Teaching Kids to Ski- from someone who has no idea what they're doing
Truth bomb: Up until we had Gaia, I didn't really know how to ski. While I had gone a handful of times growing up, I would never consider myself "a skier". More often than not, my winter routine consisted of flying to a warmer country.
Along came Gaia, and with her, seasonal cabin fever. I started scrambling for different ways to interact with her outside. When short strolls just weren't enough, we equipped the family with snowboard/ski gear and season passes to the local hill.
There are many tools for teaching young ones how to ski, the most common ones that I've seen are the "edgie wedgie", a hula hoop, and a harness. An edgie wedgie is basically a little rubber piece that connects the tips of the skis together so that the child is forced to snowplow. Some people use a hula hoop on the bunny hill in the same manner that you would use a leash, to direct your child. Harnesses sit around your child's waist and you connect a leash to them. I found the harness to be effective on those days that the bunny hill just didn't quite fulfill her adrenaline needs. I used it to safely stop her from flying into the trees, but tried not to use it to control her speed. It was a fun tool for her first couple years of skiing, but not everyone loves them.
What worked for us in those first few years was as follows:
For the first year (at age 2)- we skied infrequently and never put her in any lessons.
Age 3/4- we enrolled her in the odd "4 week camp" (1.5 hours a day for 4 weekends). By the end of the winter at 4 years old she had enough balance agility, and a half decent attention span so we put her into a couple of private lessons.
Age 5/6 we put her in a 5 week (2 hours weekly) ski camp.
All of these camps and lessons were in addition to us skiing with her.
Gaia is extremely cautious by nature and appears to be a bit of a summer child herself, nevertheless, she loves family ski days. Getting her to the hill tends to be a struggle, but getting her off of the hill is just as, if not more difficult. Some days she's having so much fun that I can't even bribe her off the ski runs with poutine and hot chocolate (I know, I know, we are so Canadian).
Dress kids in layers, starting with wool
Use Merino wool or equivalent ski socks (Recommended brand: Smartwool)
Bring snacks for motivation (something small that you can break up i.e. skittles, smarties)
Always have hand and toe warmers on hand
When in the chalet, loosen the buckles or take off ski boots
Make sure ski boots aren’t too tight- this will decrease circulation and their feet will be cold
Take kids to the bathroom before putting on ski gear
So where am I going with this? I'm not sharing how to teach your child to ski, we still have a long ways to go before I can offer any advice in that department. What I am doing is sharing my story. Even though I wasn't a skier, didn't like winter, and Gaia doesn't ever want to put on her "itchy" merino wool and ski boots, we still made it to the hill. Skiing with Gaia gives us the opportunity to bond as a family, while the occasional lesson serves as dual purpose because I get to enjoy skiing more difficult runs while she is learning the basics. I'm not saying everyone should get out and start downhill skiing, but find something that works for your family, particularly in those winter months.
One thing that I do know is that we always leave with full hearts and huge smiles on our faces. While it may be tough to remember that on those dark cold mornings as you listen to your alarm pierce the room at 5AM, I promise- it's worth it.
By the way, I have many friends who love taking their children cross country skiing. We gave that a go once but gave up after half a kilometer. Maybe we will give it another shot this winter.
Ski Resorts featured in this post:
Panorama, Invermere, BC
Vista Ridge, Fort McMurray, AB
Marmot Basin, Jasper, AB
Sun Peaks, Kamloops, BC
Jackman Flats Cross Country Loop, Valemount, BC