect your body from all the bumps, bounces and bottom slides that so often occur on the mountain. Many also have the added advantage of further insulting your body.
Helmets are an essential piece of kit for children these days. As we all know a large amount of heat is lost through the head. The padding and helmet structure keep much of this heat in. Choose a helmet that also has ear covering so the ears stay toasty and warm.
Not much heat is lost though the eyes but goggles protect from the glare of the sun as well as the discomfort of snow and wind. Anyone that has experienced snow blindness (sunburn of the cornea) will attest to the necessity of UV protection.
The extremities are often the first to feel the cold. Boots that fit well will keep those all important tootsies a toasty temperature. Children need a little more wiggle room for their toes because their centre of gravity is slightly different and they often lean back when skiing. When buckling the boot up do not make it too tight. There is an artery that runs across the top of the foot and if the pressure on this is too much it will reduce the circulation and make your children’s feet colder.
One pair of good quality socks should be all that is necessary. More than one pair of socks and the chances are they will wrinkle inside the boot and become uncomfortable. As mentioned before, never use cotton. They will trap the moisture from those sweaty feet and keep them cold as well as smelly!
Everyone knows how hard it can be to ski if your hands are so cold you can’t even hold the poles! For children mittens are the way forward – they are easier to get on and off and the space allows a lovely bubble of warm air to form inside the mitten. If your child still suffers from cold fingers you can use a thin synthetic finger glove inside as well. Mittens accommodate disposable hand warmers that will not fit easily into finger gloves if some instant relief is needed.
Long cuffs ensure there are no drafts around the wrists and it stops cold snow working its way into sleeves. Straps that stop mittens falling are also a must in our family. The last thing you want is to trawl around under the lifts looking for that lost mitten while your youngsters fingers become numb.
Don’t let the cold set in
Once the body starts to cool down it can be hard to build the core temperature back up again. I’m not saying you should see steam rising from your child before you allow then to remove a layer, but generally it is better to keep zips done up and gloves on.
To prevent coldness children should also stay well hydrated and energised. It is easy to forget how much liquid the body can loose through sweat, especially when you are wearing all the gear to keep your body dry. However, dehydration can limit the blood flow to the skin which can bring on the chills. High energy snacks, such as raisins and fruit chews will also keep the bodies metabolism working to generate heat and keep them warm.
If it all just gets too much never underestimate the power of hot chocolate! Find a warm alpine cafe and let a roaring fire and hot drink make you and your children feel happy again and ready for a final blast down the home run.
And remember, Clarian Chalets will keep you warm this winter as we whisk you to and from the slopes to enjoy the best of the skiing in the Portes du Soleil, with private childcare and a large, very cosy chalet!