If you’re a skiing parent, you probably want to pass on the joys of skiing on to your kids. This shouldn’t be hard; skiing’s about the simple joy of sliding across snow, exploring pistes and having fun with friends! You won’t need to motivate your children to ski but choosing the right ski school, Instructor and equipment is important.
Children’s Skiing – What age can my kids start skiing?
Children can ski from 18 months, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Generally, they will only last for about 40 minutes, cannot coordinate properly, struggle to communicate with an instructor and lack the strength to make the necessary movements. Three years old is the best age to start; at three years, a child can handle a three-hour ski lesson with a solid hot chocolate stop. A good guide to tell if your child is physically able to ski is if they can go downstairs one foot over the other, rather than one step at a time. If they can do this, they are ready to ski.
Children’s Skiing – So, time for ski school – but which one?
Ski schools come in all shapes and sizes. There are several factors that should shape your choices:
Group Lessons or Private
This is not just about price. Sure, private lessons are a lot more expensive and of course in some ways better, but group lessons can be more social. The down sides of group lessons only occur if the groups are too big. The ideal solution would be to have a mix. For very young children, a private lesson might be the way to go, as groups can be a little overwhelming for little ones. Private lessons will make the kids improve quickly, but are expensive; sharing private instructors across several families is a good money saving tip.
The first thing to ask – are all the instructors qualified? This might come as a surprise but in a lot of schools, especially during high season, many of the instructors are roped in last minute from the local high school. The next questions to ask are whether the instructors on the kids group this week are motivated, do they like children and do they enjoy teaching them. As a parent, you can tell this just by looking about your resort and watching different instructors teaching on the mountain. Ask yourself, how motivated are they? How engaged with the children are they? Is the instructor smiling and looking back at the kids? Some ski schools have specialist instructors who only teach children.
Does your ski school collect criminal record disclosures from its instructors – why not ask? Children’s Skiing
Some ski schools use tracking devices such as the Flaik System. Flaik is a live tracking system, which allows a school to watch, in real time, as groups move about the mountain. Does the school require your child to wear a helmet? Do they provide a bright bib with the ski school’s number on it? Does the instructor give you a business card so you can contact them during the lesson, and does the instructor have your number?
Flaik Children’s Skiing
Are the groups organised?
Here, as a ski school director, let me ask for your patience – organising kids groups is difficult. Firstly, there is how you think they ski – trust me, as a parent I know that this can not always be exactly how they ski, as I too own a pair of those rose-tinted spectacles. Then, there is how they were skiing last holiday and how the conditions might have changed. You might have made your booking via an agency or a nanny or someone’s PA, friend, family member or sibling. So the capacity for error is huge. The most reliable way is to look at how much skiing the child has done in total and what sort of runs they ski on.
Don’t freak out if your 11 year old is in a group with a seven year old; there are some very good skiers at seven. At ES, we place the children in different groups, then all of the groups ski in the same place on day one. Swaps and changes are often made on day one and maybe day two; we feel that this is better than a ski off. Some schools do a ski off. But, I feel that if a child hasn’t skied for a while, how they do on a day one ski off might not be a fair guide to how they actually ski. The ski school should listen to your concerns and you should give the instructors a chance to make the groups work; if one child is too quick or too slow, it makes the instructors work much harder.Children’s Skiing.
Ask any instructor and they will tell you the one thing that makes it hard to give a quality and fun lesson to a group is if the group is too large. For 3 – 6 year olds, five is a good maximum number, six for older children – any more and it gets hard to teach and engage with the whole group.
Children’s Ski Equipment
Children get cold easily and more quickly than adults so don’t scrimp on kit. The children’s skis should not be above chin height, if they are beginners, and not above eye height for better skiers. Boots need to be the right size and you should set the clips so that it takes a firm push of your thumb to close the buckles. Buy lots of gloves, they will lose many pairs. Buy in bulk if you’re planning on doing a lot of skiing. They will also lose poles. A back protector is a good idea and a helmet is a must. A jacket with a lift pass pocket in the arm is important and getting gloves off to retrieve lift passes will waste lots of time.Children’s Skiing.
The night before their first ski lesson.
A good idea is to get your child to practice putting their skis on and off, as this will save time the following day.Children’s Skiing.
Skiing with children can be very rewarding; skiing as a family is always great fun. If you can search out a good ski school, like ES then you’ll have the maximum chance of turning your kids in to life long lovers of winter sports.Children’s Skiing.
Julian Griffiths is founder of European Snowsport and has two children.