There are few things more intimidating for a parent than teaching a kid to ski. We looked at websites devoted to family skiing and saw warnings like:
“Starting your child at age 2 or 3 should strictly be for a photo opportunity.”
“Your kid must be potty trained to enroll in ski school.”
My wife and I were so nervous about the prospect of putting our twin son and daughter on skis that we decided to wait a few years and let them learn whenever they wanted to go skiing. Then somebody gave us a couple of tiny pairs of used cross-country skis with strap-on bindings that work with any snow boots. So, while the twins were still 1 year old, with a few inches of new snow in our yard, I put on my cross-country skis. Immediately they wanted their own skis. I pulled out the plastic skis and they squealed with excitement. We put the skis on in the warmth of the house and skied right out the door.
For the next 45 minutes they tromped around the yard looking proudly at their tracks. A few days later we went on a “ski hike” in an area of flat woods where we went on toddler hikes the summer before. We skied a hundred meters, had lunch, and walked back to the car. Over the next few months we ended up skiing a lot. When they were 2 years old, we put them in downhill gear and started riding lifts with them. Now, at 3 years old, they are making parallel turns on their own, have season passes for next year, and are in love with skiing.
Here are the big things we learned as parents that made introducing our kids to skiing a fantastic experience for all of us:
Start on cross-country skis:
- Teaches them to stand on the ski without leaning into the back seat.
- Lighter gear makes just moving much easier for their tiny muscles.
- Teaches them to avoid crossing their ski tips.
- Introduces them to the ski without the feeling of awkward, hard plastic boots.
Then upon transitioning to downhill skis:
- Take it easy: We live 10 minutes from a ski area, but even if you travel, give yourself a few days to avoid the pressure of feeling pressure to ski any particular amount of time. Some days we drove to the ski area, walked to the lift, and then turned around and went home.
- We avoided holding the kids between our legs skiing except for getting down steeper sections in the beginning. Instead, we let them hang on to the handle end of a ski pole while we held the other end. Soon, we were barely holding the end of the pole, and using it to steer.
- Snacks: Take food on the hill and stop at a safe place for a tiny picnic after a couple of runs. Without snacks we'd make it 4 runs. With food we could do 8 runs and go home wanting more.
- Fun: If it is not fun, go home and come back another day.
The best line I ever heard about kids learning to ski was from CMH Galena ski guide Bernie Wiatzka. One day at the ski hill, a passing skier asked Bernie, "How old is your kid?"
"Two." Bernie replied.
"He's skiing really well."
"Yeah. He's doing a lot better than last year."
Kids n' Skis is the best website I found for information on kids and skiing. Once you're well along the learning curve, take them heli-skiing for the family experience of a lifetime. CMH offers family heli-ski trips that are designed for maximum family fun with kids 12 years old and older.
Do you have any tips for skiing with kids you could share with us?