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Teaching Your Kids To Ski

New England Ski Resorts | Rockies | Canada | Europe l Skiing Guide

Skiing parents, eager to get their prodigy on the slopes, want doohickeys and devices to teach their kids to ski at a record age. We recommend children's learn to ski or snowboard lessons, and also all day ski and snowboard camps for kids at the top family ski resorts. Most ski resorts don’t accept kids into lessons until they are 3 or 4, which seems like an eternity for pre-pamper-changing powder hounds. Thanks to a few innovative parents and instructors, there are now gadgets to for the do it yourselfer if you want to teach your own child to ski - back massage not included. Same goes for starting your kids snowbarding.

For the Do It Yourselfer:
When our kids were tiny, we started them skiing at home. That’s right. You can score baby beginner skis & boots at a rental shop or a ski swap. The first trick is to get your youngster into their gear. We had our son (age 23 months at the time) put on ski boots and skis inside in the carpeted basement to start. Sounds funny, looks even funnier- but it’s a great way to familiarize your child with the foreign ski apparatus.

Letting our son tromp around with his skis attached to those clunky ski boots really helped his coordination. Our daughter loved hats, so putting on the ski outfit got her excited about the adventure, and would later serve to distract her from the real weather once we got her outside.

Once your kids have worn their ski gear inside for a few hours, it’s time to take it outside. Hopefully the blessing of natural snow will grace your backyard. Little kids don’t need much of a slope or much space to get the concept of sliding. In fact, you don’t want a steep slope, or any dangerous hazards so keep the terrain open and tame.

Kids Learn to Ski Gadgets:
For really young kids (1-3 year olds), plastic skis can be worn with the child’s own winter boots for backyard beginnings. For $39, The Kid Skis are easy to fit and use. Since they are made of plastic, you can pull them around inside on the carpet, then outside - even over gravel.

Another home-helper is The Ski Bar – a mini T-bar that parents can use to pull kids around, and walk or ski next to them offering the bar for support and balance. The plastic bar is adjustable in length and best for 1-3 year olds. The cost is $27, half the price of a chiropractic visit for a sore back. This ski bar would have proved useful to my husband and me. We used a ski pole in a similar capacity with our one-year-old (admittedly he was 23-months). At least we were smart enough not to give our son the pointy end.

One of the critical skills small skiers need to learn is a wedge, to control speed and initiate turns, especially as they go from the backyard to steeper ski slopes. The “pizza pie” stance is not innate to a youngster.

The Egie-Wedgie (also known as the ski bra pre-political correctness) is a tried and true gadget that keeps skis in a pie shape. It costs about $10. The drawback is that the thumbscrews can mar the ski tips and even delaminate the skis. An improved “tip lock connector” uses Velcro and a buckle that easily clips and unclips and doesn’t damage the skis, for about $5 more.

The traditional ski harness, attached over the child’s shoulders, invites almost as much debate as the helmet issue. Some argue this harness can introduce bad habits by turning the child’s upper body and not instilling self-control. Even worse, the leash can get tangled on the chairlift.

On the flip side,The Ski Leash that attaches to the child’s hips instead of the shoulders prevents a speed-seeking tot from bombing the hill (French fries) while introducing steering with the lower torso. The Ski Leash for $32 comes with its own fanny pack for storage during lift rides.

All of these devices decrease the learning curve tremendously. The ski tip connectors are by far the most popular gadget because they are inexpensive, and easy for the child and the parent (or instructor) to use.

Smugglers Notch’s award-winning Snow Sports University use tools to teach small children, including the edgie-wedgies on 2-4 year olds whose balance has not developed enough and whose tips naturally come apart as they tend to lean back. Smuggs’ snowboarding school uses  modified outriggers and a Burton's Riglet Park for really young riders, as young as 4 and 5, to give them better balance.

You don’t have to be U.S. Ski Team alum to teach your kids to ski. You do need patience and a positive attitude that should pervade with your kids too, It's not a race or rush, kids have good days and bad days, hot and cold – and sking should be about having fun with your child.

All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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