Use these strategies for getting kids off the couch—and onto the chairlift.
Lifelong skiers and snowboarders know that snowsports have the power to inform your life, transform your mindset, and bond families and friends. Anyone who has set metal edge to snow and felt the near frictionless thrill of flying down a snow-covered mountainside will tell you the experience is incomparable. The sports of skiing and snowboarding, unlike say field hockey, are indeed lifelong sports.
Learn to ski and ride, and you can hit the slopes with friends, siblings, parents—even grandparents. At the end of the day, the generations can unite in that time-honored tradition of apres, to sip on microbrews and root beers and swap tales of the day.
For today’s parents, passing on a love of skiing and snowboarding is even more relevant than ever. Kids are perpetually bombarded by the pull of screen time. There is relentless digital competition for our kids’ attention: iPods, iPads, and iPhones are always at their fingertips. If only Wii Ski were actually “We Ski.”
If we can get our children away from the mind-numbing glare of the screen and out in the fresh winter air, we’ll do their bodies and minds a whole lot of good. Those chairlift rides are a time to connect with our kids in a meaningful way.
However, like anything worthwhile, introducing young kids to snowsports can take some effort. What follows are a series of tips for getting out on snow easier.
Take a Lesson from a Qualified Pro.
Most parents will only get frustrated when they can’t teach their child to stop or turn. I’ve done it both ways, and I can say with confidence, ski school rocks. Let the professionals handle it, and then you can show up the hero at day end, everyone happy. Plus, you get to ski by yourself or with a partner and get your ya-yas out—and frankly, you deserve it.
Gearing Up—Skis and Snowboards
A common sizing pitfall is to choose a snowboard or pair of skis that are too long so kids have something to grow into. You can grow into a jacket, but when it comes to the gear on your kids’ feet, you want it to be the right size to enhance the learning experience.
For beginners, skis should come up only as high as a child’s chin. Snowboards should reach somewhere between a child’s Adam’s apple and the chin. “If you have the choice, always go with the shorter board,” says Scott Anfang a PSIA-AASI examiner and snowboard instructor at Steamboat, Colo. Although he points out that for kids between ages 10 and 15, the width of the snowboard is even more critical. “If your toes are too far from the edge, you don’t have the leverage to initiate turns,” he says.
Having the right size ski boots is critical. Kids (and most adults) prefer the feeling of a boot that’s too big. It’s more comfortable that way. A properly fit boot should feel like a firm handshake. With the right ski boot, kids can learn quicker. Same goes for snowboard boots: “Kids need to be in the right size boot, so when they do the right move, it translates to the board,” says Anfang.
Dress for Success (aka, Layer Up)
Mother Nature can be fickle. To keep kids comfortable, dress them in layers. Choose a base layer of polypropylene, synthetic fabric or merino wool. Forget cotton. Today’s base layers are lightweight, wick moisture and regulate heat.
Socks are one key to warm feet. Choose ski or snowboard specific socks, either wool or synthetic, and make sure they’re not bunched up inside your child’s boot.
To Rent, Lease or Buy
Especially if you’re trying out snowsports for the first time, renting equipment makes sense. Kids usually grow out of skis and boots every season; plus they’ll need different gear as they progress. If your kids are hooked after that first day out, check with your local shop to see if it has a season-long lease program. Many of these programs are of the “gear-and-grow” variety, meaning you swap out the gear each season for the next size up. The advantage of owning your own gear, however, is that you don’t have to go through the fitting process every time.
Rent the Night Before
If you do rent kids’ gear at a resort, head for the rental shop the afternoon prior to a lesson. You’ll avoid the morning crowds, and you can take time to get properly fitted.
Don a Helmet
For most parents, this protective gear item is a no-brainer. But helmets designed for snowsports are also warm and comfortable. Pair a helmet with a pint-sized pair of goggles and a neck gaiter, and kids will stay cozy from the neck up.
Feed kids a hearty breakfast in the morning—eggs, sausage, steel-cut oats, yogurt—and pack healthy snacks in their pockets. Ply kids with water throughout the day, especially if you’re at altitude.
And in those moments when all is not going according to plan, remember you’re getting your kids off the couch and outside in winter. Any challenges along the way are worth the greater good.
For tips on getting toddlers into skiing and snowboarding, check out “Top Tips for Getting Toddlers on Board.”