Teaching skiing to kids is much easier to do than with adults. While there are additional challenges to teaching toddlers than older kids, it can in many ways be much easier to accomplish than when they are school age.
For rookie ski families, hitting to the slopes can seem overwhelming, with the stamina required to schlepp the kids up to the mountain and a carry a truckload of gear. However, skiing brings families to the most enjoyable moments together, as skiing is one of few sports that a group can participate in at the same time at a variety of levels.
Teaching your kids to ski early on provides them an opportunity to experience the outdoors despite inclement conditions through enjoyment of a beautiful sport, leading to lifetime of memories. With a few tips you can be creating a legacy of fun and athleticism for your tribe. Along the way, you may have a few tense times, but that makes conquering the mountains with your kids all the more meaningful.
Advice from someone who has “been there” both as a ski instructor and a parent of two: get professional help. Trust the experts to introduce your child to skiing and riding properly, covering the basics so that you can enjoy quality slope time as a family for years to come. But there are some basic fundamentals to enjoying the sport as a family that only parents can provide.
Prepare your child for their first day. If you want to create lasting memories and enjoy one another through skiing, then they should be able to see that you love the environment of the mountain, the sport, the weather, the gear and most importantly, them jointing you in all of it. Be enthusiastic, positive energy is contagious. Conversely, if you are anxious, your child may get scared.
Gear is a critical piece of teaching a two year old to ski. I start at home with making sure my kids are always warm enough, but not being overtly concerned and anxious about them being cold. Provide warm sweaters (ideally wool) even when not going to the mountains. The next step is to get them used to the ski gear. Put them in ski or snow boots at home with and let them get used to walking around in those giant, clunky things. If you can, also put them in their puffy suit or ski-bib and jacket and let them get comfortable with the bulk of those outerwear items at home first. Then of course, let them play with the skis themselves, and explain to them the parts, such as tip, tail, edge, binding, etc. Help them put them on and walk around on a carpet or rug at home. This is a tremendous help for familiarizing them with the ski before even getting on snow.
Once your two year old knows that you love skiing and the mountains, they have some comfort with the basic gear, its time to get some gadgets to aid your efforts. “Edgie wedgies”, also known as the “ski bra”, attach to the child’s ski tips, keeping them in a controlled wedge (a.k.a. Pizza pie) formation. There are other items marketing for teaching young kids to ski early, but be wary, most all others have potential to seriously inhibit their improvement when not used with a deep understanding of the physics of the toddler.
Now its time to get on the hill! We always set the kids up in their gear as much as possible before we leave the house. Once on the hill, start off with playing in the snow, particularly if walking is difficult at first. Use the ski to play with the snow, and encourage them to move around. Getting them on the skis on the snow will usually be a touch and go situation. I usually recommend a parent put one their two year olds skis on and walk around with them, switch feet, and then move to sliding around with both skis. The first skill to develop is to teach them how to move around and up a slight pitch. Now its time to slide down the hill! You should foster independent balance, not leaning and clinging. If you must support your child, snow plow beside them, giving them the handle end of your ski poles to hold. If your kid won't stay up on the skis, then keep it fun, and maybe take them in your arms and let them feel the smoothness in gliding and turning down a short shallow pitch. All kids have different abilities at two years old. The goal should not be to get your two year old to a certain level, but rather to get them to be excited about what they have already done, and give them a picture of what they have to look forward to as they improve.
Skiing with little ones is not about the quantity of runs, or the perfect turn. Early ski days are about giggles and plenty of stops for hot cocoa.
Our daughters thought it was a hoot to wipe out and eat snow at age two. Our oldest now five, drops in on the steeps with us. With a relaxed tempo, your child will love snow sports and discover that you’re a “cool” parent in winter.