How to plan a ski trip with a child with autism? Keep it simple!

Love skiing? Skiing can be the most fun holidays, because the whole family is together; there is not many distractions and you spend the day out in fresh air.

But a ski trip is not necessarily fun, if your kids aren’t just like you who love to travel. Planning is important for travelling with any kind of child, but especially when travelling with children that have autism, anxiety or are very sensitive – like my son. 

Grab some of my hard earned advice on how to make it a little easier for the kids- and for you.

I’m not a big skier, but my husband loves it. But my son, who is diagnosed with Asperger and anxiety and usually only want to stay at home (unfortunate with a travelling mom), likes going on ski trips, so we have been two times and are now planning a third in February.

WHERE TO GO!

When I was a kid, we always went to Norway and stayed in a Høyfjellshotel. That is probably why I prefer this. France is very expensive, so this year I have been looking at Austria. Austria is very child friendly, but a lot more expensive than Norway. The bad thing about Norway is that you might not see the sun at all. But all together – the best option is Norway!

There are many good areas, but we go to Skeikampen in Gausdal, North of Lillehammer. It is very very small and therefore easy for my son to navigate and this keeps him feeling safe. With an autistic child familiarity is a big deal, so this is also why we go the same place every time.

For more on Norway as a ski destination: Is Norway really a Winter Wonderland? YES!

HOTEL OR CABIN?

Do you want to make your own dinner or go out?

If you are with a bunch of friends or an extended family, it’s a good idea to rent an apartment or a cabin and just figure it out. This makes your kid feel more at home  and can more easily take a timeout.

But if you’re a small family, I would definitely recommend letting somebody else do the cooking, since you will be very tired after day of skiing and might not eat until late. Children and grownups with Asperger would often not like to go out, when they are tied. So we always book a hotel, that has a restaurant (only vacation we choose all inclusive). This makes my son feel safe and he knows the menu in advance, and on the last trip he even went down and started breakfast without us. We normally stay at Thon Hotels Resort.

Pool

This seems kind of extravagant, but I need a pool and a fireplace on my ski trips. I only ski for half the day, since our son will get really tired and needs to relax. This suits me fine, and my husband just goes out without us in the afternoon.

This means of course, that a pool is great for afternoons and preferably a sauna to melt your aching muscles. But even more important, a pool is how we got our son to travel anywhere. 

Of course, this isn’t an option anywhere and for everyone and maybe your kid is not like mine, but fo us it’s worth the extra money. And it’s more exercise for the young gamer…

Online or offline?

Usually, we try to avoid bringing electronic devices everywhere, but with an autistic child it is jut not that simple. So nowadays, we go for wifi, since many autistic children use online games and YouTube to relax. In the meantime, you can sit in front of a fireplace and read. Gotta read!

But of course, we always bring some favourite board games like Snakes and Ladders, playing cards and so on.

The pool table or the ping pong table is also a winner for our kid. Many hotels also have playrooms, but these are often too noisy and difficult for autistic kids.

TO SKI OR NOT TO SKI

Skiing is great exercise and can be fun. But just getting out on slopes can be difficult. Make sure you are not staying too far away from the actual lifts or slopes. An autistic kid can’t handle too much, so make the route as short as possible or you might not get to go skiing at all. Also you might need to split up with one parent going back home early, so make sure you can reach your hotel easily.

The first time we went on a ski trip, we enrolled our son in ski school, but there were too many kids and he didn’t understand the teachers so that was not a good idea. We taught him ourselves instead.

SLEDDING

Sledding knows no age boundary. At least, that’s what we think. My son might be the oldest one on the hills, but who cares…

In Skeikampen, where we’re staying, they have an evening on sledding on the alpine slopes. Way better than the small garden mount at home!

DOG SLEDDING

Depending on your child’s level of sensitivity, there’s the possibility of going in a horse drawn carriage or dog sledding in Norway. 

One year, we took the dog sledding trip -although quite expensive. It was great, but we were a bit surprised, we had to drive it ourselves. One of the dogs was in heat and kept jumping the others, and my husband had a lot of difficulties keeping us level. They also smell and bark quite a lot, which you can see or hear on pictures. My son was a little scared of the dogs (being scared of animals is quite common), but all in all we had an experience or a lifetime.

TIPS & TRICKS

  • SNACKS And always bring a snack in the pocket, since many ski stops cafes can be quite overwhelming to an autistic kid, and everything just gets worse, when low on energy.
  • STOP Respect, if they don’t want to try unknown slopes.
  • Make sure to give them time to just do whatever they want (or you might not get to do what you want)

I hope you found these tips helpful. For more inspiration to family trips with sensitive children or children with autism, see here.

Let me know if you have good advice for ski trips

(This article was updated February 2019)