I remember dreaming of doing so many things with my kids when I was pregnant. First time going to Disneyland, first time to Hawaii and of course during winter, to the mountains to ski or snowboard.
Here are my top 10 Tips to Taking Your Kids Skiing or Snowboarding for the first time:
Last month we spent three days during winter break in the South Lake Tahoe at the Heavenly Resort. One of the most scenic and pictureesque ski resorts in the US, Heavenly is the perfect destination for families. Featuring terrain for winter sports fans from beginners to double black diamond-level advanced, Heavenly has something for everyone.
During our stay we spent the day with one of the top Ski / Snowboard instructors in the world. Ryan lives in South Lake Tahoe and has a young son, and another baby on the way. He met his wife in Brazil, as the true snow bunnies all head south of the equator in summer to continuously live and play on the mountain. Ryan counts clients from all around the world who book him personally, and could literally tell me in two seconds while on the ski lift who was going to fall and how they were going to do it.
I went to college in San Diego in La Jolla, and he reminded me so much of the surfers I got to know well, expect his surf is the snow. I learned these 10 tips from Ryan:
1.Choose a Family-Friendly Resort
While this one may sound like a no-brainer, some resorts are more suited for families than others. Most resorts feature a bunny hill, which is often small, may be crowded, and doesn’t offer too many opportunities for new skiiers / snowboarders to learn on diverse types of terrain.
Heavenly may appeal to everyone, but it is especially equipped for families. You leave your hotel room and arrive immediately at the gondola, so you don’t have to trek gear for very far. At the top of the gondola is a huge area reserved for beginners. The Ski School has their own learning area, and right next door is a playground (we will get to that later!). The lift in that area is a little escalator that is easy for newbies to maneuver and a great area to learn.
2. Book Ski School or Private Instructor
Many parents like to teach their kids new skills. But there’s a reason most kids learn in a school outside the home. The same applies here.
3. Learn to Ski First
Grayson and Harper learned to snowboard on our trip, but Ryan was very clear that kids should pretty much always learn to ski first. Kids develop balance slowly, so skiing is easier for most kids to learn since they have two skis. Kid skiers are not given poles, so they solely focus on their lower half. They also don’t have to worry about getting super wet / spending so much time in the snow.
According to Ryan, kids can switch over to snowboarding between 7 and 10 years old.
4. Keep Out the Snow
There’s nothing worse than being cold, right? Now image you are only three feet tall and cold. It’s the worst! Make sure you select clothing that will create a barrier to keep snow out like snow bibs, wear several layers, a good solid snow jacket and thick gloves.
Make sure to create barriers when putting on the bibs to keep snow out of their shoes.
5. Practice Wearing Ski Clothes at Home
Arriving at the mountain is a completely new experience, especially if you have So Cal kids like mine who have barely seen rain until this year. Add in snow, and heavy / bulky ski clothes and they are in a completely new environment.
Just as you wouldn’t introduce your baby to 4 new foods at once, slowly introduce new experiences to your kids. Try on your ski clothes while at home and play in them, run around, etc. That way they can get a little comfortable in them before heading up the mountain, walking through snow, and strapping into skis.
6. ALWAYS Use A Helmet
Most adults on the mountain now wear helmets, and for kids this is a must. Whether you buy gear or rent it, always always select helmets that fit your child well.
7. Young Kids Only Have About 45 minutes to 1 hour of Ski Time
Think about when your child is learning something new. You do it for about 30 – 45 minutes, maybe one hour tops. Any more than that is a LONG time for a young child. Skiing is very physically exhausting, so the max time you are going to get for a child is about 45 minutes – one hour.
I know that seems SO short, but they are young and this is a big new skill. Consider a private instructor, whom you can hire for the morning and stagger your kid’s lesson and add in one for yourself. We did the kid’s first, then my husband went while I took the kid’s to lunch, and then I went up in the later afternoon.
It also helps if the resort has other activities for the kids. Heavenly has an outdoor play area right next to the kid’s ski area, which is a nice break for the kids while learning something new.
8. Always Learn On A Full Stomach
Make sure your kids have a large breakfast or lunch before their lesson and remember to pack snacks!
9. Rent Equipment, Don’t Buy It
I highly suggest renting equipment instead of buying it for kids. Kids grow so fast, and their interests can be fickle. One money saving tip is to rent equipment close to home if you are driving to the mountain (or further away from the main mountain resort).
HOWEVER – be very cautious when renting kid’s equipment. While you or I may be able to deal with a piece of gear that is not working properly, kids cannot. On our last trip, my husband’s left toe strap on his snowboard was missing. We didn’t notice until he got off the ski lift and went to strap on.
10. Have Fun & Don’t Stress
Skiing is inherently a pretty dangerous sport. You are going to worry about you kid’s starting any new activity, and skiing will increase your anxiety a lot more so than say, baseball.
But relax. This is supposed to be FUN! Your kids are learning a new skill, and when learning, you make mistakes. They will fall. They will get some bumps and bruises. But it’s okay! They fall everyday as it is. And remember, kids are much closer to the ground. They don’t have as far to go as you and I do.
Plus they are way more resilient than we are. So relax, sit back, and get your camera ready!
And at the end of the day…
**I was provided a complimentary trip to Heavenly Resort for my family. However, all views expressed in this story are my own.