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When to start children with lessons

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well, I'm going to be a grandpa next year. And I want to ski with my grandson as soon as possible. At what age are kids ready to get lessons. From what I have seen and experienced from being on lift lines, they seem to be about 5...
Anything I can learn would be great....

post #2 of 15
I don't think you can make a definitive rule about the age kids should start skiing.

It basically comes down to what is right for each one.

From my experience there are some 3yo that should never have been put into ski school. They just are not ready for it in anyway. I have taught some awesome little 3yo's as well both in attitude and ability.

The kids who are able to start at three have generally already got over the separation problems of being left by mum or dad in a strange place (eg. go to daycare etc.). For those who have never been separated from mum and dad before it can be a nightmare for both the kid and the instructor.

4yo is much the same.

Once they are at school and are used to being away from mum and dad and being looked after by an adult other than there parents then generally they will be fine.

The GOLDEN rule though is that if you want to watch them, do it from a position that the kids CAN NOT SEE YOU.

It also is dependent on the type of program you are putting them into. If it is group based (eg more than 3 kids in the group then I think you are not going to get much out of it until they are school age). If it is more one on one or one instructor with two kids then you will get more benefit from it at the younger ages. Because the little guys only think of things individually large groups just don't work.

[ November 28, 2003, 07:35 PM: Message edited by: Seth ]
post #3 of 15
I have a niece that started to ski at 22 months. Both of her parents and I have experience as ski instructors. She was started at the little T-bar/rope area where we work. Because we work there she knew everyone there and it was like a 2nd home to her. The beginning of the first year she primarily walked around holding someones hand while on the skis. It wasn't always the same person, all of the young instructors at the area loved to take and play with her so they were allowed to. By February Daddy was taking her up the lift and had her on a harness. The harness was a home made one and with a little pressure on one of the two side ropes it was easy to get her to turn. It was also very easy to control her speed. The next year she started out right where she left off basically. By the end of the year she was turning and stopping on her own so the rope came off. She is now 11 and there has been no looking back!
A friend (also an instructor) tried the same with her child. It did not work for them. The child just was not interested yet. When the child was 4 he was given a lesson at another area, in a SkiWee program. That worked for them.

In the majority of cases I would agree that they parent should NOT be in site of the child. I would have to also advocate that parents do not place their child between their legs, no matter how good of a skier they are. When I was a patroller we had a man do just that. The child's ski went under the fathers on a bump and they ended up falling. The child ended up with a spiral fracture.
post #4 of 15
Originally posted by RichKotite:
Well, I'm going to be a grandpa next year...
BTW! COngratulations!
post #5 of 15
Rich, you can start by clicking here:

teaching kids

There is a lot more on this site. Use the search from the menu above and type 'children' or 'kids'.

edit: corrected link to the right thread

[ November 28, 2003, 09:57 PM: Message edited by: Springhill Crazie ]
post #6 of 15
Don't use a harness type device. They do nothing for the balance of the child. They need to learn about speed and how to stop and turn themselves.
post #7 of 15
The gauge I suggest to parents asking this question is whether the child can skip rope. If they can swing the rope and jump in time for it to keep swinging repeatedly, they have the physical capability to control the body sufficiently to manage skis.

The other biggie is the emotional preparedness. You want to have them see the family having fun skiing so they can develop a desire to ski themselves. This requires the parents to spend some time playing with the child in the snow at the ski area before they thrust the child into the situation of having to take on the learning part.
post #8 of 15
Originally posted by Kneale Brownson:
The gauge I suggest to parents asking this question is whether the child can skip rope. If they can swing the rope and jump in time for it to keep swinging repeatedly, they have the physical capability to control the body sufficiently to manage skis.

: That means the doc was right! I should never have skied!
post #9 of 15
One of the most amazing sights I've seen on skis was a guy teaching his 7 MONTH old to ski. Our group spotted this guy on the hill and went to talk to him because it was pretty obvious the tiny thing was way too small to be on the slopes. To our surprise, this little girl was having a ball (I mean an absolute ear to ear grin) and was actually turning the skis while coming down the hill. Mind you, the little girl was not walking yet and had (Dad guessed) 20% of her weight supported. He was using a T bar device that is a kid-ski product from Applerise .

We saw this gentleman on another day with his 2 and 4 YO who had done the same program that the 7 month old was doing. The 2YO was skiing unassisted and the 4yo was ripping. This is not for everyone. I would have said it was impossible had I not seen it in person.

At our mountain, we have group programs that start at 4 years of age. We occaisonally will let advanced 3 yo sneak in (through parents lying), but usually require 3yo to take privates. When starting extreme youngsters it is important to go at their pace. A 1/2 hour - 45 minutes may be all they can handle at one time or even for the whole day. Quit BEFORE they get tired and frustrated.

My experience is that most (not all) very young kids are speed freaks. If you can get them (balanced and) over 10 mph - they are hooked. It also helps a lot if they sense you are in control by being right there if they need you, but not necessarily in physical "controlling" contact. They need to be doing it, but they need you instantaneously if fear crops up.
post #10 of 15
The parents got me on skis before I could walk, literally. The boots propped me up. When it was my father's turn to look after me, I got put in a papoose on his back, and he'd go off and do race training. To this day I'm horrified by the sensations of a roller coaster and it's not hard to tell why. I'm scared of heights and speed, but I'm also addicted to skiing. The smells and sounds and the air get me, as much as the actual skiing. If you make skiing fun for the kid, no age is too early. ski school though...that's a different story. If you want to get out on some white stuff with the kid, and just play with everything, you can pretty well do it any time they're mobile and cognitive.
As the others say, ski school activates a bunch of issues, like separation, toilet training, fitness, attitude, etc blah.
post #11 of 15
Originally posted by Seth:
Don't use a harness type device. They do nothing for the balance of the child. They need to learn about speed and how to stop and turn themselves.
If you know what you are doing and the device that you are using is constructed correctly it should be NO problem. Of course the child should have some balance and coordination before this is attempted. Not all children are ready at the same time.

The harness used in my post above was a very wide belt (leftover from the 70's) around her waist with two ropes attached through holes her father had made through the leather. The rope on the harness was long enough to allow her to make her own turns and stop. The main purpose of the harness was to keep her from taking off as her confidence grew and to keep her away from the jump she always headed for when she was not on the harness. This came only after practice walking, stopping and turning on the lower part of the hill.
post #12 of 15
An added benefit of the commercial shoulder harness is you can pick up the kid and seat him/her on the lift and help him/her off the lift without the risk of choking or dropping them: it has a handle between the shoulder blades.

Also, make sure the kid wears a helmet: some skiers and boarders simply don't see the little ones until it's too late...

An easier way of getting the young children to ski is to start on XC skis: the heel is detached, which makes moving so much easier for them. Once they are used to their very long feet and start enjoying easy changes of the pitch - from flat to 5 degrees down - it's time to go to the mountains. XC skis also teach the kids very good balance.

[ December 01, 2003, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #13 of 15
I've taught hundreds of kids to ski, so I actually know the answer to this one.

Teach them to ice skate as early as possible. It's way cheaper, way less intimidating, and they learn lots of balance, edging and sliding skills. I've never met a hockey player who couldn't ski the first time he tried.

If you live in the snow belt, get the simplest cross country skis you can find. Let them watch you make some tracks in the back yard. Let them ski on their own as much as possible. Get extra skis for their friends to use.

Once they can ice skate, and slide a little on XC skis, let them see you leave the house with your skis and a big smile on your face. When they beg to go skiing, they are ready. Let them get used to the boots and skis in the back yard. Start them at the smallest hill you can find, preferably one so small they can run around independently, at least a little.

Kids younger than 5 are pretty hard for ski schools to teach effectively. It's far more important for young children to learn to enjoy the mountain environment than it is to learn to ski. Have reasonable expectations. Don't expect a kid to ski before he's strong enough to carry his own skis, or to ski parallel before he weighs 80 pounds or more.

As someone mentioned, a harness might be helpful on a chairlift, but I would never put my kid on a leash. It won't help them learn skills either.

Both my kids started that way, at about age 5. They are both very skilled, very enthusiastic skiers. The payoff was I got to ski Highlands Bowl with them last year.

Regards, John

[ December 01, 2003, 02:24 PM: Message edited by: John Dowling ]
post #14 of 15
Our daughter learned to ski last year at age 2. Like therusty we used the Apple rise concept and products and I would recommend them highly.

http://www.applerise.com/merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=ARS&Category_Co de=1400-AIDS

Ashley loved skiing and this year again she is lobbying to hit the slopes again. We used the long leash and started with the tip holder but she didnt need it and it came off during the first trip. She can ski about 5 runs in a row and then needs a bit of lodge time to recoup before hitting the slopes again.

As for skating instead of skiing I agree it is perhaps the best alternative to skiing but it is much more expensive for us. Ashley skis for free and her gear was about $100. We take her when we go and we all end up having fun.

Good luck and have fun with the little nipper.

post #15 of 15
John Dowling, you make some interesting points. While I agree that a lot of what you said can be completely appropriate FOR SOME INDIVIDUAL CHILDREN, I have to think that, had I taken your advice, I would have missed out on three fantastic ski seasons with my son. I would have waited until he was old enough to develop the "proper skills".

You see, like Maddog, I decided to take him with me when he was just 2. When he was 3 he could ski down from the top at a couple of our local areas. When he was 4 he skied the Toll Road from the top of Mount Mansfield at Stowe. And when he was 5, the age you would have had me wait to start him, he was chasing me down Cannon Mountain and Loon.

I, too, have taught hundreds of kids to ski, and have supervised the teaching of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, more. One thing I've learned, in more than thirty years, about teaching the very young kids, 2 to 6 year olds, is that there is no single answer to the question "When to start children with lessons." It all depends on what you call "lessons".

And something I've learned in three or four years of watching and occasionally participating in these forums is that practically every person who's ever successfully introduced a toddler to skiing insists that his or her method is the only way.

It isn't.

When asked what I believe is the single greatest impediment to the younger children learning to ski, I always answer "adult expectations".
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