Christmas may be behind us, but for those thinking about getting away for some fresh air, sunshine and skiing, all things ‘snow’ will still be firmly on your minds! Whether you’re a novice or a slalem superstar, skiing with children will bring a whole new dimension to your time on the slopes (and the apres ski), so we’ve got some advice Claire Politt, PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) Level 2 Alpine qualified Ski Instructor with a Level 1 and 2 Children’s Specialist accreditation. Here she shares her top tips for skiing with young children and staying safe on the slopes….
Learn the basics before you go
If you have access to an indoor or dry ski slope, it’s advisable to learn the basics of skiing before you go on holiday. If you don’t then working on general fitness really helps. Exercises combining core strength and balance are great as they will help you get used to using the muscles needed for skiing.
Buy essential ski safety equipment beforehand and make sure it fits
A well-fitting helmet and goggles that fit with it are essential. Most ski schools now require children to wear helmets during lessons and it’s a good idea for everyone to wear one. Goggles are much better eye protection than sunglasses because they give full coverage and there’s no chance of sunburnt eyelids. Child sized goggles are readily available and should fit comfortably with the child’s helmet with no large gaps and feel snug against the face, not tight.
Research family-friendly resorts and consider which best suit your needs
There are lots of good family-friendly places to learn to ski, and what may work well for one family may not be as good for another. Some things to take into consideration are:
- Which country do you feel comfortable visiting?
- Are you flying or driving? For first timers it’s probably better to fly.
- Transfer time from airport to resort.
- Proximity to the slopes – with little children, being closer to the slopes is generally better since it’s harder for everyone to carry them and their equipment.
- Accommodation preferences – chalet style, hotel, B&B, self-catering? Often with smaller children slope-side self-catering or a family friendly hotel makes the most sense since their food preferences can be handled easily.
- Other activities in resort – swimming pool, skating rink, shops, children’s club, crèche? Most children need a break from skiing for at least one full day during the holiday. Younger children may need one break every day, so other activities are essential.
Opt for the largest number of beginner/green slopes
Generally, anywhere with over 20% of its terrain dedicated to green runs will have a large number of beginner slopes for younger members of the family to practice on. However, many resorts count gentle, narrow cat tracks as green runs which are often not as easy to ski as they appear, so a good look at the resort trail map is essential. Size is also a factor – a large resort will generally have more beginner terrain than a small resort just because of its relative size.
Arrange private lessons
Most children learn quicker and more effectively in private lessons, so starting off with private lessons is always a good idea. The one to one nature of the lesson means they will get more attention and spend less time waiting for their turn. You’ll find that 3 or 4 one hour lessons will progress them just as well as group lessons do.
Make sure little ones stay hydrated
Dehydration is often an issue when children go skiing. This is often characterised by headaches and sleepless nights – not what you want while on holiday. A good measure is to get them to drink twice the amount of water as you think they need, plus an extra glass at the end of the day and before bed. Stopping regularly during the day for water and toilet breaks is also a good idea.
Consider age and ability
I’ve taught children as young as two and a half years. Those that want to ski because they have older siblings that ski tend to be more interested in learning at that age, and any instruction they have really does need to be tailored to fit the child. The two main things I concentrate on are: balance (basically learning to stand up and slide) and having fun. We often do very short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes and then have a break. If your little one is sturdy and athletic, they are more likely to take well to skiing. But remember, the most important thing is that your children have fun.