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Best Tips to Use your Car as a Base Lodge for Skiing

How to use your car as a base lodge for skiing

The global pandemic has certainly thrown everyone’s lives for a loop. Schools shut down, folks working from home, TOILET PAPER shortages, organized sports suspended—the list of changes is very long.

This ski season has brought with it a new inconvenience. In order to avoid spreading the virus, many downhill ski resorts are limiting the usage of the base lodge areas. If the resort allows skiers inside at all, often it is on a timed or reserve in advance basis.

Most resorts are requiring that skiers “boot up” at their cars.

For adult skiers, this is an inconvenience at worst. For skiers with children, this is a complex, challenging, even anxiety-producing problem.

We’re all parents around here–the struggle is real. Kids get tired, struggle to keep their toes and fingers warm, and they need near-constant calories.

How is a parent going to get those days in at the mountain, and keep one’s sanity? Is it possible to ski long days with kids without a base lodge to support our efforts?

Use your car as a base lodge when you ski or snowboard

While it may be challenging, and require careful preparation, yes, it is possible (and can even be fun!) to use your car as a base lodge this ski season. Here are our top 10 tips to using your car as a base lodge.

use your car as a base lodge
Yes, you CAN still have great ski days with the lodges closed

1. Bring hot food to eat in the car when taking breaks from skiing

When it is cold outside, warm food really helps everyone warm up faster. Depending on what your children like, you can bring a wide variety of options.

Some favorites among the blog writers are: chili, mac and cheese, or creamy chicken soup. You can keep the food hot with an insulated container. We love this Stanley Adventure Crock (3 quarts). The trick is to heat the food up REALLY hot before packing it to go. This works well if you have a couple kids.

use your car as a base lodge
Rita’s boys enjoying some hot chili in their van base camp

For larger family or group, you need a hot meal solution the feeds everyone. For my crew of 5 kids, my friend gave me a genius idea. I made chili the night before we skiied. The morning of skiing, I heated it up hot in my Instant Pot.

Then I wrapped the whole shebang in a towel, and stowed it in the car. At lunch time, the chili was still super hot and definitely delicious. My kids loved having a hot meal and I loved that I had plenty of food to go around without buying a bunch of thermoses.

use your car as a base lodge with easy soup

2. Boot up INside the car (or before you leave home!)

This seems obvious, but I had to learn the hard way. It is better for the kids if they can put those stiff and awkward ski boots on while still in the car. It helps keep their feet and socks warm for longer, and also prevents them from accidentally stepping on the cold, wet ground.

use your car as a base lodge and avoid the crowds
Amelia’s children helping each other get suited up at the ski area

Along with this–make sure the ski boots travel inside the car with you, and not in the trunk or car top. Cold boots never seem to get warm. This travel boot dryer/warmer is SUPER nice to have to warm boots up on the way!

If you can, it also works really well to have kids especially get their snow pants AND ski boots on at home so they stay completely dry.

3. Keep a stash of blankets and sleeping bags

Having a pile of sleeping bags and cozy blankets in the car just makes everything better. If the kids are cold, they can wrap themselves up while they eat lunch.

A down sleeping bag can help warm up cold feet nearly faster than you can turn the car on and get the heat going.

While truly anything down/insulated will do, we really do love these Rumpl down blankets. For a more cost-friendly option, the Kelly Bestie synthetic blankets are great too. The Kammok Mountain blanket has a really great soft interior. They all pack down small for easy stashing in the car.

The Kammok Mountain Blanket is great for keeping everyone warm!

4a. Remember the camping chairs

To keep the spirit of tail gating and FUN alive, bring those chairs! It is easier for the kids to eat in a chair, and bonus, there will be less food mess inside the car. Of course, if it is bitter cold, then the car might be the only option.

Need some camping chair suggestions that you can use for ski tailgating AND camping this summer? Check out our favorite family camping chairs here!

4b. Bring a tarp or old carpet

Along the same lines as chairs, a tarp or old rug is good for spreading on the ground if kids are taking gear on or off, or just hanging out. It helps keep mittens, shoes, or anything else from the dirt and slush in the parking lot.

Tarps stay cleaner, but a rug is less slippery and makes a better hang out spot.

6. Thermoses are your Friend

We usually bring several different vessels for hot drinks. I always bring a HydroFlask full of hot coffee or chai for myself. For the kids, we have a 64 oz Thermos for herbal chai or hot cocoa. They look forward to this immensely, and the milk and honey or sugar gives them a little extra energy.

use your car as a base lodge
Happy lift rides courtesy of snacks and lunch

7. Pack extra socks and hand warmers

I always bring several extra pairs of wool socks to the mountain. You just never know when someone is going to step on slush, get a blister, or some other discomfort. Socks are just extra insurance against misery.

I also basically swim in hand warmers at the mountain. I stash them in the car, in my bag, and I always have several pairs in my pockets while skiing. Hand warmers are magic in the way they can help a sad, cold child get a smile on their face. Without using the base lodge, it is good to have tricks for easy warm ups.

Check out these reusable hand/foot warmers too!

use your car as a base lodge
Rita’s daughter getting set up with hand warmers on a frigid Vermont day

8. Calories keep kids happy: Easy ski hill snacks

I have noticed that staying out of the base lodge has meant that my kids are skiing way more runs each day than they did last year. You know what that means? They are also burning more calories. You know what also burns more calories? Staying warm. Make sure to feed their internal furnace by bringing plenty of extra snacks to the mountain.

Some of our favorites are string cheese, muffins, apples, fig bars, granola bars, and trail mix. I like to stash a couple extra snacks in my pockets for my kids who need a pick me up on a lift ride.

I also make sure our lunch is calorie dense. Chili, hearty sandwiches, and creamy soups are all good options.

use your car as a base lodge with snacks
Trail mix makes a great ski day snack

9. Open the rear door

If you have a van, hatch back, or truck, use that rear real estate! Get into the full spirit of tailgating–bring a little camp stove, mini grill, or what ever works for you. I like to use the rear of my Ford Transit like a counter–I serve the food out of the back and keep the food in a bin, where it is easy to find.

My kiddos use the back of the car like a bench, and like to sit there for visiting and eating.

use your car as a base lodge
Team member Ginny tailgating like pro with her son

9. Stuffed animals like ski trips

Does having a piece of home or special toy help your child enjoy themselves more? Having a cuddly animal or small toy to play with when taking a break might help your child enjoy the experience even more.

10. Turn the Car On

I am saving this tip for last, because it is my least favorite. We are all environment-conscious around here, and I hate to tell you to just idle your car. However, sometimes, you need to crank up that heat and warm everyone up.

If it is cold, and everyone’s feet are cold but they still want to ski, just turn up the heat. Celebrate that the kids love skiing, and don’t feel guilty for using the gas to warm them up.

Here’s to Warm Kids and Happy Lift Rides

For sure, the pandemc has thrown a damper on all of our spirits. Skiing isn’t the same as last year. However, we all know how badly we need that outdoor time. This tips hopefully give you some fresh ideas to make your ski days go more smoothly.

We want to know–What tips would you add to this list?

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How to use your car as a base lodge for skiing

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