These important ski safety tips for kids cover basics like helmet essentials, thermal layering and quality gear. Read up and stay safe while swooshing down the hills this ski season.

Northern Michigan Ski Safety: Helmets

Helmets are a must for skiers and riders, even on
the bunny hills. Getting the right fit is essential
 too, so don’t go the hand-me-down route
 without making sure it’s snug.

“Helmets that are too big don’t work, and can leave a child’s head bouncing around like a bb in an aluminum can,” says gear expert Pete Carter at Bahnhof Sports in Petoskey. “Today’s technology has made helmets very warm, lightweight, comfortable, and adjustable for fine-tuned fits.”

The more confident kids get, the more they’ll want to shoot straight down the hill. It’s especially important for little ones to be kept within an arm’s length of an adult. For some, harnesses do the trick, but lots of resorts keep Hula Hoops handy for this very purpose. (Kids are inside the hoop hanging onto the downhill “front”; the parent is behind the hoop holding the uphill “back.”) Kids think it’s cool, and the hoop concept keeps them from sitting too far back on their heels.

Northern Michigan Ski Safety: Keep Warm

Molly Ames Baker, owner of The Outfitter in Harbor Springs, is a stay-warm expert. She’s an outdoor educator, mountain climber, and perhaps most important of all, mom to three diehard skiers of her own.

“When it comes to winter in Northern Michigan, dressing your kids properly for long, outdoor adventures is essential to their comfort and safety,” Ames Baker says. She offers these five basic rules to keeping kids toasty:

Avoid Cotton: Especially socks! Cotton absorbs moisture and cools the body down. Instead try synthetic or wool from head to toe.

Go Loose: Tight gloves and boots can cause constriction and lead to serious problems like frostbite.

Dress in Tri-Layers: Start with a wicking layer (long underwear), then an insulating layer (fleece), and then an outer layer (wind/waterproof).

Hydrate: Dehydration affects circulation and can lead to hypothermia. Keep those kids drinking and eating all day long.

Check In: Above all, remember that kids may not be aware of how their bodies are responding to the cold, or know how to express it. Check in early and often. Discomfort can lead to more serious concerns.

Northern Michigan Ski Safety: Gear Up

Local ski shops are well aware of how empty a parent’s pocketbook can feel after gearing up a child for on-slope adventures. That’s why many places have junior programs designed to help cushion the blow.

While the specifics vary, the overall concept is the same: initial buy-in allows parents to trade up in sizes with a 100 percent credit toward the purchase of new gear the following season. Some spots also have season-long rentals, a great option for those likely to hit a midwinter growth spurt since skis, boots, and poles can all be exchanged.

We suggest checking out programs at any of the following shops, where trained gear guides pride themselves on finding the perfect setups for little skiers and riders:

Boyne Country Sports “Junior has a Fit” (referring to equipment, of course, not tantrums) has ski and boot packages starting at $249, with a one-time membership buy-in of $40. Locations at

Bahnhof Sports Kids Club packages start at $199 for the small fries and $249 for big kids. When a child outgrows the program, the last voucher can be used toward adult gear,
Don Orr Ski’n Beach Haus now has a full Kids Club,

Dan Webster’s Pro Shop offers parents the chance to rent a snowboard and boot setup for their kids for just $120. Downhill season-long rental packages start at $155 for new and $115 for used (you can also mix and match). Locations in Petoskey and Gaylord,

Read the entire article for more tips on Northern Michigan ski kids and parents in the January 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski & Angela Doster Brown