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Ski the Suburbs: Bring the Slopes to your Backyard

Ditch the traffic and high-cost lift tickets of peak ski season by creating a wintry vacation closer to home.

We get it: skiing is the best. But you know what is the worst? Sucking fumes in the bumper-to-bumper ski traffic that has become the norm for many mountain communities. When combined with the top-shelf lift ticket prices during peak resort season, a snowsport vacation for your family begins to sound less than ideal. 

But wait! There is a way to create those snowy memories at home and without the hassle of heading to the hills. We put our ski helmets together to come up with a list of ways that your family can still enjoy a picture-perfect winter getaway–without ever leaving your own community.

Build a Backyard Terrain Park

When there’s a will, there is a way. And, if you have a little snow, a couple PVC pipes, and a lot of gumption, you can cobble together a bonafide mini terrain park in your own backyard. First, take a gander at the topography of your property to find a small hill worthy of dropping into the features. Is your terrain flatter than a pancake? Don’t sweat it; you can build your own ramp with some snow and a shovel. Add in a couple of kickers (small mounds of snow) and you’ve got a solid start. Pro tip: If your daily temperature lows stay below freezing, pour some water on the ramp to keep it icy and frozen. If you’re working with wet, slushy snow and warmer temps above freezing, mix in a little salt to ensure the take-off stays nice and fast. When you’re ready to level-up the experience, build a basic rail with a PVC pipe that will last all season. 

Ski the Green Space

For families looking to get their little groms on sticks sooner rather than later, skiing the local parks is actually better than heading to any ski resort. Bundle the kiddos up in warm winter layers like the L.L.Bean Cold Buster Bibs before heading to a community green space with varied terrain, including a long, flat section. If it is your kiddo’s first time, encourage them to wear only one ski and use the other booted foot to paddle around the flat space. When they find that balance, add the second ski and practice shuffling. Then, graduate your kiddo up to the small hills in the park. Just don’t forget a sled: Our experience tells us that kids love the downhills but parents do most of the climbing.

Choose the Perfect Sledding Hill

The fun doesn’t end when your little ripper’s ski legs grow tired. Sledding is one of the best ways for families to enjoy a cold winter day. First things first: grab a proper sled like L.L.Bean’s Sonic Snow Tube, originally designed to slide at commercial tubing parks so you know it’s built for a good time. Then, take a look at your area and evaluate the best hill for the adventure. It’s important to make sure your chosen hill is legal (because yes, sledding is not allowed everywhere!) Beyond that, keep your child’s safety in mind. Make sure there is an adequate run-out at the bottom of the hill so no one needs to abruptly stop. Scan the hillside for any obstructions that may cause harm like trees or rocks, or even large crowds of people. Once you’ve covered those bases, it’s time to slide.

Snowman + Après

You jibbed; you sledded; you even finangled your kid onto their first pair of skis. That’s enough merriment to tire out even the most enthusiastic of winter lovers, but the fun isn’t over yet. Wrap up your backyard vacation with a time-honored tradition: building the best snowman your kids have ever seen. Go big: use wooden boards to roll massive snowballs on top of each other to begin the process. Use old clothes to gussy Frosty’s appearance, and then raid the fridge to do a little decorating. Tomato slices make great eyeballs and carrots or celery stalks work well for the nose. If you have a few red-and-white peppermint candies hanging around, add those for cheeks; the red dye will leak into the snow and create a rosy complexion. Once you’re done, cozy up the kids in their toasty down jackets and admire your work with an end-of-vacation après session laden with hot cocoa and marshmallows.

Vacation never looked so good.

Since 1912, L.L.Bean has been helping people spend more time outside with high-quality outdoor gear and apparel that makes it easier to take longer walks, have deeper talks and never worry about the weather. Because being outside brings out the best in us.