Tips for teaching kids to ski—and keeping them smiling.
Isn’t it wonderful when families love skiing together? The cool trips, the smiling photos of everyone in goggles, the pride parents feel when their kids get good enough to leave them in the dust … And yet, the process of getting there—teaching kids to ski—can be a little painful. Those tiny skis are sure cute, but once you’ve schlepped all the kid’s gear across the parking lot, only to have them last two runs before melting down, no cuteness factor can compensate for all the unglamorous parts.
The good news is that there are many, many little things you can do to make the process easier for you and for your littles. Here we’ll list a few of our tried-and-true faves, and please send us your own ideas and pics to feature, too.
Get them used to the gear before the first day.
Especially if your kid is very small, the gear can feel really overwhelming. It’s a lot of stuff to have attached to their body! We’ve seen kids melt down in tears upon taking their first steps in ski boots inside the lodge and refuse to go further. It’s disorienting for them.
Try making it a game at home to walk around on the carpet in ski boots. It’s a silly way to walk, and kids love silly walks. Once the boots feel like no big deal, have them click into their skis on the snow in the yard and pull them around like they’re on a sled. This is a delightful game and gets them used to the idea of clicking boots into skis and then sliding around. Sliding on snow is fun! Oh boy!
You can then introduce helmets and goggles as things we wear when we are doing very exciting things. They keep our heads warm and let us go fast.
By the time they get to the hill, the things they’re wearing will feel familiar. Chances of catastrophic tears: reduced.
Keep costs down.
It goes without saying, but we recommend buying ski clothing and accessories UnNew here on Geartrade. Then, when the kiddo grows out of them, they can be resold to another family, or handed down to a sibling or family friend.
Many ski shops offer season rentals for kids at a very low cost. You pick up the right size of boots and skis at the beginning of the season, then turn them in at the end. This spares you the hassle and expense of buying new ones over and over.
Next, shop smart when it comes to which resort(s) you go to. Most resorts let the youngest kids ski for free, but many start charging by the time they hit a certain age. See which resorts let kids ski for free the longest. Here in the Wasatch, Brighton Resort generously lets kids under 10 ski free. Even if they’re too old for the freebie pass, you can probably buy a beginner-lift-only pass for the kids who only need the beginner slopes, saving a few bucks.
You can also bring favorite picnic foods to have lunch in the car or on the resort patio if it’s sunny. Think high-value foods, because you’ve got to compete with the resort cafeteria, which sounds and smells appealing. You can always throw down a few bucks at the end of the day for a hot cocoa reward for kids who stayed strong.
Comfort is everything.
Sure, if we adults are a little cold on a ski day, we can grit our teeth and stick it out. But for a kid, uncomfortable temps can spell mutiny. Go big on layering, bring hand warmers, and stock a small backpack with a few extras like spare mittens, an extra buff, or puffy jacket. (Kids are notoriously good at getting things like mittens and buffs wet and sometimes need fresh ones.) They may appreciate the novelty and warmth of a thermos of hot cocoa on the chairlift ride, too.
Choose the least crowded ski days possible.
Nothing saps team morale like a three-hour traffic jam to get to the hill, and crowded slopes are harder to learn on—with much higher chances of collisions with other skiers and long lines to get on the lift.
When possible, visit the resort on a weekday afternoon, when the morning skiers have cleared out and things are relatively quiet. That ups your kid’s chances of a good experience and increases the time you actually spend skiing rather than standing in the lift line.
Explore the baby lifts—and lift alternatives.
“Magic carpet” conveyor belts are rising in popularity as a way to get kids up the bunny hill without the learning curve of getting on and off the lift. See if your local hill has one, as your kid might find it more approachable than the lift to start with.
Rope tows work for some kids, but if they lack the strength or will to hold on, they can get intimidated or simply let go and fall over, leading to a skier pile-up.
When you do ride the beginner lift, motion to the lift operator that you’d love for them to slow the lift down for you when you board. They’re happy to do so, as it’s less disruptive to slow the lift than to stop it and clear a pile-up of skiers who didn’t quite make it onto the chair successfully.
Make the lesson a game.
Skiing is the most fun thing ever in the history of the world. (Yes, we’re biased.) So learning to ski should be really fun, too. Play follow-the-leader games and red-light-green-light, sing songs, give M&M rewards for challenges met. Stop for plenty of warm-up breaks in the car or lodge to keep morale up. And, when the kid is really done, let them be done. Even if you spent hours dressing them, gathering gear, loading up, driving up, booting up, and getting to the lift, a few successful runs are a few successful runs. End on a high note.
Learn what teaching equipment works for you.
Many parents embrace the “edgie wedgie,” a small rubber contraption that holds the kid’s ski tips together and helps them make their power wedge. This is great when they’re truly so small that they lack the muscle to hold a wedge, but don’t let them get too dependent on it. As soon as they’re strong enough, ditch the edgie wedgie.
The same goes for leash systems. When your kid is tiny and truly can’t stop on their own, it can really help to purchase a harness and leash that lets you slow them down when necessary. (You can also go the old-fashioned route and use a hula hoop to hold them up. And it doubles as a toy!) But as soon as they’re strong enough to stop and turn, wean them off the parental braking system.
Poles don’t need to come into play until they’re able to turn on their own. Until then, they simply get in the way and add one more thing to manage.
Ski school lessons go a long way.
Sure, you know your kid and know how to ski, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert at ski instruction. The resort has lots of those, and kids’ lessons aren’t too expensive if you put them in a group rather than private one-on-ones. You can even sign them up for multi-week sessions and really accelerate their learning. (It gives you time to go ski on your own, too!)
Lessons with a professional ski instructor nearly always push the kid into a much higher skill level, because even good-natured kiddos are much more likely to complain or throw in the towel if they’re with their own parents.
Put them in a ski school class with similar aged kids, and they’re very likely to toughen up and listen to the instructor the way they’d listen to their school teacher. This gives them the chance to significantly progress their skills—and, they’re learning from someone whose job it is to teach kids to ski, so you’re setting them up for success.
That’s it from us, but send us your own tips, photos, and ideas. And as always, enjoy shopping UnNew for the full family’s gear here on Geartrade.
Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.Follow us on Instagram + Facebook: Tag us @geartrade with the hashtag #unnewoutdoor #wearitout on your post or story for a chance to be featured on our page.
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