Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins — in my mind, there’s no better way to start a ski day.

And while it can be a bit daunting to manage a big crowd and big age range on the slopes, I’m here to tell you that it’s one of the absolute BEST ways to create family memories.

You see, I grew up skiing with 3 generations of my extended family. We lived out of state, but every winter, my parents would pull us out of school for a couple of weeks and we’d head out to Utah to ski. Grandma and Grandpa would load everyone up in their car and drive us up Big Cottonwood Canyon to ski. Between my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, there were usually a solid 30 of us, but sometimes as many as 45.

These are some of the best memories of my childhood: laughing as we raced with cousins through the trees, showing off to my uncles all of our “sweet tricks” on the jumps, and fighting over who was the lucky one to get to ride the chairlift with Grandma.

You see, as a kid, skiing is pretty awesome, and getting your whole family together is pretty awesome. But put it all together, and you get magic.

Jessica's entire family of all ages enjoying the slopes at Solitude

Now that I’m grown with a family of my own, it’s my turn to make these trips happen and create the same magic I experienced as a kid, for my own children. And with Ikon Pass encouraging so many families to incorporate skiing in their travel plans, why not see what mountains are near you or your family members and make a point of visiting new slopes with the whole gang?

This year, we all gathered for a day at Solitude; among the 15 of us, we ranged from age 1 to 60. We cruised the bunny hill while my niece and nephew had their first day on skis; scared my sister-in-law to death as we let her follow our kids, racing through the trees; and let my daughter try her first black diamond alongside her uncles and brother. Grandpa was the ever-willing participant when my boys were looking for someone to go on “big jumps” with them, and, true to tradition, my kids constantly fought over who got to ride the chairlift with Grandma! There were a few tears, a few good crashes, and a whole lot of laughter…and I’m convinced that those are some of the details that we’ll remember the most!

If you’re ready to take your whole family up on the mountain together, too, here are my top 5 tips to make your day go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Set meeting places and times for everyone to check in. When you’re skiing with a big group, it’s really common for people to split off for a run or two. Agreeing on a checkin time and place in advance is a great way to keep tabs on the kids.
  2. Decide on your meal options ahead of time. There are several dining options on the mountain, and one of the unique things about Solitude is that most of the restaurants have a theme to their meals. If you’re looking for pizza, be sure to head straight to Stone Haus. If you’re craving a great taco plate, you’ll want to be at Last Chance. Instead of scrambling around at noon with a big, hungry crew, look at options online before the day starts so you can plan to end up at a place that everyone wants.
  3. Take a few minutes before the day starts to talk about ski abilities and where everyone wants to spend their day. The last thing you want is for your 7-year-old to head off with a group of uncles who only want to ski double-blacks, when your child is more comfortable on blues. Don’t assume that everyone knows each other’s skills – talk it out!
  4. Plan a few runs at the beginning or end of the day where EVERYONE skis together. I know it might sound like a no-brainer, but when you’ve got a big group, it’s amazing how easy it is to split up and NOT spend time all together, so plan it in!
  5. Fill your pockets with treats! If you’ve been looking for the best time to elevate your status to favorite aunt/uncle/grandparent/cousin, this is your chance. Every time you hop on the chairlift or see a sad face, bust out a treat! Our favorites are Lifesavers, TicTacs, and Mentos since they’re easy to open and not messy.
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