Choosing winter gear for your kids may seem like a mission… and that’s because it is!
Fellow Mummy in the Mountains, Laurence Bertholin, ex French team skier and now owner of a successful ski shop and kids ski school (Les Marmottons) based in Tignes, kindly agreed to give me her top tips on how to choose ski equipment/ski schools for kids. Who better to share her years of experience as both a mother and a professional.
Ensuring your kids are warm, comfortable and as safe as possible is a fine art composed of a mixture of lots of different elements when it comes to snow sports.
So here are some of the essentials!
1: HELMETSAn absolute ESSENTIAL for kids (& adults really). Whether you buy, or rent make sure you choose an adjustable one. Helmets shouldn’t however be bought with too much room to grow. Children’s heads grow slowly. Make sure that the helmet is a snug and comfortable fit and stays in place when rocking the head forward. (Bring goggles along to make sure they fit nicely on the helmet and that there is a strap to keep the goggles in place).
Choose a flashy colour – it’s easier to spot your kids on the slopes and avoid dangers such as collisions in white outs.
It is best to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable salesperson in a reputable store when choosing a snow sports helmet for your child.
Laurence recommends & sells in her shop the model Pocito in fluo orange or fluo pink 😊 (something for everyone)
2: BACK PROTECTION
Back protectors are becoming increasingly common place and many ski clubs have are making them just as compulsory as a helmet.
Back protectors are particularly important for kids, of which many seem to be more interested in the snow park or hurtling through the trees (mine are anyway 😉)!!! They can be indispensable during falls or collisions. There are lots of models on the market now and thanks to technology they are increasingly advanced, flexible and light-weight to wear.
Laurence advises us that it is essential to make sure you get the right fit so that they stay in the right position. Firstly, you need to make sure your back protector is the correct length. Laurence recommends a back protection that zips up, so it won’t move and one that doesn’t have straps. If you choose a model with straps your poor child will end up juggling numerous straps from the salopettes etc. and it will be irritating/uncomfortable.
Laurence recommends & sells these two models:
Model Pocito in fluo orange or fluo pink 😊 or this rather funky new brand called l’armure française…
3: SKI BOOTS
Ski boots are one of the elements of skiing that can be the most uncomfortable for kids. Not only are ski boots heavy and difficult to walk in…but ill-fitting boots can also make your feet very cold and cause lots of pain.
“Having cold, painful feet is the number one problem complained of in boot fitting shops around the world. Correctly fitted ski boots & proper socks can go a long way to alleviate this”.
To get a good size boot ensure that you have enough space to put at least a finger down the back of the heel. You can pull the liner out of the boot to test this.
It is important to remember everyone has different shaped feet…some boots are renowned to be good for slim feet, others for larger feet etc. Where possible a trained boot fitter is the best option, they know the subtle differences between the boots.
4: SKI SOCKS
If you don’t have the right kind of ski sock…you can get blisters and sores. Invest in technical ski socks and never wear two pairs or ordinary socks.
Ensure they fit properly – neither too tight (cut off circulation = cold feet) or too loose (bunch up and rub = blisters). Ensure they are technical with the right properties to wick away sweat. (wool, bamboo or mixed with an artificial fibre)
Laurence recommends BARTS not only are they great quality, they have lots of fun designs which appeal to kids (& adults 😉). My kids are big fans of BARTS too…
Did you know that moisturizing your full body, feet included, protects from the cold. If your children suffer from the cold…moisturize them in a cold cream before they hit the slopes. Many French brands do great creams that you can buy easily from a pharmacy – such as La Roche Posay, Avene or I recently discovered these products at my local super market, Monoprix that I think I may have to test out this winter 😉 (for both myself & the kids)
Gloves are like feet…Cold hands, which then lead to frostbite can be a huge problem in snowsports. Having suffered from frost bite (My dad coaxed my hands back to life with hot chocolates in Courchevel when I was a teenager) and having had my children suffer from frost bite I can’t underline this one too much. Hands grow like feet with children and the same gloves year in, year out don’t work.
Gloves need to be technical and warm. Opt for supple and breathable tissues…otherwise your kids will sweat and then get cold.
Mittens tend to be the best for kids under 8. They are easy to put on and much warmer.
Laurence recommends some of the best mittens on the market, HESTRA…They are not the cheapest it has to be said. They are however worth every penny, as long as, your kids don’t lose them 😉. Most mittens for kids are long enough to cover over their jackets and come with a cord so you can attach them inside their jacket to prevent them from losing them. If they don’t already come with this – make one. Dropping a mitten from a chair lift or losing one in a mountain restaurant can be an expensive mistake!
Laurence recommends & sells mittens like these:
Neck warmers have developed lots in recent years. There is huge variety and varying degrees of warmth available. Many brands also offer balaclavas. They are great to keep you extra warm and can frequently be used as a headband too. Make sure you buy a child’s product, as they are adapted to the circumference of their heads and the products/fabrics chosen to suit them. Some products even have UV protection.
Laurence recommends a brand developed by Tignes locals Aude & Murielle : Jao
My children have products by Buff too which are also great. I have one from the brand kari traa (founded by the Norwegian, champion freestyle skier who has three Olympic medals to her name) which I love too and actually bought at Ski One – they do some amazing base layer stuff for ladies too… I best not get started on things for the Mummies, otherwise I’ll never stop 😉
OTHER TOP TIPS:
CHOOSING SKIS: THE simple guide
Beginners – skis should reach just under their chin
Level 3* – skis should reach between their chin & eyes
Level 3*+ – Skis should be just in front of their foreheads
However, we would advise to get them adjusted by a pro. This is weight & ability dependant.
FOOD = FUEL
BREAKFAST: Make sure your kids have a decent breakfast. You burn up calories a lot faster in the cold and the old saying Breakfast is the most important meal of the day is certainly true!
POCKET SNACKS: Ensure kids have a snack in their pocket (something that will give them an instant energy boost and won’t smash/make a mess in their pocket …no bananas 😉)
If you are in Tignes don’t hesitate to pop in and see Laurence & her lovely husband Manu. They are founts of knowledge when it comes to everything ski related…equipment, lessons, snow conditions – you name it. They have carefully slelected some of the best products on the market. Their kids ski school is great too…My two eldest did some of their first ever lessons with them and we can highly recommend them.