January is Learn a Snowsport Month, and as a result, many ski areas and state organizations offer special deals and offers to get new snowboarders and skiers out on the hill. It’s the perfect month to learn: The hectic holiday period has passed, but there is still plenty of time left in the season to practice and improve on what you learn in January.
Maybe you have decided it’s time for your daughter or son to feel the thrill of gliding on snow. You can read lots of information about how to prepare your child for ski school, but what would an instructor really tell you? Are there any insider tips? Things you should know ahead of time? Your author, a weekend warrior PSIA-certified Children’s Specialist ski instructor at Eldora Mountain Resort, shares some advice to make your day go more smoothly.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Start your kids off right by feeding them good fuel for the day – something healthy that will keep their little tummies full. Now is not the time for a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Instead, try a high-calorie, high-protein breakfast. Our family makes egg and sausage breakfast burritos and a fruit protein smoothie for ski morning sustenance. I make the burritos the night before and warm them up in the toaster oven that morning. Oatmeal with fruit and nuts, pancakes with peanut butter, or scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast are all good ideas, too.
- Check the weather. Nothing cuts short a lesson faster than cold hands or feet. Don’t let your kid be the one that makes the whole group head inside. Make sure your child is dressed appropriately for the weather. Check your local forecast, or for a mountain-specific outlook, try www.opensnow.com. You can tell how important the weather is by what I carry in my ski instructor jacket pockets: hand and toe warmers, neck gaiter, glove liners, sunscreen, and lip balm.
- Don’t overestimate their ability. If your child has never been on skis or a snowboard before, then they should be in a never-ever class. However, if they have some experience on snow, it might be a little trickier placing them in the appropriate class level. Most ski and snowboard schools have specific skills they are looking for in each grouping. Research the ski area’s web site to find out what these milestones are. If you still have questions, call the ski area. Getting your child in the right class level is a critical component of setting them up for success.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Depending on your kid’s prior experience with other sports and activities, their age, and their inclination to try something new, he or she may progress at a different rate than other kids in the group. If it is your first day of the season, don’t be surprised if you child forgot a few skills or regresses slightly from the prior winter. Also, there are elements of learning to ski beyond just learning to turn including how to be safe on the mountain, how to ride a chairlift, making friends with other kids in the class, listening to the instructor, staying together with the group, and knowing where and when to stop for a break. Becoming a complete snowboarder or skier encompasses these and other skills that they will learn in their lesson.
- Have fun! Remember, you want your child to love snowsports, right? Make it fun! Tell some jokes and fun stories on the chairlift (young kids love “Knock Knock” jokes), wear bright colors or helmet topper, take hot chocolate breaks, or sing songs while you ski. Keep it light and fun and the kids will have a blast. I always carry a handful of beaded necklaces (think Mardi Gras beads) to give to my kids. I also make sure to wear several myself while I ski because… well, why not? Skiing and snowboarding are fun. Let’s keep it that way.