Consumer Lookout:
How to prepare your Kids and Yourselves for a Snow trip 
By Susan Kerr

Do your Bay Area kids think winter is the time of year when cold weather means swapping flip-flops for sneakers and tank tops for tee shirts? If so, maybe it’s time to experience what a "real" winter feels like.

Most kids love the idea of seeing and playing in snow. It’s once they’re outside actually playing on the frosty white stuff that things can change. In my experience, there are two types of kids: the ones who will complain bitterly about the cold and want to go inside after a minute, and those who want to stay outside all day and pay no attention to the frost bite setting in.

Have no fear. As a mom who has taken her kids to Tahoe literally hundreds of times, I have learned that anyone can enjoy cold weather given a little up-front knowledge. These rules apply to everyone, from grade-schoolers to grandparents, from cold weather warriors to snow haters.

THE RULES

Rule #1: RESPECT THE COLD.
Don’t lie to your kids and tell them that it’s not that cold or wet outside. Kids aren’t dumb. They can tell that the reason they can see their breath or that there’s snot running down their faces has something to do with the weather! Instead, help them prepare for the weather so that they actually enjoy it.
Sure, there is nothing quite like a cold, crisp day outside, or the tastes of snowflakes on your tongue, but kids need to be dressed correctly and monitored. Make sure they come inside to warm up.
If they really don’t want to go outside, start slowly with a small expedition, even if it’s just a short walk down the street. Which leads to…

Rule #2: REMEMBER THAT HAPPY FEET MAKE HAPPY KIDS.
Frequently, the one place folks try to cut corners on is footwear. But if your feet are cold, nothing else can make up for it. Don’t settle for rain boots with lots of socks. Either borrow or rent boots that are good enough quality so your kids can last in the snow and cold for a while. Remember not to wear cotton socks that can get damp. Instead, look for winter weight moisture wicking socks and use thin liners if needed.

Rule #3: DRESS WARMLY EVEN THOUGH GETTING DRESSED IS A PAIN.
There’s no way around it: you need a lot more clothing to go outside when it’s cold. Don’t rush your family to get ready in the morning. Instead wake up a bit earlier if you want to get out to the slopes or sledding, knowing that it can take at least fifteen minutes to get a kid into ski wear. Conversely, don’t force your kids to wear all their heavy clothes in the car. They’ll burn to death and hate you at the same time. Layer them so they can be comfortable inside.

Rule #4: PROTECT THE LIPS.
IT’S NOT HAWAII, BUT…One of the biggest wintertime mistakes is to forget sunscreen and medicated lip balm. It may not look that sunny, but the glare off the snow as well as wind, can seriously burn or chap skin. Check that your chapstick has a high SPF number, and give your kids their own lip product to keep in their pockets. The glare is also tough on eyes, so remember to bring sunglasses and/or goggles.

Rule #5: PREPARE FOR BAD WEATHER. Sure, you may be psyched for lots of snow, but equally possible is rain. We’ve had plenty of experience with what weathermen affectionately call the "Pineapple Express" where instead of cold weather from Canada, the mountains are hit with warm tropical rains from the Pacific. Think of backup plans. Most big ski resorts have expanded to include other activities such as rock climbing. Make sure you bring rainy-day (or even better, blizzard-day) homebound activities with you such as puzzles and games.
If you’ve booked your kids in a ski school or vacation daycare center, make sure you understand what their bad-weather cancellation policies are ahead of time.

Rule #5: HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE.
If you’re heading for the mountains, you’re also heading for an altitude change. Our family has a rule: as soon as we’re out of the car in Tahoe, we each must drink a large glass of water. If your child is complaining of headaches or seems to be feeling off, check how much liquid he’s had. Lack of hydration and altitude are the most likely culprits.

Rule #6: WINTER EQUALS HOT CHOCOLATE AND SNOWMEN. There’s nothing wrong with positive reinforcement or positive memory association. My kids have no interest in hot chocolate at home, but up in snow country, it’s their favorite. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. And, if your snowman falls apart …don’t worry. Some types of snow just hold up better than others! There are always alternatives such as making snow angels, building a snow fort or just plain old eating snow.

Rule #7 DRIVE CAREFULLY, SLOWLY AND FULLY EQUIPPED. Even if you have all-wheel drive, snow is slippery and snow piles can take out even the biggest SUV. Storms can move in and make roads slow and even impassable. Always have on hand in your car extra food and liquid and plenty of clothing for each family member. Keep your gas tank full. And as the Donner party learned, don’t take shortcuts!

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