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Getting young children started

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm beginning to think about getting my daughter started on skis and am wondering what approaches have worked well for others here. Specifically, what ages did you start your kids and have there been any particularly great ski schools for very young children?
post #2 of 15
There's a difference between the skiing experience for a child and actually learning to ski. If your daughter is preschool age, I'd suggest you first make skiing family fun in the snow where parents and child do more playing and laughing than actual "work" on learning. More like going sliding in the back yard with a sled, saucer and some of those K-Mart plastic skis for which she uses her own street shoes in boots. Mom or dad slides her up a slight, short grade and then point her back down to the other parent, etc.

If she can skip rope, ice or roller skate or has taken a dance class for a year or so, then a children's ski school could be appropriate. Most supply equipment. You want to be sure it's a school that teaches kids to turn their feet, not make defensive actions with the ski tips tied together.
post #3 of 15
My daughter Lucy started to ski at age 3 in Austria. Just an hour a day.
I'm not sure I agree about cheap 'kiddy' equipment. Children can benefit from the control of proper boots and skis, too, and it's easy to rent this stuff.
I spent an hour just playing around on the flat with Lucy intuitively getting used to the feel of the hardware, playing catch etc.
Then very short runs (find a very gentle slope with plenty of run-out).
Get your little one to stick her arms out and pretend to be an aeroplane - she'll benefit from the extra balance.
Each run can be slightly longer, starting with just a couple of feet, until she's skiing 20/30 feed down the hill, with the run-out stopping her naturally.
She'll love it.
Give her lots and lots of experience of simple straight runs before introducing complications like the plough.
Avoid harnesses and other artificial aids. They just mess up a child's natural ability to develop balance independently.
Have a great time!
post #4 of 15
I would suggest age six as a magical number. Place her in a ski school and avoid private lessons initially. Be sure to request "AT LEAST" a PSIA level I cert and preferably someone who has a "Kids Cert".

After two or three days in ski school find a young instructor that you like and have them work together for an hour or two per week.

I teach full time and avoided any instruction with my daughter. I wanted skiing to be fun with dad. It's tough to avoid pointing things out to kids, however, I think it's important to bite your tongue.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 29, 2002 05:47 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Rusty Guy ]</font>
post #5 of 15
Bob Y, my daughter was one of those kids who would have sat down and cried in frustration when she was really young. I didn't want to ruin it for her so I waited until the magic, "Dad, can I go skiing too". That was age 6. I don't regret waiting for one moment but my wife does not ski and that also made it easy to leave her home.
On weekends I teach advanced mogul mites that are between the ages of 5 and 7. The ones that I teach can ski anything I can dish up including more in the terrain park than I can handle. Invaribly these kids all started in our Tiny Tot program for kids ages 3 and 4. These kids have all risen to a high level of skiing but still lack the fine muscle coordination needed for expert blending skills. Although they can rip, they still have little upper and lower body separation or an ability to move diagonally into their turns. The result is invarably defensive skiing no matter what you may demonstrate or say. They learn more by "feel and do" instead of "watch or listen". The other thing that I am finding out about these kids is that they have little incentive to get any better. They can already rip past all of their friends and that is their bench mark. They gawk as much at the tubing park as the terrain park. Kids want to try new things all the time and when they get good at something, they want to move on to something new. You may find you have a kid that doesn't want to go skiing in their teens and quits entirely when they leave the house.
My own daughter has made little progress in the last two seasons on her skiing. She can impress all her friends, so why learn. She probably would have dropped out of skiing if I didn't have the passion for skiing, the clout at the ski hill or the skiing friends. She doesn't share the same passion for the sport that I do. She is a junior instructor this year and that seems to have renewed some of the incentives. I think the fact that I waited until she asked and never really pushed her, has made a difference in her sticking with it.
By all means start them in a program young if you can accept them reaching status quo, then progressing little and maybe dropping out in their teens of bordom. Don't play super Dad.
post #6 of 15
my kids started at 3 , what I did out here in washington was put them in indoor lessons when they were 2 and a half, they had this carpet that rolled at about 15 degrees and simulated skiing. what it did was get them used to all the gear boots and skis.when snow flew we jump a lift and they wedged down green runs and never thought a thing about it. than group and private lessons than racing when they were 6
post #7 of 15
At Timberline, Mt. Hood, Powder Hounds is a great program.

Excellent advice above. Sometimes you just gotta wait. Sometimes the kids just jump right in there and have a blast.

A mother pleaded with me to let her kid into the class I was jsut starting. The kid was 6. Rules are - under 10... private only. i radioed the ticket office and persuaded them to let the kid join after I got the ok from the rest of my class. Big mistake! All she did was cry. The father was in earshot. I asked him to hang around and give moral support. He did for a short while but said he was baby sitting two other kids and the mother was now nowhere to be seen. The father finally took her quietly out of the class. Boy did I learn a lesson!
Another one- an 8 yr old and his brother - 5yrs. The 8 yr old was an immature, baby. The 5 yr old did nothing less than fantastic! Later after class the 5 yr. old gave me big hugs in front of gramps and Gran and parents! There's my real paycheck.
So with kids it's level of maturity rather than age. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it's a waste of money. A lot of the time it's a baby sitting job.
Use a lot of visuals or mind pictures with kids. They are more concrete and less abstract at a young age. Try to make it a game. The important thing is to make it fun.
post #8 of 15
Good topic and interesting reading. I agree with most of what everyone said above but there are some things I would like to point out as well. After being a part time instructor at a small hill teaching mostly kids ski for many years I have experienced all kinds of students starting at age 2 y 9 months. I also have a son age 4 that I have been skiing with these past two winters so I have the father and son perspective also in clear view.

Here are some of my advise for fathers and mothers:

- The age is individual and usually the second kid in the family can start earlier. If the age diff. is something like 1-2 y it could be smart to introduce skiing at the same time at ages 4 and 6 for example. 4 y is the minimum limit IMO. Dont rush it, a year makes all the difference.

- Dont teach your kids your self (dont teach anybody). Let an instructor do it for you. This doesent mean you shouldent ski with them, just dont "teach" them. The result is usually : on the behalf of both parts.

- All ski instructors are not nessesarily good ski instructors and this particulary applys to childrens ski school. Be picky and let someone recommend you the instr.

- After you leave your child with the ski school clear out. Watch from a distance and be prepared to help if teacher asks for it. Even if it looks like a mess let the teacher handle it. That is what he gets payed for.

- Dont expect your child to learn anything. He will learn about life and about himself and if he is lucky he will also learn to ski at the same time.

- For some a private lesson is the way to go and for others its the groupe thing. Individual. I always like to take kids for a one on one for an hour and he/she will most of the time get more out of it than with a groupe. Socialy the group is better but be shure he is in the right group. All too often parents have too high expectations of their childrens abilities. Many times also vise versa.

However, if you have to teach your child yourselfe here are some hints:

- Be shure you are an exelent skier and you can handle your skis perfectly. Even if you do things very slowly in on a flat slope you will need to be confident.

- Dont teach him anything, just ski. This is the reason the first time should be with an instructor.

- Be patient. These things take time. If you cannot agree on something stop and call it a day. If the child is crying its almost allways because he/she thinks he/she has failed in front of you.

- Never use your ski sticks! NEVER!!! Same goes for the kid.

- Make him/her keep his/her hands on her knees to avoid involving upper body and arms.

- Dont try to make them get away from the plow position too early. Its the most important thing to learn in downhill skiing. Same goes for grown upps. If you cannot do that perfectly you will never be a good skiier.

- Learn to ski backwards well before attempting skiing with your child. You have to ski backwards holding your childs skies together and helping them to form a ski plow.

- Buy a pair of plastic tips that joins both skis together. I know I never do it with students but with my son it worked like a dream. Just a few times so that he could ski and didnt have to fight with me over how he should have done it without them.

- Use a harness if nessesary. I know, I would never use one with my students but with my son it worked fine. Kept us skiing and smiling

- Dont grab your child from behind and support him or her from the but upp. If you have to do it grab the skiboots. The most important thing is to make the child supprot herselfe and develop a sence of balance and muscular abilities.

A friend of mine fell on his daughter while skiing behind her holding his skipoles crossed in front in the strangeling position and she broke her legg. Makes one : He should have been finde for it. Child abuse. She never skied after that..... Not because of the physical injury but the emotional one...

post #9 of 15
really stupid things I see parents do:

make kids hold onto poles, sideways.

Not quitting when it quits being fun (dad screaming at kid who's crying and cold, you ARE having fun, now ski down the hill. Abandons kid, kid picked up crying by ski patrol)

jerry rigging harnesses. (hint, if you have two leads, fastened to the hips, you can fake turns with them)

Now, we taught both of our with harnesses starting at age 2. But we were up there all the time (patrol) and in retrospect, I think the magic #6 is a good one.

I've seen lots of preventable injuired casued by the side ways hold onto pole thing; skiing backwards when you don't know how, and babies in backpacks. (seperate thread?)

post #10 of 15
a. send them to Ski School
b. enjoy your day skiing
c. watch them in the afternoon from a distance skiing in ski school so you can say you saw them having a great time when you meet them after the lesson.
d. be one with thier instructor and let the instructor do the job you are paying them for.
e.Include other family activities in the ski holiday
f. ski with them when they ask you too.
g. send them back to ski school each holiday for the first few days.
h. let them control the day when you ski together and let yourself become the child that joins in.
i. dont freak out when they get big air in the terrain park.
j. if they claim to have hurt themselves then believe them.
k. do not teach them much ski technique at all but do lead and follow them with adult intelligence so they stay safe as possible.
l. teach them the code by example.
m. do not show agression towards others in front of the children.
n. take lessons yourself when the kids are in Ski School
o. be prepared to learn a lot and be challenged yourself.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #11 of 15
Make arrangements for a childrens class or Ski-Wee well in advance. Do not show up at the hill expecting that they will have room.

Do not just put the child in a private lesson with anyone. Many of us don't have the MAGIC. Some instructors are very kid savy and know just how to approach things. What you see is snow and fun ..... what the kid sees and senses is wierd heavy things on their feet and a big stranger.

If the child is in the 7 to 10 range, please don't stand on the side and "coach". I had a dad the other day video every moment. The kid was stiff as a board knowing that his every move was being preserved (to his horror). Told "dad" to go away .... far away, and the kid relaxed and did fine.
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for great advice. We're still at the introduction to snow phase -- I agree with those who suggest waiting until they ask to ski. Also, as with my spouse, someone else will be doing the teaching!!
post #13 of 15
My daughter first tried when she was 3. We went 2-3 times that season. Second season she went about 8 times, last season she made it 15 times, and this season she has been about 5 times. I only take her on sunny days, havn't been too many of those on the weekend, although she has been on some windy days. She has never had a lesson from an instructer and the only teaching tool I have used is an "edgie wedgie". I did teach her with a friend of mine who is a full cert. instructor. He was teaching his twins, same age as my daughter, so I tagged along and applied the same techniques he used.

My daughter can go down intermediate runs at her own pace, she turns sometimes and she snowplows other times. She always has a huge smile and when she says dad I'm tired its off to the lodge for hot chocoalte.

The other day she drew a picture of the mountains and on that picture was a chairlift. Every weekend the first thing out of her mouth is "dad, can we go skiing today?"

I love that little munchkin.
post #14 of 15
Thanx for the info. The rest of you too. I cringe when I get a 3-7 yr. old. So I have to watch myself closely to make sure it stays fun for the kid. 1.5 hrs. for a lesson with a little kid is too much (depending on the kid of course). They poop out quickly.
post #15 of 15
desertdawg - nice to hear of your successfull ski introduction results flr your daughter. Sounds like you did all the right things.

jyarddog - you are wellcome. 1 1/2 hours of skiing is way too much for a little 3y old fire extinguisher. Its individual however and just keep in mind that you can spend a lot of time in the slope if you make it an adventure full of games and tales. If you cannot make a fool of yourselfe in front of other adults mimicing rabbits or elephants jumping around the terrain you may have a problem. On the good side, mothers tend to simply LOVE it [img]tongue.gif[/img]

My youngest student was 2 y and 9 months old. He couldent talk very well and he was wild a monkey. Didnt want to ski one bit and he just threw himself on the ground and screamed all he could. If he saw a pits mashin the lesson was over and he would not stop screaming before he sat inside the cockpit. After the first lesson I thaught I got rid of him because I was fully booked the next weekend and he got annother teacher but turns out he gave the mother a full refund and told her he couldnt handel it. The mother approached me that same day with a on her face and told me she had booked me for the rest of the winter saturday and sunday one hour a day!!!! It all went well in the end and we became good friends and I thaught him for many years. The trick was that we went up and into the woods. Took off our skis and wandered and played around in the snow for almost the whole hour. Gradually I got him to stay more and more on skis and in the end he tore the hill up for the whole hour. Last thing I saw of him was at age 5 when he went straight down the competition hill behind his broghers and sisters flying over the bumps.

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