Are your kids going to ski school this winter? Without a doubt, ski and ride school is the best investment a family can make in winter sports. Why? Because although there are parents out there who can teach their kids to ski or ride, most of us 1) don’t have the patience, 2) don’t have the training and 3) are way too emotionally invested in the outcome. Turn the teaching over to the pros and go enjoy yourself, alone or with friends, on the slopes.
January is National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and resorts across the U.S. have some great deals and special programs in store. For more information, please visit skiandsnowboardmonth.org.
Prepare Your Kids For Ski School
No matter how old your child is, going to ski or ride school can be stressful — especially if the child doesn’t know what to expect. There’s a shock factor. It’s like going back to school for the first day, in a new town. Your child may have questions or fears, but not verbalize them. Questions like these: “Will the teacher be nice?” “Will the other kids be nice?” “Can I do this?” “Where will my parents be?”
Whether your kids are going to ski school one time, for a several consecutive days, or over the course of the season, here are some steps you can take before the lessons start to make sure your kids have fun and learn a lot and you get your money’s worth.
1. Do Your “Homework.” Before the first class, sit down with your child and visit some websites. Visit the website of the resort where the lessons will take place. Look at the trail map. Point out the ski school and where you, the parent, will be while the child is in class. If you’re staying at the resort, point out your lodging. Get your child situated and familiar with the resort. Be sure to look for kid-friendly pages on the website. In addition, visit snowmonsters.com or yourmountain.org for fun information and games and watch the videos at the PSIA/AASI (Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors.
2. Talk About It. Discuss with your child what he or she can expect from ski and ride school. First, there will be kids the same age and a teacher — just like at school. But unlike regular school, ski and ride school is more like recess all the time. Explain that the instructor will help the kids learn about their equipment and how to move on skis or a snowboard, but that this teaching is all for the purpose of having fun. There are no grades, and the only homework is to ski or ride and have fun. BIG fun!
3. Visit Before Class. If you can, on the day before the first lesson, visit the ski school. If your child doesn’t want to go inside, just walk by and get familiar with the school’s location. If your child is willing to go in, introduce yourself and your child to the staff. Ask any questions you both have and take a look around.
4. Be Prepared. Find out if you need to pack any extra gear, like socks or mittens, and if there is a place where your child’s gear can be stored. Dress your child for the coldest weather of the day. It is better to remove and stow a layer, than to not have enough clothes. Get a trail map and ask the staff to highlight where the lesson will take place – which runs, which lifts, even where the class may eat lunch.
5. Meet the Teacher. All ski schools operate differently, but if you can meet the instructor prior to the lesson, do. Introduce yourself, and introduce your child. But don’t say something in front of your child that will shake their confidence. While Sophie (or Tommy) may be scared, don’t say “Sophie is really scared about ski school,” in front of her. Keep your tone light and enthusiastic and confident. If you’re relaxed, your child will be more relaxed.
Build on Success
When your child meets up with you after the lesson, avoid the temptation to venture onto unfamiliar terrain. Talk to the child and instructor about where they skied. Stick to these runs. Your child knows this terrain and will be more comfortable. This means your child will ski or ride better. Let the child show off what was learned in the lesson. Let your child shine and reinforce the day’s learning.
How Many Lessons?
I asked Earl Saline of PSIA/AASI about the optimum number of lessons for children. He said that a good rule of thumb is three. Especially for families vacationing for a week, three days in a row builds confidence with continuity. If your child is brand-new to skiing, day one will be spent getting comfortable with the snowsports environment: how to use the equipment and how to slide. On day two, the child will begin using some of these skills, repeating what was learned and growing in confidence. By day three, most children feel like they know what they’re doing. Now it’s all about anchoring and practicing the skills.
Taking lessons three days in a row gives your child a better chance of having the same instructor and same group of kids with whom to ski. Rather than having to meet new people each morning, your child will become part of a team and have much less anxiety.
But I Want to Teach My Kids Myself
If you are certain that you want to be your child’s primary ski or ride instructor (and you’re not already PSIA or AASI certified) look for a “Mommy and Me” or “Daddy and Me” program and take a lesson together. The instructor will teach your child basic skills and teach you the tips you need to teach your kids. Alternatively, sign up for a private lesson together and ask the instructor to help you learn to teach your child appropriately.
Next Week: What to do when your child is scared and doesn’t want to go back to ski school.
Thanks to Earl Saline of PSIA/AASI for help with this post. Earl works with ski instructors across the U.S. and develops training materials and certifications. He has an extensive teaching background and has had students as young as 18 months and as old as 80+.
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