My Family Went from Beginner Skiiers to Expert Après Skiiers In One Trip

The secret to enjoying a ski vacation with kids? Carve out time for everything that comes after a morning on the slopes—especially the hot cocoa!

image of family skiing on a snowy tree background

Courtesy GRACE BASTIDAS / Getty Images

“You’re only as good as your gear,” said our ski instructor in a charming French accent as we rode the gondola up Le Massif de Charlevoix Mountain in Quebec. It was negative 9 degrees and I could barely recognize my children, who were bundled up with balaclavas, helmets, goggles, hand and foot warmers, and 10 layers between them. I wasn’t going to let the polar temps defeat us. My husband and I were determined to make skiing a family activity. But we needed the girls’ buy-in.

Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely convinced that going down a steep incline with little control was my thing either. The four of us had started learning to ski together about a year earlier, on what can best be described as a small hill in upstate New York. Before that, I had only been skiing a few times. In fact, my initiation was on an eighth-grade class trip in which I showed up wearing ripped jeans. And though my gear improved through the years, my skills hadn’t progressed beyond the magic carpet.

Yet, as someone who regularly touts the benefits of spending time outdoors as a family, I knew I had to work some fresh air into our routine when I noticed that my 8- and 10-year-old daughters had morphed into little homebodies the last few years. My strategy? Get them to love après ski so that they’ll willfully and—frozen fingers crossed—joyfully join in the downhill portion of that tradition. But first, we needed to venture somewhere that embraces the cold.

With that in mind, I booked four nights at Club Med Quebec Charlevoix, an all-inclusive family ski resort an hour and a half away from Quebec City that aims to minimize the hassle of skiing with kids and maximize the fun that comes after a day on the slopes. Best part? The property caters equally to children and adults with a combination of comfort (separate sleeping spaces), diverse activities (circus school, sledding, spa), and crowd-pleasing food options (abundant and fresh).

Grace and her daughter on the slopes

Grace Bastidas

As much as I wanted to take advantage of it all as soon as we checked in, I knew we needed to put in the time on the slopes first. Thankfully, the girls didn’t get much time for hesitation, considering how quickly we transitioned from suite to snow. Not only is the resort ski-in/ski-out, but lifts and group ski lessons are included. I was even able to rent boots and skis ahead of time so that they were ready to go in our locker. No excuses!

The mountain terrain has an altitude of over 2,500 feet at its highest point and overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Of the 53 runs, eight are greens labeled with signs reading “Route Facile” that I was particularly focused on. So, when our well-meaning instructor ushered us down an intermediate blue without warning midway through our lesson, I was sure our hopes of being a cool skiing family were crushed. Everyone made it down the slope, but not without a few tumbles. “I thought you were ready,” she said apologetically, as she guided us down a gentler way. “Um, no,” I blurted.

While the experience rattled us (mostly me!), it also inspired our lunchtime conversation as we settled into the après ski part of our day. Everyone shared their own tales of the mountain—some taller than others, all funny—as we tucked into lunch (brick oven pizza, dumplings, poutine, poke bowls) at the resort’s main restaurant, Le Marché. With its massive windows overlooking the wintery landscape, the buffet-style eatery is designed to bring the outdoors in—think lamps that resemble birds’ nests and walls covered in trees.

Our bellies happy and cheeks rosy, we found the ping pong tables and teamed up—kids against grownups. We only cleared out when a group of French-speaking teens with their own paddles descended for the daily tournament. Good thing we did, because a selection of cakes and sweets had just been laid out in the resort’s theater area, where a DJ provided the soundtrack for afternoon skiers toasting their feats.

The rest of the day followed a similar rhythm with the girls and my husband hitting the indoor pool while I indulged in a soak in the spa’s outdoor hot tub. Later, we ate massive amounts of cheese for dinner at the resort’s fondue restaurant, Terroir & Co., before catching the evening’s entertainment, performed by none other than the talented Club Med staffers. “Hey, wasn’t that the guy who adjusted the binding on my ski boot?” my husband asked, pointing to a trapeze artist swathed in silver spandex. The girls were starstruck as they made the connection (that’s the reception lady and that’s the Kid’s Club counselor!). 

First day of ski vacation complete, we all fell into our bed tired and happy. While our time on the mountain was much shorter than the off-slope fun we enjoyed, the balance was just fine for my family. Sure, the next day we stepped back out there beginner skiers, but we were certainly expert après skiers by the time 1 p.m. rolled around. Mission accomplished!  

Family Ski Vacation Tips

Find a family-friendly resort. Book a family-friendly ski resort with beginner terrain and quick access to the chairlifts so that you’re not lugging around lots of gear, especially when kids get tired. Make sure it caters to adults and children with fun programming for everyone to enjoy.


Layer up. “I’m cold!” That’s the last thing you want to hear when trying to nudge your kid downhill. Thankfully, it’s avoidable with the right gear. Pack wool base layers that wick away moisture, waterproof outerwear, and toasty socks. A helmet and googles will also protect kids from the elements and keep them safe.


Book lessons. Skiing with a pro can help your child learn proper technique and boost their confidence first time out. Plus, it will be much less stressful for you if you’re still working on your “pizza” and “French fries.”


Take breaks. Hot cocoa was invented for a reason. Letting your kid take breaks to refuel, rest, and even defrost every few hours will make the experience a lot more fun for them (and you!).


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