Teach Your Kids to Ski


(Without Going Crazy)

11 Tips to Make It Easier


Taking your kids skiing means one of two things, you’re either going to have a super fun day bonding with your child (not likely) or you’re going to lose your marbles in less than thirty. If you want to stay sane on the hill, take my advice, put the monsters, I mean precious little gems, in ski school!

Kidding aside, teaching your children to enjoy the mountains and the sport of skiing or boarding can be a rewarding experience for both of you IF you have the skills and desire to do so (if not, see above).

Ski School or other learn to ski programs are generally the best bet for most parents and their children. But whether you choose to put your tot in someone else’s hands or handle developing their future World Champion Freeskiing skills on your own, here are some pointers to help you have the best ride of both your lives. I promise you, there is a light at the end of the pizza and French fry tunnel.

1. Build up the sport. Show your enthusiasm about skiing/boarding and get excited for your kids. Let your monkeys sport their gear around the house. You don’t want the first time they squeeze into a pair of uncomfortable boots to be that first day on the hill.

2. Encourage, but don’t force. If your child doesn’t want to ski or board right out of the starting gate, don’t make ‘em! Even though some of us junkies started our grommets when they first learned to walk, most ski school instructors say five is a great age to start. Kids are old enough to listen, strong enough to hold a wedge, and are fine leaving their mom and dad’s sides for a few hours. Remember, there is always another day. Hire a sitter or enroll him in an adventure or day care program at your local resort if things aren’t going well and enjoy the time to yourself.

3. Cough up the cash. If you are can, pay for a few lessons (or many). Your shrink will thank you, and your child will be that much further along when you take him out on the slopes. I will never forget my first time on skis. My dad paid for an hour ski lesson, then he took me to the top of the mountain and hoped I would rip it perfectly to the bottom. I slid most of the way down.

4. Dress your kiddo appropriately. Their small bodies lose heat quicker than yours and need to be well insulated and protected. Our family lives on giant boxes of Little Hotties from Costco. And with kids along on a ski day, you’re bound to become a mobile skiing closet, so you might want to park close, carry a backpack, or pay for a locker. You can also shove all your extras under the stairs at Moonbe… (oops, I almost shared my secret).

5. Gear up. Helmets are necessary equipment. Make sure they fit snugly, and don’t forget the goggles. If you’re not willing to spend the dough on skis and boots for your ever-growing child, rent modern equipment. If you put your “mini me” on the same sticks you learned on back in ‘82, you’re setting them up for immediate failure and harassment. The new technology and width of modern skis make learning faster and easier than on the gear rusting in your mom’s garage.

6. Take a break. Stop and have a snowball fight or make snow angels (not in the middle of the run please) if your child starts to break down or become tired. You could also just throw in the towel and catch a matinee at the local theater. Smiles and giggles are better than perfect turns, and there’s nothing wrong with heading in early.

7. Be a kid yourself. Kids don’t realize they’re “learning” when they’re playing “Red Light, Green Light” or making airplane turns with funny noises. Use Google to find a wealth of information that helps you instruct your child using fun techniques and games you play together.

8. Know your surroundings. Get familiar with your resort’s trails, or use a map, so you don’t take your advancing little skiers somewhere beyond their capabilities. And just because they can carve on a black groomer at one ski area doesn’t mean they’re ready to charge a truly advanced run at another. Remember, putting your child in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation could be the end of a lifetime of fun!

9. Make a plan. DO NOT lose them on the hill. My boys go AWOL (on purpose) at least once a week (lucky for them, Solitude is tight and we’re all on speed dial). Pick an easy-to-find meeting spot with your kids in advance so you can find them fast if (and when) they disappear.

10. Get good grub. Kids don’t want to go to the brown bag area or sit in the car and munch on soggy sandwiches. Treat ‘em right and splurge on some gooey cheese fries and a burger. Hey, you already broke the bank when you decided skiing was a good idea, so what’s a couple more dollars? (This tip is straight from the mouths of babes.)

11. Know your limits. If you don’t listen to my first morsel of advice and let someone else have all the fun with your child, make sure you know when you need a break from instructing. Your kids know when you’re heading south, and I’m sure you’re right there with them. Continuing at this point will not lead to anything good.

People ask me all the time why my kids ski so well, and I look at them and say “I gave up my own ski time for YEARS to churn out the little shred dogs.” My husband and I skied and still ski with them constantly. It’s what our family does. I like to joke around about the negatives of hanging with the kids on the hill, but I am here to tell you that the whining, crying, and utter torment of dealing with not one, but two, of my own terrifying creations on the slopes has been the most rewarding and exciting thing we’ve done.

Now my oldest, Noah, can hike with me anywhere and ski any line. He’s scouting out jumps, ripping chutes and trees, and even venturing into the backcountry (safely). Isaac is keeping up and laying out beautiful arcs on the steepest of groomers. Long gone are the days of skiing backwards in a pizza, and though we might still end up shouting and name calling a bit, our family skiing future is bright and the adventures endless.


About Author

Rachael Hodson followed her love of skiing from Washington to Utah. Entrenched in the ski industry for more than 18 years, she worked as a tech rep for Atomic, a ski instructor at both Alta Ski Area and Solitude Ski Resort, and was a freeskiing competitor and action sports model before turning to writing. Rachael currently makes her home at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon with her husband and two sons, Noah, 11, and Isaac, 8.

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