Trish O’Connell is the 2014/15 Colorado Ski Country USA Instructor of the Year. Based at Steamboat Ski Resort, Trish specializes in teaching children to ski.
Today, Trish shares her tips for ensuring that your child has a fun, safe and educational ski school experience.
Thanks Trish and CSCUSA for sharing this interview!
Tips from Trish O’Connell, Colorado’s “Best of the Best”
What is the ideal age to start a kid skiing or snowboarding?
This varies with each child. If the child is potty trained, not in need of a nap, follows directions, and generally is comfortable with other kids and adults, they should do well in ski school.
It’s important that the child be excited to ski! Pushing too early only sets them back.
That said, most ski and snowboard schools accept children in group lessons at age 3.
Full-day or half-day lesson?
A full-day lesson provides a better pace for children to learn. Typically, skills are introduced in the morning and they practice and explore in the afternoon.
A full-day lesson allows time for kids to develop relationships with the instructor and one another. Having lunch as a group can be the funnest part of the day. Instructors are great at telling jokes and stories and doing different activities that help kids relax and have fun.
Group or private lesson?
This really depends on how each child learns.
Many kids thrive in a group setting. They are used to being in school and enjoy learning from watching others. It’s helpful for them to see their peers doing the same thing as they are.
Some kids struggle with all the excitement around them and do better one-on-one.
Where should parents turn for information about beginner lessons?
The resort website is a great place to start. If there are still unanswered questions, call the ski school directly. Also look for online deals.
What are your three best tips for parents?
First, make a reservation. Second, make sure the child is dressed appropriately for the weather and everything is clearly labeled with their name. Dress your child in layers. Helmet, goggles, good gloves or mittens, and sunscreen are essential. Third, arrive 15 minutes early to avoid stress.
What qualifications do ski instructors have to achieve in order to teach kids?
While each resort varies, instructors for children are typically patient people who enjoy kids. They are trained on the physical and mental developmental stages of children.
How do instructors keep kids safe?
Safety is the main priority in ski school. Most resorts have special brightly colored, easily identifiable bibs for kids in preschool. Additionally, many areas have tracking devices for all kids in ski school. Lifts are slowed for children to get on and off and they will usually ride with an adult.
Instructors have extensive training in safety. The children will ski on appropriate terrain and be hydrated, wear sunscreen, kept warm, and fed when hungry!
What do kids learn about safety during the lesson?
Personal safety and the safety of the other skiers is stressed as the top priority of the day. Your Responsibility Code is taught with the emphasis on always skiing in control! Instructors spend quite a bit of time on riding the lift.
Kids that come out of ski schools often have the best etiquette and safety awareness of all those on the mountain!
What can parents expect after one lesson? Three lessons? Five lessons?
Most children will learn how to put on equipment, walk on their skis, glide and be able to stop after the first day. Three lessons typically has them riding a chairlift, turning, and riding comfortably on green runs. After five lessons they may be exploring steeper terrain.
Mental and physical development, as well as desire and motivation, plays a huge role in progress. The most important thing is helping them develop a love for the sport. If after a week they are still happy to put their skis on, it has been a success!
Why do you enjoy teaching kids to ski?
Kid are great! They have boundless energy, excitement and optimism. They are eager to please and impress. I am in awe of the trust they put in the instructor. They try their best to do what is asked of them. Because they rarely think of consequences, they are usually successful.
Teaching kids helps keep the kid in each of us going strong. Over a day’s time, I probably learn more from the kids then they learn from me.
More from CSCUSA:
- Ashley Sifers: From First Year Instructor to Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year, March 26, 2014.
- Tips from a Pro: Ski and Snowboard Safety for Families, April 7, 2014.
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