Start Right: Eight Learn to Ski and Snowboard Tips for Your Child (and You!)

Photo courtesy Alyeska Resort.

Photo courtesy Alyeska Resort.

In case you haven’t heard, January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. This means good deals on lessons at resorts around the U.S.

So to help you get your kids (and possibly you!) rocking and rolling on snow this winter, here are some top tips to help you start right, and start right now!

go with a pro logo psia-aasi

Image courtesy PSIA-AASI.

TIP ONE: Take a Lesson. While it might be tempting to teach your kids on your own, everyone will get off to a better, less emotional start with a lesson from a professional ski or snowboard instructor.

Ski and snowboard instructors know the latest and best techniques and they know how to teach them effectively.

If you want to teach your kids after the first lesson, ask the instructor if you can join them at the end of the lesson to observe. Then, after the lesson, ask the instructor to suggest appropriate terrain for practicing and for teaching tips that you and your child can use together.

Morillon ski school france

Photo courtesy Office de Tourisme de Morillon, Morillon, France.

TIP TWO: Be Prepared. Before the lesson, make sure your kids know what to expect. Visit the resort’s website. Look at the trail map and find the ski school and rental shop. Pick a meeting place and find it on the map. Get oriented before you arrive at the resort.

Also, watch videos on YouTube about learning to ski. You can find content showing kids how to ride a magic carpet or a chairlift, plus what a lesson will be like! It’s a great way to get them fired up.

TIP THREE: Dress for the Coldest Weather of the Day. It’s always better to remove or stow a layer if you’re hot, than to have too few clothes and be cold.  Pack extra gear like socks, mittens and handwarmers and ask the ski school where you can store these.

cute coats from

So cute! And warm…but missing the necessary helmet! Photo courtesy

TIP FOUR: Emphasize Fun. Sometimes parents are more nervous than their kids about ski lessons. Sometimes the kids are nervous, too. The purpose of ski and snowboard lessons is simply to have fun, BIG fun! Make sure your child knows that the instructor will not grade them, give them homework or be anything but fun!

Earl Saline, a ski and snowboard instructor and former trainer with PSIA/AASI, suggests keeping your concerns to yourself. While you or your child may be scared, don’t mention it to the instructor. They’ll sense it and know exactly how to handle the situation. Keep your tone light, enthusiastic and confident. If you act relaxed, your child will feel more relaxed.

ski school ski granby ranch

Ski instructors in action at Ski Granby Ranch, Colorado.

TIP FIVE: Age is Just a Number.  Parents often wonder how old their kids need to be before they start skiing or snowboarding. According to Annie Breckheimer, a family instructor at Vail with two decades of experience, the appropriate age is “not a number, but an attitude.”

If your child is excited and enthusiastic about skiing, capitalize on this. But remember, little ones rarely have a lot of stamina and these early lessons should focus more on fun, than quick progression.

For older kids, don’t get hung up on the child’s chronological age, but rather their ability. In group lessons, it’s important that the students’ ability levels and speed match up.

“Good instructors will divide up the classes so that the kids learn from the instructors and from each other,” explains Breckheimer.

ski school

Skiing with friends is more fun!

TIP SIX: Bring a Friend.  Learning something new is always more fun with friends. This is especially true for tweens and teens who are social by nature.

“It is really important that these kids get to hang out and ride with their peers. That is their motivator. Kids will progress much more rapidly if they are skiing with friends and motivated by competition with these friends,” explains Kate Belknap of the Powderhorn Mountain Resort Ski and Ride Center in Colorado.

TIP SEVEN: Manage Your Expectations. While fearful parents may cause their kids to be nervous, overconfident parents can put pressure on kids. Every child progresses at their own rate.

skiing with kids

After the lesson, let you child set the pace.

Make sure you don’t compare siblings or friends and don’t push your child too hard, too fast. All it takes is one big fall to dash new-found skills. If you’re skiing or snowboarding with your child after a lesson, let them pick the terrain and set the pace.

TIP EIGHT: Seize the Deals!  Take advantage of free and discounted lessons during at over 300 resorts in 33 states during Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.

learn to ski and snowboard monthTo find lessons in your area, visit the LSSM website and click on Find Lessons. From here, choose your region, then your state and then click on your favorite resort. January promotions vary, with some resorts offering free or discounted lessons, as well as discounts on rentals, lift tickets and more.

In addition to finding great deals on lessons, the LSSM website is a good resource for information on what to wear skiing, how to rent equipment, visiting ski resorts and more tips for parents.


 Want More? 


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


  1. Roberto says

    Great points. To add to tip #1 (which I highly recommend to any parent) is to take a parent/child class if available. If not take a private lesson(s) w/ your child with the idea that the instructor teach the child and show the parent what is being taught during the class itself. We have done it with both our girls and it puts skiing with them in a different perspective not to mention set proper expectations for the parents. Though difficult as that may be for a 6/4.5 year old to understand that the parental units are not as bump or speed worthy with the inevitable process of aging.

  2. Richard says

    Excellent entry. Re: lessons. It is nice to take lessons over multiple days, especially if your child works with only one or two instructors who know what progress has and has not been made in the previous day or two. For kids’ first lessons, that might argue in favor of going to a less-visited mountain relative to some of the big name ones. Second, with regard to parents’ participation in a lesson, I think that for especially young kids (maybe below 5 years of age) the parents’ presence can be more of a distraction, where the kids might not focus as well on what the instructor is telling them. The kids need to learn and not be concerned about pleasing the parent or focusing on the person that they see everyday. That doesn’t mean that parents of young kids can’t teach them themselves, but it is probably best to ask the instructor after the lesson about how they were taught and what/how to work with the child in the future. Finally, I would add that parents need to be mentally prepared for a child to not want to ski. After one lesson, the kid may not like it and you need to take that into consideration. Your ski vacation, especially with little ones, may turn into more of a tubing vacation but you have to know that this might happen. For little kids, it might take them more time to see the fun in it. As Tip Seven says, the child has to have a say in setting the pace.