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.
My five-year-old daughter, Phoebe, is gearing up for her third year of skiing lessons. Over the past couple of seasons, I’ve learned a thing or two about helping her find success and happiness on the mountain. Read on to learn how you can optimize your kids’ ski lessons.
Leave Teaching to the Professionals
Unless you’re an experienced instructor, trying to teach your own child to ski or snowboard can be a tricky endeavor. Kids will often do better if they learn from someone other than their own parent, and group lessons are usually recommended for children between ages 3-5. If you want to be part of your children’s learning experience, the Ski Tots program at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond helps parents learn from experts how to teach their kids to ski.
Go for Group Lessons and Sign Up Early
Ski programs for kids tend to book up early, so it’s best to sign your child up long before the snow flies. Season-long programs, which are offered at most Vermont ski areas, give your child consistent opportunities for skiing or riding every weekend and will help them build momentum throughout the season. Group lessons are usually recommended for preschoolers, where they can benefit from both personalized attention and a playful environment.
Familiarize Your Child with the Ski Area
Early in the season, take your child to the ski area so they can watch a skier or a snowboarder make their way down the mountain, or pull up a video online to show your child what skiing or riding is all about. A day or two before your child starts lessons, visit the ski area to show them around the base lodge and point out a few beginner ski trails. If possible, stop by the ski school so your child can meet staff or their instructor ahead of time.
Before your child’s first lesson, kids need to be outfitted with insulated jackets, snow pants, mittens, as well as helmets, goggles, long underwear bottoms and tops, ski socks, boots, skis, or snowboards. It’s important to keep quality in mind when selecting clothing, gear, and equipment. However, quality doesn’t have to mean expensive. In fact, you can outfit your child with second-hand gear purchased at a ski swap, or try leasing used boots and skis for the season from a local ski shop.
Being well-fed is key to a good day on the slopes. Before dropping your child off for lessons, make sure they have a healthy breakfast. Hot cereal, pancakes, bagels, smoothies, and yogurts are good bets. If you pack them lunch, try turkey sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, granola bars, and sliced apples.
Embrace the Ups and Downs
It’s OK if your child has some bad days on the mountain. If they’re cold, hungry, or tired, they can easily feel frustrated and want to give up. I’ve found that the key is to roll with it and go with the flow. Listen to your children’s frustrations when they’re having a tough day and acknowledge their feelings. Chances are, their next outing on the slopes the following week will be better.
Have fun out there!
Erica Houskeeper is a writer and communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience. She grew up in Manchester, Vermont, and started skiing at age 4 at Bromley Mountain. She also spent her childhood skiing at Stratton, Magic, and the former Snow Valley ski area. After working as a journalist in Vermont, Erica later became director of communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. In 2009, she launched www.happyvermont.com, a Vermont travel blog that explores the places and people of the Green Mountain State. Her blog has hundreds of subscribers and a loyal following. She currently works as writer and photographer, and lives in Burlington with her husband and young daughter.