My son has been hitting the slopes since he was a babe, but as we bounce around from Vermont resort to resort, he hasn’t ever experienced the benefit of a seasonal lesson program. Last year I had to ask myself “Is now the time to sign him up for a ski lesson?” It was clear that he was ready to get some professional instruction in parallel skiing. He had good edge awareness and control but was still rocking the wedge a lot. It felt like the right time to set him up with a professional.

Enter Magic. We set up Ollie for a morning private lesson one Saturday in March. It immediately became clear that the timing was perfect, as it transformed his skiing bringing him to a whole new level.

The Magical Ski Lesson

We met Ollie’s instructor, Paul, at the base area nice and early. Paul shared his long history of teaching kids to ski and I knew this was going to be a game-changer. As I hoped to document some of the lesson, I joined Ollie and Paul for their first run. Paul was an attentive instructor, and he rode with Ollie on the lift to get to know him better. At the top, we reviewed some of our goals. Ollie was very comfortable on his skis on a variety of terrain but was still wedging most of his turns. His turn radius and speed to make them also could use improvement.

Magic ski lesson, riding the red chair
Chairlift conversations set the stage for any great lesson.

I watched as Paul assessed Ollie’s skiing and started asking him to try different turn radiuses, following him down the hill, and to stop quickly at certain points. Ollie’s wedge and loose parallel turns were effective, but not as effective as what he was about to teach him.

Paul walked Ollie through the motions of how to do a “hockey” stop with his skis parallel across the hill. After some practice, he challenged him to stop at points he marked with his ski polls. Ollie had to stop directly between them with both skis under him and across the fall line. They did this as they made their way down greens and blues at Magic.

Ski lesson at Magic
Learning the mechanics of a hockey stop.

While I can’t recall the rest of the lesson, as I wasn’t there, I can attest that it worked. The remainder of the weekend consisted of Ollie showing off his hockey stops. He was also incorporating the move into all his turns, fine tuning speed control and shortening hs turn radius. His favorite part, though, was trying to spray us with snow every time he stopped. I can’t claim whether he learned that in the lesson or figured that out of his own. All I know is that ever since that lesson his turns have improved significantly. He’s skiing right alongside me these days, matching turn for turn and it’s the best feeling in the world.

When Should I Sign My Kids Up for Ski Lessons?

If, like me, you are unable to enroll your kids in seasonal lesson programs, it can be hard to figure out the best times for a lesson. Budgets, timing, progression, engagement, and location are all factors to consider. Ollie’s timing seemed near perfect, so what are some good indicators that your kid is ready for a lesson to take them to the next level.

Age appropriateness. I admit it. I have a three-year-old who has never taken a lesson. Unlike my older child, Dash hasn’t yet been bit by the ski bug. He loves riding a lift and sliding on the snow, but if you asked him he’d tell you he’d rather be snuggled up or playing with his friends.

My strategy with him this year has been to keep it fun and light, but we’re getting close to lesson time. I think once they have shown they can manage the movement of their skis themselves, they are ready. You can certainly enroll them in lessons sooner, but if you want bang for your buck, get them comfortable on the gear and sliding on snow first.

To guide you’re first lesson timing, here are some questions to ask before you enroll a child 5 and under in a lesson:

  • Are they ok being out in the elements for more than an hour?
  • Do you have the proper gear and are they comfortable being in/on it?
  • Are you able to take them yourself and show them the ropes? (This is a big one! If no, then lessons earlier make a lot of sense!)
  • Do they show enthusiasm to learn new skills and improve?
  • Will your child take instruction better from someone else other than their parent? (This is usually a “yes.”)

*Also read “What’s the Best Age to Teach My Kids to Ski?

tired toddler skiing
If you find yourself in this situation regularly, a lesson might be a stretch…or just what you need!

Leveling up. Once kids have the basics, it’s practice, practice, practice, right? Nothing improves skiing and riding like time on snow. But if you stop seeing progress or your child has become frustrated, then maybe it’s time for some professional help.

Some questions to ask here:

  • Has my child improved their skills in the last month or 6 weeks?
  • Has my child gone frequently enough to advance? Will they? If your family only skis a few times a season, regular lessons during those trips may be key to their development.
  • Is my child frustrated when they can’t do certain trails or terrain? If they are mentally ready to tackle new terrain with gusto but don’t have the skill, a lesson could be just what they need!

A few other good reasons to schedule a lesson (and these pertain to adults, too):

  • Refreshing skills after a period of down time. Start off the season right with a lesson to get them back up to speed.
  • Safety! If your little skier or rider is starting to feel out of control, lessons will strengthen their ability to slow down and hopefully, their respect for the rules of the mountain.
  • Adaptive needs. If your child requires assistance sliding on snow, the many adaptive programs in Vermont are a must. Adaptive gear is often included in these lessons, which also relieves you of having to invest in before learning.

Ski and snowboard lesson for the win!

At the end of the day, you never need a reason to take a lesson. They are always going to be worth it if you want to see improvement. Whether it’s to start your young one off on the right foot, or to level up your improving youngster, a lesson is always a great investment. If, like me, lessons are not always on the table and you want to time them to get the most bang for your buck, I hope we’ve helped guide to you make the best decisions for your family and kids. For more information on lessons at Vermont resorts, or preparing for lessons, look no further that our own learn-to section on the site.

See you on the slopes!

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