Tips for Teaching Young Kids to Ski
Activate Prior Knowledge—Best for Kids (and Adults) 6 Years and Older
Work on movements that kids already “own” from playing other sports and then transferring those familiar movements into skiing and riding skills. This technique works really well with improving balance. If your kids play soccer, you can say something like, you know how you have to put your weight on one leg when you kick a ball? That will help them focus on where their balance is when they are skiing or riding.
Rob Bevier, Okemo’s Ski + Ride School Assistant Director
Make Skiing Fun and Develop Fundamental Skill Development—Best for Ages 7 to 12
When I am working with a bunch of kids, (typically “Superstars” ages 7-12 in the Killington Ski School) the first chairlift ride often begins something like this: “I saw a dead skunk in the middle of the ski trail, I one it, I two it, I three it, and so on until the unsuspecting skier cries I EIGHT it! The kids all get hysterical and the one who “ate it” gets to think up an even more gruesome scenario as the game continues. (We sometimes think of nice things to eat, a candy bar or hot fudge sundae, but more often than not the grosser items win out). I like to encourage levity on the chair so that when we land on snow we are ready for some serious work! The kids loosen up a bit and are eager to listen to the next installment. I like to have fun on the hill, but what could be more fun than learning how to ski well? For this reason, I steer clear of on hill “games” and prefer to get results from solid skill development and positive reinforcement. It all depends on what level you are teaching, but I also tend to use every possible natural feature: bumps, banks and “woodsies” to get kids comfortable with changes in terrain. Often we’ll try to make our skis “purr” on fresh corduroy. On moguls and fresh powder we hop and bounce along, or do sneezing turns which require a quick rise as we AH! And a slow sinking CHOOOO! After teaching for 25 years it still amazes me that new fun can be found every day, all it takes is a little imagination. I do, however, possess a Secret Weapon, that never fails if our young skier is reluctant. It’s the Sound Machine! I actually have two of them that make a variety of sounds ranging from the “howling powder hound” to the “screaming banshee”. There is of course the ever popular farting and burping sounds as well. The burp sound helps us recall the fundamentals of skiing: Balance, Edging, Rotation and Pressure, and that is as technical as I get!
Amy Chessia, Killington Mountain Resort Ski Instructor
Don’t Go Too Steep—All Ages
Regardless of age, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is taking their kids too steep too soon. If your kids can’t ski a green trail with parallel skis, they are not ready for intermediate trails. It is one thing to make it down, and another to ski it in control and balance. The bad habits we form from defensive skiing on trails that are too steep are very difficult to break. As I was taught growing up, there’s no such thing as a “nice big wedge.” It’s either nice or it’s big. The wedge is a tool to get to parallel skiing, and if we have our feet wide underneath us, we ultimately can’t steer both feet in a parallel turn. No matter how tempting (and no matter how bored you are on the beginner trail), taking the time on the greens to build those skills is the key to accurate, balanced skiing in the future.
Katherine Rockwell, Pico Ski & Snowboard School Manager
Lessons with a Professional Instructor—All Ages
If you’re tired of skiing on the greens with your kid, you can always put them in a lesson. The social aspects of lessons are really valuable, as is the opportunity to work on skills on proper terrain while giving you a break to go make some turns yourself.