Sunday, August 3, 2014

Surviving a snow adventure with a toddler

We finally had our snow adventure. It was a few weeks late, but I was determined after our month of winter-themed play to take Dear Boy to the snow. Before committing to a full-on snow holiday I wanted to see if we even liked it. I've seen snowfall and thin layers of snow on the ground when I lived in England, but none of us had ever had a full snow experience. Handily, I won a Winter Wonderland Package from Lake Mountain Alpine Resort (two hours from Melbourne) to make a day-trip to the snow.

So with a  bit of preparation, an eye out on the weather and road conditions and a little freak-out about driving on ice, we hit the slopes. Or slope. Or snowfield, really. We had a great day, although it was a steep learning curve for all of us with a toddler in tow. Negotiating icy ground while carrying a child, getting said child from the bottom of the toboggan run back up to the top, keeping him from eating the snow... interesting, to say the least. Now that we've done it, I thought I'd share what I did well, what I learned the hard way and what I'd do better next time.

  • Plastic/waterproof pants are a must. Even if you don't buy full snow gear, waterproof pants of some kind will help prevent a cold, wet miserable time. Dear Boy spent most of our visit falling over and lolling about in the snow. He would have been saturated. You can get quite cheap waterproof pants or bib and brace overalls in kids sizes from many army disposal stores. We hired pairs for the adults at Lake Mountain.
  • Proper waterproof gloves or mittens are also a must. Not even a minute after we got him out of the car, Dear Boy had plunged his hands into the snow on the side of the road. A minute after that, he was crying at me that his hands were cold. Trying to get any gloves or mittens on my kid was a huge pain, but given he couldn't keep his hands out of the snow, it was totally worth the effort. We got his mittens for under $10 from Kathmandu. 
  • Gumboots work just as well as snow boots. Lots of kids were running around in gumboots. Just make sure you have super warm socks and have trousers that will cover their tops. From the misery on a few kids' faces, there's probably nothing worse than wet snow inside your boots.
  • Give any new gear a trial run. You don't want to realise things don't fit when you're in the middle of a patch of snow. We tested out our new snow boots a few weeks before and discovered that the zips on Dear Boy's boots slid open when he walked. They didn't fall off because they also have velcro straps but it exposed the top of his socks and little legs to the elements. One thinner but warmer pair of ski-socks later and we were ready to roll.
  • Take extra clothes for everyone. We left an extra set of clothes for everyone in our car and I carried an extra set for Dear Boy in my backpack. I lost my gloves as we were heading back to the car, so I'd recommend bringing an extra set, just in case as these seem to be the most easily lost (same with beanies). 
Health and safety:
  • Be aware of the potential dangers. There was an incredibly tragic death a few weeks before we went on our snow adventure, where a little boy was buried under snow fallen from the roof of a building next to where he was playing. Because none of the boy's siblings saw the snow dump and there weren't any adults watching, he was trapped under that pile of snow for almost an hour and suffocated before anyone found him. I am all for letting kids be kids and adventuring on their own once they're old enough, but some grown-up vigilance under these unusual conditions might have prevented this tragedy. There were lots of signs up at Lake Mountain, with areas close to the buildings taped off.
  • Don't let them eat too much snow. Ugh. Impossible, but it can bring the body temperature down pretty quickly if they eat a lot of it. 
  • Sun burn and sun glare. Take some sunscreen and lip balm. We left ours in the car and I think Dear Boy ended up with pinker cheeks than when we arrived. The light reflecting off the snow was also pretty strong, and I'm so glad I packed our sunglasses. 
  • Take frequent breaks from snow play. This gives you a chance to change any wet gear and assess if everyone's okay. We discovered Dear Boy had soaked through his nappy and wet his thermal leggings under his ski duds after about an hour of play. He could have gotten pretty chilly. 

Car stuff:
  • Snow chains. We kept an eye out on Lake Mountain Resort's website, which updates regularly about road conditions leading up to the mountain. If the roads are clear, no snow chains are required, but if the roads are snowy, then you need to carry chains (there were several places on the road up where they could be hired). We didn't need them the day we went up.
  • Be prepared for changing conditions. Do you know how to drive on ice or even spot it? Do you know the best way to get ice off your windshield? I had a little freak-out about the drive when I read that the roads were icy. But I did a little research the night before, and even though I was still a little white knuckled driving up the mountain, I felt pretty calm when I spotted the icy patches and was confident I knew what to do if the wheels started slipping. 
  • Have you car checked/serviced. You don't want to break down or have to change a tire on a snow-covered mountain if you can avoid it.
  • Pack an emergency kit. Pretty much every site I looked at said to have an emergency kit in the car for 'just-in-case'. In a green shopping back, I packed one of our first-aid kits, a waterpoof ground sheet (to lie on to change a tire), a torch, a plastic shovel (one from Dear Boy's beach bag), a container of salt and rubber gloves. A tow-rope also featured on the most of the lists but we didn't have one; I added a few blankets. 
  • Take a spare car key. Apparently keys get lost a lot, falling out of pockets while whizzing down the slopes. Plus the little battery operated keys don't like being dropped in snow very much. 
Technical things:
  • Technology components don't like the cold. Smart phone glass, lenses and most plastics become more brittle in the cold (Apple says the lowest range of iPhone performance is 0 degrees celcius).
  • Batteries don't like it either. Did you know that the performance of lithium-ion batteries like you find in your camera and your phone is affected by the cold? Cold conditions can deplete battery life by half, so make sure you carry plenty of spares - more than you'd normally need. If you can, carry the batteries in an inside pocket to keep them warm. Drained batteries may get some charge back from doing this as well.
  • Condensation. Moving quickly between cold and warm environments can lead to a build up of condensation inside your phone or camera, which is a big no-no if you want it to keep working. If you're using these outside, don't take them directly into a warm house, rather leave it in a cooler place (like the car, a porch or a chilly kitchen) so they can gradually warm. 
  • Snow confuses digital cameras. Because snow tends to be pure white, most cameras will try and correct for it, turning snow either grey or a weird blue and underexposing anything set against snow. You can adjust for this by overexposing shots or manually adjusting the white balance.
Have you taken your children on a snow adventure? What tips would you add?

Disclaimer: I won a 'Winter Wonderland package' from Lake Mountain Resort through a local radio station and was under no obligation to blog about this prize. I am writing this post based on our experience: I have never been to a snow resort before so I have no idea how this experience compares to others.


  1. What activities did you do when you were there? I have a three year old and I wasn't sure if there'd be enough for him to do if we went for a full day or even a few days.

    1. We hired one of the plastic toboggans but didn't use the main toboggan run because it was quite packed. Instead, we pottered around on the flat section got him used to the idea of it. Then we went to their play area, which is a big slope full of deep, fluffy snow - not packed down so easy to make snow men and have snowball fights. I brought along one of his plastic diggers, so he spent quite a while zooming that around and pushing and scooping snow. We finally did a toboggan run on the track to one side of the play area which hardly anyone was on. He really liked the run down, but it was really hard getting back up the slope, slogging through all the deep snow. It took us almost twenty minutes to get back to the top - we were all exhausted after that so we decided it was time for lunch.

      All up we probably spent about two hours on the snow, forty minutes initially with the toboggan and then just over an hour in the play field. I think we might have stayed a bit longer if we'd hit the right time for the Huskies, but they took off on a run just after we arrived at the play area.

      As part of our package, we were entitled to a family ski lesson but didn't try it. They were okay with a little kid doing that though, so that's another option.


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