It’s that moment every skiing parent lives for: getting your kid on skis for the first time. Those adorable little proxies for our unfulfilled dreams and unrealized athletic achievements are about to embark on a lifelong journey sure to include mountain-based exploration and entertainment ideally accompanied at some point by an underutilized degree, a one-bedroom apartment with three roommates and endless face shots. All we have to do is not mess it up, which means keeping it fun! Here are a few tricks, tips and expectations to help get you ready to take your kids skiing for the first time.
Rent Your Gear
We skiers can ponder the intricacies of minute changes in sidecut and edge beveling, but your toddler won’t. Don’t splurge on new gear when shops all over Utah offer season rental programs for kids. For less than you’d spend on a single binding for yourself, you can get skis, boots and bindings that you can often swap out midseason when your children are growing like weeds. Find a ski shop nearby and check out their kids’ rental packages. They’re great value and avoid the endless churn and waste of new gear.
Set Your Expectations
Now that you’re geared up and ready to go, it’s time to set expectations. Two words: aim low. I know this can be hard for former college racers, middle-aged skimo athletes and the like, but it’s about what the kids can handle, not us. It’s great to spray on social media about how on their first day your kid crushed a double blue more confidently than a vacationer from Tennessee, but fun and “accomplishment” are very different things. Forget the parallel turn and even the pizza by keeping it simple.
My not-yet-two-year-old could barely stand on skis, so I slid her down a gently ramped bit of snow in my backyard and handed her fruit snacks between “runs” on day one. She smiled, I smiled, and it was all good. You can certainly level up from what I did and go to the magic carpet at the resort, but don’t sweat the progression. Getting used to stiff boots, slippery skis and cold noses while maintaining a good attitude is what it’s all about.
Nothing shuts down the fun faster than getting cold. If you have that urge to indulge in gear splurges I earlier advised against, here’s where to channel it. Get some seriously warm puffy clothing and enormous mittens. Hand warmers are great in a pinch, too. We’ve all pushed through frozen toes and fingers for the sake of powder turns, but expecting your toddler to do so is a fool’s errand.
Remember those fruit snacks I mentioned giving my daughter in between runs? That’s about all she remembers from her first day on skis. Just as we adults appreciate a little lunch or après break, our kids love a little refreshment. I don’t know what your kids like, but fruits snacks or m&ms are great since you can dole them out in small doses and even strew them about the snow as landmarks for your children to ski to. Rewards are awesome. Yes, it feels kind of like training a puppy, but it will definitely up the smile quotient while on the snow.
Break up the skiing with some games in the snow. Make a snow angel. Build a snowman. Look at a pine bough or a bird in a tree. Do anything to help your kids embrace the fun of being outside, of which skiing is only a part. That will keep the little ones more jazzed up for the actual skiing part and leave them with better memories from the day.
Stop Too Early, Not Too Late
It’s better to stop before things devolve into an uncontrollable mess of frozen fingers and flowing tears. Leaving your kids wanting more skiing is a more desirable result than having them swear off skiing forever because they’re cold and exhausted. You’ll do more next time. Enjoy the small victories along the way.
Now Do It All Again
Congrats! Your kid is a skier now. Don’t wait too long to get them back on the hill again. Make it a regular part of your weekends and you’ll have done your part in protecting the sport’s future by raising the next generation of ski bums. Have fun out there. It’s really all that matters.
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