We might not get a lot of snow in South Africa, but if you’re planning for your next holiday, a ski trip could be a cool option. Whether it’s Tiffendell Ski Resort in the southern Drakensberg, Matroosberg in the Western Cape, Afriski Mountain Resort in the Lesotho highlands, or even that international vacation you’ve been saving up for, snow holidays can be an enriching experience for both parents and kids.
Travel trends are constantly evolving from one year to the next. Gone are the days when a widely accepted idea of a holiday was lounging on the beach for sun-lovers or being cooped up in a cabin in snowy mountains. Research shows that travellers are now more than ever drawn to adventure-oriented types of holidays.
Skiing is a sport that kids can learn at a young age and continue doing, well into adulthood. Whether your kids are new to skiing or seasoned skiers, there are many health benefits, both physical and mental.
Physical benefits of skiing
- Improves cardiovascular endurance and health
Skiing is a physical exercise that helps with staying in shape and maintaining fitness. Being on their feet and sliding down those steep slopes will improve your child’s heart rate and help burn calories. According to Bethany Garner of Ski Club of Great Britain, “skiing is good for you because it works the major muscle groups. Walk up the slope rather than using the ski lift which really works out the heart and lungs, making it a good overall workout.”
“Skiing is not an easy sport and can be quite intimidating for first-timers.”
- Strengthens leg and lower body muscles
If you’ve ever tried skiing even once, you know just how much balance and coordination is required. Kids have to use their core muscles to support the upper body and their leg muscles to balance on the skis. This also helps improve their balance and coordination.
- Good for bones and joints
The constant tension placed on knees, ankles and feet helps strengthen legs reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.
*Warning: Skiing is not a safe activity for pregnant women.
The psychological benefits of skiing
- Appreciation of the outdoors
Being outdoors is a great way to escape from the stressors of life; being surrounded by nature is a good mood enhancer.
- Improves proprioception
Defined as a person’s ability to feel the position of different parts of the body, proprioception is an integral part of skiing. The coordination and balance involved in skiing requires a lot of mental focus resulting in improved mental consciousness of body parts.
- Improves confidence and encourages bonding
Skiing is not an easy sport and can be quite intimidating for first-timers. After many failed attempts, seeing your little ones confidently skiing down a snow-covered slope without any help will surely bring delight to both parents and kids.
With all the benefits of skiing, your next vacation should absolutely be a snow holiday. Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa suggests things you’ll need to take with you on your first snow holiday.
For the slopes:
- A waterproof ski jacket and pants to keep you dry.
- A buff is a really versatile accessory that can serve as a scarf, a balaclava or a doek. If it’s really cold, take along the triple B’s – buff, beanie and balaclava.
- Goggles shield your eyes from glare, wind and snow. Make sure yours are anti-fog so that your vision doesn’t get all steamed up.
- Ski socks are a must. They are nice and warm, and padded in all the right places.
- Absorbent under gear. Skiing or snowboarding generates a lot of heat, and you’ll probably work up quite a sweat under all that waterproof clothing. You need something underneath that will keep you warm without getting wet.
- A GoPro or cell phone camera to capture the experience and take the inevitable selfie on the ski lift overlooking the slopes.
- Sunscreen is very important, unless you’re happy with a ski-mask tan. The snow is really reflective, so you’re exposed to the sun’s rays from above and below.
- If possible, carry a bit of water with you. It can get very dry out there, especially once you get going.
For the resort:
- Warm clothes and shoes, as well as comfortable casual gear – T-shirts, sneakers, etc. While it may be cold outside, it’s nice and toasty inside the resort!
- If you like dressing up, be sure to check if there are any theme nights and come prepared for those. There are usually some great prizes to be won. You wouldn’t want to miss out.
- Costume for the pool or Jacuzzi (if available at your resort).
- Waterproof shoes if you plan on walking in the snow.
Most importantly, bring your spirit of adventure! If skiing is not quite your thing, but you still want to experience a snow holiday, try one of the following: Cedarberg (35km from Matroosberg), Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg, Golden Gate National Park in the Free State, Long Tom Pass in Mpumalanga, as well as Underberg and Sani Pass in KZN.