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October 23, 2007

Skiing with Your Kids

I am the father of three, two of which are already skiers. Jarrett far less so than Jake. Jarrett is 6 and this is probably his first "real" winter of skiing. He got a couple of days in the last two years, but he never really got into it.

So here are some lessons learned from my experience as a ski dad with Jake that we get to work on with Jarrett:

  • Nothing ends a ski day quicker than being cold. If you are gonna drop $60 on a lift ticket and ski rental for a little one (even one Jake or Jacko's age), spend the money on good clothing for them. Preferably bibs which you can buy a size or two too big and just shorten the straps buying you as many as three seasons.
  • Make sure that you are clear on the purpose of the day. If the snow is good, you probably want to spend the extra money on putting them at the kids camp, even if they are fairly seasoned skiers. Until the last two years, I would drop Jake at kids camp on epic days.
  • Did I mention keeping them warm? Let me say it again... warm. Buy good gloves and socks--not the cheap cotton gym socks they wear with their skate shoes either. One of the regulars at Brian Head recommends panty hose because it is thin, lets your feet breathe, and will keep you warmer. Hand and foot warmer pockets in the gloves and the accompanying warmers are a good idea. So is hot chocolate periodically.
  • Never take them on runs above their ability. You want them to gradually build confidence.
  • If you are not the patient type, get the kiddoes lessons. It is worth the money and it is far more fun to ski with them once they are in the green-blue range comfortably.
  • Bring games or the old X-box to the condo with you along with plenty of movies. If you like to have a drink or chill or do grown up stuff at night, keep them occupied with the stuff they like to do at home.
  • Earplugs should always come with. Maybe the kids need them from the racket in the condo or maybe you need them because extremely tired kids snore, but you want to make sure the kids get a good night's sleep.
  • Plan meals to keep the kids happy and bring lots of snacks. I stop at Costco and get a case of individual Oreos and Granola bars.
  • Helmets are a must. Start them young and make them wear a helmet.

I made some serious mistakes with Jake. Like him screaming at me that he cannot do it and make it down because it is too cold or the run is too steep. Matter of fact, there I was ready to choke him and pissed because my ski day was getting ruined and he needed to suck it up. And he was 6. The problem with oldest children. They are like first cars. You are poor and want to do mechanical work which usually results in breaking stuff. You can always sell a car though. I was lucky not to ruin Jake on skiing by being a bad ski dad.

But don't let that discourage you from bringing the kids with you. 6-7 years old is a good time to start them. Earlier if they are OK staying in the kids camp. By the time they have 3-4 days of skiing, they will be able to hit most of the good blues and you can ski with confidence with them.

Jake is bordering on whooping my butt at it and the day is coming soon. But it is because I took him almost every time I went skiing since he was 6. Focus on small things and using good technique and they will learn it young. Now if I could just stand his sass and little mouth. But I taught him most of the smack talk too, so I am reaping what I sow.

Posted by Justin at October 23, 2007 12:37 AM


One small addition that should fit somewhere in your first or third point...

Bring extra pairs of gloves.

Learning to ski or snowboard, students regularly fall down. The snow is wet. On top of that, kids love snow. They love to make snowballs, they love to dig, pile, push, or make carvings in it. They will get wet. Let them enjoy the snow, it helps to create some great memories and excitement for a return trip. But an extra pair of gloves can make all the difference for a good day.

Posted by: Oft-piste at October 24, 2007 11:52 AM

Great Advice Justin, it is key to keep them happy. I would add carry candy with you to avert melt downs and make it into a game.

Posted by: Steamboat at October 25, 2007 11:23 PM

Good article Justin! I have three kids as well and I am going to start skiing with my four year old son on this season.

Posted by: Marko Pyhajarvi at October 29, 2007 05:56 AM