Learning to ski as an adult can be intimidating. Most kids, on the other hand, love all things to do with snow and speed and will pick it up quickly.
In order to teach them, you don’t necessarily need to spend money on an expensive skiing vacation. Here are some tips on when and how to put kids on skis.
What’s the best age to start skiing?
“The earlier, the better,” said Thomas Braun from the German Skiing Association DSV. The younger the child, the higher the learning ability, he explained.
Many kids first start skiing at the age of 3 or 4 when they are physically ready for it. But that’s not the only factor.
“Skiing has to do with motivation,” says Marc Buhl, owner of a ski school in the central German town of Winterberg, famous for its small but popular skiing area. When a 3-year-old doesn’t want to ski, it’s probably still too early, the ski instructor explained.
What kind of equipment does your child need?
Skis, ski boots and a helmet are essential, all of which have to be suitable for the child’s body and age, Braun says. On top of that, ski goggles, a ski suit and good gloves are also necessary.
New skiing equipment is expensive, however, and since children grow quickly, they won’t get much out of it. Besides borrowing from family and friends, you can also rent most of the gear from ski rentals.
“Some sports retailers also offer skis that grow with the child or exchange systems,” explained Braun. Once your child has grown out of the equipment, you can exchange it for a bigger size.
Finding the right ski course
Almost every ski school offers courses for kids, as they make up 70% to 80% of customers, Thomas Braun said.
But does it make more sense to put your kid in a group course or to pay for one-on-one lessons? While for many parents, this will simply be a question of money, it also depends on the child’s preferences, according to Braun.
“Group courses are more suitable for young children, as the motivation is higher,” he explained.
In a group, children don’t only learn from the instructor but also from the other kids. The group shouldn’t be too big, however, otherwise, the learning curve isn’t high. Braun recommends a maximum of 12 children with two ski instructors.
Ski school owner Marc Buhl has a different approach. He only teaches children under 5 individually. “The concentration is greater and the child can focus better on skiing and the ski instructor,” he said.
What do children learn at a ski course?
“Many ski schools start with a magic carpet, a conveyor belt that allows children to get to the top without exerting themselves and train their balance on skis,” says Thomas Braun. After that, they get a feel for the skis on flat terrain by getting used to gliding.
Next, they transition to slightly sloping terrain, where the children can feel the skis glide downhill. If that works, they practice making their first turns and braking.
Once at the bottom, they will first learn how to ride the platter or drag lift.
It’s important to incorporate playful elements when teaching young kids how to ski, said Marc Buhl. “We call a classic plow arch or snowplow ‘pizza’ because the position of the skis reminds them of a slice.”
Keeping the skis parallel is called “fries.” The ski instructor always stays by the child’s side when they’re learning to go downhill. “If the strength is not there yet, they can hold on to a bar or my hands for braking.”
The first descent with the parents
“If you practice intensively for three days, you can ski an easy slope with your parents afterward,” said Marc Buhl. He recommends one private lesson a day in the morning and one in the afternoon.
You don’t need to take an expensive one-week skiing vacation to get your kids into the sport. A local hill with some easy slopes will also do as long as they are still learning the basics.
Many ski schools offer flexible packages, from weeklong group courses to individual lessons for all ages. In the popular Austrian ski town Soelden, a six-day beginners group course with two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon costs about 36 euros ($40) per day.
According to Braun, children also learn quickly in group lessons. “When kids can ride the slope, they don’t need much input from their parents,” he said. But mum or dad should dictate where to ski and in what style.