Every parent who happens to be a skier has a similar dream for their children: to help them fall in love with the activity. Parents are all just anticipating the day when the switch flips from waiting for your kids as they try to keep up, to having to do your best to keep up with them. But it’s a long road from the bunny slopes to all-mountain proficiency, and your kids have to start somewhere.
We’ve all seen the ski families dealing with tantrums and meltdowns in the parking lot, on the chairlift, in the lodge, and on the hill. But teaching your kids to ski doesn’t have to be a traumatic and frustrating experience. We’ve put together this list of tips to help you teach your kids to ski, and get them started with a lifelong love of the mountains.
The Best Tip for Teaching Your Kids to Ski: Have Somebody Else Do It
No, seriously, the best way to ensure that your kids become competent skiers and enjoy learning how to ski is to have somebody else teach them how to ski. Most of your life as a parent is spent teaching your children different things. You teach them how to walk, how to talk, potty train them, how to tie their shoes. You spend almost every waking minute explaining and demonstrating skills to them, and that dynamic gets old eventually. No matter how much you love your kids, it’s good for your relationship with them to take a break every once in a while, and let them learn from someone else. The person who had to convince them to put their ski pants on right side out shouldn’t have to teach them how to make wedge turns too.
If you enroll your child in a ski school, or get them ski lessons, it gives them an opportunity to engage with someone who has a different teaching style than yourself, and lets them experience a different power dynamic. And ski instructors live and breathe this stuff. They don’t bring any of the baggage or frustration that you might be carrying from dealing with the stress of getting your kid ready to go skiing that morning. They show up fresh and ready, armed with a whole fleet of tools to help kids fall for skiing and get better at it. Ski instructors are better at teaching kids to love skiing than any parent can be, they just have more practice. And as a nice bonus, after you drop your child off at a lesson you can go grab some adult laps with your friends or spouse. It’s a win-win.
Make the Experience Special
Regardless of whether your child is enrolled in a lesson, or you’ll be coaching them yourself, it really helps if you make skiing a special occasion. After all, you don’t love skiing just for the experience of making turns on snow, all of the culture and activities around it make it special. So, while you can’t take your child to the bar for Apres, you can give them that same special experience. Build a routine around skiing, consider grabbing a special breakfast on the way up to the hill, take plenty of breaks for hot chocolate. Try out tubing or zip lines if your mountain offers those sorts of activities. Consider making a special post-skiing dinner. And explain to them that their gear is special too, they should be excited when you help them get their ski goggles out, and pack their bags to go skiing.
The goal with all of this is to make the whole skiing experience feel special. Those first couple days on snow are hard and frustrating no matter what. So make the rest of the experience really fun and exciting for your kids to help them understand that there’s more to it than making it down a run without falling.
Focus on Exploration Over Progression
It can be tempting to place all of your focus on improving ski technique. But that’s pretty boring and hard to gauge from your child’s perspective. So instead treat it as a chance to explore. The stronger of a skier your child becomes, the more of the mountain opens up for them to experience. That ability to explore new runs and wander around the hill is really exciting for new skiers. So focus on that as your goal, instead of lapping the same run over and over again hammering on the same fundamental skills. Those fundamentals will come a lot easier if your child is having fun exploring instead. Try playing games on your way up the lift, ask your child to point out with their ski poles where they want to make turns, look for wildlife, and make up your own silly names for runs
And you can use new runs to encourage your child to ski longer and attempt harder terrain. If they know that once they’ve mastered all the green runs on the hill, more interesting blue terrain opens up for them, they’ll be more energized to keep pushing themselves. Nobody loves skiing because it gives them an opportunity to practice pizzaing and french frying down the same slope all day, instead we love the sense of adventure and freedom that comes from exploring the mountains. So give your kids that.
Teaching your kids how to ski can really suck. It can get so bad that you don’t ever want to ski again, let alone with your kids. But if you come into it with the right attitude, and focus on making the whole experience fun and special for your kids, they’ll fall for skiing just as hard as you did, and soon you’ll be struggling to keep up.