Teaching children to ski is all part and parcel of any ski instructor’s job. You have those that are good at it and those that make no secret they would rather be skiing with adults. Those who teach children well have an array of qualities including kindness and compassion to help the children feel safe and supported, imagination and creativity to help create vivid images and pictures that best illustrate what they should do but above all, a good children’s ski instructor should have a sense of fun. How else could we explain where they put the moguls in the summer?!
We often get asked by parents at what age a child should start to ski and the simple answer is that (yes we know it’s predictable) it depends very much on the child in question. Where some children are ‘put’ on skis for the first time at 2 years old and are able to turn, a great deal of success is rare but give it a couple of more years, when the child is stronger and better able to support themselves and then there is generally a much better experience.
Each child’s strength, size and co-ordination all need to be taken into account but this in itself will never be a sure fire indicator of success. There are of course things that you can do to make sure that their first time on the slopes are an enjoyable experience. Apart from being skiing instructors, we are parents too so we’ve created the following list to better inform your decision as to when your child should learn to ski.
- Do they have any older siblings and how did they get on when they learned to ski. Was it a great success or was it a week long snot-fest that you may well be about to repeat? Try to learn from your previous experiences and make changes to how you approach things to maximise your chances of a happy holiday.
- Choose the resort that you are travelling to carefully? Some resorts are much better for children to learn in than others. Consider the distance of your accommodation to the actual ski area, the suitability of the nursery area, the number of ‘Magic Carpets’ lifts and the terrain that is available once your child is ready to leave the beginners area.
- Select a Tour Operator that actively welcomes children. There are a number of operators that specialise in young families and they will really understand the requirements of parents travelling with children. Esprit Ski and Family Friendly Skiing offer excellent childcare services and have the inside track on the best local restaurants, ski schools and services to match your family’s needs. They will also attract other families so you will be amongst like-minded people and your children can easily make friends both on and off the slopes.
- Remember that a child can easily have more fun sledging than they can trying to ski. Are you pushing them in to learning to fit in with your love of the sport? An unenjoyable experience at an early age can leave them with bad memories of skiing and a reluctance to try again that is very difficult to overcome in the future.
- Be prepared to split the day into skiing time and then other fun activities that can involve everyone in the group. Sledging, snowman building etc are just as exciting to young children as skiing (especially if it involves Mum and Dad). This will certainly impact on a parents skiing time but it will pay dividends in the longer term.
- Look into what ski schools are available ahead of your visit and don’t be afraid to speak to them and ask questions regarding group sizes, timings and the facilities that they offer. A good ski school should be willing to take the time to discuss your children’s requirements and to advise on the best approach for them. At Sweet Snowsports all of our instructors are native English speaking and we have a maximum group size of only 6 children per class in our kids ski lessons.
- Consider visiting an indoor Snowdome like XScape in Milton Keynes before you travel. This will help you gauge your child’s interest in skiing and give them an excellent head start when learning the basics. It can be an expensive exercise in itself but done well can introduce them to skiing in a fun environment and save valuable hours once you arrive in resort.
Once they are skiing
Once your child is able to turn and to control their speed you can really influence the rate that they continue to progress at. In order to make sure that this is for the better you should work closely with your child’s ski instructor and take on board the advice that they give you regarding where to ski.
- Don’t make the mistake of taking your child up the mountain without speaking to the instructor first. A slight increase in gradient can mean a big increase in speed and you may just find that all the good work and progress is undone. Young children don’t have the experience to call upon in gauging what will happen on steeper slopes and this can lead to falls and accidents that can knock a child’s confidence.
- Skiing can be tiring both physically and emotionally and you shouldn’t try to overdo things especially at the start of your holiday. Trust your instincts regarding energy levels, if your little one falls asleep face down in his pomme frites at lunchtime, it’s probably time to call it quits for the day.
- Continue to practice on easy slopes and make it fun. Avoid trying to teach them new things, stick to the stuff that they have already been doing and try to use the same terminology/phraseology as the instructor has been using.
- Don’t become obsessed with getting your children to ski parallel or worried if they are ‘leaning’ back. There are many major physiological reasons as to why children ski differently to adults. Co-ordination, limb length and proportion, a higher centre of mass and muscular strength all play a part in the position a child will adopt when skiing.
- Set clear rules and boundaries when skiing together and use the Skiway Code to help them understand how to stay safe. Every child loves to go over bumps and jumps and there are both safe and dangerous places to do this. If they see Mum or Dad being reckless then the chances are they will copy you.
We hope that you find this useful in helping you decide when is the right time for your child to learn how to ski. We take a great deal of pleasure in helping every member of the family to learn how to ski and are happy to answer any questions that you might have if you are considering organising your first family ski trip.