My 7-year-old’s approach to doing things outside of her comfort zone is to resist, resist, resist.
Phoebe fights certain things again and again until she figures them out. It happened when she was learning to ride a bike and learning to swim. It also happened with skiing.
She has been skiing since the age of three, but the start of every season is like starting over. So, it was no surprise when she began this ski season with a mix of ambivalence and trepidation.
We enrolled Phoebe in the Sugarbush Blazers season-long program at Mount Ellen, an 11-week program for kids ages 6-12. The requirement for kids enrolling in the program is to ski linking turns with confidence on green terrain and to ride a chairlift unassisted.
No problem, I told myself. But I have to admit that the night before her first day of lessons at Sugarbush in early January, I found myself frantically Googling “What to do if your kid hates to ski,” “Why kids regress at skiing” and “Am I a terrible mother for making my kid ski?”
I am a worrier by nature, but I’m also optimistic. When I tell people my daughter has been skiing since she was three years old, I’m generally met with enthusiastic comments like, “Wow, she must be an incredible skier” or “She must love being on the mountain.”
I usually just nod or reply with something like, “She likes it.”
I’m happy to say that this year at Sugarbush, Phoebe is finding her way and truly making a breakthrough.
A month into the program, she’s skiing with poles, figuring out how to parallel ski, and picking up speed. And best of all, she’s having loads of fun.
Sugarbush Seasonal Ski Program Benefits
Sugarbush offers a variety of seasonal ski and ride programs for kids of all ages. The Blazers Mount Ellen program is offered on Sundays between 9:30 and 3 p.m. Kids are grouped by age and ability, skiing with a designated coach every week.
Milo Fischer, Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen Ski and Ride School coordinator, says the goal is for kids in the program to establish strong fundamentals by working on short-term and long-term goals.
These goals include standing balanced on the arches of their feet, flexing and extending with terrain, being patient to allow gravity to assist turn initiation, and learning to use turn shape as a primary method of speed control.
In the program, Phoebe is spending her Sundays exploring green trails like Crackerjack, Walt’s Trail, and Straight Shot. She’s made a great friend in her group, a boy named Riley, and she adores her ski coach, Patti Fischer (Milo’s wife), who joined Sugarbush as an instructor more than a decade ago.
When Phoebe started the program, the Fischers and other coaches were a bit perplexed by my daughter’s fear and hesitation on the mountain. Didn’t she start skiing at Cochran’s Ski Area when she was three years old? Wasn’t she skiing gates at Bolton Valley at age 5?
Yes, she was.
I assured them—and reminded myself—that this is just how my child learns. If you give her time, consistency, and a loving push outside of her comfort zone, she will soar.
That’s exactly what is happening. Thanks to Sugarbush’s approach, my child is becoming a more confident skier.
The Road to Confident Skiing
When you have a child who is a reluctant skier or struggles to make progress, Milo Fischer says the program’s coaches use a range of techniques to get kids to the next level in their skiing.
For example, coaches will develop and practice new skills on comfortable terrain or speed and then guide the skills onto more challenging terrain or speed.
“Moving from comfort to challenge and back as needed helps kids develop trust and confidence in their skills,” Fischer says.
The coaches also show kids how to use existing skills in new ways to deal with differing challenges. Fischer explains this is done by giving kids the skills to turn where and when they want to turn, teaching a stance that is balanced and stable and allows them to move freely, and offering strategies to learn to respect but not be paralyzed by fear.
“Establishing sound skills and developing tactics to manage challenges are the keys to both confidence and moving to the next level,” Fischer says.
Phoebe is working hard to bring her ski skills up a notch this season. The best part? She’s trusting to believe in herself at every turn.
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. She publishes www.happyvermont.com, a Vermont travel blog and podcast that explores the places and people of the Green Mountain State. She currently works as writer and photographer, and lives in Burlington with her husband and daughter.