12 Steps to Teaching Kids to Love to Ski

If they love it, you will all have fun.

When and how did you teach your kids to ski? I get asked that a lot. Like all parenting questions it is a simple equation:

Unique Parent + Unique Kid + Unique Situation = Unique Solution

So there is no single answer to our simple equation. If you are ready, your kid is (mostly) willing and you have the family/financial situation that allows for it, then it is time to teach the kids to ski. For reference I had my boys on skis at 2.5 and 4 years old. I have seen video of a little girl snowboarding at 18 months. My parents taught me to ski at 3 years old.

When I decided it was time, I followed these steps. Feel free to use what works, throw out what doesn't and make up the rest as you go.

1. Get them excited!

You are the biggest influence in their young lives. Enjoy the position while it lasts and use it for good. Talk to them about skiing/riding and tell stories of why you love it.

2. Get them their own gear.

Season rentals for locals or for your week at a resort are key. This way you do not have to fuss with newly rented or borrowed gear on the slope every time. Season rentals will cost around $100/kid but you will make that up in 3 days on the slopes. Beg, borrow or steal (not really) warm quality ski cloths. Long underwear, no cotton, extra layers and a helmut. If they get cold the day is over.

3. Scoot around the back yard.

This is a gear check and a way to familiarize the little guys with the weight and feel of everything. My boys really enjoyed this for a few hours a couple different times. When they were tired we came inside for hot chocolate.

4. Find a free (or very cheap) bunny slope.

In Colorado, I went to Winter Park Resort and used the Galloping Goose lift at Mary Jane. It is technically $30 to use for the day but the employees told me to just use it free since I had a 4pack (check with the ticket office). The kids ski free on that lift or I suggest getting the $30 season pass for when you are ready to go up the real lifts.

5. When the kid is done, get hot chocolate and go home.

Even if it is after ONE run. I put this here so you have correct expectations that the first, second or even third time out is NOT a full day event. This is why you need a free or cheap lift. Four runs on your first time out is a big success. At this stage, pushing them is probably going to backfire on you. Remember if you can teach them to love the sport then the good technique will come later. I know this is a huge monetary and time investment and it seems like you didn't do much but it will get better. If you are up for a week at a resort put them in childcare or go back to the condo and go to the pool.

6. Pick your teaching technique.

I chose the between my skis method but lots of people use the harnesses. If they are older then 7 you will probably have to start with you walking and them skiing down a very slight hill. This is back to our simple equation. Use what works for you. You can also buy "wormy" that holds their ski tips together but doesn't let them cross. CAUTION with the wormy, only use it the first couple times they ski or they will become dependent and not learn how to control the skis on their own. It will be harder to unlearn bad habits later.

7. One to one ratio.

Unless you are a professional instructor or just that good, I recommend having one adult for every kid learning. This is a safety issue on the lift for the little guys and a sanity issue on the slope. I know this is a challenge if you have multiple kids close in age.

8. Rewards.

I gave my kids chocolate or some other treat at the end of every run. This ensured that they kept their energy up (it was usually an energy bar of some kind but sweet) and that they associated good things with skiing. We also ALWAYS and ONLY get hot chocolate when skiing. If you want hot chocolate more often in your life then pick some other way of making skiing a special reward.

9. Pizza, French Fries and J-stops.

Start with learning how to keep your skis in a pizza position (snow plow if you are as old as me). Kids feel out of control when you first let them ski out from between your skis so assure them they can stop by sitting down or doing the pizza really hard. Then start working on little turns and show them they can stop by turning up the hill, J-stops because it looks like a J. French Fries (or parallel for old people) is for when you want to go a little faster. My kids did not seem to have the leg strength for real J-stops on anything but the bunny hill until they were 4+ years old, some kids are stronger earlier and some later but just remember there are real physical limitations. This means be ready to stay hands on with them on the real runs until they can stop themselves.

10. Keep it positive and encourage a lot.

This was SO hard. I remember my own Dad yelling at me while skiing and now I understand why. Kids do not do what you tell them. It is so frustrating. Remember the idea is to teach them to LOVE it. So take a breath, focus on the goal and go physically help them up and put their skis in the correct position. They are going to do it wrong. When they are laying in the snow again, resist the urge to tell them what they did wrong. Focus on what they did right and praise it as much as possible, even if it was only the willingness to try.

11. Ski lessons.

Yes they are expensive. I love my kids and I love teaching them but I did need some time to go remember I am a powder princess myself (sorry no good parents on a powder day). My experience was my kids learned better from my husband and me then from any ski school but it was very helpful to change it up a little and allow us a break. Some ski schools are better then others so don't be too surprised if they are not progressing fast in the very pricey school. It will come.

12. Tell the stories.

When you get home or back to your condo, review the fun things that happened on the slope. My boys love to retell any story involving mom or dad falling or getting hit with snow bombs from trees. Telling any fun story about the experience helps solidify in their brains that skiing is awesome.

If my kids grow up loving to ski then even if they turn out terrible in all other ways I know I did something right. Ok maybe I am not quite that fanatical about skiing but it's close.