My son recently skied with a friend who started at age 18.
“I wish I’d tried skiing earlier,” said friend told me. “I can’t believe how much fun this is. I’ll never stop.”
FUN. That’s the magic word whether you’re starting a toddler on snow, you’re an adult returning to snowsports after a hiatus, or anyone in between.
If skiing or snowboarding aren’t fun, what’s the point?
Today, we’ve got five tips to help any beginner have more fun as they begin skiing and riding. While the focus is on kids, these tips can help anyone.
If you’re a beginner, or you have a beginner in your life, read on!
Tip One: Have Fun
This is sounds obvious, but it is so easy for parents to get caught up in the child’s learning, technique and progression (ski talk for improving).
While most of us understand that we shouldn’t push our little ones too hard, too fast (or our spouses, for that matter), it can be easy to get caught up in the moment.
Family skiing is addictive. No matter whom I talk to — moms, dads, instructors, racers — we always circle back to the same point: for us, skiing is the most fun a family can have together. It’s a truly multi-generational experience that can last a lifetime.
So to keep it lasting a lifetime, keep your eyes on the prize. While you may be bursting with pride and enthusiasm (“we’re going to ski as a family!”), remember to let your child set the pace.
A first-time ski or snowboard lesson is a lot to take in. A first day sliding on snow is a lot to take in. It’s fun, it’s exciting, the equipment is kind of weird and it can be a little bit scary.
Your job as the parent it to make sure your child is having fun, whether it’s their first day on snow, or you’ve been skiing together all season. Make sure you’ve got snacks at the ready and listen to any concerns your child may have about being tired, anxious about new terrain, and the like.
Tip Two: Glide and Slide
An easy first step that you can do at home or before lessons is to help your little ones learn to glide and slide on snow.
This doesn’t have to be done on skis. I recently spoke with Kevin Jordan, the Children’s Coordinator at Snowmass Ski and Snowboard School. Kevin has a young son, and together they’ve spent the early part of this winter learning to stand up on skis. Kevin’s son wears skis with straps that work with snowboots, so he hasn’t even tried regular ski equipment. And he may not until next year.
“My goal is to create as many sliding opportunities as possible this year,” explains Kevin. “In addition to gliding a bit on skis, I also have a strider bike with skis and a snowboard. We’ll worry about learning to stop later or maybe even next year. I just want him to enjoy gliding!”
And that’s a good point. Skiing and snowboarding both require one to cede a bit of control and let gravity take over. Sledding is the same and can be a fun way to introduce the concept of sliding.
If your child has a lesson coming up, a bit of gentle sledding can some comfort to the idea of sliding down a hill. Better yet, put some ski gear on your child and play together in your yard or on a tiny slope.
Just remember, the goal is to get comfortable, not to be scared.
Tip Three: Lesson Prep
I believe in lessons for skiers and riders of any ability. So I always recommend signing your kids up for a least one beginner lesson, if not a series. Lessons are a great way to start them off right and maximize everyone’s fun!
Homework usually comes after school, but in this case, it can come before. Ski and snowboard lessons are a big unknown for most kids. “What will I do? Where will I go? Where will mom and dad be?” These are some of the questions your child may have.
To start off right, turn on the computer. Check out the resort website. Read together about lessons and what to expect. Look at a resort map. Point out the children’s center. Point out where you’ll be while the lesson is happening. Show your child where you will meet them when it’s over (and don’t be late!).
You can also watch videos on YouTube of children skiing. Try to avoid the videos of crashes and tears (there are a surprising number of these) and stick with Learn-To videos like the PSIA/AASI (Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors) “Go With A Pro” series.
Next, gather the clothing and equipment you’ll need. While most beginner lessons include skis or snowboard and boots, your child will need warm, insulating and water-repellent clothing (you can find a list here).
Helmets are generally required and are often available from the ski and ride school.
On the day of the lesson, dress your child for the coldest weather of the day and bring a bag with extra socks and mittens to the children’s center. If your child gets too hot, the instructors will help him or her shed a layer. If mittens or socks get wet, they’ll help your child change into dry ones.
If you can, introduce yourself and your child to the instructor. While you may be a bit nervous, don’t let it show. Keep your tone light and confident. If you’re relaxed, your child will be more relaxed, too. And there is really no need to worry. Instructors know exactly what they’re doing and how to make learning fun.
Tip Four: Build on Success
After a lesson, reinforce what was learned in the most positive ways possible. Talk to the instructor and find out what your child learned, where the class skied and which runs the instructor suggests for practice. Find out what skills you can reinforce with your child when you practice together.
Whenever you and your child ski or ride together, give your child the chance to shine. By returning to familiar slopes and runs, your child can show off what was learned in the lesson and feel a sense of accomplishment.
When it comes to choosing terrain for your kids, this video for PSIA/AASI says it well.
Tip Five: Next Steps
According to Earl Saline, an instructor and ski industry pro, a good rule of thumb for any beginner, whether a skier or snowboarder, is to take three lessons. Three lessons moves a new skier from simple gliding to confident repetition and anchors these new skills.
If you’re on vacation for a week, sign up for three lessons with the same instructor and group. If your child is learning at your local hill, look for multi-week programs.
Above all, though, keep it FUN! For your child, for yourself and to ensure a lifetime of winter adventures together.
More Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Ski
- Teach Your Kids to Ski, January 13, 2016.
- More Than Gadgets: Learn-to-Ski Aids for Young Children, December 3, 2012.
- Start Right: Eight Learn to Ski and Snowboard Tips for Your Child (And You!), January 8, 2014.
- What You Need to Know to Start Your Child Skiing or Snowboarding, January 11, 2011.
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