Winter is here and with it comes plenty of snow around the country. The swish of skis and whoosh of a good run… skiing is a great winter activity for families. But are your kids ready for the slopes?
There’s something addictive about swishing down slopes through fine powder and feeling the rush of the mountain whizzing by. For skiing adults, it’s natural to want to introduce your kids to the mountain. But when will they be ready? And what should you know about hitting the slopes with your kids?
Believe it or not, kids can begin skiing from a very early age. “A child can start skiing as soon as he or she can walk, run and jump. Personally, I started when I was 2. I never remember not being able to ski. When kids fall down, they don’t fall very far and they are used to falling and getting back up again,” says Julia Cook, a certified ski instructor and award-winning children’s author.
Cook says that because little kids don’t fear falling, they are open more and it makes developing proper techniques natural. “If you wait until your child is older, fear of falling down the hill may make having proper techniques more difficult to attain,” says Cook.
Josh Foster, director of snow sports at Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, agrees that kids can start early. “Usually kids are ready around the ages of 3 or 4, however a well-developed 2-year-old can also be ready to ski. The things to look for physically are muscle control and balance,” says Foster.
Though you probably started skiing on ski school skis with a cute knitted hat, these days helmets are important in skiing. They protect your child’s noggin. “Make sure your child has top-notch, professionally fitted and size-appropriate ski gear (including a helmet.),” says Cook.
Also, don’t wait until you get to the mountain to try on the equipment for the first time. Remember, ski boots, bindings and other gear can feel a little weird at first. “Make sure they are prepared. Consider having them try on the equipment ahead of time so they can get used to the feel of the gear,” says Foster.
Yes, you know how to ski. But turn the learning over to the pros — the kids will get the right info (and most up-to-date). “Enroll your child into a kinder-ski program staffed by certified ski instructors who know how to teach tots and how much to expect from them,” says Cook. “Don’t become your child’s sole instructor. You can surely teach them stuff along the way, but let a professional give your child the basics. Teaching proper technique is crucial for developing good and safe habits.”
When do you ski together, be sure to take it slow and at their level, Foster says. “If you push your child and they have a traumatic experience it will take longer to win them back over. Start slow and go at their pace,” says Foster. “Choose the right terrain. Do not try and push your child onto terrain that they feel uncomfortable with, be patient and stay on the beginner slopes unit they are ready to move on.”