A seasoned pro shares advice on when and how to introduce skiing and snowboarding — both great family sports — to your kids.
The sports of skiing and snowboarding can provide an excellent opportunity for the entire family to enjoy winter together. Yet many parents, even from skiing families, have important questions when it comes to getting their child on the snow for the first time.
A. There really isn’t any magic age, but there are definite considerations such as the physical development of your child, their attention span, stamina, and most important of all, the desire to try a new sport.
Q. What lesson programs are available for children?
A. Most ski areas now offer an introductory program for 2 to 3-year-olds which combines day care, snow play, and an introductory lesson. This is a great way for your child to be exposed to the sport. It really isn’t until the age of 4 or older that children have the skills needed to ski independently. At 4, the child is usually ready for a class lesson. If your child is used to the day care setting, you should have success.
Q. At what age can my child learn snowboarding?
A. When it comes to snowboarding, most programs used to begin the little boarders start out at the age of 7 or 8, . Since snowboarding has remained “hot” and many of the younger generation want to get on board, several mountain resorts now offer lessons on scaled-down equipment to children as young as 4.
Q. What should I look for in a program?
A. As in ski programs, make sure there are age- and ability-levels for each child in the family, and specially-trained instructors. Also, call the mountain and check that they have rental equipment available for the younger skier and boarder. It’s always best to gather information before you begin planning your trip!
Q. How long are the lessons?
A. For the first beginner ski lesson, a half-day program is plenty of an introduction. Half-day programs are also a good idea for the first time boarder, because boarding requires much stamina.
Q. Should parents study with their children?
A. Many areas are now offering a family lesson where the entire family can learn and have fun together. This lesson, usually 90 minutes long, focuses on the child and the parent(s) comes along for support. You will also learn how to ski safely with your child, plus tips on how to ski in small groups together. This offers a great family snow experience.
Q. Are private lessons worthwhile?
A. If you want your child to get a little TLC, a private lesson with an instructor who specializes in teaching children might be the way to go. During a private lesson, your child will receive one-on-one instruction. This may be helpful with young skiers or boarders who already think they “know it all.”
Q. What can I expect after my child’s first lesson?
A. Good question! Many factors are taken into account when it comes to results. Little things — like if the child is well rested and had a hearty breakfast — make a big difference in their success. Another factor would be the child’s physical coordination, past experiences with sports, and the desire to learn.
My Tips for Success
1. Talk about the trip and what to expect in advance. Pack the car the night before so you get an early stress-free start. Talk about how the boots will feel, bundling up to go out in the snow, waiting in line to get lift tickets, and everything else that comes along with the sport of skiing. And let’s not forget the fun things like making new friends, drinking hot chocolate, sliding down the hills, playing in the snow, and being with Mom and Dad.
2. Preparation time is just as important as the actual visit. Try to visit the resort ahead of time. Call for a brochure to look at pictures. Ask for a children’s specific brochure with detailed information about reservations, registrations, lesson times, lunch, and what to bring. Even try visiting your local ski and snowboard shop to look at the equipment (the height for skis and snowboards for beginners should fall between the chest and chin area.)
3. Try some activities at home to prepare for the first lesson. Have your child stand on two pieces of paper with sneakers on. First have him slide on the floor and enjoy the first sensations of sliding with two things on his feet. Also have him turn his toes in (making a pizza slice), toes out (making the letter V), and parallel (making two French fries)! Little games like this help a child to practice turning the feet.
Skiing is truly an excellent family sport. Remember, all ski areas stress safety, fun, and learning according to your child’s age and ability. Just be sure to make reservations for the programs you’ve selected at your favorite mountain.
Then watch…As your children learn to ski and board and grow into teenagers and older, they are still going to vacation with you! So join in the fun. Ready, set, let’s go skiing.
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