Skiing can be fun for the whole family, but it takes a little work. The key to introducing your kids to skiing or snowboarding is to take it slow.
“One of the biggest things I see is that parents want their kids to ski or snowboard and keep them out there too long,” says Jamie Zolber, ski school director at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area near Boise, Idaho.
“Be ready to go out for an hour or so, and if that is all they can take, go home or take them to day care and continue skiing,” Zolber says.
Here are other tips from Zolber for introducing kids to the slopes:
Get them ready
—Get your kids excited about skiing or snowboarding.
Tell them what they will be doing so they will be prepared for the snow and excitement of a ski area.
—Have them wear their snow and ski gear in advance.
Let them play in the clothes, including mittens and hat or helmet so it feels familiar.
—Make sure your child is well rested and has a good breakfast before hitting the slopes. If children start their day tired and hungry, their mood probably isn’t going to improve later.
—A child’s ski clothes should be as warm as your own, if not warmer. Small bodies lose heat faster than larger bodies, and a child should dress in layers just like you do.
—Avoid dressing them in anything made of cotton. Kids and snow mean wet clothing. Wet cotton has no insulation value and actually speeds heat loss. Clothing made of polyester is usually as inexpensive as cotton but still insulates when it’s damp.
—Mittens are better than gloves for kids. Gloves are harder to put on, not as warm as mittens, and young kids don’t have the manual dexterity to take advantage of the benefits of gloves. Clip mittens to their jacket so they won’t get lost.
On the slopes
—Enroll youngsters in a lesson.
Instructors have a lot of experience teaching kids as young as 3 years old to ski.
—It’s not all about skiing. If a young child would rather eat snow, roll in it, or just play around, let them. The point is for them to have fun in the snow. The skiing can come later. Don’t force it.
—Watch their moods.
Anticipate a problem and head it off before it reaches meltdown stage. Talk to the child and ask if he or she is tired, hungry or cold.
—Keep the trips short. Young kids don’t have the stamina to stay on the slopes all day. You might only get an hour or two on the hill before they’re tired and ready to go home.
—Take breaks. A trip to lodge for hot chocolate or snacks will keep their energy and enthusiasm up.
—Focus on technique, then terrain. It may take a lot of time skiing on easy terrain for children to develop good skills. If you scare them on terrain that’s too difficult, it’s harder to get them back later.
—Buy a helmet that fits the child. Don’t get a larger size so they can grow into it. A loose-fitting helmet is uncomfortable and possibly ineffective. If the child outgrows it, you can always pass it on to a sibling or other young skier.
—Leasing ski equipment is better than buying for young kids who are growing fast. Prices for lease packages for kids’ gear is very attractive, and at the end of the season you turn it back in.
—If you buy used gear or get hand-me-downs, take it to a ski shop and make sure it works properly, especially the boots and bindings.
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