Tips on Teaching Children to Ski

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To lesson or not to lesson?  It’s a question that any parent comes across when wanting their children to learn something new.  Sometimes the answer is easy.  For example, if I wanted Big E to learn how to ride a horse I would put him in a lesson, no question for the very simple reason that I don’t know how to ride horses.  But when it comes to skiing at a 4-year-old level, that is something I think I can do.

The benefits of teaching your kid how to ski include your intimate knowledge of your kid’s strengths and weaknesses. Big E needs a snack every afternoon. He’s shy when confronted with new people and situations but once he feels comfortable he’s excited to be involved. He is naturally high energy and has no fears jumping down the staircase from five or six steps up.

Because I know all these things about him, as well as all the ways I get him to do what I want, I can see teaching him how to ski myself as a good thing.  As a bonus, if I teach E how to ski I save money on ski lessons, which are much more expensive for someone so young.

The benefits of putting him in ski lessons are also worth considering.  For one thing a ski instructor has much more experience teaching kids how to ski.  They know what to realistically expect in terms of how much progress can be made during the lesson.  They understand how to motivate kids in the specific areas they need, like how to position your knees and feet in order to stop from careening down the hill.

At first I decided to teach Big E myself.  How hard could it be?  So what that I don’t own downhill skis, and haven’t downhill skied in over a decade?

We went twice for an hour and a half each time and by the end we hadn’t even gotten on the lift.  Big E was not interested in making a wedge with his skis in order to slow down. All he wanted to do was race down the hill with me holding on for dear life. I decided that not only should he have a lesson, but I should have one too.  That way I would be able to know what it was I wanted him to do.

Last Friday we went to Sundance Ski School along with my neighbor’s daughter Rylie.  I was in an adult beginners ski lesson, Big E was in the Wild Bunch, and Rylie was in juniors beginner snowboarding. I was nervous leaving E on his own, but the fact that the Wild Bunch group of four and five year olds was limited to two kids max was comforting.

Ashleigh was Big E’s instructor and from the start I knew he was in good hands.  She promptly got down on his level, helped him with his mittens and talked in an animated way about making “french fries and pizza slices” with his skis. When I left for my lesson I told E, “You be good for Ashleigh, OK?” In response he went over and gave her a hug.  A hug! For a stranger! From my ‘shy around new people’ son!

I knew he would be fine. On the other hand, I was not sure I would survive the afternoon.  My instructor, Kelly quickly put me at ease.  As it turned out I was the only adult beginner that afternoon so I got a private lesson.  On the lift I asked about teaching Big E to ski and Kelly told me a few things to keep in mind.

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1. Edgy Wedgies are a lifesaver.  This rubbery string connects to the tips of the child’s skis and keeps them from splaying their skis wide.

2. Kids as young as Big E do not have the lower leg strength/coordination to bend knees, point ski tips together and roll both feet toward each other simultaneously. The best you’ll get is two out of three.

3. If your child always wants to hold your hand down the mountain, you can get a hula hoop for them to hang on to instead.  The trick is you have to hold onto the other end while skiing backwards down the mountain.

4. Poles for kids that young just get in the way.  Leave them home.

5. Using a kids ski harness can teach bad form, specifically that the child leans too far forward.  To avoid bad habits, avoid the ski harness.  

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As well as giving me great advice for helping Big E ski, Kelly helped me feel confident parallel turning on all blues and greens.  I don’t think I’ll be quite able to ski backwards yet, but i’ll take what I can get.  
Rylie, an experienced skier, who was trying snowboarding for the first time, reported loving her lesson as well.  She was able to start S turns, which is very impressive for a first time lesson.
When we were all done, we were all tired, hungry but smiling.  In the future I think I’ll teach Big E myself and have someone else do it.  That way I can get the benefits of both.

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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