Our Child Doesn’t Want to Ski. What Should We Try?

skiing with childrenFrom the BSM email box…

Hi Brave Ski Mom,  

brave ski mom logoI love love love your blog!  Thank you so much for writing it.  (Note from BSM: Thank you for reading it!)

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

max the moose buttermilk

Ski school should be fun! And most will go out of their way to make sure kids want to come back! Photo of Buttermilk’s Max the Moose courtesy Aspen/Snowmass.

Dear R,

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.

parents and children ski together

Sometimes kids just want to spend time playing on snow with mom and dad!

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.

skiing with friends

Sometimes, skiing with friends is more fun!

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!

Ski school is fun!

While group lessons are usually fun for kids, some kids respond better in a private setting or a family lesson.

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.

Tired skier

Here’s another tip: Tired skiers are not skiers. They’re nappers. Make sure your child is rested and ready to go!

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

Related Posts:

Also from Bring the KidsTips for Reluctant Skiers, February 27, 2013.


© 2013 – 2014, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.


  1. says

    Early this season there was a video making the rounds of a father and son. They were on (hard to say from the video, we know camera lenses can flatten a hill out) a run above the boy’s ability. The boy got going and went “french-fry” and is essentially schussing the run. Father is skiing behind his son yelling (yeap, you guessed it) “PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA”. The boy finally harmlessly crashes and Dad gets up to him. The boy is crying the dad is yelling and the boy is telling his Dad how much he never wants to ski again. A fine lesson in how not to introduce the tykes to the snow.

      • says

        BSM, interesting I will have to review that video and perhaps revise my commentary on it. However, that is not the one I am talking about above, there is no pushing or shoving involved just a father with his son on a run above the child’s ability.

        I know what the kid is going through he is in survival mode and holding on hoping he doesn’t crash before he stops. He is afraid to go into a snowplow and from my beginner days (at least the two I recall) I recall that feeling, going on a run with the idea of taking wide traverses and then before you know ZIP right down the fall line you go. I don’t have that video on my site, but search up something along the lines of “dad pizza child ski” and you will get tons of hits.

        • says

          You’re right! I got confused. I have shared the pizza video on Facebook, but sent you the wrong link. Thanks for straightening me out!

  2. James says

    Also if a kid doesn’t enjoy sking until 6 or 7 when they are stronger and more resilient don’t worry. There will be plenty of time to learn skills to be better and faster than mom and dad. One of my favorite ski seasons was skiing with our youngest and in 10 ski days we never got off the bunny hill. Now at 13 he is faster than me and loves to ski. Great post BSM

  3. Steph says

    Hershey kisses in my pocket have been a great motivator for my 4 year old over the past two seasons. :)

  4. says

    Kids don’t know skiing is fun so you have to make everything a game they can relate to. I’ve skied doing the hokey pokey, simon says, race car, and even once pretended to be a cow. We’ve been miners with gold in our pockets being chased by bad guys. I have special stories that only get told on the lift (and always end with a cliff hanger right when we’re getting off). Rather than teaching them to turn, we’re airplanes.

    • says

      Those are great ideas! And you’re right, often when starting in lessons, I don’t they have a clue as to why they’re doing this. Thanks!

  5. Jossy says

    Surf mom here and so is dad, we love surfing together and want to make it a family thing, the boys both started surfing at 3 , they did some fun contests through the years and won trophies , and we never had to push them. now they are 7 and 9 and don’t want to surf much at all ! I’m stumped and frustrated .. I myself would have given every chance I could get at thier age if I was so lucky growing up on the beach like my boys . At a loss..

    • says

      Hi Surf mom, that’s a tough one. What do they want to do instead? Our older son always wants to ski, but our younger son has gone through stages where he didn’t want to: tired, lazy, sleepy, or just being stubborn, we couldn’t really tell. One thing we have found that works with him is letting him choose when and where he skis. Most of the time he’s pretty stoked to be on snow, but he got tired of being “bossed around.”

      Maybe you could find out what your boys want to do instead and take turns? We’ll do this with you, if you’ll surf with us? I hear you that you don’t want to push them and that’s wise. Let me know if anything works! Cheers and good luck.