What's the best age to start little ones on skis? I really want the first experience to be fun and enjoyable. Any tips on starting them out?
Oh and any tips for teaching your kids to ski if parents are on snowboards would also be appreciated. Is that just impossible to do?
I'd say the earlier the better, as long as your little one finds it fun. Skiing is probably the best for little ones and snowboarding can come later. 3.5 years old is a good age to start and is on the edge of what most ski schools allow. You can also try teaching them yourself as well. Many resorts have "ski play schools" as well, which are a little bit of skiing and a bit of playing in the snow. They often have the "magic carpet" that you can step onto to bring you up the hill - these tend to be a bit easier than the t-bar style lifts that you grab onto.
We usually ski in Whistler. Their ski/snowboard school will not take children younger than 7 in snowboard lessons. When I asked why (a few years ago), I was told that it's because little kid's ankles are not developed enough to manage/maneuver a snowboard.
Both my children started ski school at 3. At that age, it's almost part-daycare, part-ski school since the kids are too little to be out in the cold all day. But my kids absolutely loved the experience. And since there's lots of outdoor activity as well as physical activity my kids are both in bed early on ski days - giving at least a little mom+dad time.
In my family, we all ended up on skis as soon as we could walk (no joke, I was 9 months old!). I totally agree that the earlier they start, the better and they pick it up really fast. We took our guy to mountain and carried him in a pack last year and he absoultely loved it. I had him in an Ergocarrier, so we were sharing body heat. If you want to take your itty-bitty, make sure you are checking on them frequently when they are in a pack (last year a baby died while his parents skied with him in a pack in France...they didn't know how cold he was...so sad).
Finding the equipment is what has been the most challenging for us, and is what kept me from putting him on skis last year. He turned 2 in September, and we just found him a pair of boots that would fit (we waited until we got closer to the season so we could find him a pair that would fit properly...you don't want to get anything too big as they can really hurt themselves). As soon as we had the gear, we put the boots on him and had him walk around the house in them. As he got used to that weight and was comfortable getting around, we put his skis on him and he has been walking around the house in those. He loves it and screams whenever we try to take them off. Coming from a family of ski instructors and ski patrol, we have learned that building those little muscles up slowly and before you are on the hill makes a big difference (just remember how sore you are after your first day back out on the snow! You relearn about muscles you forgot you had!). Plus, they can get comfortable doing something in a familiar place and feel more confident on the white stuff.
Our guy will get to ski this year at Whistler, and we will also be going to Mt. Bachelor and Willamette Pass. I like the smaller areas because they tend to have fewer people. The nice thing about the big areas though is they tend to have things like "Magic Carpets" that move the kids so they don't get so tired as quickly. I would also recommend picking your days...if it is miserable, a cup of hot chocolate and stories are WAY more fun for these guys.
I am going to be doing most of the lessons with our guy (I am strictly a skier). My husband is a snowboarder (strictly). We to have a harness that we will use with him once he gets his feet under him and understands turning, that my husband will also be able to use. It is a vest that the child wears and has 2 long straps for the parents to control speed. That might be a good option for folks who snowboard. We also agreed when little man was born that he would learn to ski first and if he wants to snowboard later, that is fine.
It is such a wonderful activity to do with your family. Have a great time!
We recently skied with our kids for the first time, and they had a great time, but they started much later than I did. I was 4 when I learned, my sister was a little under 2. The hardest part when they are really small is building up the leg strength to turn and stop. Another great training device for the little guys is the Edgie-Wedgie, which helps keep kids skis together. Our ski instructor really dislikes the harnesses because it encourages kids to lean too far back and they get a bad habit of sitting too far back on their skis and have a terrible center of balance. Most ski schools will accept kiddos that are potty trained, so that is probably a good indicator of when kids are ready to ski. I know our kids had a blast, and when our newest arrival is walking, she will probably be on skis as well, as we are now most definitely a skiing family!
Thanks everyone for your suggestions! You helped me decide that to go for it and put our little one on skis for the first time this weekend. Can't wait to snap some pics!
Great suggestions! We're planning our first family ski trip and know that these hints on this wonderful site will provide lots of helpful tried and true tips.
Hey folks, we just got back from Heavenly in Lake Tahoe with our 6 and 3 year olds. We put the 6 year old in ski school (6 hours). He had a ton of fun and wasn't even tired at the end of the day. Bouncing with energy. Excellent instructors. Our 3 year old was in the ski play program. He did 1 hour of skiing and the rest of the time was just playing. It was more for him to get familiar with getting all that gear on and balancing on one ski and doing "french fries" and "pizza" with two skis. He loved it. 1 hour was the perfect amount of time. Heavenly places rubber mats on a slight incline that the kids can side step up and then slide down. It seemed to work really well. Next step is the magic carpet. When they are good with turning and stopping then they get on the chair lift for a green run.
All in all, I highly suggest that you put your kids in ski school and make sure you get recommendations for a good ski school. Having good teaching methodology, a well set up ski school area, good equipment and most importantly, well trained and encouraging instructors go a long long way. Trekaroo is working on gathering reviews on ski-school programs for kids, so if you have experiences with those, please share - good and bad experiences are both helpful.
We were just having this conversation this weekend! We're planning to start our son out on skiing when he's about 3-3 1/2, just because we don't have time or money to ski this winter, so it'll have to wait until next winter :) Most of my husband's friends started their kids around 3 or 4. Husband is so excited about it!
I would start a child around age 3. Enroll child in ski school for 1/2 a day session. Ski school is set up like a day care. Kids go out in small groups with instructors. Generally kids stay out for about 45 minutes then come in for a snack. Then go out for one more session. My son (age 5) was ready after his first session to gfo with some kids up on the chair lift. After his ski school he was ready to ski with me, my husband, and our two daughters.
Great topic. I don't ski but my husband does and i want to get my kids going. They are three and I was going to wait until next year but maybe we should give it a shot this year...
My daughter is not extremely athletic, but we started her on skis at 3.5 yrs old.
We just got back from Gatlinburg. Ages 7, 6 & 4 skied and snowboarded for the first time. I hired a private instructor who spent 2 hours alone with our 4 year old. She was skiing great by the afternoon. Awesome family vacation!