The Vacation Gals are happy to take part in the third annual Back to Ski Week, which includes tips on planning a family ski vacation as well as chances to win prizes. To learn more visit the Back to Ski site and sign up for the newsletter, follow @back2ski on Twitter, or like it on Facebook.
Today we hear about how to help your kids love skiing from Shannon Entin, a family travel writer from New Jersey who skis as much as possible in as many places as possible. She writes about her adventures at 100 Routes Across America. We were compensated for writing this post; all opinions are the author’s.
“Two months?! I have to ski every day for TWO MONTHS?”
This was my daughter’s woeful response when we told her we’d be taking an extended vacation to Lake Tahoe, Calif.
“You don’t have to ski every day, but you get to ski every day!” my husband answered. His enthusiasm was met with an eye roll.
While my son took to skiing immediately when we started him at age three, my daughter took the meandering beginner trail just to get to a point where she’d admit she didn’t hate it. Now nine years old, she can ride the lifts without issue, take on any blue trail, and even grudgingly enjoy the powder days. But that took several years of patience, creativity, and more patience.
So what do you do when everyone in your family loves to hit the slopes except for that one reluctant skier? Here are seven tips that will help your kids love skiing as much as you do.
Ski when it’s warm-ish. Whenever possible – and especially for the first few times out – ski with your kids on a bright, sunny day. No one likes being pelted by snow and wind, and kids have even less tolerance. Skiing on a bluebird day when the snow has softened up will leave them with warm, fuzzy feelings about the sport.
Get the proper gear. Yes, skiing can be expensive. But if you want your children to love it, invest in the right gear and don’t take shortcuts. Get them underclothing that breathes and wicks away sweat, cushioned, wool ski socks (I love alpaca!), properly fitted ski pants that keep the snow out, warm ski gloves, face and neck warmers, goggles and a helmet – preferably in their favorite color or with an epic design that they’ve picked out. Every kid is different, but my daughter complained less about skiing when she could don a stylish outfit and helmet. Do whatever works! Your local ski shop may also host an annual ski swap where you can find perfectly intact gear at great savings.
Become friends with the boots. Ski boots feel unnatural to children, so make sure they get a good fit. Consider renting boots from an off-mountain ski shop where a professional ski tech/boot fitter can spend quality time helping your kids understand what they are supposed to feel like. Then have your child practice walking around in them at home so walking around the lodge at lunchtime isn’t so difficult.
Teach them to own it. If you want your kids to enjoy skiing for the long haul, teach them to get their own boots on, carry their own skis, and clip in and out of their skis. I learned this the hard way, thinking I was making things easier on my daughter when in reality I was unwittingly encouraging her to take less pride and ownership in the sport. Seeing even younger, smaller kids carry their gear proved to both of us that she could handle the job.
Recruit friends. Kids enjoy everything more when they are with a friend. Ideally, this friend would be just a little better skier than your child. This provides motivation for your child to improve and keep up with his/her friend. My daughter improved dramatically the year we skied with a friend a couple years older than she was.
Know your child’s motivators. For my daughter, having a cool outfit made her feel good, but she also liked the amenities (just like her mama!). The ski-in, ski-out Starbucks at Squaw Valley was a treat after a successful morning on the more challenging trails. Savory crepes or double-chocolate gelato helped her recharge and be ready for a few more runs. When all else fails, I’m not above bribery.
Find the fun. Find videos on YouTube from the ski resort you will be visiting and watch them with your kids. Fear of the lift is common for beginners, so watch a video to make them a bit more familiar. Go over the trail map and set a goal for what trails you want to check off your “bucket list.” If the resort has special trails or activities for kids, talk about them and get your kids excited!
If you have a reluctant skier in your family, never fear. Keep planning those family ski vacations, follow the tips I’ve outlined, and before long your child will be loving – or at least not hating – downhill skiing.