Winter is just around the corner, and that means it’s almost time for skiing and riding. If you’re thinking about enrolling your child in ski lessons, now is the time to explore ski school programs and register for the upcoming season.
Ski or snowboard lessons can help develop your child’s confidence on the hill and give them a chance to enhance their skills with trained instructors.
Still, as a parent, there’s a lot to consider. Do you opt for group or private lessons? Should you enroll your child in a seasonal program or not? How do you prepare your kids for a successful season?
We talked to Terry Barbour, Sugarbush Resort’s Ski & Ride School director, on how to navigate ski school options and questions every parent should ask.
How do I decide between private or group ski lessons?
Terry: Typically, kids learn best in a group setting with other kids because they all learn from watching each other. Kids love it when another child starts getting what the instructor is teaching them, and that makes the rest of them want to figure it out. But if your child has special needs that are best met one-on-one, or if your child has trouble staying focused in a group setting, then we recommend private lessons.
I’m a good skier. Why don’t I just teach my child to ski?
Terry: The majority of parents realize this doesn’t work. It requires a tremendous amount of patience to teach skiing to children, especially kids at younger ages. Instructors use games and activities as a distraction to get kids to learn, and it works. Instructors also pay close attention to equipment because the learning curve is much longer if a child is not using appropriate equipment.
Terry: As long as your child loves the group of kids that they are skiing or riding with, then stick with it. My theory is that being a better skier or rider is a lifelong adventure. It’s a lifelong journey. That’s how most of us who ski almost every day stay enthusiastic because we’re continually learning. As long as your child is enjoying it, we encourage them to continue in a weekly program.
How do I prepare my son or daughter for their first lesson?
Terry: Make sure they try on their equipment and move around in it. Have your kids stay physically active as they lead up to the season because skiing and riding are very physical. Jumping rope is an awesome way to prepare.
Also, make sure your kids can get their skis or board on and know how to get up when they fall. If your child is tentative about their first day, show them the ski school ahead of time to see other kids learning. Showing them a video of skiing and riding is another good way to get them excited.
What are some questions to ask the instructor?
Terry: As a parent, I would want to know if the ski school provides specialized training for instructors—and that the instructor isn’t just someone who’s a good babysitter. Ask about the ratio between kids the instructor. For Sugarbush, it’s usually 3-to-1 for three-year-olds, 6-to-1 for kids ages 4-5, and 8-to-1 for kids 7 and up. Our bigger groups typically have an intern come along as well.
One of our questions to parents is, “Did you bring your child prepared for the day?” We want to know, did you drive all night and did your child not get to bed until midnight? Are they using new equipment or have they tried it on? Are they comfortable? Is there anything behaviorally we should be aware of? It’s essential to let instructors know this information.
Also, if your child doesn’t connect with their instructor, ask if there another option. Developing a good connection with their instructor is important. Also, if a child is ordinarily timid or needs a push, it helps to have that come from someone your child likes. Ultimately, ski schools should be flexible. After all, you hire an instructor because of their versatility and ability to work with kids.
Learn more about Sugarbush’s Ski & Ride School.
Read more about ski and ride lessons in Vermont.
–Main photo courtesy of Sugarbush Resort
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.