Ski season is here! What age should your child start skiing? Has it been 10 (…possibly 20?) years since you last went skiing, and you are now wanting to introduce your children to the slopes? If so, you’ve likely got a case of the nerves. That’s what my recent situation was. Here are some encouraging and helpful tidbits I learned, that you should know before you go.
Skiing can be a highly enjoyable winter pastime. If kids get the chance to learn to ski while they are young, it’s much easier than trying to tackle as an adult. Although not avid skiers ourselves, we wanted our children to be able to ski with their friends as they get older, and decide for themselves whether skiing will be a life-long passion.
So it was primarily for my oldest child’s benefit that we finally made it to the Sunlight ski area, near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I was anxious, not having skied in more tha a decade. She was excited, already knowing from her one skiing adventure two years ago that she loves it. Here are some important lessons I learned that day, that are good things to know before taking your child skiing.
Growing Age, Growing Fear
We first took my daughter skiing when she was in kindergarten. I didn’t expect she’d ride the chairlift and take her first full mountain run on that very first day, but sure enough… that’s what happened.
She surprised us that day, and showed almost zero fear. She pointed those little skis directly down the hill and cruised. And she did great, and absolutely loved it.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have let so much time pass. But by the time we revisited skiing, she was in second grade. After hearing her pleading every time it snowed, we agreed that the time for her second run down the slopes had finally arrived.
This time around, it took her a couple of hours to warm up enough to tackle the chairlift. She knew that she loved to ski, but I think she was finding it harder than she remembered. And once we did make it up the hill for our first run, I could see that she was now more cautious with her speed than before. (Understandable, because now she’s older, and smarter.)
Lesson learned? There’s something to be said for that window of time when they are really young, and have no fear whatsoever of skiing. They can make more progress, much more rapidly and perhaps more enjoyably if you start them at an early age.
So what’s the perfect age for kids to start skiing? There are many Colorado fanatics who will tell you, “If they can walk… they can ski.” Perhaps a more reasonable take on it comes from the ski instructors we’ve talked to on the subject. General consensus: minimum age 4, which is when most ski schools start allowing them into lessons. Their legs need to be reasonably strong, and they often do even better starting at age 5.
Ditch Your Outdated Skis
This one’s for you, any parents who are not expert skiers, and don’t have the latest gear. If you are like me, and used to ski on very long, very skinny skis from days gone by… do yourself a huge favor, and rent some newer ones instead. (My swanky 90s skis are black, with rainbow-colored diamonds and a serious 70s disco vibe to them. They belong in the corner of the shed.)
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the technology, shape, and design of downhill skis has changed quite a bit in the past decade or two. Based on my height of 5’10”, the skis I was given at the rental counter that day were a shorty 165 (length in centimeters) with a funny fat-tipped shape at the ends. I used to ski on 190s. That’s right, you don’t have to put up with those ridiculously hard turns anymore! Aaah, the times they are a changing, for the better.
At first, I thought I was wearing some embarrassing super-beginner style. Not that I minded, since I was primarily interested in survival at that point. As long as I could turn easily, and they prevented uncontrollable, blazing downhill speed – I was good. I’m the first to admit that my skiing skills plateaued at intermediate years ago, and I’m a fairly cautious skier.
It didn’t take long to discover that I absolutely loved the new design of skis. They are much easier to use than my Old School pair, and resulted in the entire skiing experience being much more enjoyable. It was later explained to me that is how skis are currently made, in our modern era. I heartily approve of this change.
The Disco Skis are going in the next garage sale. In the free pile.
Ask For Tips From Experts On the Slope
At one point during our day, we had an older gentleman offer his assistance. He could tell my daughter was just learning. He could tell I wasn’t doing a very professional job of teaching. And his jacket logo patch assured us that he was in fact a ski coach for kids, hitting the slopes on his day off. So he took a run with us, slowly skiing backwards in front of her the whole way down, and instructing her with his time-tested kid techniques.
Tips from this Kids Ski Coach, who typically teaches ages 4-12:
- “Lean forward down the hill, not back – it lets the front part of your skis give you more control,’
- “Just make a pizza with your skis, and make it bigger or smaller to go fast or slow.”
- “Squash the little bug inside your boot (instep) to turn.”
I was thrilled for the free, helpful, expert advice. And while many of the things were tips I had already tried to give her… this time they were coming from a non-parent. You know, which meant she actually listened.
The downside? My daughter is pretty shy in situations like this, and I couldn’t read how she was reacting to her new teacher‘s help, which I had accepted without asking her. Old boys like this live for the winter months, and there’s no place they’d rather be than on the mountain. That’s where you’ll often find them on their days off, or perhaps in their retirement bliss. Either way, if you are teaching a young one to ski… throw out a friendly “Hello!” and ask them if they have any advice to share.
Ski school can be expensive and often separate you from your child for the entire day. This a free way to get tips on advancing your child’s skills.
Find some more excellent advice at 12 Tips for First Time Skiers.
Why It’s All Worth It
As I glided past the trees, taking in the panorama of mountains around me, it all came rushing back: This is the reason I want my kids to learn to ski. It’s truly an exhilarating outdoor experience. And a fantastic thing to experience together with your child.
Maybe we’ll turn out to be a skiing family, after all?
Read my additional tips at my Colorado Mountain Mom original post – 5 Things I Learned Taking My Child Skiing.