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Advice for skiing with a 4 year old

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am mainly interested in having fun on the mountain and not messing with whatever they are teaching Jane in her lessons. We had a blast last year and are all geared up for another big year at Copper/WinterPark. What should I watch for in her skiing, but mostly...

Safety concerns;
1. if it's the 2 of us, should I ski ahead, or behind?
2. we only skied green and a few moderate blue runs last year when things were not crowded - is it safe to assume that the beginner's runs are more accident-prone areas to ski?

Also, is there any specific etiquette that we should be aware of re:lift lines or anything else that might not be obvious to us beginners?

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 13

1) This is something that ;you will have to determine what is best for you; I can suggest however that if Jane is able to safely control her speed and choose her own direction (ie. turn) then she may prefer to take the lead, ask her. When I am in Private lessons with young children I do both, ski in front and ski behind when I can for differing reasons. I ski behind to see what/how the student is doing, how the turns are made, how much effort is expended, how might I might help make turning easier and for safety. I feel I have a better control of the student's surrounding for safety when I am skiing behind, for when I am infront, I would never likely see anyone collide with the student, where I like to think if I am behind I could detect potential collisions early enought to manuever myself between the student and the potential offender.

The reasons I would want to ski in front of the student would be in situations where the student can turn and control speed only when they are following a target. In such cases, it is more dangerous to the student to allow them to lead as they tend to just make French Fries in the fall line. And then Speed builds rapidly beyond their ability to control. But often Follow the leader in such situations allow for confidence building in new terrain.

So the answer is it depends and only you as her father can make the best choice, but I hope these considerations will prove useful.

2) No. Often accidents occur when a skier gets in over their ability level and fail to employ survival methods, such as stopping, tranversing, falling down before colliding, etc. And these things occur on any terrain type. I would suggest asking Jane for a run she wants to do and then get her to ask you for a run you want to do with her. I think by including her in the decision making of where to ski that you will have an incredible bonding experience beyond just skiing!

post #3 of 13
I would have to say you should ski behind based on her age and stated abilities.

For two reasons -
one to act as a shield to other skiers who may not see her easily
two because it is much faster to ski down to assist than to climb up

Be aware that even on easy terrain small kids can disappear behind mild rollers and not be seen from behind by other skiers until they are quite close.

I don't know if beginner runs are more accident prone, I would go with less crowded areas wherever possible. I'm sure your daughter will be up to speed on moguls and other stuff quickly so enjoy it while it lasts. Before you know it, it may be hard to keep up with her.
post #4 of 13
depending on the traddic, but I would say behind more that in front. "Follow the leader" is a great game too. Plus, kids love the woods .
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks. This is a great forum. I appreciate all your comments.

Jane showed us last year that she has no problem turning and controlling her speed, just that she wants to go faster than I was comfortable with early in the season.

Skiing behind worked best last year and I am considering putting a radio in her pocket to tell her when to stop - yelling didn't always work well from behind for obvious reasons and I wasn't always able to overtake her to get her attention.

Copper has these trail signs for kids with paths through the trees that act as great destinations. It is surprising how quickly she learned how to find the Penguin, Witch and Alligator.

We are looking forward to WinterPark for some variety this year, too.
post #6 of 13
Originally Posted by janesdad
1. if it's the 2 of us, should I ski ahead, or behind?
I think behind generally works better, but you don't need to do it as an absolute rule. From behind, you can watch without having to look over your shoulder, for one thing.

2. we only skied green and a few moderate blue runs last year when things were not crowded - is it safe to assume that the beginner's runs are more accident-prone areas to ski?
You probably need to rely on "local knowledge" to identify the accident-prone areas. It's not necessarily any particular type of run. There are other factors that come into play: where runs join, what runs are used as cross-overs to get from one lift to another or to the lodge, features (like silly little jumps) that attract the wildmen, etc.

Also, is there any specific etiquette that we should be aware of re:lift lines or anything else that might not be obvious to us beginners?
Should be pretty obvious. Controlling a little kid in the lift line can be a little tricky (e.g. if there's a slight slope in any direction), but people are mostly understanding when confronted with those under 4 feet tall.
post #7 of 13
Is she turning when going fast or just tending to go fast in one direction?

If she is making lots of turns while going fast at four then we'd better get you into some Adult clinics if you wish to continue to ski together ( I state this in jest)

If she mainly travelling fast in one direction w/o turning then she has been bitten by the bug and will likely forever love skiing but we call this making bombing runs or just bombing down the hill or simply bombing. It would probably make you feel more comfortable and help her reinforce her developing abilities if you were to play follow the leader and take turns with her being the leader. When you lead, make lots of complete turns and try to do so such that she follows you rather than shortcut the fall line. (experience speaking here, children will find a way to do what they want not what we want; so the trick becomes how to get them to want to do what we want them to do. I guess one could argue when you extend that to adults it's called leadership.)

Rack up the miles and make as many turns as you both can!

joke: When you walk into the bar after skiing, how do you tell which person at the bar is a ski instructor?

Punchline: you don't have to; They'll tell you!
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks again. Yes, she does both, bombing straight down when left to her own devices and turning only when we play follow the leader.

All kidding aside, you are right about the need for me to take lessons to keep up - I am hoping to improve a lot this year. Skiing with Jane almost exclusively as a beginner has given me a chance to spend more time on easy terrain than I would likely have otherwise (and that's been good).

I am eleven times older than her this year, but I am closing the gap - next year only 9.
post #9 of 13
I think you can figure out the ahead or behind thing. What you have to be wary of is over terraining her by taking her to slopes too hard for her at this point in time. Individuals pay me $100's to fix their childrens really big wedge that the child is stuck in. Interestingly enough, the parent caused the braking wedge in the first place by taking the child to slopes too hard for them and the result is the huge V. I can usually fix it in an hour or two (of private instruction), but it comes right back if the parent takes the child back to the "scary hill" again. The child will often , "when asked" choose the slope again to please the parent. I always tell the parent after the lesson where (what runs) the child should be skiing. It becomes a big setback in the child's development when defensive tactics are adopted for survival on steep slopes. So, always encuurage turning to stop, not just "pizza", gliding and controling speed by turning (skis making a circle in the snow).

As for the lift, if possible on a triple or quad, see if only the two of you can load. Nothing like a clumbsy adult impedeing the loading process for you two. Also, always have the child on the side the attendant is standing, so if the attendant needs to assist in loading the child, you are not in the way. I often motion for the liftie to slow the chair down a little, so I can assist the child to the loading place and make shure the child is on the chair safely. I always make shure the child gets off the chair on the unloading platform at the right time by lightly holding the back of the jacket by the sholder to neck area. On really crowded times, you might have to load with one or more other people, if that is the case, look for someone to share the ride with that looks like they have skiied quite a bit before, rental equipment is a good clue that the person is not a frequent skiier and may give you problens with loading and unloading.

As for blue trails, only very easy ones (if any after reading what I posted above) that have no steep spots. It is as likley to get hit by an out of control skiier there as anywhere, but maybe going faster than on a green.

I hope this is helpfull, I teach hundreds of children every year and know the ropes.

Have fun!

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice. I see your point and am feeling good about the slopes we have been on so far. I can only imagine the things you must have to 'undo' - and I guess that is why I posted - to be sure we keep this good for her - and to keep her as safe as is reasonable while she is having fun.
post #11 of 13
Buy twin tips and ski in front of her, backwards.
Seriously now.
1) It depends on the tfc in a run. If it's too much crowded, then definitely behind her.
If it's quiet, in front, kids learn more from examples (thus visually) than from explanations. Better yet would be two adults, always, one in front to "show" and the other behind to shield her.

2)Stay on easy runs for some more, she's too young.

3)buy a ton of patience, and endure.

4)Send her to class lesson, she'll enjoy other kids company. And your nerves will have a rest.
post #12 of 13

Enjoy the time! My younger son was 4 last year, so I know where you're at :-). Generally, if there's no one near us I'll do the leading, but if it's crowded I try to stay behind and a little uphill so I can shield and also accelerate to catch him if necessary. At Copper really watch out in front of Solitude where the people are coming off the Eagle and down from the Accelarator. Last year I was about 6 feet from my 4 yr old and a guy coming off the Eagle went right through him and I couldn't block it. Nothing crazy either, just an accident, but I stay *really* close in that area now. About the lifts, you need to be certain your child is on ok and start working now on etiquette and patience. Other than that, on the lifts with my kids I start conversations with the people we're riding with. We've learned tons about people from all over the world. Now my 7 yr old is starting to do that on his own, which is pretty cool. Have fun this year - be looking for a guy in black chasing a little guy in red at Copper (that'll be us).
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ouch, Jane likes the little Rendezvous lift up top, so we are often up there or way, way off to the right on Soliloquy/Roundabout. We'll keep an eye out for you. Thanks...
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