Teaching Your Kids to Ski
- Guest Blog post by Megan of Lil’ Vermont Adventures
Teaching your kids to ski is one of life’s fun (and possibly frustrating) milestones. I am breaking down our tips and tricks below to give you more fun and less frustration. It’s best to start teaching your children how to ski when they express interest - my parents held off until I was five and I was chomping at the bit to get out there. This played in their favor because nothing was going to deter me. Everyone starts at their own age and pace so focus on meeting your child where they are and get ready for some fresh air and fun. This season, with a few small modifications, skiing has been a great way for our family to get fresh air while keeping our social distance during the Coronavirus. Get ready for a lil’ adventure!
For starters, you need to make sure you have the proper cold weather clothing layering system. This should absolutely include the Turtle Fur Balaclava under your child’s helmet. I wrote an entire blog post focused on this topic here. The next big decision is whether to buy or lease skis and boots. We are a huge fan of leasing for the season. This allows you to size up if your child out-grows their boots or skis within a season, and often hand-me-downs won’t fit properly unless your kids are all born in the same season. One thing you won’t need for the early days is poles. You should reach “French Fry” phase 5 below before you need poles. The last two pieces of gear that you will need are an Edgie Wedgie to hold the tips of their skis together, and a Harness, for when they graduate to the lift and you need to reign in their speed.
- Make it Fun! You want them to LOVE this sport. My boys beg us to take them skiing all the time and I credit that to making it fun for them along the way. Your child should be crying because they don’t want to leave the mountain, not because they don’t want to ski.
- Nothing is easy at the start - it is the repetition that turns something challenging into something easy. The more you can get your kids out there, the faster they will learn.
- LOTS of snacks/pocket treats. I cannot stress this one enough. Load your pockets with treats (we used m&m’s, fruit snacks, etc.). The boys would get one at the bottom of a run and again on the lift once they were riding one.
- Follow their lead for a successful day. Don’t push them past their limit - you know your child, and when it’s time to be done, end that day on a high note with some après hot cocoa.
- Create the lodge environment in your CAR this year. With Covid, we are opting to pack a cooler with sandwiches/snacks and a thermos of Hot Cocoa for the car. When the kids need a break, we head to the car, and turn up the heat to warm up without exposing the whole family to germs.
- Get used to the Sherpa life. There is A LOT of gear and A LOT of schlepping involved with skiing. We never forced our kids to carry their skis, because, well, that’s not fun (which is my #1 tip). Skip the battle and help them carry their gear.
- Go with a friend/sibling that is a touch better than them. There is nothing more motivating then seeing a buddy or sibling that is just a bit faster to help them realize that they can do it, too!
- Expect setbacks at the start of every season. When they are under 5 years old, the time between two winters is one-tenth of their life. That is a LONG time. My son who was skiing double black diamonds at the end of last season had to be carried down the mountain on his first run this season.
- If you finish reading this post and this just sounds like a lot of work (because it is!), find a great ski school program; teaching your child to ski is not for everyone.
Pre-Work | Phase 1
Some overlook this first step but trust me, you want to get them psyched up and past the boot meltdowns in the comfort of your own home. I don’t know about you, but ski boots are not the most comfortable item on the planet, and they make walking on flat surfaces challenging. Add snow and hills and it can be downright taxing on littles legs. Putting them in their boots at home and having them walk around indoors is a great way to introduce them to skiing. Add their helmet and goggles and take that walking outside to a snowy surface - your only goal here is just to get them comfortable in their gear.
Wet Noodle | Phase 2
First things first - teach them to “smash the bug” under their heel to get their bindings on. They won’t have the strength to do this alone, so you can pull up on the rear binding as they push down OR give them extra force by pushing down on the back of their boot with them. If you start your kids skiing at a young age, the "wet noodle" is hard to avoid. You naturally want to support your child as they get started by holding them under their arms from behind. Often, they will feel this support and lean back into your arms like a wet noodle. Try your best to let them support themselves by having them place their hands on their bended knees. You can ski backward in front of them or alongside. Your back will thank you!
Carpet Fun | Phase 3
When your back is no longer in agony, you have graduated to the Carpet Fun phase! This is when you start to teach them the pizza pie or snowplow. The Edgie Wedgie is a great tool that keeps their ski tips together so when they apply pressure on their skis, rather than going into a split, the backs of their skis will splay out creating a wedge that will allow them to slow their speed to a stop. Help them learn that they will go where they look, so if they want to go left, look left. As their shoulders turn to look, their body and skis will follow.
Lift Rides | Phase 4
These is where it starts to get fun! The look of your little one on their first chairlift ride is always worth documenting. This is also the phase I like to refer to as “Leashed Up”. This is when you put them in the harness I talked about in the gear section. Most harnesses have a handle which is great for scooping your little one onto the lift - you can also ask the lift attendant to grab the handle and pull your child on from behind the chair. Lift access gets you to trails with more pitch, so you want the harness to help control your little one’s speed. Aim to keep the leash slacked as much as possible and only use it to slow your child down if they are in danger. Ditch the harness when they can safely manage their speed and stop using the snow plow.
French Fry | Phase 5
You put in the work, and this last phase is the sweet payoff when they learn the French Fry, aka parallel turns. Initially you want to teach them to side slide with their skis parallel and “shave the snow”. Once they get the hang of that and having their skis parallel, then they can link together side sliding facing both directions with a snow plow turn. Eventually they will link together full parallel turns and you’ll be chasing them down the mountain, wondering when your little one surpassed you in speed.
If you remember one thing, it’s to make it FUN, stay safe, and enjoy this new lil’ family adventure.
Megan is a Vermont Life & Style blogger over at Lil’ Vermont Adventures. A mother of three 'lil boys she moved back to Vermont after a decade in Boston and enjoys sharing her family’s outdoor adventures in Vermont. She and her husband have taught their two oldest boys (7 & 4.5) to ski and look forward to starting their youngest on skis next year.