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