Hi Brave Ski Mom,
My husband and I love to ski, but our 5-year-old…. not so much. We took him a couple of times last year and I tried to make it really fun. (Lots and lots of hot chocolate!)
This year, he wanted to go at first, took a couple of lessons, then during one lesson he got moved out of his group to a lower level. (He can’t turn on one side, and the other kids were progressing faster) Even though this is totally normal, he took it really hard and now we can’t get him to go at all.
Do you have any tips for a reluctant skier? I don’t want to force him, but I would love it if we could all have fun skiing as a family.
Thanks in advance for your help!
R, Ski Mom
I feel you pain! There’s a fine line between encouraging, motivating and forcing, and as you know, forcing doesn’t work. Well, it might over the short-term, but certainly not for the long haul.
Here are a few ideas from when my boys were learning to ski.
1) Family Time. Maybe your son just wants to hang with mom and dad. Perhaps you could find a few mornings or afternoons to ski with him and just play together. You’ll be on the bunny slope, so don’t pick the best powder day of the year. That will be just too frustrating.
Some resorts have a bunny hill-only ticket, which is worth getting. First of all, you won’t mind staying on beginner terrain as much, if you didn’t pay a lot of for the tickets. Secondly, you won’t be tempted to try harder runs with your son before he’s ready. You want to avoid pushing him beyond his comfort level. That will be counterproductive.
Right now, it’s important to get him comfortable on snow and enjoying the time with his parents.
2) Friend Time. This worked really well with our older son. Another mom and I loaded up the boys, brought tons of snacks and drove to the resort together. We did the “bunny hill only” thing with the boys. They enjoyed spending time together, as did my friend and I. Sometimes when a child sees a friend doing trying the same activity and enjoying it, something clicks and they kids think to themselves, “if he/she can do it, I can do it!”
It’s very important though, especially with your son’s experience, that the friend be at the same level. You don’t want him to feel as if he is “failing” and develop a “can’t-do” attitude.
3) Lesson Time. When your son is ready to try another lesson, try a private. Since he’s had a negative experience in a group lesson, a private might help him over the hump. While I totally recommend that you ski together as a family, when it comes to lessons, many kids progress faster and have more fun learning with a professional instructor. The instructors just know more about teaching than we parents do!
Two seasons ago, a mom wrote to me with an issue similar to yours. She put her son in a couple of private lessons and within a couple of weeks, he’d built up a ton of confidence and had gotten over his fear.
Smaller resorts are perfect for beginner private lessons. All PSIA/AASI instructors are certified and know what they’re doing. At a smaller resort, you can save money and sometimes have the slopes to yourself!
4) Find Out What’s Holding Him Back. If you can, find out what your son is not enjoying. Is it being away from you and your husband? If so, you can take a “family” lesson at most resorts. This is another great way to make him feel more comfortable, plus parents can pick up tips from the instructor on how to help your son progress during when he’s free skiing. Talk to the instructor privately, without your son present, beforehand, and let her or him know what you want from the lesson. Ski instructors are usually happy to help in any way they can.
Other things that may be holding him back are fear, or the cold. If it’s fear, talk to him about what he’s afraid of. Maybe it’s sliding downhill, or falling. Have fun playing with him on skis. Show him that you fall and that you get right back up! Maybe he overheard someone talking about an accident. Talk to him about how long you’ve skied without ever getting hurt (hopefully!). You get the idea.
Finally, our oldest son hated skiing the first few times he went. Why? We had him in a cute, department store coat and it wasn’t warm enough. He associated skiing with shivering and misery. Once we realized this, we went out and got him a down coat, proper mittens and good long underwear (don’t be tempted into letting kids wear cotton pjs!) and wool socks. He’s loved skiing ever since.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions! (And that goes for anybody reading this. I am always happy to help if I can.)
I’m sure you have many, many years of skiing together and enjoying the winter! Just be patient. This, too, will pass and soon he’ll be impatiently waiting on you!
Brave Ski Mom
- What To Do With A Scared Skier, January 17, 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.
- Fitting Kids’ Skis and Ski Boots, October 1, 2012.
- How Do I Tell If My Kid’s Ski Boots Fit? And More Importantly, How Do I Keep My Kid’s Feet Warm? October 14, 2010.
- How Cold Is Too Cold for Skiing? February 22, 2011.
Also from Bring the Kids: Tips for Reluctant Skiers, February 27, 2013.
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