Snowplay is the activity of playing around, playing in, throwing, laying in, building with and even eating: snow.
This article is to help all those who just want to know what to prepare for the first time they or their kids go to the snow. This article is not about skiing or boarding.
The Basic Facts
There are a lot of things about the snow that you won't know the first time you go. There are a lot of misconceptions about it as well.
Getting to the Snow
There are many different ways to get to the snow. For a first timer they all need explaining. A good bit of advise is that nearly all ski resorts have a website with a page devoted to getting there. Also all the resort articles on this site have a part on getting there.
The most common way to get to the snow is driving. If you are driving you need chains, they are absolutely essential. If you are only going to the snow for a one off time it is a better idea to hire the chains, which you can find in most alpine towns.
Flying and Bus
You can fly into any major city near any ski resort and get a bus into the resort itself.
What to Bring
Below is a list of things you will need for Snowplay (not for if you are skiing or boarding).
It is not necessary to wear ten layers of clothes even on a really cold day.
Basic Snow Clothes
Parkers - A Parka is a type of jacket with multiple layers designed to withstand freezing conditions. The outer layer is a canvas-like material that is waterproof and windproof. The middle layer/s are like a padding that provides insulation. The inside layer was originally and sometimes still is made of fur. This layer is also for warmth but also comfort and is often now a synthetic silk-like material instead of fur.
Pants - By Pants I refer to ski-pants or snow-pants which are long pants similar to a parker in design. They are designed to withstand freezing conditions.
Both parkers and pants will rarely get cold and even low to mid-shelf range ones will keep warm and comfortable at the snow. It is not worth buying these unless you live at the snow or in an alpine town where you would go to the snow on a weekly or monthly basis, otherwise it is much more sensible to rent these items.
Gloves are the most inconsistent item of clothing and cause the most problems, especially for first timers due to the fact that gloves are not available for hire as a hygiene standard. Because of this first timers will usually buy the $15 pair of gloves at the rental store and will regret it tomorrow.
All gloves get wet. This is the inevitable. However when $15 gloves get wet they also get very cold and then your hands get very cold too. When your hands get very cold they get very painful.
There area few ways to avoid this but which way completely depends on the situation, what you are planning to do, and how long your staying for.
If you are at the snow for just one day and are not skiing or boarding then $15 gloves are usually fine (anything else is usually a waste of money as you probably wont be using them again).
If you are at the snow for just one day and you are skiing or boarding then just get some good gloves. Even when you aren't touching snow, gloves still become wet skiing and boarding.
If you are at the snow for more than a single day, doing any kind of activity, good quality gloves or a pair of spare gloves are a must.
Hint: If you want a "golden bullet" solution, just buy a pair of HIGH QUALITY gloves, it will cost more but it will work in any situation.
Shoes are like gloves as in that they will get cold and wet and your feet will be painful. However the solution is simple: hire snowshoes.
Snowshoes are like a cross between ugboots and gumboots. They are waterproof, reach halfway up your shins and warmer than sneakers.
If you are boarding snowboard shoes are just as good but DO NOT USE SKI BOOTS.
Other items you should take are:
- Sunglasses - the snow reflects the U.V. rays causing sunburn and can damage your eyes more than anywhere else.
- Suncream - U.V. rays, snow, reflect, sunburn... sounds familiar?
- Bini - Your head and ears can get cold.
- Lip chap - Windburn and Lip chaffing really hurt
A Word of Caution for Parents
Playing in the snow really tires you out. You get very cold and wet, snow finds its way inside even the most waterproof stuff, walking on snow tires you a lot and kids can get carried away.
This said it is all very fun and the kids will look like they are having the time of their lives - which they are. But the cold and tiredness and painful fingers and toes creep up on that fun and something as harmless as a well thrown snowball can have everyone under 12 in tears in an instant.
When this happens the kids will need a change into warm dry clothes and food or a warm drink.