Grandkids on skis

By Ray Grass Jan 12, 2010
Nothing better than for a granddad to see the grandkids skiing and having fun

I had two opportunities last week to take the grandkids skiing -- Deer Valley and Solitude.

There’s nothing more enjoyable for a senior skier than watching the grandkids ski. There were times when I wondered if they would ever embrace the sport.

Eight of the 10 grandkids now ski, and they ski well.

I’ve had a number of parents ask me at what age they should start kids skiing.

I always refer them to professionals, like Mya Frantti, child program manager at Deer Valley.

Her advise:  

Most kids are ready to start at 3. Parents can help by introducing kids to the outdoors and snow, maybe having them walk around the backyard is boots and maybe skis.

At 3, Deer Valley works one-on-one for a hour to get them comfortable with the resort, being away from parents and the snow.

At 4, it evolves to two-on-one playtime and a little skiing.

At 5, kids jump into full-on lessons, comfortable with the snow, having skis on their feet and knowing skiing can be fun.

“It helps to have a bluebird day, but that’s not always possible, which is why it’s a good idea to leave teaching to professionals who know how to make skiing fun,’’ she added.

I look back at when the eldest, Conner, now 13, made his first turns on the Wide West run at Deer Valley . . . wide pizza, occasionally French fries, shaky legs, arms like broken wings and, sometimes, tears.

I watched him run the race course at Solitude Saturday, his first day with the resort’s all-mountain development program, and was truly impressed. He skied with confidence and under complete control.

In this program he will ski every Saturday, on all runs and under all conditions -- groomed, powder, crud, tracked powder, firm -- and on all runs -- beginning, expert, flat, bumps, off-trail, trees, jumps, you name it.  

To quote Conner: “It was incredible.’’

Most resorts offer a similar program. And, I believe, there’s not a better program for a young skier. They learn to ski the entire mountain and under all conditions. They become true all-round skiers.

As for the younger ones, I found the Link lift at Solitude provided access to a very good run -- gentle, open and not real crowded. Perfect for learning.

I’ve also found the Wide West run at Deer Valley an ideal learning arena. The lift is set low for easy pickup and young skiers can negotiate the entire run, under control, with a wide wedge or “pizza,’’ and occasionally in a parallel or “French fries.’’ Pizza and fries are terms young kids can better understand rather than wedge or parallel.

Solitude offers a Play and Ski programs for kids 2 to 5. It involves a little skiing, time playing in the snow and going indoors for lunch and games. It’s an all-day program.

The ski school is open to kids age 5.

I spoke with a father at Deer Valley who was teaching his 2-year-old. He would later tell me he taught for a few years. It was obvious he knew what he was doing. I’ve heard of parents starting their child sliding at age 1. Two is the youngest I’ve seen. Three is when I started my kids and grandkids.

I’ve found, also, unless a parent has some ski/snowboard teaching experience, I would strongly suggest using a resort’s ski school for youngsters.

First, kids sometimes have a real problem listening to mom and dad. Second, mom and dad don’t alway know proper teaching techniques. Bad habits are hard to break. Third, kids are more motivated when they ski with others their own age. And, fourth, mom and dad can’t always make it fun -- and it has to be fun and simple.

All resorts have programs for kids and teachers who know how to teach skiing and snowboarding. And believe me, watching grandkids skiing and having fun makes the time and expense well worth it.