If you're interested in taking your kids skiing, this interview is just what you need to read. Skiing is great for kids as long as you follow these tips from ski expert Catherine Ross, the Executive Director of the Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce in Winter Park, Colorado.
Kid Skiing Interview with Catherine Ross
Teaching Kids to Ski
LoveToKnow: Is it a good idea to take kids skiing?
Catherine Ross: Absolutely! Skiing is a wonderful family vacation. Skiing itself is a great, healthy, outdoor activity that helps kids get and remain physically active. Plus, it's an activity in which they are able to have fun in a mountain environment, which is a tremendous experience for kids and adults alike. An active vacation like a ski vacation also is an excellent way for the whole family to bond because it's a life adventure - not one that takes place on a video screen.
LTK: At what age can children begin skiing?
CR: I've seen children as young as age two begin to learn to ski with tiny boots and skis. Winter Park Ski Resort's ski school is open to children beginning at age three, and that is common for many major ski resorts. Many will start skiing around age four or five.
The ski industry has done some great work in the last few years with equipment for small children and their parents. For instance, there's now a harness device parents can use to tether very small children to retain control. Basically, if children can stand and walk, they can start to learn to ski.
Another point to note for ski vacations is that almost every major ski resort will provide child care on the mountain for younger kids. Those too young for ski school can generally go to a nursery.
Ski schools these days are excellent in training instructors to gauge individual abilities and interests well so they only spend the right amount of time skiing. That may mean that kids spend part of their ski school class time outside and part in playtime inside. The goal is to have fun and help kids become lifelong skiers - not just skiers for the day or week.
LTK: Are most ski resorts equipped to handle children and teach them the basics of skiing?
CR: They definitely are. Teaching children to ski properly and safely is a very important part of the ski industry; it's the very future of the industry. All major ski resorts have invested significant time and energy into the facilities, equipment and instruction involved. Most resorts employ instructors certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America industry association. These certified individuals have received intensive training on and off the snow, know how to relate to kids, and know how to teach kids as well as adults.
Winter Park and Sol Vista Ski Resorts here in the Fraser Valley of Colorado - as do most major ski resorts - also offer family ski lessons, which can be a real benefit to the family vacation. A family lesson allows each member of the family to receive individual instruction while maintaining the family connectivity. Dropping kids off at ski school is not the only model for teaching them to ski. Learning - and asking about - what the resort has to offer may open up additional opportunities for toddlers, tweens, teens and adults.
LTK: What are the benefits of teaching kids to ski?
CR: Skiing is a sport that teaches coordination and balance, and promotes overall fitness. Children who become skiers generally want to improve and get, or stay, in shape, all year round so they can improve or move to the next level the following winter.
It's an activity that children can do through the winter and their lives. You never outgrow skiing, and you can always get better and learn something new. There's also a level of adventure to skiing that benefits kids.
Have Fun; Stay Safe
LTK: How can kids be kept safe while skiing?
CR: Enrolling kids in lessons helps them learn the techniques of safe skiing. In addition, parents should make sure to avoid taking kids down runs beyond their abilities so that they stay in control.
Helmets are a must, just as they are with bike riding. Outfitting children in the right clothes makes a different, too. Ski clothes and boots should fit well - not be too big or small. Avoid the temptation to buy boots a little big "to grow into" and work for more than a season. Renting well-fitting equipment will be much safer.
LTK: What opportunities are there for kids who enjoy skiing?
CR: Most importantly, skiing opens up all sorts of life opportunities through building confidence, and providing feelings of accomplishment and exhilaration. What's really great is that these results happen even if the kids are not particularly good at the sport. It's about the experience.
Kids, who enjoy skiing, may be interested in one of the many competitive programs most major resorts offer. There are races, middle school and high school teams, and at high levels, kids who live at the resorts to train and compete. Kids can aspire to become professional or Olympic skiers.
Skiing also opens the door to all kinds of experiences in snow sports, whether it's downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or other sports.
LTK: What tips can you offer parents who want to encourage their children to learn to ski?
CR: Encouraging children typically isn't hard. Most jump at the chance to learn to ski and be outside. Some good tips include:
- No matter where you live, get the kids used to cold weather. It's important that cold doesn't become a big deal. Spend time outside in the winter so that they are used to it.
- Make sure you have the right clothing so they are comfortable.
- Adopt an attitude of fun, enjoyment and excitement about skiing. Parents who are overly cautious can convey fear and squash enthusiasm.
- Enroll kids in ski school vs. trying to teach them yourself. Just like with swimming or other sports, kids often listen and learn more from an outside instructor.
- When you're on a ski vacation, after the kids' lesson, finish the day together or at least ski part of a day together. Know, too, that ski schools can be flexible. If a parent wants to pick up a child an hour early to ski together, just ask.
- Try a family movie night where you watch some of many good ski movies available.
- Go on a family ski vacation. Planning and taking a vacation all together, where the children see the parents involved and enjoying it, can make all the difference.
LTK: What else should be kept in mind when taking kids skiing?
CR: If children are in ski school, talk to the instructor at the beginning of the day to go over any special needs or concerns. Talk with the instructor again at the end of the day and get his/her input on your child's progress. Don't be afraid to ask the instructor to meet you on the mountain for lunch or to take a run together.
End each day skiing on a high note. Instead of trying to squeeze in one more run to get your money's worth, end the day when everyone is tired (but not exhausted and/or cold). Remember that skiing is supposed to be fun, not work!
Also, take advantage of a ski resort's other activities too, so that you mix things up and keep that fun spirit. Visit the hotel's pool, catch a movie, or try another snow or ice sport.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Catherine Ross for taking the time to share her tips in this kid skiing interview. If you're ready to plan a great family adventure, be sure to check out Winter Park, Colorado. It's a perfect place to take the whole family.