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Get the most from your kids' ski lesson!

“Parents are their own worst enemy,” said Ian Burke, ski instructor at Big Sky in Montana and formerly Sunday River in Maine. Ian’s my son, he started teaching skiing at the age of 16, I started ski instructing at age 17 at Smugglers Notch in Vermont, like my mom did at Gunstock in New Hampshire. It's a family ski tradition for it seems.

ski instructor“Parents can really mess up a good thing by not trusting the instructor to do their job,” said Ian Burke. “When parents insist on hanging around a ski lesson, they distract their own child from learning and from having fun.”

Wise words from my son, makes me proud. So the ski instructor legacy continues. Apparently the annoying behavior of paying parents continues too.

I remember how parents would peek in on ski lessons and once their child spotted them, the waterworks would start. It was so frustrating because moments before their child was having a great time, linking little pizza pie turns on the snow. Then like a bad dream, the child sees Mom or Dad and cries out for them. All the instructor’s efforts to bond with their student skier are gone as the child desperately wants to go back to the overprotective parents.

ski lessonI have been on both sides of the ski lesson, as a former ski instructor and a parent myself who tried to teach her own children, but eventually hired the pros who can provide objectivity and detachment, along with peers the same age that will encourage your kid to participate (and not pout like they do with Mom & Dad). As a parent, I understand that it’s hard to let go of your pride and joy, entrusting a complete stranger with your bundle. But when you fork over nearly a hundred bucks for a ski lesson, don’t be a “smother”, hand over your child with your trust too. As a pro, I know this is the only way the pricey lesson is effective.

Here are some tips to help you, your child and your instructor get the most from a ski lesson:
Prepare your child ahead of time that Mom and Dad will be taking them to ski camp, explaining that Mom and Dad will not be staying.

Present the day of adventure in a positive light, as a snow play date. Tell them about the fun day ahead of learning to ski and making new friends at ski camp.

Don’t surprise them with the ski lesson last minute and don’t disappear when they’re not looking– kids are just little people, they are not stupid. And don’t make a prolonged goodbye at drop off either, that just makes it harder on everyone (the instructors included).

Pay the Dough, ski lessons and all day camps are pricey, because they are worth it! Your child will receive professional instruction with an emphasis on safety (priceless). Instructors are trained to create a fun learning environment –something that can’t develop with POS – code for “parent over shoulder.” Another key to success is that your child is with similar sized new skiers –peer mentoring occurs too, but not with helicopter parents hovering.

Ian said, “The parents that drop their kids off, wave a happy smile and go off and have a great ski day themselves definitely get the best value. Their kids get a great lesson and make new friends. When Mom and Dad return at the end of the lesson, everyone has had a good time. It’s a win win win."

All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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