We all remember our first forays on skis—whether we were tykes stumbling on the bunny hill or adults nervously making their way down the mountain, the fact remains that skiing is tough! The sport requires a deep understanding of one’s body movements and how to glide with two skis strapped to one’s feet—not something that is gained overnight. Thus, skiing with kids is often not the most pleasant activity. From cries of wanting to return to the lodge for hot chocolate to constant falls, skiing with kids requires patience, understanding, and, perhaps above all, a love for the sport. Below, we’ve compiled nine ways to keep skiing fun when kids are in the picture. Follow them for a less stressful—and hopefully much more enjoyable—skiing experience!
Kids are growing creatures, and they are hungry nearly all the time! To avoid having a series of runs interrupted by pleads to return to the lodge for a treat, pack trail mix, some fruit, a few candy bars, plenty of waters, and a thermos of hot chocolate in your backpack. These snacks will keep kids satisfied—and full enough—to muster up a few more runs, whether you’re in the pre- or post-lunch stretch. (Plus, you’ll avoid paying the exorbitant food prices at the mountain)!
Tell kids about your own ski learning experiences
Skiing isn’t an easy sport to learn, and mastery only comes with time and dedication. If kids get frustrated about their frequent falls, inability to buckle their boots with ease, or reliance on “pizza” to make it down a difficult trail, regale them with stories about how hard it was for you to learn to ski. Everyone has a few stories in their arsenal about them flying down the mountain, an epic fall that just can’t be forgotten, or spending what seemed like hours getting their boots in place. Once you share your own challenging skiing experiences with kids, they will begin to realize that though there are some tough times in the beginning, everyone can become a great skier if they put in the time and effort.
Even for the most experienced skiers, taking breaks during your time at the mountain is crucial for restoring energy and simply taking a moment to breathe. When skiing with kids, I typically take a break after every three runs we complete. Whether this break consists of trekking to the lodge, tucking into your snack collection at the top of the mountain before taking another run, indulging in lunch or dinner, or just pausing before the start of your next run together, breaks are key for keeping kids’ energy levels up. Plus, it’s an opportunity for you to connect with your child about their ski learning experience and what they like (or dislike) about the sport.
Skiing is by no means an intuitive sport—which explains why the learning curve for new skiers is somewhat steep. If the kid(s) you’re skiing with don’t mimic the motions of your skis after a few tries, don’t get frustrated! Think back to your own skiing learning journey—how long did it take you to become a perfectly parallel skier? If a particular trail is too tough for them, switch to another one. If a particular teaching technique isn’t resonating with them, try dreaming up another one. Skiing with kids is all about being flexible, easygoing, and supportive of their quest to learn the sport.
When kids are venturing into the ski world for the first time, they’re scared—about falling, whether they’re doing things right, and falling (did I mention that)? Whether you’re physically guiding a toddler through their first-ever run on the bunny hill or coaching a tween with a few runs under belt, it’s important to constantly be reinforcing their positive behavior to keep their spirits up. If they nailed “pizza”? Congratulate them and acknowledge how tough it is to master that skill. If they just massively wiped out on the bunny hill? Pick them up, make a joke about it, and let them know that everyone falls—so they shouldn’t stress out about it too much. If kids’ teachers have a positive attitude towards skiing—and specifically, their performance on the mountain—during their early years learning the sport, they will take that attitude with them for as long as they ski. Dont’ forget to celebrate the small wins, either. Sometimes, you don’t realize how nervous your child might be about getting off the chairlift. When they do it with minimal problems, tell them that you you are happy with how they did.
When you’re traveling with kids, you can truly expect the unexpected. Therefore, approach your time on the mountains armed with supplies—like Band-Aids, extra gloves, extra socks, an extra base layer, hand warmers, and foot warmers—to ensure that kids are comfortable and warm when they are skiing. Have a pocket to stuff one of their layers in to if they happen to get too warm during the day. In addition, you’ll stave off complaints—and avoid pricey trips to the mountain’s stores. Along with preparation comes bringing the right gear. Making sure that you have the right ski gear for your child, and that it fits and is tuned correctly, will make it more fun — plus correctly-adjusted gear prevents ski injuries.
Ask kids how they learn best and try to teach them accordingly
Every child learns in a different way—so communicate with the kids you are skiing with and ask them about their preferred learning style. Would it be better for them if you went down the trail first and they followed your tracks? Should you demonstrate a technique and then stop mid-way down the trail to assess their performance? Getting to the heart of a child’s preferred learning technique is crucial to teach them most effectively. The quicker this is accomplished, the faster a child is on the road to becoming an excellent skier.
Enroll them in ski school or a private lesson
Let’s face it – sometimes a child responds better to another adult than to their own parent. If you want to tackle some more challenging trails or simply want your child to learn from someone else, every mountain offers a ski school or private lessons on-site. In addition, a good ski school isn’t only an opportunity for kids to hone their technique, but to make friends with similarly aged kids—and maybe even hit the slopes with them later. If you think your child needs more individual instruction, private lessons may be an excellent option. Though pricier, your child will come away from the experience with one-on-one insight into what they need to work on as a skier and a lesson tailored to their personal learning style. The instructor will be able to communicate directly with you regarding how you can reinforce what they learned during the lesson back on the mountain, which is a bit harder to do in ski school—when one instructor can be responsible for five to seven skiers.
Think beyond the mountain
When you’re taking a ski vacation with kids, skiing is the main activity—but there’s so much more to a mountain than just its ski offerings. Many mountains offer opportunities to try family snowmobiling or tubing at night—and give a good discount if you purchased a lift ticket for that day. Snow shoeing, spending an evening in the hotel pool, checking out local tourist sites, planning a fun evening dinner, or venturing to a nearby cinema to see a movie are also alternative activities. If you are traveling with a healthy budget can can do a full-service or all-inclusive ski lodging, make sure to take advantage of the amenities. If you are on more of a budget (like most of us) you can still add tons of variety to your ski trip by doing just a little advance research on what the area as to offer other than skiing. Ensuring that kids are having fun beyond their time on the mountain is the key to an enjoyable ski vacation—especially since it takes some kids a bit of time to fully “click” with the sport.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.