Disclosure: Ski Sundown is currently an Out and About Mom sponsor. All opinions expressed by us are 100% our own.
Hi everyone! We have a VERY special post today. It’s written by our friend Lori Shield from Ski Sundown in New Hartford, CT. You may remember that last year Mandy wrote a fantastic post about Bruiser and Sparkle’s experience taking a preschool ski lesson at Ski Sundown. And some of you may be wondering about the best way to get your young children started with this family-friendly sport. Well, you’re in luck! Because today Lori is going to draw on her decades of experience as a skier and a mom, plus her professional expertise as a member of the Ski Sundown family to give us her TOP 5 TIPS for skiing with preschoolers! I know I learned a thing or two…or five 🙂
But first a little more about Lori…
Lori Shield has been married for 27 years to her college sweetheart and skiing buddy, Joe. Lori is the mom of two boys, Sam (age 19) and Matt (age 16). The boys are now man-sized, and while they dwarf her in height, they are still her little nuggets.
A former Boston and San Francisco advertising agency executive and now marketing director at Ski Sundown, located in New Hartford, CT, Lori’s dream of being a skiing family was realized back in 2003 when all four of the family’s butts were finally on a chairlift together. Happy tears! Lori and her family reside in Avon, CT.
Enjoy today’s post, everyone!
Top Tips for Skiing with Preschoolers
Written by Lori Shield
I did not grow up in a skiing family. My parents hailed from Texas and North Carolina, so the thought of skiing didn’t really enter their minds, having never grown up with snow. Our family moved to Connecticut when I was in 8th grade, and I begged to sign up for the after school ski club. My brothers and I embraced the sport, skiing at our local mountain and taking advantage of Saturday high school ski club trips to various resorts in Vermont. Skiing was an important facet in my husband’s and my dating years (he hails from Vermont and can rip) and it helped to cement our relationship, nevermind all of the awesome memories of ski trips and ski houses that we shared with friends, pre-kids.
Fast forward to becoming the mother of two very active boys, with long winters spent looking for things to counteract Cabin Fever. My husband and I harbored the hope that when the boys were old enough to give skiing a try, that they would embrace the sport with the same passion as my husband and I do! Our boys are 16 and 19 now, and I look back at those early years, and all the memories of family skiing when they were young, with such fondness.
Yes, it takes effort, organization, patience, and commitment, but boy has it been worth it! The exhilaration of the sport coupled with beautiful alpine views, the joy of seeing your kids progress, true quality time, and knowing that you have a “hook” to get them to spend time with you when they are teens (and older) make skiing a wonderful family activity that strengthens bonds. The promise of skiing was also an effective motivator for getting homework done in our house!
Now that I am working as the marketing director at the local mountain that teaches the region how to ski and snowboard, I spend a lot of time answering questions on social media and in interviews about how to introduce children (and adults) to the sport, the gear that is needed, and whether it is better to try to teach your child or put them in a lesson, and so on. Sharing tips is something moms love to do, so I thought I’d share my best with you who have preschoolers and who might be thinking about introducing the family to skiing or snowboarding.
Tip #1: Have the right gear.
Dressing for the weather and the physical nature of the sport is super important. Having your child feel comfortable, warm and dry means they can approach the experience with no distractions or discomfort. We all know what happens when a preschooler is cold and wet! No fun shall be had! Pack the bag the day before to ensure you don’t forget anything! Shop around at consignment shops, ski swaps, and stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, and look for big sales over the summer into September at your local ski shop. Here’s what you need:
- Water resistant, warm winter jacket and snow pants
- Warm, water resistant mittens
- A base layer (top and bottom), either wool or polypro, to wick moisture from the skin
- A fleece top layer and neck warmer
- Thin wool or moisture-wicking polypropylene socks (avoid cotton and doubling up on the socks)
Have your child properly sized for skis and ski boots. You can rent equipment directly at the ski area, look into seasonal rentals or new equipment at your local ski shop, or check out Ski Sundown Ski Patrol’s giant ski swap the first weekend in November. If you are offered a pair of hand me down skis or boots, have them evaluated for fit and safety by a ski shop technician.
Tip #2: Build some familiarity first!
Before taking your preschooler skiing for the first time, talk to him/her about the experience so he/she knows what to expect. Watch some videos together of kids skiing and having fun (YouTube and Vimeo have a plethora). Pay a visit to your local ski area so they can see other kids skiing, taking lessons and having a great time. Learning anything new, especially when you’re four, can be a little daunting and uncomfortable at first. End the field trip inside the lodge for a little hot cocoa treat!
Tip #3: Take a lesson or teach them myself?
If you are not a skier or snowboarder, then you will need to put your child in a lesson. If you are a skier or snowboarder, I still recommend that you put your child in a lesson! I was just talking about this with my friend, Jarrod, dad of two boys, ages 4 ½ and 18 months. Jarrod also happens to be our Snowsports School Director. He talked about how, in most cases, pre-schoolers tend to focus better and make greater progress when they take a series of lessons with a professional instructor trained to work with young children.
The instructors are patient, confidant and engaging and have a bag of tricks to keep their young students plugged in. An experienced child instructor knows when to give direction and when to allow for guided discovery. Kids learn by feeling and doing, Jarrod explained, not just by trying to respond to verbal commands.
I knew my limitations way back when and even though I was an accomplished skier, I wasn’t really sure how to explain to my preschooler what to do besides “pizza” and “french fry,” and was a little worried about my patience quotient. It is also quite possible that I would have gotten way too emotionally invested in the outcome, and that could have produced a disaster!
PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) recommends at least three lessons, “after which competency picks up steam and the learning curve escalates from there.” So, try a small group lesson and see if your child enjoys it, then make a commitment to do at least two more so that they get the basic skills into their memory bank and muscle memory.
If you truly want to be the one to teach your child, look for “Parent & Tot” or “Mommy & Me” private lessons where you take a lesson with your child. While the instructor works with your child on basic skills, he/she will also explain and teach you tips on how to instruct your child.
Tip #4: How do I know if my child is old enough to ski/snowboard?
Most mountains start lessons around the age of 4. Skiing/snowboarding parents often introduce their children to the sport even earlier. Readiness is not so much of a number as it is attitude, interest, leg strength, balance, and stamina. If your preschooler can happily play outside in the snow for an hour, and seems interested in the idea of skiing after the litmus test of his/her reaction to a visit to the local mountain or watching a few videos of kids skiing, then definitely give it a try.
Tip #5: How can I make sure the first experience is a success?
We covered what is needed as far as appropriate gear is concerned, and the importance of being warm, dry and comfortable.
As with any outing with a preschooler, having them well-rested and fed keeps the “hangries” away. Keep some snacks like a granola bar in your pocket in case they need a quick pick-me-up.
If your child is taking a lesson, be on time to lesson drop-off and pick-up. Experienced moms know that rushing a child into a new experience increases anxiety and even tears. So, get to the mountain an hour before lesson time, especially if you are renting equipment, and take a moment to explain that the instructor will be their teacher on the slopes, just like their preschool teacher, and that you will be waiting for them right there at pick-up time.
Think about having them do this with a friend. If they are both at the same ability level they will be in the same class, and how much fun is that when your BFF is trying something with you for the first time!
View from a distance! The closer you are, the more your child is going to put their mommy radar on and lose focus and concentration. Talk to your child’s instructor at the end of the lesson, find out what was taught, and if you’ll be skiing with your child after the lesson, practice the skills on the same trails. Don’t try to push them on to new terrain before they are ready. If you notice how fun and positive the instructors make a preschool lesson, copy the smiles, patience, high fives, and most importantly, keep it FUN!
My parting words of wisdom are for any parent who has never skied or snowboarded. Know that ski instructors love adult learners, and are excited to share their passion for the sport with anyone. Many mountains offer Women’s Groups where the class is taught by female instructors and only women are in the classes. Rather than watch your child engage in sports from the sidelines, skiing and snowboarding allow you to join in the fun with them. Making these kinds of memories, with all the laughs about silly falls, beating mom and dad down the trail for the first time, chairlift conversations that may not have occurred elsewhere, eating a huge, well-earned dinner and snuggling by the fire after a robust day on the slopes are things I wouldn’t trade for the world and something I deeply cherish. I hope these tips are helpful, and please contact me or our Ski Sundown Welcome Center 860-379-7669 x 211 if you have any questions about introducing your child to this awesome family sport!
This Post Has Been Sponsored By Ski Sundown
Ski Sundown is a family-owned mountain located in the Litchfield Hills, in the quaint town of New Hartford, Connecticut. During the winter season, the mountain is open seven days a week until 10:00pm every night for skiing and snowboarding. Ski Sundown offers 16 trails (15 lighted for night skiing) beautiful views, two terrain parks, league racing on Tuesday nights, and free NASTAR racing on Sunday afternoons and Thursday nights. Lessons and programs are offered for all ability levels for ages 4 and older. Ski Sundown’s Snowsports School is made up of 200 professionally trained ski snowboard instructors and include those specially trained to work with young children. Amenities include a modern lodge with two food courts and outdoor BBQ, spacious deck with mountain views, the Last Chair Tavern bar, a full service Rentals/Tuning and Repair Shop, and Ski Shop. Visit skisundown.com and facebook.com/Ski.Sundown for more information.
126 Ratlum Road
New Hartford, CT 06057
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