From the Brave Ski Mom email inbox:
Dear Brave Ski Mom,
We started our boys skiing last year. They are 7 and 11 years old. Both started in private lessons and the oldest one has progressed very well. Our 7 year-old, however, is scared. He won’t take any other lessons and he will only ski the easiest green run at our mountain. We have a family ski trip planned for Spring Break at a different resort. What should we do?
Thank you so much,
Dear Canadian Mom,
That’s a tough one. When everyone else in the family skis, it’s difficult to have one child who isn’t so keen on skiing. Especially, if he’s scared. I checked in with two pros — ski school directors who have seen it all. Here’s what they suggest.
1. Try a Group Lesson. Kids enjoy being with other kids and sometimes forget about fear if they are having fun with their peers, according to Kate Belknap-Bruchak, Director of the PSIA/AASI accredited Ski and Ride School at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.
I know this was true for one of our sons. When he was 5, he didn’t really want to ski, but if we skied with one of his friends, he enjoyed it much more. Sometimes the pressure of being alone in a private lesson can make a child nervous. They can be inspired by seeing what the other kids do and realize that they can do it too.
The socialization is so important that instructors with private lessons will sometimes join forces for a few runs, just so the kids aren’t isolated with one adult the entire day. This isn’t a group lesson — it’s still one instructor per kid, but it does mix it up a bit for everyone.
2. It Has to Be Fun. Kevin Jordan, the Childrens’ Ski School Coordinator for Buttermilk Ski School at Aspen/Snowmass agrees with the benefits of group lessons and adds that the lessons have to be fun. The lessons shouldn’t be adult lessons taught to kids, but should really emphasize what motivates children and how they learn.
Most resorts have lessons and programs specifically for kids. But some, like the Buttermilk Ski School, take it to a higher level with a skiing mascot, race days and other kid-friendly activities that build excitement and enthusiasm.
Buttermilk’s mascot, Max the Moose, skis the mountain looking for kids in lessons. Kids know that Max is out there somewhere. But since he skis randomly, at different times and on different runs, they never know where they will find him. Instructors make finding Max a big deal. So when it’s time to try a new chairlift or new run, the kids are excited, because it means they may spot Max.
3. Identify the Fear. Jordan also suggests trying to find out what’s bothering a scared child. Did he find himself on terrain he wasn’t quite ready for? Or maybe she started out in a class that was too hard and was demoted?
A good ski school will start a child out in a class just a bit beneath their skill level. Why? To build in success. If the child is too good for this level, she’ll be moved up a class. This feels good. It feels much better than being demoted, or scared to death on a slope that’s too difficult.
Another factor that contributes to scared skiers is parental fear. If you are fearful about your child skiing, chances are he or she will be fearful, too. If you really want him to learn to ski, keep your attitude upbeat and enthusiastic. If you are excited and eager about ski lessons, your child will be too.
4. Manage Your Expectations. While fearful parents may cause their kids to be nervous, overconfident parents can place unreasonable expectations on kids which set them up for failure. Be sure you don’t compare siblings or friends. Every child progresses at their own rate. Some kids start out fast, only to be caught by the late bloomers. Others start slow, and then suddenly it all clicks. Let your child progress, with the help of their instructor, at their own pace.
Kids don’t like getting in over their heads on skis (who does?), and all it takes is one big crash to dash new-found skills. If your child is afraid of the terrain, or afraid of crashing, she will ski more tentatively which makes the sport much harder.
After a successful lesson, stay on the same terrain and at the same skill level as the lesson. Don’t be tempted to push your child too far, too fast. While you may be excited to take your child on a black run, if the instructors haven’t done it, she’s probably not ready. After a lesson, your child may be really excited to show you what’s she’s learned. Let her set the pace and share the runs she knows with you.
Fear? What Fear?
The Brave Ski Mom
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