Part One: Signing up for lesson and pre-day prep

Ski and snowboard lessons are the single best thing you as a parent can do to set your child up for future success – and fun – on the mountain. But if your child has never had lessons before, you may be wondering how to get started.

Let’s look at some the most common ski and snowboard lesson questions you may have when looking to book lessons.

What type of ski and snowboard lessons are best?

Before you schedule your child’s lesson, take a careful look at the website for the ski area you are planning to visit to see what the options are. They will vary according to the size and type of mountain you are visiting. Larger resorts will often offer ski camps for children that can last a few days or a week. Smaller resorts may not have that option but may have season-long lesson programs that meet every weekend.

Whether the ski area is big or small, they will mostly likely offer the choice between group and private lessons. The type of lesson you choose should be dependent on your child’s age and personality. Private and group lessons can last for a few hours, in the morning or afternoon, or, in the case of ski areas that offer camps, can be all day.

In the case of group lessons, children will usually be grouped by age and ability/experience level. This offers a chance for them to make new friends learn from each other.

“I always recommend that kids do well in group lessons,” Ashley Herrmann, Ski School Coordinator at Magic Mountain Ski Area, “being with their peers makes it more fun.”

Harley Johnson, Director of the Snow Sport University at Smugglers Notch Resort agrees that children, especially younger children, do best in group lessons. She adds that an all-day lesson is best for children if that’s available. “An all-day program is the best option for kids of all ages – they learn more, have more time with instructor, and bond more with kids in their group,” she said.

Ski lesson at Smuggs
A children’s group ski lesson at Smugglers’ Notch

Private lessons can work well for children who are shy, who need a lot of one-on-one attention, or who already know how to ski but have some specific skills they need to work on. They also might be good for teens who are resistant to the idea of taking a lesson in the first place.

Some resorts also offer family lessons, where parents and kids take classes together. Harley said she thinks this tends to work best with families who already have some experience.

“When a family is all beginners, I recommend that they split up into separate lessons, especially if the kids are spread out in age,” she said. “It can be hard for kids and parents to all start from scratch together and kids will usually progress faster if they are working with other children in the same age group.”

Another option for beginner families that want everyone working with the same teacher is to hire an instructor for an all-day private lesson and split the day up among the different family members.

What do I need to know about the ski and snowboard lesson program?

If you sign your child up for a group ski or snowboard lesson or camp you might call in advance and talk to the staff to find out what the ratio of students to teachers is and how they group the students. Another question to ask is how long the lessons are and whether you can sign up for multi-day programs where your children will have the same instructors. Just like you would with any activity your child signs up for, you want to get a feel for whether the environment is right for your child.

You might also check to see if the instructors at the ski area you will be visiting are PSIA/AASI certified. That means they have been trained to national standards of safety and instruction.

Instructor and student at ski lesson at Mad River Glen
A certified instructor teaches a beginner skier student at Mad River Glen. Photo by by TJ Greenwood.

What equipment do you need?

If you are going on vacation once during the winter season, you can rent equipment at the mountain. If you think that you are likely to ski more than once, seasonal rentals from your local ski shop are a great and affordable option for kids.

Every child should wear a helmet to ski or snowboard and most ski areas won’t let your child take a lesson without one. Helmets are available with other rental gear if you don’t want to purchase one. Remember that if you are buying or renting a helmet to try it on with goggles to make sure they fit properly.

When it comes to clothing, you want to make sure your child has a base layer (top and bottom) that is made of wicking material to keep them dry and warm. Ski pants or bibs, a jacket, and warm, waterproof mittens are a must; goggles and neck warmers are a good idea as well. And whether your child will be skiing or snowboarding, both Ashley and Harley said a top consideration should be footwear.

“Make sure your child has the right socks,” Harley said, “Not crew or ankle socks but proper ski/snowboard socks. Personal comfort needs to be taken care of. If children are comfortable and have the right equipment, they can focus on learning.” Check out our favorite socks for the whole family—Darn Tough.

Check out our tips for keeping kids warm on the mountain. 

And if you’ll be renting at the mountain, don’t wait until the day of the lesson to get your child’s equipment.

“When it comes to rental equipment, the number one most important and critical thing is to get your rentals ahead of time,” Harley said. “Don’t expect to show up at the mountain and go through the rental experience and then get to the lesson on time. Even if you give yourself an hour, it’s too much to think about. If you can do it the night before that’s ideal.”

“And make sure you know how to put on your child’s equipment in advance, especially their boots,” she added. The staff at the rental shop can show you learn how to do this.

Renting skis for kids
If you can, get rentals early and let the kids get used to putting them on and walking in the boots.

How do you prepare before lesson-day?

If you get your child’s equipment before you head for the mountain, let your child try on his or her ski clothes and boots. Walking around in the gear a little bit helps to get a feel for the equipment.

Spend some time talking about skiing or snowboarding with your child in an age-appropriate way. With younger kids, you might read them books; older children might enjoy watching some videos of skiers or boarders.

And encourage your kids to be active outside. Playing soccer or tag are fun ways to practice changing directions and shifting weight. Ice skating and inline skating are also both great ways to help children get their legs in shape and teach them some of the skills that they’ll need to ski like moving from one foot to another or pushing off.

Read all about day-of lesson prep in Part Two of Achieving Ski and Snowboard Lesson Success.


  • When my kids were little, I would tell there is a button under their big toe and they should push it if they want to their ski to turn.

  • Don’t try to teach your kids to ski or snowboard. Put them in a ski school program like Smuggs’ “Mommy, Daddy and Me” program. Kids will listen and take instruction better from a instructor versus parents. When our girls were just learning we enrolled them in that program. We skied with the same kids, parents and instructor for ten weeks. Smartest thing we’ve ever did as parents trying to get the girls become good skiers. Really good instructors at Smuggs;. We skied behind the group during the lessons, picked up skiers when they fell and maybe needed a little assistance. My girls are now 23 and 21 and life long skiers and snowboarders. Great foundational instruction.

  • Reminding the very littles – toddler age- to bend their knees and hands in front. Keeps it simple and once they are in that position the rest typically follows naturally.

  • Favorite learning tip for snowboarding, bend your knees!! Also, have patience and don’t rush!! And always FUN!!!!

  • I have recently started skiing again and my kids snowboard. My advice is that you are never to old to take lessons. Have patience with yourself just as you would with your children. There is nothing better than spending a day on the slopes with your family! It’s great for the brain too to keep learning new things!!!!!

  • The best tip is to share your own excitement about their new learning experience in advance! Expect them to be nervous. Reassure them they will be GREAT. Help them connect the dots between their lesson and more family together time on the slopes down the road. After the lesson, tell them how proud you are of their effort!

  • I learned to ski at smugglers notch. I learned the most one run where my boots were not fast and tight enough. I felt like I had to use every sense I had in my feet and all of my strength to control. It was a great run and I learned a lot.

  • Always go to a ski store to have them fitted out and always put them right in lessons with an instructor no matter how much you think you can do it on your own! They will listen and pick it up so much better from an instructor.

  • Best tip for a happy learner is a patient teacher. Oftentimes that means instructors are better suited than parents to teach their kids – no matter how good a skier the parent may be!

  • Tip for the kids – wherever your belly button is pointing Is where you are going to go! Lead with the belly button!

  • Don’t give up! I cried my first day skiing and swore I wouldn’t do it again. That was 5 years ago and we go doing multiple times a year now. I’m so glad I picked it up as a winter sport. Learn to love it.

  • Candies in your pockets and keep it relaxed! Have fun first and foremost. And go for the lessons – most kids love the instructors and learn so much- whereas mom and dad not as much.

  • What I found was important was to be flexible. I have 3 children and their level of interest in learning to ski were all different…from keen enthusiasm where we couldn’t get him off the hill to another that took many breaks in the lodge. Being patient and flexible allowed all 3 to learn on their own terms and now all love skiing and look forward to our ski trips!

  • Definitely make sure that you get your kids lessons, because no matter how much you think you can help, lessons are extremely important to help kids learn how to ski. Also, make sure that you start slow on easier trails to get their confidence.

  • When you get tired don’t push yourself to do one more run, you can get hurt. Also, stay hydrated and bring a snack bar with you.

  • Once my daughter was old enough to ask to go to the bathroom (3y6m) I got both her and my then 5yo son in group lessons at Attitash for a weekend in March. We used the warm weather and their love of snow to hook them on skiing. The following winter they were signed up at the mecca of ski areas – Yagoo Valley in RI – 25 minutes from our home for a 6 week program which we augmented with group lessons again at Attitash and Wachusett. Two more years in seasonal programs at Wachusett (DEV was instrumental in the learning) set them on the path to their love of skiing. We added days here and their all over SoVT and NH as we went along.

  • When learning to ski glades or the trees, kids need to be reminded to look between the trees where they want to go, not at the trees. Your skis tend to go where you are looking.

  • Plenty of their favorite snacks, hot chocolate for breaks in the day. Also, a little treat like Starburst or Gummies in your pocket for the lift rides is helpful. Bring a friend along to share in the adventure.

  • If you as a parent of multiple kids will be teaching your kids, above all else, be aware of your “unconscious biases” towards each of your kids while teaching them. Kids will pick up on that, which could lead to unintended and adverse results, making what should be a fun day/fun time on the slopes much less so. My advice, leave the teaching to professional 3rd party instructors as they won’t have the “unconscious biases” about your kids like you would. Although I was an instructor at the time my kids were just starting to ski, I heeded my own advice. The outcome was way better than if I had tried to teach them myself. 20+ years later, I have lifelong skiing and outdoor adventurist kids that I still get to enjoy hitting the slopes with.

  • Skiing and riding is no longer about you! This was a hard one for me giving up precious powder runs for the magic carpet. Looking forward to my daughter and I cruising the trees in a few years.

  • Don’t push too hard, especially when they’re really young. I’m so excited for my son to get into skiing/snowboarding but I have to remind myself that he’s only 3 years old and can only be pushed so far. It’s hard not to get lost in my own excitement and enthusiasm but I know that if I don’t pay enough attention to his needs then he may end up hating it which is the exact opposite of what I want to happen!!!

  • 3 mountain tips:
    Always break for hot chocolate, mountain HC is really good, and helps break up the physical part so they don’t get too exhausted. And keeps them warm on a cold day. Plus you get to talk to them about how much they are having fun. Pro Tip: boil water and put in thermos before you get up the mountain, bring several packets of Hot chocolate packets, a spoon (yes essential!) and a re-usable plastic mug to mix it in. hot water will last in thermos throughout the day. It doesn’t really work if you pre-mix the hot chocolate in the thermos for the day.

    For young snowboarders, they have to buckle in their bindings, and sometimes it becomes a downer for young kids and they begin to always need help with it. The buckles have ratchets, so I always say to the kids when showing them how it works, “What does the alligator say?” “”CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP” as I am slowly ratcheting (tightening) the buckles. It usually works to get them to buckle their foot in on their own. I always ask my daughter this and she loves being a little trickster, so she sometimes says they are snoozing, so they are not chomping. Other times she yells it as loud as she can.

    I developed a hand shake with my daughter when I see her nailing something right. It goes high five, fist pound, thumbs up. We do it periodically during the day, even just to stop and break up all the riding.

    Last tip: Always have fun even if it is not on skis or a snowboard at the mountain. Young kids love to goof off so anything that they do to have fun at the mountain they will remember and think of that first, rather than if they are not picking up the sport right away.

  • The best free lesson — ski or board with someone who’s skill level is above you if you want to improve. After the basics just like everything else in life confidence plays a major part in pushing yourself to gain more experience. If you’re alone or the best in your group your less apt to find that room for improvement. Just don’t be too confident you get yourself over your head. Keep it fun, skiing is just gracefully falling.

  • Start your kids young. I taught my kids before they were in Kindergarten and they were keeping up with me by 2nd grade.

  • Patience is very important, and to also remember it may take a few lessons, a few trips before they get it. Also remember skiing, snowboarding isn’t for everyone and that has to be ok too.

  • Technique and practice will take you to a point but if you are not comfortable on the mountain fear will stop you from progressing to the next step. Mental training should be a part of Ski/Snowboard teachings!

  • Games, games, games! I worked with the ski patrol kids last year (wide range of abilities). We played a lot of games to improve skills and keep the more advanced skiers entertained. Human slalom was a favorite, where they weaved around each other all the way down the mountain- great improvement in stopping, turning, and skating on flat terrain.

  • Getting a season rental and not dealing with gear every time at the mountain was one of our biggest wins when our kids were first learning. It makes it a better experience for everyone.

  • When our kids were learning I found it best to keep treats in my pockets (fruit snacks worked best). It’s all about having fun and getting all out on the mountain. So taking a quick break for a snack or earning some after a few more turns helped a lot. (Dad has done the instructing for our 3 kids and I have been the peace keeper, treat giver, food purchasing briber, photographer and biggest cheerleader).

  • I remember for years yelling “big turns” or “do your turns.” Teach your littles control! Bombing down the mountain is not skiing! But my pro mom tip is treats for the lift! Nothing gets them to do more runs or follow your instruction like a little bribery! ;-)

  • I always downloaded the smuggs character coloring pages and during lunch and bathroom breaks we learned the names of the characters by coloring them. Then when we saw some of the characters from trails or lines they were thrilled not scared to be part of the fun.

  • Hands on your knees! This helps keep little ones bodies forward as they charge the hill and work into their turns. And always choose days that are weather friendly when kids are little to create the most positive experience. Finally… have fun! Play games, enjoy laughter!

  • “Squish the grapes”!! We tell them to squish the grapes between their shin and boot to get them used to their weight forward against their boot

  • Take a class.
    Take it easy, play it safe- go slow.
    Take control- always stay in control.
    Take some extra hand/toe/body warmers, just in case!
    Take a picture – Smile! Have fun!!

  • Starting with the basics is key- patience and taking it slow. Pizza, French fry, learning how to get back up when they fall.

  • Test out their gear ahead of time for withstanding the cold! I had my kiddo in his ski gear in the backyard to make sure it would hold up on the mountain!

  • Tips for teaching very young kids, keep it fun, dress them warmly (you can always take off layers), treats in your pocket go a long way, make sure they use the bathroom before you head out!!

  • I’m a strong believer in aiming for fun! Try not to put too much pressure on. There’s a cute trick to teach kids to turn; tell them to push the button in their boot with their big toe.

    • Get your feet wet in your gear at home and on a gradual slope. This helps to orient one’s psyche to the mechanics and coordination of getting into it before hitting the mountain. Then, lessons for sure. Be sure to find a place with a magic carpet. Start at a smaller place and then build up to the larger ones. Be prepared to be cold, to fall, and that it is all part of the learning experience.

  • Smaller local mountains offer a great value. We spent more time at Blandford and Otis Ridge in MA to help build their confidence on smaller hills with less crowds. And, when they finally get up the chair to a significant peak..take a moment to look at the views and appreciate the glory of a bluebird day!

    Also, shout out to Pico instructors and ski school. They helped all 3 kids and my husband to keep up with me!

  • With teaching little kids pick a nice warm day, keep your pockets filled with candy treats for long lift lines or long flat trails. Those are the things that I still vividly remember growing up learning to ski with my dad. I can’t wait to give my children the same memories.

  • Gravity – this takes you from the top of the mountain to the bottom in the most direct route. This isn’t always the safest or most desirable route so being able to steer and stop are key!

  • When I was teaching my kids to ski, they loved all the food imagery (pizza and french fries) and I added to it by asking them to make PB+J sandwiches on the way down the beginner hill. I told them that peanut butter was on the left side of the trail and jelly was on the right side of the trail. They moved from side to side down the trail calling out “Peanut Butter” when they got close to the left side and then “Jelly” on the right side. We tried to see how many sandwiches they could make every trip down the trail.

  • Treats for the lift (or strategically off to the side when taking a *safe* break… discuss both where to and not to ever stop), give kids some sense of control, deciding where to go/what route etc, so it feels like their idea.
    Impressing safety and thinking about that when not even skiing… pointing out types of behavior and movement looking down from lift is a great real-time example. For both good and bad examples!!
    Explaining what a snowboarder cannot see from their heel-side.
    Kids might be smarter than many adults in their downhill decisions, make that empowering!
    Teach kids to ski predictably esp when things get crowded or busy. Easier for others to avoid collisions with them.
    Equate skiing with driving… merging, looking, (esp in a merge or when starting from a stop, but all the time!) right of way.
    ‘Head on a swivel’
    Even if others uphill are SUPPOSED to yield, just like in driving it doesn’t always work that way. Esp on highway. Helps bridge that defensive thinking to biking and other sports, connect the dots thru lots of behavior and smart thinking!! Becomes more natural and instinctual!

  • My son loves trucks, plows, fire truck. We had him pretend to be a fire truck driving (keeps his hands in front) and his knees and toes are the headlights, and the hoses are his skis. Also works as a police
    Officer catching “bad guys”

  • As an early childhood educator and former ski instructor, my best advice is to heed the minimum age requirement for lessons. Ski school curricula are designed with a certain expectation of combined strength, balance, coordination, attention span, maturity, and toilet independence in mind. Coaching your child to lie about their age to get into lessons early just ends up causing a frustrating day for the child, instructor, and classmates. Child too young for lessons? Strap on some skis, find a small, gentle slope that flattens out at the end, and help them practice standing and sliding. Then get a babysitter for a grownups’ day on the slopes!

  • Bring snacks (esp little candies in your pocket), be patient, and don’t try to make kids walk too far in ski boots.

  • The best laid plans sometimes go sideways. If Mother Nature delivers a cold, snowy day with lots of wind – probably not the best day to start! If you are cold, your kids are colder and more susceptible to frostbite. Pick a warm, spring skiing type of weekend to start with an instructor that is delighted to be on the mountain! Let them ski the day with other kids and you will have no trouble getting them to sleep at night!

  • Never ski or snowboard in the same sock you drove to the mountain in, put on a clean dry pair right before putting on your boots. Also, don’t leave your boots in the car overnight, cold boots can be quite unpleasant and the plastic gets stiffer in the cold. For really cold days, open a pair of hand warmers a couple hours before going out and stick them in your boots, and when you’re ready to go out, put them in your gloves (they last for 6 to 8 hours.

  • Always have your shoulders pointed downhill! Wear warm woolie socks – Take time to enjoy the beautiful views and scenery- Have Fun!

  • Get your feet wet in your gear at home and on a gradual slope. This helps to orient one’s psyche to the mechanics and coordination of getting into it before hitting the mountain. Then, lessons for sure. Be sure to find a place with a magic carpet. Start at a smaller place and then build up to the larger ones. Be prepared to be cold, to fall, and that it is all part of the learning experience.

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