Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
By Erica Houskeeper
A few days after Valentine’s Day, my 4-year-old daughter fell in love with skiing.
It certainly didn’t start out that way. Earlier this season, Phoebe seemed to be somewhere between annoyed and indifferent about skiing. Being the good-natured person she is, Phoebe tolerated skiing but didn’t exactly embrace the sport. Even though she had enjoyed skiing the previous year in the Ski Tots program at Cochran’s, it was as if she suddenly had no memory of that positive experience at all.
What helped make Phoebe’s season a success
One of the things I enjoyed most about Phoebe taking lessons at Bolton Valley was the length of the Mini-Runners program. Kids start the season in an entirely different place from where they end up. During the first few lessons in early January, Phoebe couldn’t put on her skis by herself or glide on two skis easily without holding on to an adult. She didn’t know how to stop, and learning to snowplow without crossing her skis was a challenge.
Through it all, she made tremendous progress over the season. Here are 5 things that helped her learn to love skiing.
Practice and Predictability
Natasha Steinmann was Phoebe’s ski instructor at Bolton Valley every week from start to finish. That consistency with having Natasha—an amazing instructor—and the same group of kids together every Saturday morning for three-and-a-half hours gave Phoebe a feeling of comfort and predictability.
Phoebe wasn’t pushed to “love” skiing. My husband and I acknowledged her frustrations and listened to her complaints, especially early in the season when she was still figuring it all out. We tried to avoid setting any expectation that she would continue skiing after lessons were over for the season. We wanted her to find joy in skiing all on her own.
Seeing Her Parents Have Fun
Dave and I made a point to ski on our own while Phoebe was in lessons. We wanted to ski, and in some ways we were also demonstrating to her that that skiing is something we like to do, too. Phoebe saw us put on our boots, carry our gear, and ride the chairlift. A few times we even had the chance to ski by her lesson and wave hello. She also heard us talk and laugh about our time on the mountain. I think our participation certainly helped her feel more enthusiastic about learning.
Spending Time at the Lodge
Every Saturday after lessons finished, my husband and I made plans to have lunch as a family. Upstairs in the ski lodge, we ordered chicken nachos and hot chocolate (and beer for the grownups). The lunch routine gave Phoebe something to look forward to every week at the mountain—whether she was having a good day or difficult day on the slopes. It became part of our regular experience at Bolton outside of skiing.
Trying Something New
Dave and I took a day off from work one sunny Thursday and headed to Stowe to ski with my sister and her family. My brother-in-law, who is an adaptive ski instructor in New Hampshire, skied with Phoebe at Stowe’s magic carpet area for several hours. That one-on-one time Phoebe had skiing with someone she looks up to and loves—and who isn’t one of her parents—was so important. It helped build her confidence and was a real “a-ha” moment for her. While we worked hard to have skiing be very much a routine at Bolton all season, it was a special treat for Phoebe to ski at a new place with her uncle and have a fun experience with someone she knows very well and trusts.
A Skiing Breakthrough
During the final few weeks of lessons, Phoebe was riding the chairlift and the Mighty Mite rope tow, racing down the bunny hill, and slowly snowplowing behind Natasha on easy but steeper terrain out on the mountain.
On the final day of lessons, Phoebe and the other Mini-Runners celebrated by participating in a cookie race on the bunny hill. Natasha and the kids then agreed to ride the Snowflake lift and ski on some green trails.
As she headed over to the double chairlift and chatted with Natasha and her classmates, Phoebe turned to me, smiled, and waved goodbye.
I knew in that moment that this season at Bolton Valley gave Phoebe everything she needed to build confidence and discover the fun of skiing.
I can’t wait to see what next season brings.
*Video music by Scott Ian Homes.