Christy Sports The Ridge Report
A Blog About Everything Skiing & Snowboarding in Colorado & Utah
Tips For Teaching Kids How To Ski

The first time my husband and I took our three-year old son skiing, we made a rookie mistake. We thought we were prepared.

We put ski boots on his soft, tiny feet and let him march around the house. We popped a helmet and goggles onto his head and played “pretend” games. We watched videos of children skiing and talked about the fun we’d have together.

Being lifelong skiers, my husband and I smugly thought we had it nailed: We’d put him on snow. He’d love it. We’d ski together as a family.

Not surprisingly, things did not work out as we planned.

Getting him on snow was easy. He was game, but we were naive.

While the coat he was wearing was cute, it wasn’t warm. Soon, he was cold and unhappy. Not even hot chocolate could staunch his tears.

I was a full year before we got him on snow again.

This was just one of the lessons we learned when teaching our kids to ski.

Tip #1: Get the Right Gear

The next time we skied, our son wore a proper ski coat and pants. He also wore one pair of thin wool socks, polypro base layers and a fleece. We put mittens on his hands and had hand warmers at the ready.

Plus, since we rented skis and boots for him for the season, we knew the hardware was tuned, properly fit and ready to go. At the suggestion of our ski tech, we purchased an inexpensive bungee that clamps onto the ski tips to keep them from crossing or spreading too far apart.

This time, he was physically comfortable and ready for fun!

Tip #2: Focus On Fun

Sometimes, adults forget that kids are motivated by fun. The first few days on snow are not about learning technique. They are about happily spending time together and building a positive association with skiing or snowboarding.

Find a flat or nearly flat place to practice basic movement. Pull your child around with your ski poles. Encourage them to shuffle their skis and start sliding. Make up silly games and use funny noises. Laugh a lot. For like 30 minutes. Then take a break for hot chocolate.

When your child is ready to go back outside, get out there and play some more.

Don’t even bother putting on your ski boots and skis.

Tip #3: Take Lessons

When your child is ready for the next step, sign him or her up for a lesson. Group lessons are usually the most economical and enjoyable, since kids like being with other kids.

If you can, take a tour of the children’s center a day or two before the lesson. Point out other kids skiing with their instructors when you see them on the hill. Look at a resort map and find the magic carpet and ski school. Each of these things will help familiarize your child with the idea of lessons and build a sense of comfort.

Although you won’t be with your child during the lesson, let him or her know where you will be and what time you’ll be back for pick up. If you’re anxious, hide your concerns. Don’t give your child any reason to worry.

If your child has separation anxiety, talk to the instructor and come up with a game plan. Remember, they’ve seen it all before.

On the day of the lesson, arrive early so that you aren’t rushing. Introduce yourself and your child to the instructor and then leave. Although it’s oh-so-tempting, don’t “spy” on the lesson. Instead, click into your bindings, hop on the lift, and enjoy some adult skiing.

Just remember to be on time for pickup.

Tip #4: Reinforce What Has Been Taught

After the lesson, check in with the instructor and get a report.

Find out what was taught, where the child skied and specifically ask how you can reinforce what your child just learned.

To minimize confusion, learn and use the same terminology as the ski school. Get recommendations on what runs and trails to try. And find out what level lesson to sign up for the next time.

Tip #5: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

According to Kevin Jordan, the Children’s Coordinator at Snowmass, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is taking a child down a trail that is too difficult. As Kevin puts it, “This is a sure-fire way to regress, rather than reinforce, what your child has learned.”

Although it’s hard, parents need to have realistic expectations. Most kids aren’t going to grow up to be the next Ted Ligety or Mikaela Shiffrin. And that’s probably not your goal anyway.

So don’t push your kids too hard or too fast. Remember to laugh and play together. Create positive opportunities and experiences that will instill a love of skiing in your children.

Most of all, be patient and focus on fun. Before you know it, you and your kids will be skiing the same runs. And then one day, they’ll pass you by in a puff of powder and perfect turns down a steep line.

At that point, your job is done. Now you just have to keep up.

 

Enjoy!

Christy Sports is the presenting sponsor of the Colorado Ski Country USA 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program. With this pass, 5th graders ski free (and can get a free 1st-time lesson and rental) at 20 member resorts. 6th graders ski at each of these resorts for a one-time fee of $99. It’s the best deal in Colorado for skiing families!

 Also, January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, with great deals on children’s lessons at resorts throughout Colorado and Utah. For more information, find your resort on the LSSM webpage.

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Getting out on the hill and skiing or riding is fun, right? Right! So it is understandable that skiing and snowboarding evolved into a lifelong passion for so many of us. For those of us that have kids, it’s equally understandable to want to pass that same passion on to them. Still operating under the premise that our chosen winter sports are fun; on any given day at any given resort, why can you always find an upset child accompanied by a harassed looking adult? Well that’s a head-scratch-er, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it might be a combination of over-zealousness and lack of planning.

I get it; you want your kids to love the winter as much as you do, so with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of tips to help make those first days on the hill fun for the little ones who aren’t quite ready for ski school.

Christy_loveland2014_budd_1-39 PM 2CCBuy a Sled. Getting everything from the car to the base area can be a pain if you don’t have a cheap plastic sled and some bungee cords. Simply pile all of the gear into the sled, strap it down and tow it behind you. This also lets you carry one of the kiddos, preventing them from getting tired before they ever get on their skis or snowboard.  You can stash the sled somewhere at the base area and retrieve it for the return trip to the car.

Bring Their Shoes. Let them wear comfortable shoes from the car to the lift, and just put on the ski boots in the lodge right before the first run.

Dress Them Appropriately. Although it might be cold outside, overdressing your kids is as detrimental to your day as under-dressing them. Also, if you are hauling your kid up the hill all day, you will probably want to dress on the lighter side so you don’t get overheated.

Make Yourself Comfortable. Don’t wear your ski boots all day if you are going to spend most of your time walking up and down the beginner area. Instead wear comfy boots and bring your ski boots with you just in case.

Christy_loveland2014_budd_12-03 PM 2CCBe a Sherpa. Be as prepared for your little ripper as the most experienced Sherpa in Nepal. You should have plenty of snacks, water, sunscreen and extra layers with you just in case.  It’s also easier to sometimes just pick them up and carry them or push them back up the hill.  Consider it a bonus workout!

Mentally Prepare. Get ready to be patient and flexible. I know this seems like a no-brainer…but still, it’s worth repeating; be patient and flexible.

Make Good Terrain Choices. If it’s their first time skiing or snowboarding, don’t take them up the highest lift and just assume they’ll figure it out. I’ve seen that happen a few times, and it never works out well.

Take a Lot of Breaks. We all know that kids tire out pretty quickly, but it’s a surprisingly easy thing to forget when you’ve made the trek to the resort and are excited to finally see your kid on their skis or snowboard. Just let their attitude du jour dictate the pace of the day.

Trumpore_2014_Christys_-104CCHave Your Kid Wear a Helmet and Goggles. Even though they will probably go about 1mph, it’s always a good idea to start positive habits on the first day.  Helmets and goggles help keep them dry as well as protected and are available in different sizes and styles for kids of any age.

 

Be Realistic. Don’t plan on having the little ones on the snow from first chair to last chair. Even with plenty of breaks, they probably won’t spend more than a few hours on their skis.

Focus on the Fun, not the Technique. If they’re not having fun right away, it may be a fight to get them back up to the hill to learn about technique, so when you see them starting to lose interest, forget about the skis for a minute and play. Snowball fights, snow angels, and building snowmen are all free, fun and easy things to do in between magic carpet laps. Some resorts even have different activities like tubing, ice-skating, and zip lines which provide a great break for kids.

Rent Smart. Check out the kid’s ski free program at Christy Sports or check the availability of season rentals so you don’t break the bank on renting equipment for your kids.

Enroll Them in Lessons. After you’ve successfully introduced the fun of skiing or snowboarding to your little rippers, get them in a lesson. A good instructor will build on the foundation you’ve laid.

Remember that skiing and snowboarding is fun and focus on that. Your kids will pick up on your enthusiasm and after a while, they are going to want to head to the hills as much as you do. Pretty soon, you will be following them down the hill, watching them in the terrain park, and cringing at their GoPro footage. Those first few days on the hill are special though, so enjoy!

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If you have any other hard won tips for skiing or riding with kids, please let me know!