One of the biggest thrills parents can offer their kids is a weekend of skiing - until they realize they have to drive 500 miles to the resort, check into the hotel, book ski school lessons and rent skis for the entire family - all by 9:30 in the morning. Thankfully, there is an easier way. Let the experts handle all of your kids' equipment needs.

Kids' skis have evolved into smaller, lighter weight versions of adult skis over the past ten years. All of the major ski manufacturers like K2, Atomic, Dynastar, Head, Rossignol, Salomon, and Völkl have built much of the same performance into kids' skis as their parents'. They're smooth, agile machines built to handle everything from terrain parks to bumps or corduroy groomers. They're just a little shorter.

There are two basic types of kids that buy or rent skis - those who live near a major resort and ski every day as part of an organized school program. The others are kids who only ski a few times a year. Their needs are completely different. The local children who rack up over 100 days a year expect the same type of high performance skis as their adult counterparts - features like radical sidecuts, lightweight foam cores, medium to tight turning radii, twin tips, razor-sharp edges, and integrated ski/binding systems. But, for the majority of kids who ski two weeks or less each year, they're more interested in comfort and maneuverability than high speed performance. Features that offer fun over performance.

Kids that ski occasionally should begin by renting their equipment until they discover whether or not this is the sport for them. Wait until you arrive at a larger, well equipped ski resort to rent their skis, rather than renting them at home. It will alleviate lugging extra gear through the airport and, more importantly, if their skis break during your trip, you'll be steps away from getting a free replacement instead of having to rent a second pair of skis because you're hundreds of miles away from home.

Another bonus to renting at the resort is being able to try different types of skis. Try one type, then swap them for another, at no additional charge. Many resorts also offer affordable packages to kids that include skis, boots, poles, lift tickets, and all day ski school lessons if they're bought together in a package.

The most important feature to look for in a child's ski is the appropriate length. This is where many parents go wrong. Buying a ski for your child they will "grow into" is the most common and worst mistake you can make. Skis that are too long, heavy, difficult to handle, and impossible to maneuver can quickly turn your child's first experience on the snow from a day filled with laughter and memories into a day sulking in the hotel room.

Here's how to properly size your child's skis: Stand their skis up in front of them while they're standing tall. The tips should reach somewhere between their collar bone and their chin, depending on the child's weight and athletic ability. In doubt? Choose a shorter length. Shorter skis are easier to turn. Longer skis track faster, but are more difficult to control.

Consider going with longer twin tip skis, somewhere between their chin and their nose, if your child enjoys ripping up the terrain parks. Because so much of twin tip ski's running surface is off of the snow, they're generally sized a little longer.

Make sure it instills confidence in your child's skiing, whichever ski you choose to rent or buy.After all, they're on vacation to have fun.