Alpengluhen has an article that got me thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and skiing. How the hell he did that is beyond me, but fair enough…
Let me start this off by saying at the resort we teach skiing to children ages 4+, and snowboarding to children ages 8+. Why the difference? I used to joke that it took an extra 4 years for a child to build up the proper angst and disrespect for their elders to properly snowboard…
It’s at this time checklists such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs come in handy. I have attended the ACE 1 training and never finished the certification point. Does this make me an expert at teaching children? Not at all. It’s taken several years to feel confident in teaching young children and I still learn more each season.
Back to the basics of the questions received now. Most of these parents tell you their child is 4 or 5 at this point, which serves as a great indicator for how the conversation will continue. Attention spans are still short at this age. Depending upon the child basic needs can be an issue yet to be clearly spoken. While the child can walk, their physical strength may not yet be up to the point of competency when skiing. (If you don’t believe me, try laying on flat ground, rolling to your feet, and standing up. Even adults have issue with this one.) Even with these limitations there is still one overall challenge that tops them all; parents.
The real challenge of teaching skiing isn’t the kids, it’s the parents. Overall kids this age are just excited to be playing in the snow, making snowballs, sledding, falling in, eating, or building snowmen. The introduction of a snow sport just provides yet another avenue of excitement for the children. Which is the key take away from snow sports; to have fun outdoors. For younger children, associating the concept of skiing with a fun time out in the snow is the most important step to creating your future Olympian. Many parents have difficulty understanding that a great ski day may include putting on the ski boots and building snow forts. Yet their kids have already started to bridge the concept of skiing with a fun time outside.
Let me add my take on this… Start out with the basics of what ruin a ski day for a youngster. The Maslow’s Hierarchy is important because before you can actually enjoy skiing or riding, you have to not be miserable.
First, “I’m cold.” Imagine that you are your average parent and you decide that Jr. needs to learn to ski as a five year old. So you pony up the $125 for ski school and send Jr. off for the day. Why would you waste the entire day if your kid is going to spend most of it back in the lodge because he is cold from the cheap ski clothing you bought at Walmart?
I am not knocking the value proposition of Walmart for buying your average coat for your little kids. The coat that your kid wears from the house to the car and from the car to school and during the 15 minute recess and back to the car and between the car and home. You are not at home where your kids are building a snow fort the 5-10 days per year when it might snow wherever you live. (I live in Phoenix and it is 78 right now on Dec 13, so suck it!) Assume that it is going to be cold.
So let’s assume that you don’t want to drop $100 for a good ski coat for your kid that they will outgrow shortly. Then make sure to layer well. And even with the best ski clothing, you still want to layer. Bring that extra sweater. Stay away from cotton sweatshirts and stuff that soaks up water. Being cold sucks. Being wet and cold is worse.
Next worst, “I’m Hungry.” Bring snacks. Most kids programs feed the kids and provide hot cocoa during the day, but there is never a bad time to have a pack of a high carbohydrate snack. I personally love peanuts and cashews for snacking, but ideally, a good trail mix is awesome. You can get packets at the gas station on the way up.
Finally, “I’m tired.” Make sure that Jr. gets a good night’s rest the night before and if you are going multiple days, make sure they are in bed at a good hour after skiing, if they don’t crash immediately upon leaving the hill.
Warm, fed, and rested.
Now, back to the original point of the post–it is very difficult to do more with a 5-6 year old than simply try to get them some familiarization with the snow, the cold, and a little bit of snow time. Whether Jr. is on skis or a snowboard, the first several trips add very little for kids under 5-6 if they are not successful and don’t enjoy it.
Remember that the physics of snowboarding for smaller kids is a lot different than the physics of skiing. For fear of offending all my snowboarding friends, if your kid thinks he is the next Shawn White, check out Tanner Hall. Skiing isn’t some lame, old person’s sport despite how hard Jake Burton has marketed his sport to line his pockets. If you lack the physics to snowboard as a 6-7 year old kid, you are far better off skiing than snowboarding. Time on snow is time on snow. And there are a lot of places and things that skiers can go or do that snowboarders can’t. It is never bad to be able to do both and then choose based on conditions. Of my adult friends that ride, many were skiers when they were younger and still enjoy skiing as well.