When we were helping to teach our kids to ski (let’s face it, the instructors taught them and the kids simply practiced with us), we used a hula hoop, a harness and an Edgie-Wedgie a lot.
Since that was a decade ago, I wanted an update on the tools available now. What works and what doesn’t? How is a parent to decide what’s worth spending money on and what should be avoided?
To answer these questions, I called Earl Saline, my number one learn-to-ski resource at Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI).
What You May See On Mountain This Winter
Basically a short rubber tube that connects the ski tips, connectors help children learn the basics of turning while in a controlled, but not exaggerated, wedge.
From a ski instructor’s point-of-view, Saline likes them because “the child is still in control of their stance and balance. They help kids learn how to control their skis with their feet and legs.”
Hula Hoops, Poles and HookEase: These tools let parents control their child’s speed and direction without sabotaging the child’s balance. Most kids are familiar with hula hoops, so it’s no big deal to hold onto it and slide downhill. Some parents like to be in the hoop with their child. Others hold onto the outside of the hoop. But the parent is always behind the child.
If you’ve got access to a long bamboo pole (or a long ski pole), Saline recommends skiing next to your child, with both of you gripping the pole like a bike handlebar. A pole lets you monitor your child’s balance. It also lets you control speed and turning if necessary. It’s important to remember though, that with both of these tools, the child needs to be balancing on their own and the parents need to avoid getting tangled up.
HookEase are a nifty, new product (which we are giving away along with a WedgeEase) that uses the parent’s ski poles as static reins. The Hookease system has two parts: one is an attachment mount that slides onto the back of the child’s skis. The second is a hook attachment that parents put on the tips of their ski poles. These hooks fit into the mount on the child’s skis and let the parent check the child’s speed, or encourage them to turn, without pulling the child backward.
Harnesses: While many parents think of harnesses as a speed control device, using them as brakes actually works against proper skiing technique. If there is constant tension on the reins, the child is usually riding in the backseat and leaning against the back of the ski boots. That’s not good.
If you use a harness make sure the reins are slack and that your child is holding himself or herself up without your help. The child should be turning and sliding on their own, with you behind them as a safety net.
The Launch Pad Ski Harness has a bungee attachment that helps prevent too much backward tension by absorbing force when the reins go taut. This keeps the child from being pulled into a backseat stance.
Strap-On Skis: Although the Karhu K’boom skis Saline recommends are discontinued (but I saw them for cheap on eBay), Saline likes strap-on Nordic skis for little kids. And not just for Nordic skiing. If you can find strap-on skis, Saline recommends letting your little ones use them in the house (and in your snowy yard) in order to teach balance and movement before they hit the slopes.
For Little Snowboarders: Since not every child will start on skis, the Burton Riglet Reel is a good tool to help your young rider control his or her speed and direction. The Riglet Reel attaches to the tip of a child’s board and lets you pull your child on flat ground while they get the feel for sliding. Even before you hit the snow, Saline recommends letting kids play and practice with a board inside, moving it from tip to tail and edge to edge.
Good Old Fashioned Hands: Guess what? Two of the best learn-to-ski tools are found at the end of your arms. Saline recommends skiing alongside them with your hand out, where your child can place his or her hand on top of it. Hand-to-hand connection allows you to sense how nervous your child might (or might not) be. You can also tell how well they are balancing on their own, which is, as always, the goal.
KinderLift Vest: This is the product which actually inspired today’s post. KinderLift is a 20 year-old company which recently moved to Colorado. They make a vest for young children with a handle on the back that lets parents and ski instructors easily pull a young child back when boarding a chairlift. Look for more information, a review and a giveaway on Friday (December 7th)!
Launch Pad Giveaway
For a chance to win a Wedgease and Hookease from Launch Pad, please leave a comment. For a second entry, please “like” Launch Pad on Facebook.
One winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Tuesday, December 11 at 8:00 a.m. MST.
- How To Ski With Babies and Toddlers, March 14, 2012.
- What to Do With a Scared Skier, January 17, 2012.
- Do Kids Have to Ski Before They Ride?, March 15, 2012.
- Get Your Kids Ready for Ski and Ride School, January 4, 2012.
- What You Need to Know to Start Your Child Skiing or Snowboarding, January 11, 2011.
I am not personally familiar with any of the giveaway items, however Launch Pad is an official supplier to PSIA-AASI. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends. Many thanks to Earl Saline for his help with this post.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Annie!
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