January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month!
If you’re ready to learn, ski and ride school pros are ready to teach.
Getting the Most Out of Lessons for Children
Tip #1: The Right Age. The minimum age at many ski schools is 3. At age 3 most children are potty-trained and have enough leg strength to balance and slide on their own.
Age matters less than desire, however. When your children are interested in skiing, sign them up for group lessons. And then set them up for success by following these tips.
Tip #2: A Little Homework. If possible, rent equipment before the first lesson. Help your children put on the skis and boots (or snowboard and boots) and slide outside on snow or grass or indoors on carpet.
Gather all the clothing your child will need (find a list here). The day before the lesson, help them try it on. Put the clothing your child will wear in a pile by their bed and put any other items (helmet, mittens, goggles, extra socks and so on) in a bag to take to the resort.
Another tip that’s especially helpful with young children: Look at the resort website together and read about lessons. Look at the ski area map and point out where you will be during the lesson, where they will be during the lesson and where you both will meet up afterwards.
Tip #3: Arrive Early. While many resorts have streamlined the equipment rental process and ski school sign-in for children, it’s still a bit of a process. Arriving early gives you plenty of time to finish any paperwork, gather up gear and meet the children’s learning center staff. Introduce your child to his or her instructor.
Put extra socks and mittens in a cubby and give your child a hug. No rushing required.
Tip #4: Realistic Expectations. After a lesson, talk to the instructor and find out what your child learned and where they skied. Ask the instructor where you should ski with your child.
Before you go skiing together, make sure your child has a snack or lunch and isn’t too tired. It can be difficult, but avoid the temptation to push your child onto harder terrain before he is ready. Moving onto more difficult terrain too quickly can make your child afraid and this will set them back. Let your child set the pace and choose the runs.
Tip #5: Save Money. Skiing and snowboarding can be costly, but there are ways to save money. Group lessons cost less than private lessons and are usually more fun for kids.
Use a PSIA/AASI (Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors) certified ski school. This certification means that your child will learn from excellent instructors using the most current methods. Save money by taking lessons at smaller, local mountains.
Getting the Most Out of Lessons for Teens
Teens aren’t really all that different from kids. They’re just bigger. So all of the tips for kids will work for teens, with a bit of modification. If your teen wants to learn to ski or snowboard, indulge this desire.
After learning the basics of sliding on snow, teens can branch out, learning more about free ride and terrain parks, learning how to race or developing backcountry skills.
The most important tip for teens is letting them choose what they want to learn and with whom they want to learn it. Teenagers are social. Sign up your teen with a group of friends and you’re almost guaranteed success.
Getting the Most Out of Lessons for Adults
Any age is the right age to learn to ski or snowboard. Dee Oujiri, a PSIA instructor and Director for Brand + Strategy at Buck Hill in Minnesota began skiing at 40. Dee recommends taking lessons from an instructor (never your spouse!), being patient with yourself and practicing. “Time on snow is what will get you to the next level,” she explains.
Ask yourself these questions as you decide what type of lesson to take.
1) Why do you want to ski or snowboard? Is it to enjoy time with family or friends? To challenge yourself? To realize a long-held dream? What is compelling you to sign up for lessons?
2) How do you prefer to learn? Do you like learning in groups or do you want one-on-one instruction? Do you want to learn at a slower pace, say a few lessons spread across several weeks or are you more of an intensive learner, hoping to progress quickly with several back-to-back days of instruction?
3) What do you want to learn? Skiing? Snowboarding? Telemark? Cross-country skiing? A/T and backcountry skills? While your initial lessons will focus on the basics, let you instructor know your ultimate goals.
Once you’ve learned some skills, they can help guide you to the next level, whether with additional lessons or specialized clinics.
If you’re an experienced rider, professional instruction will help you reach your goals, as well. Even the best skiers and snowboarders can benefit from lessons.
And to help find a beginner-friendly resort near you, check out Liftopia’s Best in Snow rankings.