Let me start by stating that my kids are nearly 6 and 8, and I have found that introducing little ones to the joys of skiing and snowboarding to be a deeply rewarding yet challenging experience. There are many pitfalls along the way, but this cheat sheet can help you maneuver your way through them. To be clear, this primer does not apply to the technical aspect of teaching your kids to ski or snowboard but instead provides you with a handful of concepts for maximizing your family ski experience.
Begin with bribery
Bribery — in the form of donuts, hot cocoa, candy, French toast, Lego sets, stuffed animals, pony rides or trips to Disneyland — is an excellent way of enticing children to go out in the cold and waddle their way to the chairlift. Bribing is one of the oldest forms of motivating humans, and it just so happens to be a great tool to get your kids excited about skiing.
Set expectations at zero
In years past, I intentionally set my “ski expectations” low in the effort to never find myself disappointed. At the suggestion of my mother-in-law, I now put them at zero, because any win is a pleasant surprise. I have found this concept works well when on a ski holiday with children, especially when stuck in traffic.
Kettlebell swings are your back’s best friend
There is nothing more suitable to conditioning yourself for schlepping your kids and their gear around than a regular routine of kettlebell swings. The kettlebell will strengthen all the needed muscle groups that support your spine while hoisting your kids onto chairlifts or pulling them to their feet after a fall. Don’t take my word for it, talk to the king of the kettlebell — Pavel Tsatsouline. Beneficial kettlebell movements include the swing 9:04, the Clean 18:24, the Press 24:18, and the Snatch 30:12. You are welcome, comrade.
Practice putting on ski gear at home
The sound of ski boots on hardwood floors makes me steam, but it’s a sacrifice one must be willing to make. In our household, we have an annual rite of passage: Get your ski gear and practice walking around the house. Having your kids boot up and dress themselves is a good way to go through the checklist of the items they will need to ski in all conditions. Learning how to step into and release bindings is 101 in teaching your kids to ski on their own. Trying on ski gear in advance also ensures that everything fits so you are not forced to buy expensive equipment at the resort.
Getting gear without refinancing your home
Skiing equipment can get pricey. I feel “taken” if I am forced to pay full price for ski gear for myself and my family. Our household is no stranger to purchasing previously used equipment and we often find great deals at Play it Again Sports, Craigslist and fall ski shows. Additionally, ask ski friends with older kids if they have any used gear they need to get rid of (thank you, Brad and Cory!). It is an equally rewarding experience to give ski gear to families new to skiing. It’s the circle of life.
Check in with your kids not your email
We all know the challenges facing humanity with technology usage. We hop between screens like we used to play hopscotch. A large reason why I love skiing with my kids is that it breaks through the technology barrier and encourages meaningful conversations.
To leash or not to leash?
Have you ever been leashed to a 3-year-old trying to keep up with his older brother through the trees on skis? It’s a cheap thrill every parent should experience. I don’t condone the leashing of kids at the mall or airport, but for tots who can’t stop, a couple of ski sessions with you controlling the brakes can help your youngster get the feel for speed without you having to scream, “Slow down!” I am grateful to now have my youngest off-leash and skiing on his own.
Use bright-colored clothing / helmets to cut through the clutter
A typical day at your favorite ski resort usually includes a lot of other skiers. If you get separated from your family on the slopes, it can be difficult to spot your loved ones in the crowd. Dressing your kids in ‘90s fluorescent clothing is a great way to keep track of them from afar. I spray-painted my kids’ helmets gold, so they are unmistakably mine.
Pillows in the car for sleeping kids after a ski day
One of the best moments a parent can have is the solitude of sleeping kids in the car. Don’t get me wrong, I love chatting with my children about the day’s ski adventures, but I also like the sound of silence. A pillow is a must-have for the ride home to ensure maximum sleeping potential.
Rinse and repeat
Once the ski gear is cleaned and put back into storage, it is important to ask your kids what their favorite run was or if there’s anything they want to improve upon. This keeps skiing top-of-mind and helps them mentally prepare for the next adventure. As they say, repeat as necessary. Good luck out there.