If you’ve been following our family travel blog, you will have noticed a theme each winter. Our Facebook page and Instagram stories fill with videos and photos of us skiing and snowboarding. Many of you have asked us how we taught our kids to ski. In this blog post, we’ll answer that question and share some of the lessons learned when it comes to teaching your kids to ski.
Both of our boys continue to improve their skills each year. They’re gaining confidence and choosing to push themselves every day, which has been such a fun and rewarding experience.
We’re happy to report that we now ski together as a family. Finally!
However, it’s important to note that this did not happen overnight. Quite the opposite, actually. We’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money to get here.
There were many moments when we wanted to throw our gloves up in the air and say, “Fine! Let’s go home then!” If you have kids learning to ski or snowboard, you’ve likely experienced similar moments.
Tips for teaching your kids to ski
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Why teach your kids to ski?
We have always enjoyed our time at ski resorts. We love the ski culture. Every day on the mountain is different, which is what keeps us coming back for more.
Neither of us learned to ski at a young age. It wasn’t until our teenage years that we discovered our passion for snowboarding. Over the years, we’ve visited many ski resorts in British Columbia. We also spent one winter snowboarding in the French Alps.
We’ve made it a priority to introduce our boys to skiing at a young age so that they can develop their skills early. Skiing is such a great sport and we hope they embrace it as they get older. So far, so good.
In other news, we bought a cabin at Sasquatch Mountain! That’s another reason why we want our kids to embrace skiing or snowboarding.
Connor, our youngest boy, first learned to ski at Manning Park Ski Resort. He was 3 years old at the time.
Tips for teaching your kids to ski
Let me begin by pointing out that we do not ski. We snowboard. So these tips are not about technical skill development. These simple tips for teaching your kids to ski are based on the lessons we learned on this 5 year journey to becoming a skiing family.
1. Start with skis first
Why did we put our boys on skis first, instead of snowboards?
It’s a good question, given that we both snowboard. However, we believe skiing is easier for kids to learn. Snowboarding requires a lot of balance and most beginners spend a lot of time catching an edge and falling. It can be frustrating.
Had we put our kids on snowboards first, there’s a strong possibility they would have given up too soon. Our goal was for them to learn about the mountain and how to use the chair lifts first. They may still choose to switch to snowboards, but skiing was the right decision for them at this stage.
2. Slow down. It’s not about you!
It’s natural to want your kids to love skiing or snowboarding as much as you do. But it takes time.
Slow down and let your day on the slopes happen naturally. If you push too hard, you’re kids might have a negative experience.
Even if it’s a powder day or perfect bluebird conditions, let your kids dictate the pace. This may mean that you miss an epic day on the mountain because you’re spending time in the lodge drinking hot chocolate.
Remember – it’s not about you right now. Your time will come. Trust the process.
3. Consider putting your kids in Ski School
Putting our boys in ski school was a game changer for us.
We found that our kids were much more responsive to ski instructors. Being in ski school allows them to connect and learn with their peers, which has a big impact on their confidence (it’s not so scary when the other kids are doing it, too).
Ski school also removes us from their learning process. This meant that our boys did not hear us correct them or tell them to do things differently (they get enough of that during every day life).
We put them in ski school at the beginning of the ski season. This gives them time to get familiar with the ski equipment and weather conditions. We chose multiple lessons that were scheduled close together (three consecutive days), in order to maximize their learning. It worked well for us.
4. Let your kids decide the next step
We let our boys decide when they are ready for the next step. We’ve spent this entire ski season at Sasquatch Mountain Resort and the consistency has been good for Connor’s confidence.
He started the season at the Bigfoot Carpet lift, which is designated for beginners and first timers (see the chairlifts and runs here). Then he quickly moved to the Whistlepunk chair lift (also a beginners area) and spent the first month of the season there. We asked him repeated if he wanted to try the other chair lifts, but he said he wasn’t ready.
Last month, he told us that he was ready to progress to the Green Chair. He went down a blue run that was a little steep for him, but he was super proud of himself for taking the next step on his terms. After that day, he returned to the familiar Whistlepunk chair lift area. That’s where he feels confident, so we let him decide.
Last week, Connor asked to take the Yeti Cruiser, which is a new section on the mountain for him. He went down a green run like a champ. Now he’s confident with all of the chairlifts on the mountain.
5. Age is just a number
Don’t worry about when other kids start skiing.
We put our boys on skis when they were both 4 years old. Some parents choose to start their kids skiing at 2 or 3 years old. Some wait until their kids are 10 years old.
You know your kid(s) better than anyone, so you make the call. The goal is to avoid tears, have some fun and build their confidence on the mountain.
That said, if you plan to put your kid’s in ski school, it’s best that they are old enough to communicate with the ski instructor. This will increase the success of the instruction for both the ski instructor and your kid(s).
6. Start skiing in the Spring
Our boys tried skiing for the first time during ‘Spring Skiing’.
We like spring skiing conditions and thought that would be the best time for our kids to start skiing. It was the right call, for a number of reasons.
First, spring skiing has soft snow (most of the time). This snow is more forgiving when you fall. Your kids will also naturally ski slower on the soft snow.
Second, spring skiing is much warmer and it’s often sunny on the mountain. Our boys hate the cold, so avoiding the sub-zero weather meant less layers and less frozen toes. The warm weather and sunshine provides an easier learning environment.
Finally, you leave on a high. By starting in the spring, you will have a short first season. If all goes well, your kids will end the season feeling good about themselves. Hopefully this translates into excitement for the next ski season.
7. Purchase your own ski equipment and gear
There is nothing worse than waiting in the long lines to rent ski equipment.
This is especially true if you’re with impatient kids who are bundled up in winter gear. We’ve done it. It sucks. Do yourself a favour and buy your kid’s ski equipment before heading up the mountain.
We have always bought our kids their own ski equipment, so when we arrive at the mountain we go directly to the chair lifts. It makes the experience so much more enjoyable.
Don’t worry about ski poles in the beginning. If you’re kids are younger, ski poles might get in the way and create more challenges. Consider skipping the ski poles until they get more comfortable.
Purchasing your kids ski equipment is not as expensive as you may think – especially when you factor in the cost and headache with renting equipment. Many ski resorts and rental shops will sell their used rental equipment shortly after the mountain shuts down for the summer.
You can also find used skis and equipment online – Facebook marketplace is a good place to start. Also, keep an eye out for local ski swap programs. You will find great deals there.
It’s also important to get the proper outerwear. Our kids have Columbia jackets and pants. The quality is very good for the price point. We don’t want to drop a lot of money on gear that they will quickly grow out of. But we also want to make sure the gear is waterproof, breathable and durable. You can find seasonal deals on the Columbia website.
8. Get a Season Pass
Pick your mountain and get a Season Pass. Not only will you save a lot of money (depending on how often you plan to go skiing with your kids), but you will have a lot more flexibility. This is very important when your kids are learning to ski.
Because we have unlimited access to chair lifts, we can take each day as it comes. If we only spend a couple hours on the hill and the kids are tired, then we head back. If the mountain has poor visibility or the ski conditions aren’t very good, we head back early.
If you purchase day passes it’s much harder to turn around if you’re not having a good time on the mountain. You want to get your money’s worth, so you may find yourself pushing your kids too hard.
This has been a game changer for us. It removes the pressure of feeling like you have to spend X amount of hours on the mountain because you just spend X dollars on a day pass.
But be careful – getting a season pass might turn you into a snow snob! We may be guilty of skipping a few days on the mountain because the conditions we’re to our liking.
Visiting the same mountain also means getting familiar with the chair lifts and runs. The repetition helps with their confidence and comfort level. They know what to expect.
9. Choose a Family Friendly Mountain
It’s important to pick a family friendly mountain when teaching your kids to ski.
We chose Sasquatch Mountain Resort for a few reasons: (1) it has a lot of green (easy) runs, (2) the ski runs end at the same place – in front of the day lodge, (3) there are hardly any lines for the chair lifts, and (4) lifts passes and season passes are reasonably priced.
We also like that it has the Bigfoot Carpet (pictured below) for first time skiers, which is way better than the awkward T-bars or rope tows. We tried a T-bar last year with Connor. It did not end well. We made it up the hill once and it ended with him in tears and refusing to go back up. Not good.
Sasquatch Mountain is known to get some of the most snow in British Columbia. Soft snow is easier for kids to learn to ski. Our boys find it easier to turn and slow down on soft snow. And it doesn’t hurt as much as hard packed or icy conditions.
10. Repetition develops skill and confidence
Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes.
Not every experience on the mountain is going to be positive. There will be bumps, bruises and frozen toes. But the more you commit to the learning process, the better the results will be.
Braydon is considering ski club this season. He already knows how to ski and he’s getting pretty good, however this ski club will push him to develop his skills with kids his age (rather than with his parents). The kids meet each Saturday and spend the day exploring the mountain together. We think this will be great for him.
It’s been very rewarding to watch our boys develop and push their comfort zone. As parents, we can’t think of a better outdoor family activity.
Are you teaching your kids to ski?
Share your tips and tricks in the comments below. We’d love to read them!
*Note — some of these photos were taken before COVID-19 rocked our world. Due to the pandemic, masks are now mandatory at ski resorts across Canada.