How to Teach Your Kids to Ski

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Disclaimer: I’m not a ski instructor. In fact, I don’t even ski, I snowboard. But I’ve helped my wife teach our two young kids to ski, and I have some thoughts and notes on making this process go as well as can be expected. Let’s get started on how to teach your kids to ski.

Practical Considerations

One of the main issues with skiing is cost. You need to be creative to get around this. For one thing, never buy a ticket at a walk-up window. There almost always will be some kind of website that offers slightly discounted tickets. I’d start with Liftopia, and then check I recently used to purchase a four-day Epic pass. Our lift tickets in Telluride were $50 dollars per day for the kids, and $100 per day for the adults using this Epic pass option. That’s not bad for world class skiing and was probably the most valuable part of the trip.

However, you may be at the very beginning stage of learning to ski, and even that amount seems high. We will talk about where to ski in the next section, but consider smaller resorts for better lift ticket pricing. The smaller the resort, the easier the process is likely to be. Our small resort favorite used to be Monarch Mountain near Salida, Colorado.

Telluride Gondola
View from Telluride Gondola. Telluride is a great place to teach your kids to ski.

Where to go Skiing With the Kids

For us, Copper Mountain has been the go-to for teaching our kids to ski. There is plenty of beginner terrain on the West side of the mountain. The East side is primarily black and blue runs. If you are driving, you can reserve a parking spot at Union Creek lot which is closest to the most beginner trails. And if you decide to take the bus, you will get dropped off right at either Center Village or West Village. Check out my post about riding the bus in Summit County as it can be a game changer cost-wise. As far as pricing, we purchase adult season passes where the kids can ski free all year long. We live here, so that makes sense for us. Whatever mountain you choose, make sure there is plenty of beginner terrain available. It really helps to peruse trail maps before you show up.

Make sure you don’t have too long of a walk to the lift! There is no reason to start the day with any long walks to deflate everyone. Bring a small wagon for bringing the gear. The little kids probably won’t be ready to carry their own gear yet unless they are truly hardcore.

Proximity to the lift can be worth the splurge if you pay the $30 parking for West Village at Copper.

What to Bring to the Mountain

We highly recommend bringing plenty of snacks. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to rely solely on the power of a sweet snack to induce any skiing. But you have to pick your battles. If a few skittles on a lift get everyone out the door, then so be it. It won’t always be necessary. We have also packed some sandwiches and healthy snacks to stop at a picknick table once on the runs. These picnic table adventures can appeal to your kid’s imagination. The more you can make skiing an “adventure,” the better I always think.

Remember a water bottle, sunscreen and chapstick. Make sure your child’s goggles are cleaned off so they can see properly. Giving them old crappy goggles won’t work once they start learning to go down the mountain.

Depending on your child’s eating schedule, you may have to stop and eat more quickly than you thought. But the last thing you want is for your child to only remember being cold and hungry anytime they go skiing. You have to harness the power of association to get them interested. If fun snacks, adventurous trips to picnic tables, and frequent snack stops are part of the experience for kids, so be it.

Having a picnic lunch on mountain at Telluride, Colorado.
Picnic lunch on mountain. Telluride, Colorado. We have a card game set up to keep the fun going even while we take a break.

Time to Teach Your Kids to Ski!!!

This is possibly the hardest part of the trip, but doesn’t have to be. It can be the most rewarding part. You need help with this part. Unless you are super wealthy, ski lessons are just overpriced camp days. Let me say something here: if money were no object, then these instructors are amazing. AND, once your child is actually up and skiing, a day in these kids’ ski groups are terrific. BUT, when you are just starting out, you can save your money and do this part yourself.

A tool we highly recommend is the Edgie Wedgie. I cannot stress this enough. Years ago, the conventional thought was that this tool should NOT be used. But there was this paradigm shift that started right around the time our four-year-old Avery was getting up on skis. We used this tool for her toward the end of her learning and it helped, but we used it for the entirety of our son’s training and had great results–saved tons of time and headache and he was doing long green runs by the time he was five. So get this tool ordered before your trip, and maybe order a spare–best money you can spend on this part. This tool will support the use of a “pie” that can be difficult on young upper-leg muscles.

Like I said, I’m not a skier. But I’m told that poles are not necessary for quite a while. So no poles to start.

Other Considerations–Apres Ski and on Mountain

Weather is a very important consideration. Like I said, you don’t want your child to associate skiing trips with being too cold and hungry. Use hot chocolate breaks frequently if the weather is cold outside. The single most important thing for kids is the early association of skiing with good memories and fun times. This can be equally true for adults, so make sure you take time for that cold beer. If the weather is warm, you can stay out longer with the kids. And if it’s too stormy, think about postponing the day out. It is a tough pill to swallow, but unless your kids like being in storms–and some do!–might be a waste of energy to take them out in one.

Remember that the concept is associating the skiing with fun. If that means allowing the kids to play in the snow instead of skiing, that’s fine. Sledding will always be a go-to activity for snow. Any sort of activity that builds a positive association is a worthwhile expenditure. This is a long-term play. Your kids likely won’t make any “quantum leaps” into skiing in those early years. There will be frustrations, but keep your cool! Advanced planning is key, and using these tips you will set yourself up for success, and have fun while teaching your kids to ski.

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