Ski school, competition teams, full day, 1/2 day...advice from a Brighton instructor.

By Mountain Mama Feb 26, 2013
Whether your kids are just starting to ski, have had lessons or not. . . parents always have to ask the question, "am I doing the right thing?" I had a chat with Dain Craig from Brighton to sort it all out.

My kids have been taking ski lessons for years.  I started over 3 years ago with Emily's first lesson at Brighton.  We have come so far from those early days, into Brennan and his snowboarding and finally this year Emily joining the Brighton Competition Team taking on her first year in ski racing at 7 years old.  I went back and forth with questions on the "when to push kids, are they ready, should we continue weekly lessons....".  I turned to Dain Craig who is one of the instructors at Brighton and also in charge of teaching instructors how to teach.  He is a member of  PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) and there are several levels and degrees of instruction to go through for this.  Not all resorts require PSIA instructors, but they all go through their own levels of training.

Here are some questions/answers to frequent questions:


Me: How long should a lesson be for kids 4 and under?

Dain: Probably 2 hours max. Their attention span isn't very long and you want it to be a positive experience.  They tire much quicker than the older kids.  After that, you know your child if they can handle a 1/2 day or full day.

Me: Is it OK to go back and forth from boarding to skiing.  Brennan has been doing that for the last year. He is finally getting really great on his board and we want to try to do more boarding now. We were doing it for the convenience since he was a stronger skier and couldn't be bothered with the board. I've included a couple videos of how far he has come on his board.  This due in a big part to finding an instructor he loves-Sky- and sticking with him this season. The things Bren is doing on a board at age 5 is really amazing since it is a hard concept for little legs and muscles that aren't quite developed.

Dain: Multiple skills are good.  Remember to keep it "fun".  The "fun" factor is very important when skiing or boarding with kids, you want them to enjoy themselves.

Me: What is PSIA training and what training do you have to pass along to Brighton instructors? I am always fascinted that there are so few lessons that end due to tantrums or "No, I wont' do that".  The instructors have a way of getting the kids out there when Mom and Dad can't.  Another reason to send kids to a lesson or more.

Dain:  I am PSIA Cert II, ACE II. There are 3 levels of ski instruction. Cert III is like a masters in skiing/teaching. ACE stands for Accredited Childrens Educator. It focuses on the development stages of kids and adults.  When doing training, it is important to train on ski/board progressions to teach all people.  After all, not everyone learns at the same speed. But, don't concentrate on Level I vs Level II instructors too much. An instructor that teaches the first timers know their stuff and are trained to do so.


Me: How do you deal with kids having a tantrum?

Dain: There are many reason kids and adults act out. It can be simple like they need to use the bathroom, they have low sugar, they have separation anxiety.  If you remind them going into a lesson it is going to be fun-like playing- they go into it with that attitude.  And good advice...parents don't tag along!  Kids act different around parents vs instructors.

Me: Kids are always grouped on ages: 4-6 year olds, 6-8 year olds....why?

Dain: Skill, age and maturity.  A 5 year old is going to be a lot less mature than an 8 year old.  The age levels are taught differently while achieving the same skill focus.  If you want to ski with your buddy or your sibling, let the ski school know and normally that can be worked out.

Me: Is there such a thing as too many lessons?   I feel getting them up and running and feeling very confident is important to me.

Dain: I've skied all my life and still take lessons.  It's an individual choice.  If you just want to ski around with the kids and have fun, tons of lessons aren't important-having fun is!  

Me: Last and most important to me personally this year, when do you know when it's time to be done with lessons and move on to competition?  I went back and forth on this early this season and decided to make the leap into competition with Emily.  She joined the Brighton Competition Team this year and has had 3 races.  The second race she came in 3rd and made the podium.  In all my life, all my experiences, all my achievements...that made me most proud as a Mom!  The tears in my eyes and the joy in my heart to look at her...that's happiness!  The best thing, she loves it.  We had a huge talk and she tried out a day with the team before joining.  I told her "don't do this for me, don't do this for Dad, do it for you and just have fun".  She said, "Mom, I love it and it was so fun!"

Dain: Kids that love skiing eventually want to go faster.  If you have a child that wants to be challenged and can work in a disciplined environment, ski teams are a great fit. They are structured and focus on improving their skills, not just winning.  Techniques are similar to upper level ski lessons, but the team skis around gates and fast.  Upper level lessons learn to ski steep slopes, moguls, powder...

In summary, it has been a fun and different ski year for us.  Brennan has really improved on his board and is on his way and Emily is achieving a level of skiing I'm not sure I ever will!  No matter what you choose, the message I constantly hear....Have fun and ski safe!