Today, a look at learn-to-ski and learn-to-snowboard tools.
We review which tools you should definitely buy, which tools work well for beginners and independent turners, and which tools must be used with caution.
The Essential Edgie-Wedgie for Beginner Skiers
If you are only going to buy one learn-to-ski tool, this is the one.
Also known as a tip connector, the Edgie-Wedgie (or similar product) is a short piece of rubber tubing that clamps to each ski tip. Tip connectors keep children’s skis in a safe position. Tip connectors prevent ski tips from getting too close together and crossing. They also prevent ski tips from drifting too far apart and forcing your child into the splits.
Equally important, tip connectors help a child learn the basics of turning while in a controlled, but not exaggerated, wedge.
Recommended and mandatory at many ski schools, an Edgie-Wedgie is worth every penny of the $15 investment.
The Burton Riglet Reel for Beginner 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.
Bonus Tip: Even before you hit the snow, give your child a head start by letting her or him play and practice with a board inside, moving it from tip to tail and edge to edge. Then when you get out on snow with the Riglet Reel, your child will already have a feel for movement on the snowboard.
Additional Learn-to-Ski Tools for Beginners
Good Old Fashioned Hands: Two of the best learn-to-ski tools are found at the end of your arms. Ski alongside your child with your hand out. Ask your child to 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.
Hula Hoop: A ski instructor favorite, a hula hoop helps parents control their child’s speed and direction. To use a hula hoop, the child stands inside the hoop and holds on to one side while the parent stands outside the hoop and holds onto the back. The child is always in front and the parent is always in back. Make sure your child is balancing on her own, not leaning forward onto the hoop or pulling backward from it.
A Long Ski Pole or Bamboo Pole: Sometimes, the best tool is one you already own. To use a ski pole, ski side-by-side with your child, both of you gripping the pole like a bike handlebar. This position allows you to monitor your child’s balance. It also allows you to control speed and turning if necessary. Again, make sure your child is balancing on his own, not leaning on you or the pole.
Learn to Ski Tools for Skiers Who Can Turn Independently
SkiRing™: The SkiRing™ is a plastic ring, shaped like a car’s steering wheel, which helps keep a skier’s focus downhill. Used in place of ski poles, it reinforces proper hand position and balance and lets beginners focus on turning.
Everyone in our family (along with numerous friends) has tried the SkiRing™. We think it is a useful tool for skiers of all ages, when used as a reminder to keep shoulders and hips pointing downhill.
Slope Ropes: Slope Ropes are like an elongated and floppy Hula Hoop. A large circle of rope with two plastic handles, the child skis inside the circle with the rope at his or her waist. The parent skis outside the circle holding onto a handle.
When used properly the ropes are slack, not tight, and the child is supporting his own weight and balancing independently.
Slope Ropes are useful for reinforcing a forward skiing stance. If the child leans backward, the ropes will fall. This benefit is also a drawback: if the rope falls, both the parent and child need to be careful not to get entangled.
Harnesses: Use With Caution
While parents may think of harnesses as a speed control device, using them as brakes 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.
Also if you do use a harness, get one that attaches at the child’s waist. This can help minimize the tendency to lean back.
How to Evaluate Learn-to-Ski Tools
When evaluating other learn-to-ski tools and gadgets, keep these three things in mind.
1. A good tool reinforces independent balance on the part of the child. Your child should never be leaning on your or the tool to stay upright.
2. A good tool reinforces proper skiing position. That is, knees bent, ankles flexed, weight over the tops of the boots. Avoid tools and gadgets that let your child slip into a “backseat” position (weight shifted backward).
3. You should never spend more than the most expensive item on our list (the Burton Riglet Reel at approximately $35.00).
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month! Because parents are essential in helping their children learn-to-ski and learn-to-snowboard, we’re focusing this month on tools, tips and more to make the transition from “never-ever” beginner to fast little ripper easier and more fun.
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