My husband and I both grew up skiing so we long anticipated the day when we would be able to ski with our kids. Last season we set out to introduce our (then) three-year-old daughter and our 21-month old son to the love of skiing. We looked for a lot of advice from experienced ski parents, experimented with some ideas of our own, and ultimately came away with a few lessons to share.
Here are my tips for skiing with toddlers!
- Manage your expectations and keep the LONG term goal in mind: Keep the long view in mind. If you’re reading this, you probably want your kids to LOVE skiing or snowboarding as much as you do and dream of family ski vacations. One key is to remember it’s important your child experiences the joy of skiing and being outdoors in the winter. Even when they’re just learning. Skiing should be a fun, self-paced, social activity whether you’re three or thirty. If your three-year-old wants to make snow angels after just a single run, let them!
- Every kid is different: It’s hard to remember when other ski-parents get excited and say things like “my kid was doing backflips in the half-pipe at 20 months.” While your 20-month old might be ready to ski, ours wasn’t last year. Our then three-year-old daughter genuinely enjoyed skiing last season, but some of her friends who were three and four didn’t. Be patient and keep skiing fun, no matter what your kids level of excitement.
- Dress for success: For anyone to enjoy skiing they need to feel warm and dry – take some of our outdoor gear recommendations for kids to heart. The importance of being warm and dry is magnified for a preschooler on their first mountain experience. To get your kids used to wearing some of their new gear, let them play games with their helmets and goggles around the house.
- Pick warm, sunny days for your first outings: Part of being comfortable and having fun is the weather. Watch for those sunny, windless, 35-degree days to make some good first impressions for your little ones. My husband and I were amazed that a two-run day could become a six or eight run day with the right weather.
- Plan for a quick day: It wasn’t unusual for our 3-year old to call it quits after just 30 or 40 minutes on the bunny hill. That’s OK! You don’t want to push them past the point of having fun. Skiing should never be a chore, and always kept fun for a preschooler.
- Watch a couple of YouTube videos: There’s so much information out there on YouTube from parents sharing their own tips and tricks for teaching toddlers to ski. We found an awesome series filled with great tips!
- Get around other kids: Whether this is in a lesson or just interacting with other kids on the bunny hill, little skiers and snowboarders want to be with other kids. If our daughter found a friend on the mountain, it could double the time she was willing to spend skiing that day.
- Play games: Red light, green light is the perfect game for learning to stop! So is ring-around-the-rosy for making your little one comfortable with the idea of falling.
- Celebrate the little wins: Last year our youngest was just under two. Skiing for him entailed putting on ALL the gear (a lot of work), going outside for 10 minutes, and then going back inside for a muffin. Yup, that’s it folks! A tiny piece of success. We did that with him for most of the winter while our three-year old actually skied. Sometimes we would drag him between our legs for another ten minutes and then… MUFFIN! This year as a two-and-a-half-year-old, he can’t wait to get on the slopes and is running around with ski boots on for fun. What a difference a year can make!
- End on a high note: As soon as your little one indicates they are finished, follow their lead. We would often try the strategy of “how about one more run and then hot cocoa?” If our daughter didn’t immediately take to that idea we didn’t push it. Skiing and snowboarding is all about having fun – one of the most important tips for skiing with toddlers.
- Apres ski! A day on the mountain isn’t over until you’ve had hot cocoa: If you ask our daughter what her favorite part of skiing was last year, she’ll answer, “hot cocoa!” Many older ski parents emphasized to us that hot cocoa was fundamental to their preschoolers enjoying the mountain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the mom who skips frosting on her one-year-old’s birthday cake! But, I make an exception for this. Oh yeah and Apres ski is also for the parents (obviously), we’ve earned it.
Graduating to Ski School
This year, because of what we did last season, four-year old Lyla (our oldest) will go to 4-year old ski-school! She’s capable and so excited and we don’t have to worry about her. I can’t wait for the day I pick her up and we can take a few runs together. Our two-and-a-half-year-old, James, will have fun with mom and dad. Being able to spend the days outside in the winter is so valuable as a family. Even the times when we just go outside for a walk are valuable! Thanks to the above tips, we now know how to make our days fun and successful.