This past winter (or current winter for some of you), my daughter learned to ski at age 3. The previous winter, we tried it a couple of times on the plastic skis in the side yard and once at the ski area. She didn't really take to it then. Here are some things I did to prepare her prior to this past ski season:
- Found some Rossi Princess skis on eBay (new). She saw those and was dying to go skiing .
- Got her out on rollerblades on the driveway to teach her balance, keeping the feet pointed where she wanted to go, and gliding without stepping.
- Put her in her ski boots and let her walk around the family room
- Put her on the skis and walk around the family room
- Went out with her to the local shop and let her help pick out a helmet, goggles, ski suit, etc
- Put her in ALL of her ski gear in the family room and let her walk around
- Taught her a wedge on the family room carpet
- Carried her aound on my shoulders a lot to get her acclimated to heights. Because of this, riding the chairlift was at least as much fun as skiing for her.
So this season, she spent about 10 days skiing, once a week. I used a harness, but only for safety. You don't want to constantly keep it taught, because it teaches bad habits and doesn't let them experience what happens when they hit a roll in the hill or steeper terrain. The only way my daughter knows how to stop is by turning, not by power wedging, because that's how I taught her.
Because of all of the rollerblading and indoor work, the edgie-wedgies were more harm than good. We tried them for less than half a run, then put them away for good. Not once all season did she cross a ski or walk on a ski tip or tail. Teach her what a wedge (or Pizza, or in our case, an "A") is in the family room.
She would spend about 90 minutes on the hill at a time. Most ski days were comprised of skiing for 90 minutes, an hour for lunch, then another 90 minutes on the hill.
After about the 4th or 5th time out, there was no use for the harness, but she wouldn't let me let go of it until day 8, even though I would ski beside her and show her that I didn't need to slow her down because she could do it herself. Then, those last few days, she would ski without even taking the harness out of the pouch. She can even unload the chair herself, but there is no way she would be able to get on herself because she's too short.
I do NOT think that kids learn skiing more quickly than adults. I've been teaching for over 20 years, and if it took me 8 days of private instruction to get an adult to go solo down a 300 yard long beginner run holding a wedge and making turns, I'd deserve to be shot. You need to have low expectaions. If your kid doesn't want to do it, or is taking longer, don't force it!! You have too much to lose. Make sure you leave the hill before the kid gets too tired and cranky. Think of the old addage "leave them wanting more". There were many days, that after our second break, I would tell my daughter we had to go home, and she would be in tears because she wanted to stay and ski more. But I know that she was too tired, and I also know that come next week, she'll be super pumped to go skiing again.
A buddy of mine, who had about the same experience with his 3 year old daughter a few years ago (now 7) had the exact opposite happen with his 5 year old son last winter. They tried to put him in ski school, and the kid went totally postal. He's also an instructor and taught his daughter himself.
Good luck, and have fun. You'll find that you never thought you could have so much fun making the slowest possible wedge turns down a beginner run until you do it with your own kid.
I think that teaching my daughter myself was a big plus over putting her in ski school. Granted, I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have a lot of years of teaching experience. But my wife is a stay-at-home mom, and I think my daughter (and I) got a lot of good quality one-on-one bonding time when we went skiing together (wife only came twice). I think that having me all to herself for a whole day might have been one of my daughter's motivations for wanting to go skiing.
So once your kid can ski the easiest hills, I highly recommend you putting your desire to ski the rest of the hill aside, and spend quality time with the kid. Bring a camera! I found that using my digital camera in video mode was a good way to go most days because it is so small.