Teaching Kids How to Ski/Snowboard
- Posted on
- By Ski Shack
- Posted in Skiing, Snowboarding
Teaching kids to ski or snowboard is a unique parent-child challenge. The mountain is cold, the clothing bulky, the equipment awkward and clunky. But if you approach your child's snow-sports learning in a way that’s FUN, SLOW AND EASY, you’ll be rewarded a lifetime of shared joy in the great outdoors.
Start Slow; Easy Does it
Go at your kid’s pace (aka, slow and slower, every step of the way). Don't push them to do more than they’re comfortable with. Take breaks BEFORE your kid asks for a break.
Comfort is King
Your kid must be warm, dry, rested, fed. They need quality clothing that FITS WELL — you'll need base and mid-layers, and waterproof outerwear. Helmets are key for safety, and they're waterproof and super warm. They might need hand-warmers to keep fingers (and/or toes) toasty, and kids just love them! Work around nap times and meal times so your kid is operating on a "full tank," not fighting the hungry-sleepies.
Let your kid bring a comfort object such as a favorite toy or plaything, and incorporate it into the process.
Snacks and Treats
On the mountain, lavish your kids with snacks and treats. Stuff your pockets with their favorite goodies and distribute them generously! Splurge on hot chocolate in the lodge (and a beer or cocktail for you — you've earned it!), and let them have whatever they want for lunch.
It Must Be Fun
Skiing and snowboarding are FUN. If it’s not fun, you're doing it wrong! Seriously: If your kid is crying, yelling, throwing things, or sitting down and refusing to move (we've been there!), you have likely broken one or more of the rules above. Take a break, ask your kid what's bothering them, and earnestly address the complaint before you proceed.
With those rules in mind, let's talk about how to introduce your kiddos to the world of skiing or snowboarding.
Practice at Home
You can do a lot of preliminary ski training at home, where your babies feel comfortable and safe. Watch some beginner kids ski/snowboard videos together so they have some idea of what it’s all about. If they see other kids skiing and riding, they may be more inspired to learn!
Practice suiting up in all the gear — helmet, goggles, ski mittens/gloves, snow pants, ski jacket, boots, etc. Let them play outside, or even around the house if they balk at going outside.
Your kid may resist putting on all the things at once — no worries! Let them try out one new thing at a time. Gradually add items until they’re fully dressed from helmet to boots.
Remember — this is fun; don't push your kid to do more than they're comfortable with. Consider making it a game (How fast can you get your mittens on?!), or incorporating favorite toys/objects into the process. Get dressed in your own ski gear alongside them, and ham it up, if you have to!
If you can, let your kid pick out their own equipment, particularly key accessories like gloves, helmets and outerwear. If they pick it out, they’ll be more likely to wear it.
Start 'Em Young
We’re big advocates of starting kids on snow as early as possible — at one and a half or two years old, even! The more they can learn before they start developing major opinions of their own, the better.
If kids are still in diapers when they start skiing or snowboarding, you can skip rushing to the bathroom when they suddenly have to “go.” Toddlers are also lighter than big kids, so they’re easier to lift onto the chairlift — and pick up when they fall.
Lightweight, toddler-specific products like the edge-free Burton Kid's Riglet Snowboard and Lil' Racer Chaser Ski Set help little ones build basic foundational skills at home. They’re made to use with regular winter boots, and help your kid get used to moving around (and sliding over snow, carpet or even hardwood floors!) with boards strapped to their feet.
Get to Know the Mountain
Introduce your kids to your local ski hill before attempting to ski it. Drive to the mountain and hang out — you can grab hot chocolate or lunch at the lodge, use the bathroom, play in the snow outside.
Try getting dressed and scooting around the base area — wearing ski boots is a skill they'll need to practice! You can walk or skate over to the lift and let them see how it works, say hi to the lifties. While you're there, your kids will see people (and other kids!) having fun skiing and snowboarding; they’ll ask questions and you can explain how things work.
The more curiosity you can inspire about skiing or snowboarding, the more interested your kids will be.
Take it Slow
At many level-one ski classes, the kids spend much of the first lesson just wearing the boots. Then they put on one ski (or strap one foot onto the board) and get used to that, before clicking into the second ski or strapping both feet in.
Once your kid is comfortable with both feet clicked/strapped in, have them practice moving around — a lot. Skiers can sidestep up (and down) a gentle slope. Pull snowboarders around so they get a feel for balancing on the board. All beginners should practice falling down (again, make it a game! This is fun!), then situating their feet downhill from their bodies, and getting back up again.
As with so many things, it's not how you fall — it's how you get up!
Find the Comfort Zone
Once your kid has mastered the art of wearing the gear, moving around and falling/getting up, you're ready to head out for a run.
Take it slow, and work with your kid's temperament — they need to establish a comfort zone with this new activity. Then, you can build skills from there.
Know that you’ll need to take a break soon, before you start to sense a meltdown coming on. When you head back out from your break, prepare to take another break — soon!
Seriously: Don’t underestimate the number of breaks you’ll take. During your kids' first days or weeks of skiing or snowboarding, you may spend more time breaking than you do skiing. But if your kids are having fun "skiing" or "snowboarding," (even if it's a lot of hanging around drinking hot chocolate) you're doing your job correctly.
Use Tools and Props
There are tons of gadgets out there to help teach skiing or snowboarding. For skiers, we love the Edgie Wedgie, which keeps tips from crossing and guides skis into a snowplow/“pizza slice” position, which is tricky for little legs, and so fundamental for novices.
The Slope Rope is a super-simple “leash” tool that lets your kid ski on their own — as you ski behind, guiding them through turns and checking speed as needed. We love it because it takes zero time to get on and off, and automatically facilitates correct stance and posture as gives kids get a real feel for turning on their own.
You can also use Frisbees (have your kid hold the frisbee to keep hands up, which helps with stance/posture), along with hula-hoops (see photo above), or toss bean bags on the ground for them to turn around (or stop and pick up, then throw again). Any game on snow is a fun game!
Take a Lesson
Sometimes, it's best to leave teaching to the professionals. Maybe skiing or snowboarding is not your area of expertise — or maybe you’re not a great teacher, or the right teacher for your kid (trust us, we get it!).
A lesson or two can help ensure your kid's first experience skiing or snowboarding is positive. They learn the basics with a kind, friendly adult who is trained to teach skiing, and you can talk with the instructor before and after the lesson to get tips on how to help your child progress on the mountain.
And: bonus! While your kid is with the instructor, you’re free to log a few laps unencumbered by the needs of your beloved babe.
If your kid has special needs, call the mountain before heading up — they may have adaptive programs for kids who require different equipment, or specially trained instructors and other resources to help kids with different needs thrive on the slopes.
Skiing and snowboarding are not cheap. But getting your family on snow doesn't have to break the bank!
Save on Gear
If you ski more than a few times each winter, seasonal rentals offer a better value than renting each time, especially for kids, who usually need to size up every year. Most of our Ski Shack customer families outfit go with all-inclusive season rental package starting at $99 per kid. That's comparable to just two or three days at many resort rental shops! And it saves you the time and hassle of waiting in line at the resort, filling out paperwork, getting sized and returning gear at day's end.
If you'd rather buy, you can take advantage of our Junior Trade-In Program When you purchase your child’s ski or snowboard equipment from Ski Shack, you can return it within three years for a 50% credit towards their next gear package.
Kids Often Ski Free
Here in the Northeast Pennsylvania/Poconos region, young kids (ages 4 or 5 and under) ski for free at Montage Mountain, Elk Mountain, Jack Frost/Big Boulder (see FAQ/Specialty tickets), Camelback Resort, Shawnee Mountain (kids under 46") and Big Bear at Masthope Mountain. Children under 5 pay $50 for the whole season at Blue Mountain Resort.
If you’re heading out of state, She Buys Travel blog has a state-by-state listing of all ski resorts offering free (or very cheap) kids' tickets.
Ski & Snowboard Tune-ups: What, Why, When?
Looking for something else? Based in northeast PA, Ski Shack carries a full line of outdoor gear, clothing and accessories to keep everyone in your family cozy, dry and safe in the great outdoors this season — no matter your experience or ability level.