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Annoyingly there isn’t a definitive answer to how old your child should be when they start skiing; it depends on a variety of factors. Technically a child can begin to ski as soon as they can run and jump (anywhere from 10 months onwards). However, every child develops at their own rate - and someone’s two year old can often be the same build as a three or four year old.
A broad guideline on when to start them skiing would be 3 to 4 years old.
Once they’ve started nursery or primary school, interacting with other children and taking instructions from adults other than their parents. Having this ability to understand and implement instructions given by instructors is essential in developing the necessary techniques required to ski.
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Paying for ski lessons can seem like an unnecessary cost on an already expensive holiday but giving your kids a solid grounding in technique is invaluable. They also get to socialise and make friends with other children and don't forget it gives you a bit of time to explore the mountain on your own.
Most resorts allow (potty trained) children aged between 3 – 6 to join group lessons. This will generally be one instructor to a group of 5 – 6 children, teaching for the morning. Depending on the ski school, children will learn how to use equipment, ride the magic carpet (ski travelator) and perform a snow-plough. From here they will begin to practice turning and skiing further along the slope.
For those wanting to start earlier (2 – 3 yrs) private lessons would have to be arranged. This will be considerably more expensive than a group lesson but the teaching will be on a one to one basis.
Practice at home
- Long before you set off to your destination consider getting your child some plastic skis (these are relatively cheap and have built-in bindings) and pulling them around the house. This way they become used to the feel of the equipment and the motion of sliding. It can also start to develop their balance and muscle strength.
Before a lesson
- If possible take them down to the baby slope the afternoon before their lesson; let them play around in the snow and get used to the surroundings. This way when they go for their first lesson not everything is new and scary.
Teaching your kids
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We highly recommend getting lessons from a qualified instructor but if you want to supplement their coaching here is some advice that may help you along the way:
- Use a harness/leash to keep control of your child rather than have them skiing between your legs. This reduces the chance of them developing bad technique and should improve their balance and strength.
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- Mix in playtime with skiing. Building snowmen, bum boarding or going swimming should stop practice becoming boring.
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- Take some stickers and sweets with you for use as rewards.
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Young children seem to grow at an exponential rate and more often than not clothing becomes too small within a couple of years. One way to extend the life of a jacket is to get one with extendable arms. The inner cuffs unpin and fold out lengthening the sleeves.
When it comes to skis and boots, shop bought equipment will be more comfortable and perform better than rentals. That being said renting on their first trip can often be a safe and sensible option particularly if they choose not continue with the sport in future.
Something that's definitely worth investing in is a helmet and safety equipment. When learning to ski, it's inevitable that your child is going to fall over, it’s just part of the process. Anything you can get them to wear that minimises the risks is worth buying.
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- Keep an eye out for any ski taster sessions at your local indoor slope. They are often heavily discounted and are a great way for your kids to have fun and learn some basics.
- Whilst on holiday try to get a native English speaker as your child's ski instructor. Your child is already learning new terminology associated with skiing and an accent can further complicate the situation.
- Behave and speak positively when skiing. Kids will hopefully mimic this behaviour and adopt your attitude.
- If your child doesn’t enjoy skiing or lessons straight away, don’t worry. It may be that in a couple of years (aged 6 or 7) they feel more comfortable and are ready to hit the slopes. This later start won’t hinder their development as the frequency of practice is often more of an influencer on progression.