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Teaching Children to Ski

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Here is my situation:

A) Teaching my daughter to ski.
She will be 4 y/o this season. I took her 3 times last season and got her used to being on the snow and walking around on skis, etc. As I did with my son I plan on putting her in 5 or 6 private lessons this season. Privates are a bargain at my local spot, $25/hr + $10 tip and nobody tips instructors in the SE so I can always get the instructor of my (or more importantly my daughters) choice as long as they are there that day. I always call to check schedules and tell the SS director (a good friend) my plans so I avoid any problems there. Aside from someone that she likes and has fun with what are the important points/progression that I should expect? Can anyone reccomend a good resource on teaching children?

B) Teaching my son how to ski.
My son will be 7 y/o this season. He has 2 full seasons under his belt; approximately 20-25 days per season, and is a wedge to stem christie skier with an occasional p-turn. What he wants to ski is the black mogul run, but this puts him in a defensive mode and I think it is hindering his technical progress. How can I get him to go to some less challenging terrain to work on skills and still make them fun? Best way to speed progress from the christie to p-turns? He is impatient in the learning part and just wants to go back to the black runs.

Other info: My local resort has a few Level I instructors. THe SS dirctor just passed his Level II this past spring but he basically trains the instructors.
post #2 of 14
A few thoughts,

Make sure the instructor(and yourself) realize and understand that children are not just "little adults" their minds operate differently. I find this is one of the most common mistakes made by parents that bring their kids to us. They expect certain things and wonder "How come Jr can't side step?" or something like that.

Some kids don't have the physical strength to do certain things, their center of balance is in a different place, and they see the world differently. All kids are different in their progress.

Lots of praise for each little thing done (even if not done well)
Make it fun.


Captain Zembo's Ski and Snowboard teaching guide for kids. (put out by PSIA)

Ellen Post Foster, Techincal skills for Alpine skiing,

What to expect for your daughter? Depends on where she is this year. Check her attitude often. don't expect any "understanding" of how skiing happens, most kids that age "go that way" when then want to turn. Teach her tasks, using things she likes to do.
find an instructor that will use games, etc to get her to do specific movement patterns. No need to explain why to her.
example: pretend that she is holding 2 ice cream cones. (ask her her 2 favorite flavors) Chocolate in one hand, Strawberry in the other. then have her ski and take a lick of chocolate, then strawberry (make sure you do it with her). This should get her shifting weight from one ski to the other. Since most kids are still in some wedge, this will also result in some turns.

For your son, try taking him into a terrain park and go pretty fast, making turns over and around the mounds and small hills. by turning at higher speeds using the rolls and valleys of the terrain park he will find it easier to turn the skis together. teach him hockey stops, and make it a game. see how far you can "throw the snow" This becomes parallel edge changes with some rotary input..

Start him on easy moguls and make it a game. maybe have a "slow race" see who can go slowest through the bumps without stopping. put targets on the hill (cones, or markers or use the tops of bumps) and have him try to go over or even pole plant on each target.
post #3 of 14

I'll first say that if anyone asked I would say age six is a good time to start kids. It all depends obviously on the child. I have one kid who started at that age. I see so many miserable young kids who appear to be having a miserable time. I guess only you and your wife can judge the fun factor. I think it's hard to get functional clothing/helmets for kids under the age of six. By the way very few shops know how to fit a kid's helmet. It needs to be very snug at first. Put it on and when it moves up and down your childs forehead/eyebrows ought to move too.

I have only taught full time for four years. My step brother, who checks in here every once in a while, has taught at Vail for twenty years?? It may be thirty. He gave me some great advice that he used with his kid and that was to avoid private lessons at a young age. He contends kids have more fun in a group setting. I tend to agree.

I will go back to 1000 steps for your son and the drill dchan mentioned of have him chase an instructor around and keep the feet working. Keep the inside tip diverging. Keeps the arms and legs digging. The key to this is appropriate terrain for the exercise.

My daughter is ten and I'm proud of her bump skiing. I want to stress I have never taught her a thing. A "Bear" who teaches with me has done the bulk of her training. He is a level II cert and in addition has his "children's accred". I mention this to do away with some of your concerns about level I or II certs helping your kids. I have a level III cert and I would be fine with the right level I or II cert helping my kid. I'm not sure other divisions have a kid's accred.

I will admit this winter I have enlisted the help of Bob Barnes to ski with my kid twice a month in a day long setting.

One thing in particular helped her bump skiing. I did pass this along to her as a suggestion and I got it from Bob Barnes. It is simply for her to SCREAM "pole" every time she does a pole plant as a cue to initiate a turn. We also have talked about constantly turning in bumps. The screaming makes her laugh and cuts the tension.

I hope some of these ideas help both kids.
post #4 of 14
Teledave - As a resource, IMHO, you don't need to go much further than EpicSki. Quite a few really good threads on teaching kids have appeared on Epic and have helped me with my 10 y.o. daughter. You might enjoy browsing through some of them, including:

Teaching young kids to ski

Stance and Alignment of little kids

When should kids start using poles?

Children's Instruction/Parent interference/Maslov

Teaching children > 3

How Young is too young to start skiing

Question on Teaching Kids

These are the first several that stood out in my mind as I browsed down the list after a quick search on the word, "kids", in the instruction forum turned up almost 300 hits.


Tom / PM

[ July 26, 2003, 01:21 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks Tom those threads should keep me busy until the slopes open.

FWIW, to ease your pushy parent concerns I've had to try hard to keep my children off of the slopes, especially my daughter. Both have always wanted to go skiing with Dad.

I took my son 2 times at age 3 and he definitely did not like it. The next season he was ready to go again and he hasn't looked back since. So with that experience in mind I was leery of taking my daughter when she was 3. I put it off as long as I could but finally gave in to her during the late part of the season and she absolutely loved it, so she got in 4 days (I think) last season.

Both of my children really have to be held back so that they don't hurt themselves, they are pretty fearless. My daughter has determined that we need to move to Canada though because they have a lot more snow there. (Truthfully!)

What do you instructors think of the "Edgie-Wedgie"? I have one, but my son refused it on the grounds that nobody else has one on their skis so he wasn't going to either. I haven't tried it with my daughter. It looks like it could accelerate the learning curve a bit, or would it just act to be a bad habit to break later?

Thanks again for all of your assistance.
post #6 of 14
edgie wedgies have a use with kids that really want to ski but don't have the strength to make a wedge but if they can manage without, I say do without. I would rather struggle a few runs and teach them proper movements without that aid. I carry one when I'm teaching but always try to work without it first.
post #7 of 14
I have to disagree with the idea that six is the ideal age to start children skiing. Children younger than six can learn to ski, and more importantly, learn to enjoy skiing. My son started at three. Now, he has no memories of ever not being a skier. It is how he defines himslef. At 8, he logged over 40 days and can outski most adults.

When he was young (3-4), we focused on enjoying the snow. Lots of rope-tow runs interspersed with snowball fights; itsy-bitsy jumps; winter vacations at child-friendly resorts.

As he moved ahead(5-6), we split his ski time between free-skiing with dad and an extended kids group program. I would recommend that ahead of private lessons for two reasons: 1) cost ($100 for 8 weeks instead of your $35 for one hour!) and 2)companionship. Kids like to ski with other kids. That also had the benefit of consistancy of training from week to week. After a few really worthless lessons at resorts while travelling, I no longer put him in any "unknown" program.

One nice feature of our kids program is the end of the season race. All of the kids race, from 4 up. The younger kids get escorted by the members of the race team. It's a great way to end the season on a high note.

Don't worry about how quickly or how slowly they learn when they are under 8 or 9. It's really all about time on the slopes and having fun at that age.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Regarding the ski week program, check my location. I actually have a pretty high regard for the local ski school, it helps that I know all of them too. I'm taking my kids to Whistler for a week in April so maybe we can get some intensive instruction there for some consecutive days. As long as they both enjoy skiing thats enough for me in the long run, if they were better and more efficient at it I think they will enjoy it more. It will come with mileage though. It gets us all out together, and thats really more important than the skiing.

Coming next season: Teledave asks "How can I convince my son snowboarding is not better than skiing?" It's already starting. :
post #9 of 14
My bad regarding the kids programs. I am not familiar with whta types of programs are available in different parts of the country. Multi-week programs are a staple in this area.

I think one of the reasons they are so successful around here is the interest and commitment of the parents. The programs are run by non-profit groups that rely heavily on volunteer participation but are semi-affiliated with the ski areas.

We went through the snowboarder wannabe stage for a very brief time. I handled it by a)letting him watch lots of ski movies, especially with "cool" segments (Candide, Tanner, Krietler, etc); b)getting him into racing; c)letting him snowboard occasionally. It's really quite humbling to go from being the fastest bestest kid on skis to having a sore butt in only a few runs Oddly, many of the racers here also snowboard, but few drop out of skiing to do it.
post #10 of 14
Originally posted by teledave:
Coming next season: Teledave asks "How can I convince my son snowboarding is not better than skiing?" It's already starting. :
My son, who is just turning eight, was raising the same question. Personally, I don't care if he snowboards after he learns to ski, but I'd prefer for him to become a pretty good skier first. What worked for me was buying "Blizzard of Ahhhhs" and watching it with him. Any seven year old worth a salt will idolize Glen Plake. Then you can relish in the irony that you're encourgaging your kid to be like Glen Plake, something few parents of young kids would have done in the mid-80s. Ever since seeing Blizzard of Ahhs with me a few times, he's never asked about the snowboard again. Of course, he did grab the hair moose one morning and went to school with a Mohawk, but I could live with that.
post #11 of 14
I am not an instructor (and don't play one on TV- actually, I don't even watch TV), but I can tell you what worked with my kids. Both started around age 3, and neither were physically "aggressive"-type kids. My daughter's first season consisted of one day in spring on cross country skis; she had lots of fun just walking around on the snow with skis on, and by next winter she was excited to try sliding downhill. We enrolled her in lessons specifically geared towards toddlers (at Crystal Mt, WA, I believe, but perhaps it was at Blackcomb), and it took at least a few days for her to really get the idea of the wedge and controlling stopping and turns. My son's first experience, which I would HIGHLY recommend, was at Snowbird. They have a program for toddlers that combines indoor play with several 1 1/2 hour lessons on snow; only two kids per instructor. They use the Edgie-Wedgie, which really helped him maintain a wedge (leg strength is not too great for virtually all 3 year olds, and the device retards fatigue, and makes the whole experience less exhausting and more fun). He had a great time, great memories, and still stops in to see Marilyn, his first instructor, when we go to the 'Bird. As everyone mentioned, the real key is to make it FUN and not push.
post #12 of 14
My daughter started skiing last year at age 2. She loved it and did well on the long leash but without the tip wedgie gizmo. She is strong enough to keep her skis parallel and make about 10,000 vertical before tiring. We then duck into the mid mountain lodge with her for some hot chocolate in front of the fire till she is ready to go back out and hit the slopes again.

There is a company dedicated to young kids skiing, They have videos, and teaching aids to help you teach your own child the general principles.

post #13 of 14
Originally posted by teledave:
...Coming next season: Teledave asks "How can I convince my son snowboarding is not better than skiing?" ...
1) Only take him to mountains that have lots of long flat sections on their trails.

2) Make sure his board has conventional, not click-in snowboard bindings.


Tom / PM

[ July 26, 2003, 12:49 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #14 of 14
Originally posted by teledave:
...Both of my children really have to be held back so that they don't hurt themselves, they are pretty fearless. My daughter has determined that we need to move to Canada though because they have a lot more snow there...
I started my daughter out at 3 y.o., and she was completely fearless. However, she didn't stay this way. As the years went by, her fear factor would seem to come and go almost randomly. This initially caught me off-guard because I thought that she would simply stay fearless, especially as objective measures of her skills increased. Anyway, if she was having a timid period, I just went with the flow, ratcheted things down as much as was necessary to keep her interested, and she would always simply come around on her own.

A couple more things that I think have really paid off are that (a) I always made sure I never got way ahead of her and make her feel like she was constantly "catching up", and (b) whenever she wanted more speed or steepness, she would let me know and I would oblige instead of forcing the pace of improvement.

BTW, with respect to your daughter's "Canada" comment, I recently got the same comment. My daughter is now almost 11, and is stuck on this really nice little boy that I introduced to skiing last season. Recently, they jointly announced to both sets of parents that "when they grow up they are moving to Alaska and that we could come and visit". I swear I had nothing to do with this, but my wife thinks otherwise.

Tom / PM

[ July 26, 2003, 02:00 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
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