Teaching kids to ski can seem like an impossible task. There’s so much to think about, gear, transportation to and from the mountain, not to mention actually showing them how to ski without killing themselves or you.
My kids are 8 and 10 and have been skiing since they were 4 and 6. They’re pretty darned good skiers now. They still have lots to learn but we feel we’ve done a good job teaching them the basics. They can ski most of the mountain and we don’t have to wait or worry about them.
We were successful because we followed these simple tips:
1. Keep it fun. We never made skiing a chore. We made it fun first and foremost. This meant we didn’t rush to get onto the slopes. All the kids really want to do when they get into a snow zone is play in the snow. We’d let them run around and play for about an hour before we went skiing. Letting them play helps in a lot of ways; it gets their yah-yahs out, and gives the whole day a feeling of fun.
2. Teaching Skiing. The fun continues on the ski slopes. When we first started out we’d take off our skis, and cart them up and down the bunny hill. One of us would be up and one down. The up person would release the mini-skier and they’d ski into the arms of the down person.
Whenever they’d fall we never made a big deal about it. We never coddled them, asking if they were okay…instead we’d laugh and describe how cool the crash looked.
Of course this was when they were little. If they’re a little bigger taking them up the bunny hill chair lift shouldn’t be too hard. Just be sure they know how to move around with their skis on and know what it feels like to slide before getting on the chair.
3. Teach by Example. Whenever possible show the kids what you want them to do. Show them how to stop, show them how to turn, exaggerate things so they can see what you mean. For example, really bend your knees and show them the different pressures you’re putting on your legs that allow you to turn.
Don’t try to explain everything, there’s no need for them to understand the physics involved, just demonstrate and let them figure it out.
4. Keep it Short. The ski teaching sessions shouldn’t be long. When kids are just starting out, don’t go beyond 30 minutes. Take lots of breaks. This is a great time to romp in the snow or head into the lodge and introduce them to the wonders of hot chocolate.
Even the act of taking off and putting on their own skis is a learning process; the more they do it the better they get. Think of these breaks as learning experiences.
Of course the older the kids your teaching to ski, the less breaks they’ll need. Keep your eyes open though, if they look like they’re getting frustrated or bored do something else.
5. Show them you’re Mortal. Once you graduate to the bigger slopes and you’re actually skiing on more than just the bunny hill, show them that it’s okay to fall. Ski in front of them and “accidentally” crash. It does wonders for a kid to see that even their parents who’ve been skiing for years still crash. It makes them feel good about their own crashes and usually gets them to crack up laughing.
6. Don’t constantly Instruct. Even if you see your kid making obvious mistakes, don’t be too quick to correct them. Just ignore it and remember to hit on it some other time, like maybe when you’re riding the lift.
7. Teach without Teaching. Say you notice your kids’ arms are getting behind them and they’re leaning back, play a game with them that makes them reach forward. I’m constantly pretending I’m flying a world war I fighter and I’m holding onto the front machine gun.
I’ll be behind them and “shoot” at them, then pass and allow them to get on my “tail”. They love this game and immediately extend their arms forward and start skiing better.
This is also a great way to get them to try to follow your turns. It’s amazing watching them suddenly turning like pros trying to stay in my path. When they stop trying to turn they can do it without thinking. With this exercise, I’ve gotten their arms forward gotten them turning and never once “instructed.”
Another great lesson is to have them try to spray you with snow with a quick stop. Do it to them first then tell them to get you back. Ski below them, stop and have them come at you and try to spray. Be careful, they may misjudge and actually careen into you…be ready to move.
Stay Positive and be Patient
The first year or two can be frustrating, but stick with it because the payoff is huge. There’s no doubt that struggling with the kids is hard to do especially when the skiing is really good. Stick with it though; it’s only temporary.
All the struggles were worth it; now we rip around the mountain as a family. Watching them ski and have fun is an awesome experience.