5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Ski

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I’ve written a popular blog post on the 5 Mistakes Parents Make Teaching Their Kids to Ski. I figured it would be helpful to also give you tips on what to do right. Let’s face it, careening down the mountain yelling at your little one, “Pizza,” probably isn’t getting you very far. Use these tips to improve your kid’s ski day.

Ski Tip 1: Teaching the 3- to 4-Year-Olds a Wedge

For my entire first season of ski instructing, I taught kids ages 3 to 4. At that age, everything has to be a game. Even teaching the kids to make a pizza didn’t make any sense to them. Most of them thought pizzas were round. After a week of desperation, I came up with the game of Mouse/Elephant Door. Little ones have a hard time separating their body parts into separate movements, making the wedge tough to learn. This helps them visualize that.

The front of their skis are the mouse door and the back of the skis are the elephant door. They have to keep their tips close together but not touching. If they close their tips, they squish their mouse. If they open their skis too wide, the elephant runs over their mouse. If they don’t open the back of their skis enough, their elephant can’t get in the door.

Ski Tip 2: Teaching the 3- to 4-Year-Olds to Turn

I talked above about the difficulty for the little ones to separate the parts of the bodies. This is very apparent when it comes to turning. Shifting all their weight from one foot to the other is hard enough for a three-year-old but adding skis ups the balance challenge.

To master this skill, we’re taking the mouse/elephant game to a new level. I take them to a nice wide part of the hill where they have time to ski across for more than a few seconds. We talk about how mice make tiny steps and elephants make big loud steps. As they cross the hill, I’ll have them lift their upper hill ski and make mouse and elephant steps. This teaches them to get their weight on their downhill ski.

Ski Tip 3: Teaching 5- to 6-Year-Olds

At this age, the mouse/elephant game may not work on them, but they’re now better able to understand making a wedge and feeling how that movement helps them stop. Honestly, green light/red light is and will always be a great motivation for all ages learning to stop. I’ve yelled “stop” at kids going too fast only to have them ignore me. The second I yell “red light,” bam, they stop.

Once again, kids have a hard time separating parts of their body. If you have a minute, watch kids turn. Often their hands mirror their legs. If they’re trying to turn left, their right arm will make a possible fist and rotate their arm. (Check out the first photo. You can see she’s turning to the left by putting pressure on her right foot and rotating her arm.) Use this to their benefit. Have them pretend like their riding a bike or a motorcycle with their hands on the handlebars. Make sure you’re demonstrating this as well; kids always copy you.

Ski Tip 4: Teaching 7 to 11

I’ll be honest, kids this age pick up skiing fairly fast as long as they can watch you and you break the steps down for them. Motivation, however, can make it challenging. Learning to ski isn’t always fun, and they can plateau once they get comfortable in a wedge. However, one thing that always motivates them is making it a competition.

I give them points for everything (this can sometimes work on some of 5- and 6-year-olds). Put on their skis by themselves, five points. Tap their upper foot traversing the hill, a point each. You might think tracking a bunch of kids’ points all day might get old, but they honestly don’t notice if you do or don’t. With the younger ones, I’ll tell them they got 80 points when they ask, whether they do or don’t. I make the older ones track their own points.

What do they get with these points? Not a whole lot. They’re excited at the mere fact of collecting them. Of course, I always carry candy in my pocket but I don’t make any rewards contingent on skiing.

Ski Tip 5: Make it Fun

It doesn’t matter what age anyone learns to ski, keep it fun. When someone is learning, skiing isn’t exactly fun. It’s challenging and scary and it’s really hard. I sing songs, I play make-believe, I tell made-up stories, I play ski games.

  • Who can ski up hill the farthest after a J turn.
  • Who can spray the farthest snow with a hockey stop
  • Cops and robbers with me being the robber and having them chase me down
  • How many barrels can they go around
  • Can we ski a run entirely in the trees
  • I’ve skied doing the Hokey Pokey

Not a Tip but a Good Lesson

Kids are born with perfect hearing (usually). What they’re not born with is the ability to discern different noises. If you’ve talked to your kid and had their attention on everyone and everything but you, you’ve experienced this. All noise comes at them at the same level. This is a reason they also hone in on their TV shows with such intensity. They really can’t hear you talking to them while they’re focused on it. If you don’t have your kids attention, get on their level and look them in the eye. This pulls all their focus on you so they can hear you.

For an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!

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2 thoughts on “5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Ski

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  1. So many fab tips! I think I would have loved learning to ski with you when I was little! The Mouse/Elephant Door is a great idea, as are all the games. It’s so funny that the points work, even if you don’t gain anything from “winning” more points.

    Even learning to ski as an adult it can get confusing to separate the movements for different parts of your body, so I love that you found fun ways for kids to learn those techniques.

    Liked by 1 person

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