By Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
1. Take a Lesson. It you’re a skiing or riding parent, it can be tempting to teach your kids on your own. If you don’t ski or ride, you don’t have this option. But no matter where you’re coming from, putting your child into at least one lesson from a certified instructor will get him or her off to a better start. Instructors are professionals who are smarter than parents when it comes to teaching kids how to ski and ride. They know the latest and best techniques and they know how to teach them effectively. January is the time to get your kids started. It’s national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and most resorts in Colorado offer deals for never-ever skiers and riders, as well as discounts on other lessons and rentals. If your child has a 5th Grade Pass from Colorado Ski Country USA, sign them up for their “First Class” lesson now! This is a free lesson and rental for 5th graders who have never skied or snowboarded. (And if your fifth grader doesn’t have a fifth grade pass yet, you can get one here).
2. Plan Ahead. Make sure your kids know what to expect before their first lesson. Check out the resort’s website. Look at the trail map. Find the snowsports school and rental shop. Remind them of who will be on the mountain with them, if they are going with friends. Plan what to wear and dress for the coldest weather of the day. It’s always better to remove a layer when you’re hot, than suffer with too few clothes in the cold.
3. Be All About Fun. The only reason to learn to ski or snowboard is to have fun! Make sure your child knows that the instructors will not grade them or be anything but fun. Sometimes parents are nervous about their kids learning to ski or ride. If this is you, try to keep your concerns to yourself. If your child is nervous, try to be upbeat and relaxed. Earl Saline, a long time ski and snowboard instructor and trainer with PSIA/AASI, suggests keeping your tone light, enthusiastic and confident when you drop your child off. The instructors will quickly sense how each child in the class is feeling and work to reassure or comfort them.
4. Age is Only a Number. Parents often wonder how old their kids need to be before they start skiing or snowboarding. According to Colorado-based instructor Annie Breckheimer, the appropriate age is “not a number, but an attitude.” If your child is excited to ski or snowboard, seize the moment. But remember, small children tire quickly and early lessons are more about getting comfortable and having fun, than rapid progression. For older kids, don’t get hung up on the child’s chronological age, but rather their ability. Kids can learn at any age and group lessons will match kids of like abilities together. “Good instructors will divide up the classes so that the kids learn from the instructors and from each other,” explains Breckheimer.
5. Practice With Patience. Every child progresses at their own rate and it’s important not to push them too hard or too fast. This can be really hard for enthusiastic parents who’ve been waiting years to ski and ride as a family. If you’re going to ski or snowboard with your child after a lesson, take a bit of time to talk to the instructor first. Ask where the class skied and then ask where he or she thinks you should take your child to practice. Don’t be shy about asking for teaching tips, too! If you’ll be practicing with your child, ask the instructor what you should do to reinforce what was taught in class. Kids usually progress quite quickly after a lesson, or two, or three. Especially if they’re having fun. If you can, enroll your child in a month- or season-long lesson series at your resort. But, even if your child will be taking just one lesson, practicing with friends or family, especially when the practice is spiced up with laughter and love, will ensure fun times on snow.