Teaching Kids and Toddlers to Ski

Trenton and I love skiing. The winter before I got pregnant with Owen, we went skiing every second weekend, both on day trips and ski trips with friends. So it was quite a change after baby when we could no longer go! We’ve been super excited about the idea of introducing the kids to something we love, and in the last month it finally happened!

It’s been a pretty cold winter, but a week after Owen’s fourth birthday, it was finally warm enough to take him out. The wait was worth it–we went on a beautiful bluebird day, warm enough to do a few runs on the bunny hill and then have lunch together on the patio, and Owen loved it! Friends have told us it’s worth waiting until kids are at least four years old to teach them, and I can see why. Owen was already coordinated enough to get on and off the magic carpet by himself, and because skis are longer and more stable than skates, he thought it was way more fun than his skating lessons.

His little bro, however, will not be able to wait! Max wanted to try so badly, he was climbing onto Owen’s skis! So we went back to Sport Chek and bought a second pair of used skis in the smallest size we could find, and the smallest boots they make. Of course he’s not really skiing at this point, just being held between Mom or Dad’s legs as we sloooowly make our  way down the hill, but it’s still good for him to get used to the feeling. Most importantly, he was stoked to be part of the action!

We’ve only gone twice so I’m in no way an expert, but here are some tips for teaching kids to ski, some of which have been passed on to me by other parents:

1. Take breaks BEFORE the kids get tired so that the experience stays positive. Do a few runs and then have a snack. Then if the kids are up for it, try a few more runs afterward. Introduce skiing slowly and keep it fun!

2. Some ski hills have free bunny hills, which takes the pressure off. If you feel like you’re skiing for “free” (minus all the gear!), you won’t be tempted to keep trying even when kids are tired. And they’ll feel more comfortable learning at their own pace. We love being in the mountains, so even if we only do a few runs, it’s worth the drive just to be out in the fresh mountain air with the kiddos.

3. Find the smallest pair of secondhand skis possible. We didn’t do this with Owen, and he’s learning on 100cm skis. I’ve definitely noticed this makes it tougher for him to learn how to pie! However, they will last longer, so maybe it’s a tradeoff.

4. Use a “wedgie” to keep ski tips together. This will help your child get a feel for making a pie. At first Owen went straight down the hill, but now he’s learned he needs to do a pie to slow himself down, and the wedgie is a huge help.

5. To use a harness, hula hoop, or nothing? This one is personal preference because I’ve heard advantages and disadvantages to all options. There are harnesses with handles that allow the straps to be adjusted to different lengths so that Mom or Dad can basically “steer” the child down the hill and teach them to turn. Some parents have said harnesses prevent kids from learning on their own because the harness holds the child up, so a hula hoop is the best option. Other parents say put the wedgie on the kids skis, tell them to put their hands on their knees and make a pie, and then ski backwards or walk down the hill in front of them. We’ll probably try everything! The first time we went I wore boots and Trenton wore skis so we could try different approaches.

6. Enrol your child in ski lessons. Sometimes kids learn better when someone else (anyone else besides their parents!) teaches them. Private lessons can be good for the one-on-one help, but I think it could be good for kids to see other kids learning and succeeding because it makes them want to try too. At least, it worked when Owen was learning how to put on his own shoes! We’ll probably try a lesson next month.

Keep it fun is probably my best advice. The most important thing is that everyone is outside being active and having fun together!