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Is it really worth the money? Young Kids in Ski School

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Last year I started my 5 year old skiing. I paid $65 or so each time I went skiing to put him in a ski program. Every time I stopped by to check on him all it seemed he was doing was going up a short lift with 40 other kids then snowplowing for about 50 yards while the instructors just watched. Is there really any benefit to this?

On the positive side, I am able to ski while he is in class and his lunch is included. If I were to take him myself I still would have to buy a $40 lift ticket and stay on the bunny trails.
post #2 of 27
Hi RickW--

That's a good question, and I'm not going to categorically defend the practices of any ski school.

But do realize that 5 years old is in the "gray area" between kids who are ready for some real technical instruction, and those who are not. Some 5-year-olds are amazing little athletes; others simply need to grow a little older first. Good ski schools will help kids progress at whatever pace the kids are capable of. And good instructors are extremely sensitive to the needs of individual kids, and aware of the disastrous consequences of pushing kids too hard, technically.

Kids, even more than adults, need to have fun first. They usually need to learn without realizing that they are learning. The best kids' instructors will look on the outside like they're just playing with the kids. But a closer look will reveal that there is a purpose to every game, a specific technical or tactical learning outcome that the kids may not even be aware of. The kids just think it's fun!

(And this is not to suggest that the same thing isn't often true of good adult instructors and effective adult lessons too!)

An awful lot of extraordinary skiers have come up through youth instruction programs similar to the one you've described. I'd recommend trying it again this season, with another year under your son's belt.

But do observe what's really happening. Most importantly, ask to speak to your child's instructor at the end of the day. Ask specific questions about your child's individual progress, and about what they did in the lesson that day.

Unfortunately, the truth is that a lot of kid's programs are staffed by the most inexperienced instructors on a ski school's staff. So, sadly, I'll have to admit that there's a reasonable chance that those lessons were simply not worth it.

If that's the case, COMPLAIN! Complain LOUDLY to the ski school management, and if that doesn't bring results, to the resort management! You're paying good money, and you and your child deserve competency. Without regular complaints, no ski school will have any incentive to pay what it takes to keep competent instructors on their staff.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 27

I started my son in lessons at Winter Park when he was a few months shy of 5. I watched much of his lessons and also noticed that he spent a ton of time standing at the top of the hill or riding that carpet after falling his way down the tiny little run.

I can honestly say that it's paid off. I think that at age 4-5, just standing on snow in skis and all that heavy gear is beneficial. Now, at age 7, my son skis blue bump runs and groomed black runs with me and loves skiing more than any other sport. Almost as important, though, is the fact that he's learned how to handle himself on the mountain without my help. He carries his own skis. He puts them on. He picks himself up after a fall and cleans the snow out of his bindings. I don't think he would have ever learned all this had I been the one trying to teach him to ski.

Every time we ski, I INSIST he takes a lesson. Sometimes it's only a half day and sometimes it's all day, but he takes something every time we ski.

One other note. During that first trip to WP with my son, one day of lessons did not go well. They were an instructor short and in the 2 hours of snow-time they made one trip down the hill. The instructor was too busy keeping track of the kids, taking them to the bathroom, adjusting their gear (it was snowing hard and freezing out) to do any skiing. I talked to the Ski School director that day and got a refund on the lesson. He was apologetic and never thought twice about the refund. Very professional.

So my obvious vote is to keep your kids in ski school for as long as they'll let you.
post #4 of 27

You should be talking to your kid's instructor and find out what they are working on during the class. You said this in you post "If I were to take him myself I still would have to buy a $40 lift ticket and stay on the bunny trails."

Unfortunately, my friend this is the price of fatherhood. However, I do not consider it a sacrifice but an investment in your family's skiing future. I have my solo ski days, ski days with the dudes and family ski days. On family ski days I know that I am not going to be doing alot of "skiing". Kids at your son's age need milage and if you are spending money on lessons then take the time and help you kid get that milage and you will be surprised. You could get to some moderate blues by the middle of the season. Young kids need mileage, mileage, mileage and then a lesson to help redirect and enforece good habits.

I was able to watch my 7 year old "get it". I watched it click for him. There is nothing better and is the reason I went back to instructing this year.

In my situation I have a 7 years old that can ski the blacks with me in Ohio, WNY, PA and WV. My five year old cruises the blues and the greens with my wife. It is all good. Hope this helps and you have a great year.

Remember Mileage,

post #5 of 27
I'll go right ahead and chime in here for a moment. I'm far too young to have children(I'm 20), but ever since I was 13 I've been helping various family members learn how to ski. An instance that comes to mind was in April of this year, when I took my 5 year old cousin on a "mountain" in Minnesota. It wasn't the world's best hill, but hey, you've gotta learn somewhere. In any case, he picked it up a lot faster than I'd have thought possible. I tought him the basics, of course, and then we toyed around on the bunny hills for a bit. Then he pointed to a mild black(on this hill, which translates to a blue in most places ) and said he wanted to try that. So I skiied down the whole run backwards(we were just about the only people there) in front of him to make sure he didn't get out of control. Once we got to the bottom, he stopped, took off his goggles and said "This is my favourite game", which got a laugh out of me, as he plays hockey, soccer, and baseball. Quite the jock in the making. However, I wouldn't feel comfortable taking him in as an honest to goodness student until he'd taken some formalized lessons.

Just like Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, you must know how to teach in order to keep your student from going to the Dark Side.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled lurking.
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for the great advice! I think it's best to have a healthy mix of ski school and family ski.
post #7 of 27
Grue--great post! Please continue to "not lurk"!

You've also brought out the real advantages of private one-on-one instruction. To pay a pro to do it is not inexpensive, but the advantage of being able to choose the instructor and of that instructor being able to work exclusively with one child are, as the MasterCard commercials say, "priceless"!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #8 of 27
5 seems too young.

I'm with Barnes. I've found some great teachers and I just get them to work with junior -- it's well worth the extra dollars, and, you get what you pay for...
post #9 of 27
Lift ticket: $40
Junior skis and boots: $200
Private lessons for the kid: $50
Your kid kicking your butt on the bumps: Priceless

post #10 of 27

Unfortunately, Grue, I think you're going to find that the private lesson for a day is going to cost more in the neighborhood of the skis and boots. But the result may still be....Priceless!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #11 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:

Unfortunately, Grue, I think you're going to find that the private lesson for a day is going to cost more in the neighborhood of the skis and boots. But the result may still be....Priceless!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

Heh, you're probably right, I've never even investigated ski school prices [img]smile.gif[/img] That was a SWAG(Scientific Wild Arsed Guess) [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #12 of 27
I am a level III instructor with heaps of varied international experience, kids, adaptive, race, classes & private x 4 countries.

Both my boys have attended ski school from under 5 years (6 & 8 now). They where in the normal kids all day program. Lots of riding the carpet and standing around BUT fun, fun, fun & safe, safe, safe. Safe, friendly peer orientated instruction. (Kindy on snow) Many people ask me why I have not taught them. The reason being is that I believe a good ski school kids program (and the Oz resorts are primo at kids) can do a far better job of getting them confident and away than I can due to the "child\parent" interaction.

Now at 8 my eldest will be on his first o\s ski trip with me and I will take over with a mix of "technical" instruction by SS and the all important fun exploration ski miles with Dad. Next year if all goes well they both will come with me to the states.

Now that only took three weeks each in SS (3 x $A230 inc. lunch) and they are ready to go BIG in the states. For me everything old in skiing is new again.

Judge the lesson by the smile on the kids face and the "swagger" in the step after the lesson.

"lets go dad" Hah ... Priceless. Enjoy

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #13 of 27
I just have to hop in on this one. As an individual that teaches children as well as other forms of life and also paid out of my pocket to put my grandson in SS I would shout a resounding YES.

By the way our area starts children @ four years old but private only. The lesson is a great way for the child to have fun with or without other little folks and let the parents go play for a while. We need to remember the lesson isn’t about just skiing. The lesson is also about growth of the little person. We have an outstanding children's program and I usually get some adult privates from the parents.

As an a side I am taking my Children’s Certification soon. I truly believe my studies for this have been harder than my 3. Try it if you haven’t and you will see what I am talking about.

Bob our private are only $35/hour but I usually run mine into the next call, which takes them about 80 minutes.
post #14 of 27
I agree with what Bob B and others told you. I started my daughter when she was 4 1/2. Kids need to have fun and the instructor is very important as far as making it a fun and learning experience. I taught for 17 years so when she was done with her lesson I would ask her what she learned and we would practice it in a very relaxed way. She is 15 now and skis every run on our home mtn. and loves the sport.
post #15 of 27
I think that the group interaction and play time is just as important as how skilled they get. many child psychologists are now saying that we are trying to hard to create over achievers at too early an age.
Every time I see the little cuties doing snow angels, and going FRENCH FRIES, I sort of wish I could join in the fun.
post #16 of 27
You're right to bring this up Rickw, children are just too expensive I don't know why people get them in the first place
post #17 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Floyd:
As an individual that teaches children as well as other forms of life <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Floyd what other forms of life are there? I thought that those that ski never grew up.

"rage on regardless"
Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ November 06, 2001 03:24 PM: Message edited 1 time, by man from oz ]</font>
post #18 of 27
"French fries -- no pizza!"
post #19 of 27
I've got 2 kids, now 14 and 16. We started skiing as a family about 10 years ago. We started out with a week of skiing out west and have gotten to the point where the kids get about 20-25 days out west/year (dad gets more if he gets invited to the right conferences!). My kids were in ski school more than half of the time until about 4 or 5 years ago (at a wide range of schools: Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Taos, Copper, Whistler, Big Mt., Fernie, Snowbird, etc.). Usually they had fun but sometimes not. I think their biggest complaint was that often they were not challenged and did not learn much in ski school. My daughter, who is a bit more socially oriented than my son, did very much enjoy the group experience. Even on days when they were in ski school, the 2 or 3 runs before and after that we took together seemed to produce a disproportionate component of their improvement. I feel pretty confident that if I knew then what I know now (about skiing technique) they would have been even better skiers than they are now. However, I can't complain about their capabilities much, they ski a lot of sick terrain, love to hike for their turns when there is an opportunity, and (along with their father) are becoming quite enamored with the backcountry. The programs that they have enjoyed and gained the most from are adult steep camps that I have been able to get them into (Whistler - Extremely Canadian, Snowbird, and a few "private" sessions with some friends who are world class free skiers).

Some things I've learned:

There is no particular age when it's right to start someone at skiing. Some are OK at 3 and others are not ready until 6 or 7, you know your child best.

As long as they're enjoying ski school it's not a bad experience although there are much more effective means to teach them if you either have the ability, knowledge, and appropriate relationship with them to teach them yourself or can afford private lessons.

I do not think the progressions commonly taught in ski school are very effective. I have been able to help a number of kids make dramatic improvements in their skiing in a very short time (sometimes a couple of runs). These have been kids who have spent a couple or more weeks a year in ski schools for a number of years. I have been able to do this with essentially 100% success using a PMTS approach.
post #20 of 27
The group all day lessons are a great idea for many reasons.

Next time you go for a week of skiing, try giving your son a one hour private lesson with his favorite group ski instructor before it is time for ski school class. That's provided that the ski school director feels that person can give your son a good private lesson.

If so, it will help your son amazingly, and the person who gave your son the lesson will be most appreciative and perhaps your son will get a little more attention and notice in the group lessons. Now that he is six, I think you will see some amazing improvements in his skiing this season.

Yes it is more money, but think of it as an investment in a life long skill that will benefit your son. Who knows, he might even thank you one day by letting you ski with your grandchildren ! Now that would be priceless, wouldn't it.
post #21 of 27
Rick - I had both my kids in lessons at about 3 years old. At COP in Calgary, they have a huge kids program, and seem to get very child oriented instructors.

Others have pointed out the benefits of mileage, and I'll certainly endorse that. The other thing I would suggest is a longer term program, where the kids get the same instructor over several weeks. At COP, it was the "Junior Racing" program. It actually had very little to do with racing, but kids love the connotation, and were with the same "coach" for 8 or 10 Saturdays. They made good friends, looked forward to the weekly sessions, and had someone who could remark on their progress over a long period.

In between, we got out as often as we could. COP is not a huge hill by any means, but an hour on skiis is an hour more experience.

In my case, getting ready was always the headache. Getting them up early on a Saturday, getting into all the gear and getting to the hill always seemed to be a real exercise. But as soon as the skiis hit the snow, all that frustration disappeared.

Go for it. Watch from a distance, so as not to distract them from their instructor, but be willing to lend a hand when needed. We always made sure to get to the lodge a bit before the group had their break, so we had a table for them to all sit together. I've tugged on lots of mitts, adjusted countless goggles, and bought gallons of hot chocolate, but would do it all over again in a flash.

Ski the bunny trails while you can. When he's thirteen, you'll understand.
post #22 of 27
Rick W

Follow all the advice here and in a few years you will get to hear the four most dangerous words in skiing:

"Hey Dad, follow me."

post #23 of 27

Kidding aside, I considered those words to represent a wonderful goal achieved. The trouble now is that the pendulum is swinging back. Now they tell me, "Dad, you go ahead and we'll follow." Then, usually, they blast by me part way down (unless we're in one of those steep narrow chutes where they're stuck in their position). I've learned to say "that's all right, you go ahead and I'll clean up." I just hope that I can maintain enough skills and sense of adventure to continue our skiing explorations together for a long time. It is one of my greatest pleasures.
post #24 of 27

Seems that the instructor was not putting enough FUN in it from where you were standing anyway.

What did the student say? Good time or no?

It has been a few years but when mine were growing up lessons were a good thing.

I was an instructor for several years. I began with the when they were 3.
Of course it was FAMILY so, I agree with others here that some students are not READY until later in life.

When we would go to other areas to ski we would put the kids in class for a day ot two for two reasons. 1) We got to ski ourselves. (my wife and I) 2) The kids learned about the area as well as skiingm and made a new friend or two.

Several times, the kids would take us where they skied. Frankly I woiuld not have ventured there without them having been there and knowing where to go. But many areas like Vail have small forts and back areas that the kids use. The littel ones would take great prode in showing Mom and Dad where to ski. (exciting YAWN OH YEAH) But to them it was a really cool thing they were showing us something for a change and they had pride in that. They did know how to ski, it was more a social thing I guess. As I said they would meet other kids, sometimes righ in the condo next door. We may not have met them as you know the goings and comings of the familys on vacation.

As they got older FORGET ABOUT IT!

Aint gonna happen!

Belive me they have their own agenda, and I would NOT want to follow them, for their sake and mine.

Just a thought ... It is a great sport and a great GIFT to share for a lifetime.
post #25 of 27
No, it's not worth the money, because they are probably going to want to snowboard in a couple of years. THEN buy the lessons for them so that they don't heelside slip everything.
post #26 of 27
By all means yes, every penny you spend it's worth it.
I am talking fishing from my memory...
I was sent to ski school from age 6 on,
that was really a forming experience.
Plus, since it has become of interest again
taking lessons is the only way to seamlessy
learn the "skiing etiquette", at least if the
teachers do the job right ( informally teaching what is referred here as "etiquette" but which, incidentally, is more than that for me, has always been
a task of every instructor I've taken lessons from)
post #27 of 27
Some of my favorite Child ski teaching 'quotes.'

"Perhaps the best single piece of advice we can give to anyone teaching children to ski is to avoid making it technical for them."

"as anyone who has ever verbally instructed children can attest, their attention span is short, and it becomes shorter if something else interesting is nearby - and out on the snow there is something else interesting nearby - skiing."

"What's most important - the very key to their success in teaching children - is that thay arrange learning situations that motivate, continually encourage their pupils, and spend time having good contact whith children on skis."

"After all, the best way to become a proficient skier is to ski a lot. No amount of formal instruction can take its place."


I teach kids as young as 4 and 5 all the time. quite often they negiotiate the mountains on skis more safely than their parents as long as they know where to go. So yes, they can learn. Whether most instructors, or even ski schools, really know how to teach kids that young is another issue.

Find a natural, energetic teacher who undetrstands & likes to teach kids to take your kid out and explore the mountain, using terrain, the mountain itself, to unlock skiing's secrets for your little boy and you won't regret it. Another option is to find smaller ski areas where your boy can't get lost that have surface lifts and let him explore them to the limits of his imagination.
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