Skiing with kids? How to make sure they love it
Planning to take the kids skiing for the first time? The stakes are high – if they love it you're home free, but what if they hate your favourite hobby? Perish the thought that you might have to choose between your two favourite things! Read on for a few tips on what to expect when you first get them out into the snow.
Around four is a good age to start. The stronger they are, the easier they tend to pick it up and the more fun they will have, so older may be preferable than younger.
If your child loves scooting and running and is a strong build, then start them younger but be prepared to give them extra support and follow their lead.
Younger children may only have the energy to do half a day on the slopes. Find out about our favourite resorts for non-skiing fun for kids.
Games, analogies, copying and races are all employed to help your child pick up new skills without too much technical information. If your kids talk about how they were making ‘chips' and not ‘pizza' this just means that they are moving into parallels instead of snowplough.
Skiing is all about having fun, so don't worry much about the progress of very young children. If your child is having a good time, they'll be hooked for life and the technical improvement will come.
Groups vs private lessons
Ski schools such as New Generation (in lots of French resorts) and Summit (in Zermatt) now offer smaller group sizes for children (around six per tutor) where kids can enjoy the social side of classes but still receive plenty of attention. Kids love the interaction with other children that groups offer, so this can be the ideal environment to learn in. With encouragement and friendly competition, many children progress quickly. Remember to request an English-speaking instructor.
Ski school check list
1. Write your child’s name and mobile number on a piece of paper and place it in your child's coat pocket in case you are needed urgently
2. Plenty of high factor sun cream (water resistant and at least 30 SPF) is essential. Put the tube in their pocket so they can top up throughout the day
3. Most experts recommend that children should ski with helmets. You can hire these in resort
4. Younger eyes are more sensitive so it is important to make kids wear good quality sunglasses or goggles all the time. If you only plan to buy one or the other, buy goggles
5. Take time to find gloves or mittens that your child can take on and off easily by themselves; they'll have to do this numerous times throughout the day! If possible buy gloves and hats that can be attached to your child; otherwise they go missing endlessly...
6. A small rucksack is useful for slightly older kids for carrying drinks, snacks and sun cream
7. Children lose body heat faster than adults so make sure they are wrapped up warm
8. If you are booking younger children into ski school, remember to give them a drink and snack for the mid-lesson break (or money to buy them). Check with the ski school if you are unsure
9. Talk to the instructor before the first lesson as any information will be useful (for example, do they get tired easily/hate drag lifts/have any allergies or other medical considerations)
10. Even if your children are not in ski school, you will probably find it helpful to write their names on clothes, skis and helmets with their name as things are often thrown into a big bundle in the rush to get inside at break or lunch time! If you don't have any labels for skis and helmets, write on sticking plasters
11. Complete beginners (especially the little ones) will probably not need to take poles to their ski lessons, at least for the first few days - check with your ski school
12. You may not need to buy a ski pass for the first few days, or the pass may be included in the cost of lessons. Again, check when booking
If they don’t take to it, then accept it and take a break. They may just need a couple of days sledging, drinking hot chocolate and watching other people skiing before trying again. Keep sessions short and fun and always make sure they’re warm enough.
Kids learning to ski in Meribel, France
Extract taken from the Mad Dog Ski guide to Zermatt, researched by Erica and Henry Meredith Hardy of Summit Ski and Snowboard School
Pictures from Meribel and Schladming tourist offices