Tips for Managing a Mid-mountain Meltdown

Posted by Tania on January 4, 2013

Every snowmama fears the day she will end up trapped, alone on the mountain with a tired child who is done.  And by done I mean DONE.  Yet ski with your child and one day - likely sooner than later- it will happen and when it does you'll need all your wits (and these tips from mamas who have done it before) to make it safely to the base.

One way or another you need to make it down - the  challenge is how?  Especially when every time you try to move they fall in a heap of whining mush.  DONE.


So... What do you do? 

Recognize the Signs

Prevention, universally the cause of the meltdowns is likely exhaustion, hunger, cold.  So, if you can learn to spot the signs you can prevent meltdown all together!

"Our family rule is to listen to our bodies - end the day while everyone's still having a good time!" Karin Sheets

"We watch our son closely and stop when we see 'signs' that it's time to head down early." Byron Baker

Prevention would have been nice, but the window for that opportunity has passed and now you need survival strategies.

1.  Stay calm & take time to breathe... You are going to need your patience.

Oh, I feel for any family that I see stuck on a run with a kid who has hit the limit! We've all been the key is not to lose your seems to make it even worse. We always tried to say." "Look how far you've come down this run already. Wow, you rock! We only have to get to the bottom and then we can grab your brownie, hot chocolate (insert you favorite bribe here)! We would offer to take a picture of the run so the boys could show there friends what they had accomplished. Cool getting some of those mid-run photos, and it seemed to perk the boys back up. A quick candy treat in the jacket pocket can help get the ball rolling. I agree with the other moms who pack it in when everyone is still having a great time. It always seems to be the 'one last run' that can bite you in the backside!" Cindy Patten

2.  Try feeding them. meltdowns typically occur at the end of the day when children are likely to be tired, cold or hungry.  

Donna Norman suggests "Have s snack packed for the little ones like candy or trail mix because they get tired and hungry. I get my kids a candy bar after they finish lunch to give them that sugar boost for the afternoon. They are burning so many calories out there they need to refuel. Then I make sure I have a bottle of wine waiting for me at the condo!!"

3.  Go back to basics and take it one turn at a time. 

Remember when you first started skiing.  You would take each slop one turn at a time, in a slow snowplow?  Now might be the moment to step back in time.  When I found myself in this position - we sidestepped, snowplowed, we even took our skis off and walked for a bit.  Do whatever it takes, but one turn at a time…. always gets you down the mountain… eventually.

4.  Work with your child's personality.  

For mine that means letting the meltdown happen - so the calm can come.  For others that might mean moving as the meltdown is in process and for many… that means bribery or the art of distraction.

Mary Stubbs Palmer -  "Forgive me for this 'white lie' but last year I told my sobbing, stubborn six-year-old (who can ski if she puts her mind to it) that I had 'ski patrol' on my speed dial and if she wasn't skiing down with me then she was riding down with them on the sled - with everyone watching. That did the trick."

Byron Baker says "a thermos of hot chocolate and a little treat (candy for the worst situations) goes a long way... not to say I haven't carried a child or 2 to the bottom either."

Elissa Aten "Last year, our 4-year-old son had many a meltdown at the base of Silverlode due to hunger. He'd roll around on the ground and refuse to get up -it was a struggle to even get him into the lodge for hot cocoa & treats. The lifties would even ask if we needed help! That said, we (almost) ALWAYS carry food, water & candy on us with him (the trick is getting him to eat before he reaches the point of no return) and I try to remember to have an extra-special yummy treat for him in the car as his reward for finishing the day. Skipping the 'last run' - before lunch or at the end of the day is helpful, too."

5.  If you are strong enough skier.  Find someone to take your child's skis and your poles - hoist them up and give them a ride.

Daneen Lowry "I have a 7-year-old who's been pretty agreeable but has had a few moments we were lucky enough to have expert skiers with us who scooped her up in their arms and skied her down to end the torment. I also have a 16 -year-old, who has his own unique meltdown on the mountain. It's taken me a couple years to finally put it together but when he's done skiing at 2 or 3 in the afternoon an horribly cranky - he's like a toddler in need of his afternoon nap. So now we just leave him alone while we take those last runs, let him nap it up in the hotel while we hit the pool and he's a much nicer guy by dinner time."

6.  If you are really struggling, don't be afraid to ask for help. 

if you are "old school" like me, ski patrol is for nothing short of broken limbs, but they are more than happy to come to your aid if you are struggling with a child.  After our meltdown I spoke with a member of the Park City Mountain Ski Patrol and he assured me - their priority is guest safety and comfort.  The ski patrol has good resources and they are there to help.   Don't be afraid to flag them down.  They'll ensure you and your little one get to the bottom safely.  

Ski with children and at some point you will find yourself stranded with a heaping mess of child meltdown on the mountain - hopefully you'll find a few of these tips make it easier to get home safe & sound!

Do you have any tips for surviving a mid-mountain meltdown?  Don't forget to share them here!


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Comment posted by Eric Wagnon on March 1, 2013 10:36 AM MST

Any thoughts on mid-mountain meltdowns on challenging terrain by your SPOUSE? :)

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Response posted by Eric Hoffman on March 1, 2013 10:40 AM MST


Had that happen (before we were married) on a run down The Hobacks and a pitcher of beer seemed to do the trick. ;)


Comment posted by J.D. Cronin on January 4, 2013 7:11 PM MST

Great, great insight and tips Tania.

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Comment posted by Donna-Snowmama on January 4, 2013 6:38 PM MST

Great tips! We all need to remember these because it will happen eventually. Love the ski patrol tip.

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