It’s time to ask…Are your kids ready for skiing?
What’s the right age for your kids to start skiing? I’ve heard that question a lot from parents, and there is usually a range of answers depending on who you ask. If I were to take a poll amongst my friends and acquaintances, I’d probably find that most parents that aren’t skiers as adults start their kids skiing around eight to ten years old. It’s often when school and community programs are introduced through mailings that kids are enticed by the idea. And more than likely, most of those pre-adolescent children are more inclined to try snowboarding first. Because that’s what’s cool. But, when you talk about families where both adults are avid, or even recreational skiers and have been since childhood, I’d be more likely to think that they would start their children as toddlers (once potty training has been safely secured, of course).
For my husband and I, when we were deciding when to start our daughter Sienna in skiing, we felt that she was eager and ready by three. She exhibited good balance, an incredible drive to learn new things and a fearless personality – open for any type of reckless excitement. We initially took her to our local ski resorts in Michigan for the first few times. My husband, who is an experienced skier, felt it was the best foray into the world of skiing – but couldn’t wait to take her out west with him on Daddy/Daughter vacations.
At first, Sienna was pumped. She couldn’t wait to embark on a new adventure. She impressed me with how well she tolerated the long process of getting into her ski suit, getting measured for the right size skis and getting her helmet strapped. And she managed the cold considerably better than I had imagined she would. As I mentioned, her good balance was, in my eyes, a key factor to her instantaneous love; yet, maybe it was the hot chocolate breaks. Let’s just call it a close tie.
As she progressed in her ability and desire, we felt it was the right time to take her out West within the same season she began. What seemed like a relaxing family trip immediately felt like a headache, as we had to traipse through a crowded airport with a rambunctious toddler and a bunch of bulky ski gear. That all paid off though once we saw her nail her first run down the kiddie side of the mountain in Keystone, Colorado.
For us, starting Sienna in ski school was the best next step. Although my husband is confident in his ability to teach her, kids as a general rule of thumb, respond better to learning a specialized skill by someone who is experienced in the art of teaching that new skill. Parents can get easily frustrated and kids can get easily distracted. Mixing those two together isn’t always the best combination.
Watching Sienna learn to ski has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of motherhood, and I would encourage parents who are thinking about getting their kids into skiing to do the same, as it can be very rewarding. If you’re still worried that your little one is too young to ski, here are some thoughts based on our experience teaching our kids to ski:
When is the best time for kids to start skiing?
There is no right or wrong age for kids to start skiing; it varies from child to child. However, a growing toddler is a sponge on so many levels, both intellectually and emotionally, and reaching them at that critical age is crucial. Not only to develop a keen interest in the sport of skiing, but also because their eagerness to learn and retain information without reservation is at its prime. If you believe your child has shown the ability and attitude to start skiing, then chances are they’re ready.
Is your child ready for ski school?
From what I understand, most ski schools will only take children who are potty trained. So, the minimum age to start ski school would probably be around that age range. When deciding if your own toddler is ready for ski school, I feel that several physical and emotional characteristics are imperative. In no particular order, here are some:
- Good balance
- Willingness to try new activities
- Independent mindset
- Ability/desire to tolerate the cold for a few hours at a time
- Can follow directions and is comfortable with receiving/responding to directions from other adults
- Good hand-eye coordination
- Strong gross motor skills
The ski school for children at Keystone, where we enrolled Sienna, was not only top notch, but they incorporated dry training to alleviate the stress and cold. It breaks up the monotony of simply trekking up and down a magic carpet. Because, to a toddler with an attention span of a gnat, a change of scenery is always key.
How to prepare your kid for ski season
Getting a toddler ready to ski for the season, is probably more arduous than the actual work of skiing itself. The most important piece of equipment, beyond an insulated snow suit and wicking layers, is a properly fitting helmet. This is critical to the safety of your child. Kids fall. A lot. And they land on their head a lot, too. So, make sure you find a helmet that is designed and sized correctly. Here is some of the other necessary ski gear that is needed for toddlers:
- An insulated, one piece snowsuit. Make sure you find one that is rated for cold weather exposure.
- Base layers are important too. I love the brand Obermeyer because it is lightweight, yet warm and cozy.
- Ski socks. Not just socks you pull out of your drawer, but socks that are designed for ski boots. The boots need to be snug, and the socks need to be thin but warm. I prefer using the brand SmartWool because of how soft they are and how well they keep your kid’s little toes warm.
- Insulated mittens. Gloves are ok too, but mittens are easier to get on and off, and because your child won’t need to grasp ski poles just yet, gloves aren’t a necessity.
- Ski goggles are great too. They help when it’s snowy or misty outside, and provide another layer of protection for the toddler
We brought the above items when we took Sienna skiing, but decided early on that it was easier to rent the ski boots and skis at the resort. It’s enough of a hassle to get all the bulky clothing and such to your destination, but adding the awkward sizes of ski equipment is more of a hassle than a help. Besides, they grow so fast at this age that you would need to replace the boots and skis by the following season more than likely.
We are now in the process of introducing our younger boys to the sport, and cannot wait for the next few years to get our baby girl, and last little skier, on the slopes. To be able to share the time and love for the sport that we have spent over half of our lives with our kids has been mesmerizing, and seeing them take such a liking to the sport warms my heart. I long for the day that I look ahead of me on a mountain’s edge, as all my little skiers race down before me.