Step by Step Guide: How to Teach a Kid to Ski
OK first off, remember it’s very difficult to teach your own child how to ski regardless of how good you are. So if you don't get the hang of it right away, take your time.
It has nothing to do with your teaching or skiing ability, it’s the fact that you are mom or dad. Your child will tend to whine a little more with you, beg you to pick them up, get silly than she would if you were a stranger. Just like when my daughter whines and squirms when I brush her hair, but sits like an angel for the hairdresser, it’s the same concept. So I will tell you it was tough teaching my own child even though I had spent six years teaching little kids as an instructor. So, there is no shame in signing up your child in one of those all day or half day skiwi programs. But if you still want to teach him yourself, here is a step by step guide that should have both of you feeling more secure on the hill in no time.
Remember, the idea is not to make Olympic athletes out of them their first run. It’s all about giving them a positive experience so they come back for more. Don’t feel guilty you don’t have them pole planting within a few hours.
Step 1, make sure the skis and boots fit and are set to the right weight.
It’s very important you put their accurate weight on the form when getting rentals. Too light and his skis will pop off, too heavy and he won’t come out of his skis when he should and can get hurt. Make sure the boots are not too tight or he’ll be miserable.
Step 2, To get kids used to the skis, first get them used to the boots.
Have him walk around a little bit before clipping in. Get him used to the very weird sensation of having ski boots on for the first time. You may even see a little panic in his eyes, so show him how easily they come off when you want them to. Let him know his feet aren't in cement and it's just to protect his ankles and legs. Practice walking in them. Stay away from the stairs.
Step 3, Getting to the Bunny Hill
Do yourself a favor and carry your child's skis the first time to the bunny hill. You'll wait all day as he slips and slides on the new skis to get to where you can even start. He'll be so pooped by the time you get there, he won't even want to ski. Don't let this be his first experience with skis.
Do not take a child or person who has never skied before, up the lift. If there’s a magic carpet, that’s fine, but no lift until he knows how to go down the hill in at least a wedge, plus stop and turn on his own. Go to the hill and sidestep your way if you have to, or take the skis off and walk.
Step 4, Find a nice quiet spot on the bunny hill to start teaching.
Stick to the edges of the trail. Take your skis off and plant them out of the way. Do the same with both yours and the child’s ski poles. Always keep one eye on the hill as you focus on the child. The bunny hill is the most accident prone place on the mountain, so remember that. Always check uphill before telling a child to ski to you or to come out on the trail.
Step 5, Now stand the child up in his skis
Make sure the child is facing across the hill and his skis are neither pointing up or down. They need to be dead parallel across the hill or the minute he gets in them he will start to slide. Pointing up is even worse as he'll start to slide backwards! Have him put his skis on, leaning on you if necessary. Now, let his slide his skis back and forth in the same tracks and maybe even hop a bit, so he gets the feeling of what it's like to have big slippery boards strapped to his feet while standing on a snow-covered hill (skiing is kind of crazy when you think about it, isn't it?).
You can let him plant his poles parallel to each other to do this, but then put them aside afterward. You don’t need ski poles until you know what you are doing. For very young children, just forget the poles and hold them.
For his first lesson, you pretty much just want to get through getting down the hill, starting and stopping.
Step 6, it’s time to start learning the wedge.
Have your child make a wedge shape with the tips of his skis. You may need to get down on the ground and hold them there for a bit. Bring your child out across the snow, traversing the hill and then back again.
Make sure you only do this just a little bit so you get the feel of it, without a lot of gravity pulling him down the hill. Make sure the child’s knees are bent and his trunk is centered over his knees. He should not be leaning too far back or too far forward. You can let the child use his ski poles to get in position with his wedge.
Let him jab his poles ahead of him into the snow and brace himself that way. For a little child, it’s easier just to hold him yourself and put your boot or skis across the tips of his skis so he doesn’t go anywhere. You can let the older child keep the poles if you want, but they do get in the way. If the child does keep them, he must hold them as if he is carrying a tray and should keep his forearms straight and poles angled back enough to not get in the way or jab anyone.
I prefer to let children prop themselves on the poles, put my ski across their tips holding their skis back and then taking the poles away. Just stick them in the snow out of the way. When I say putting my ski across, I mean I use them to block the other skis from going forward. Don’t put them across the tops, just wedge the edges of your skis in so that the other skis can’t go over them. You might need to turn them in against the hill a bit.
If you are comfortable skiing backwards, you can hold a poll between you and the child and you both can go down. Or you may need to bend down and hold their tips while skiing backwards. Not fun for your back though. There are a couple of different products and harnesses you can try as well.
Step 7, The next thing you want to do is teach the child how to turn.
Have him stand in a wedge facing across the hill so that he is not sliding. Tell him there’s a spider under his left toe. Have him squish the spider as hard as he can. Now on a not very steep hill, just enough to get some momentum, what will happen is it will make him start to turn right, and he'll keep turning into the hill until he stops.
Step 8, More Turning
Now start to go down the hill, in a wedge and tell the child to squish the right spider, and watch him turn to the left. Let him make a big wide turn completely up the hill. Now do the right. Do this a few times more. Make sure to make a big fuss when he does it. It's a pretty dramatic achievement when you finally stop on your own for the first time.
Now your child has a way to stop should he get out of control, he can just turn up the hill. This will help build a little confidence but be careful not to get too confident too soon.
Step 9, Practice
Go back up to the starting point or a little bit higher, from where you were before and have the child do his matador turn so that he’s facing down the hill in a wedge, and his center of gravity is over his skis. Then you do the same thing. Have the child follow you down while you are calling out “left spider,” and right spider as you link together big wide turns. The ideal would be with you skiing backwards so you can keep an eye on him.
Remember, never let a child start to ski out of control. You need to be right there to block him or stop him from going too far, too fast. Never let them get ahead of you, or ski behind them until you are confident they can remain under control.
Step 10, If your child is having trouble staying in position, have him put his hands on his knees while he skis.
This forces him to bend and flex and to remain over his center of gravity. Leaning back will cause his skis to run out from under him and land him on his rear end. Leaning too far forward only pins the fronts of his skis down to the snow making it harder to turn. When your child is just right over his center of gravity, it allows the skis to pivot and be more easily controlled. This is a bit of a workout, so give him plenty of time to rest after doing this. Take frequent breaks. His quads will start to burn. Try it yourself and you'll see for yourself.
Step 11, Do this a few more times until you’ve had enough.
Don’t bother trying to get a child parallel skiing right after his first lesson. Save that for another day. And don't even think about pole planting. If you have poles that came with the rentals and you don't want to lose them, have him keep his arms out steady and point the tops f the pole handlesas if they are headlights. Make sure they are not at a steep angle so that the poles are pointing way out behind him.
Remember the idea is to have fun and be safe. By following these steps your child should be able to confidently stop, turn and remain under control on skis. This will help give him a good base and be eager for another fun family ski vacation.
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