It is a wonderful moment in every skier's life when your offspring are ready to learn to ski. Typically, this occurs sometime between the end of diapers and before the start of primary school. We have put together a few guidelines to help you introduce your little ones to the wonderful world of alpine skiing.
Although not all ski schools are created equally, the best advice is simply to send your children to the ski school that is closest to your hotel. Between the morning scramble finding all the ski goggles and that one missing glove, buckling up ski boots Not Too Tight! and getting to the meeting point on time, sparing yourself the necessity of taking a lift to a ski school will make for a less stressful start to the day. Only if you have good reason, such as knowing friends or knowing the instructor, does it justify the hassle of going to ski school that is geographically distant from your hotel.
Many parents are tempted by the allure of a private ski instructor who provide one-on-one attention and can presumably take your budding ski champ from the magic carpet to black diamond peaks in record time.
A few things to reflect upon: Kids learn better in groups and can really motivate each other. For anyone who has been witness to the end-of-ski-week race, you know the competitive frenzy of which I speak. Further, with a sport like skiing, which is really more of a life style, it is more important to ignite the flames of passion for skiing above and beyond learning technique. The mastery of alpine skills will come only if the whippersnapper loves to ski. Hence, a group lesson, of the right size, is advisable.
For parents who want to give Junior a competitive edge, there is always the possibility to book a few private hours throughout the week, either before or after ski school.
Ski instructors seem to fall into two categories. There are those who love to ski and therefore find employment as a professional skier and there are those who love to ski and they love children. The latter, as you can well imagine, is preferable. After all, up to a certain age, ski school is really just day care on skis, so a love of children can be vitally important.
When booking the ski school and on the first day of lessons, specify the preferred language of instruction and don’t be afraid to test the instructor. Groups are often international and therefore the instructor may have to teach in more than one language. Many claim fluency in multiple languages but then “forget” to teach in both languages. Fortunately, most ski schools have instructors who are fluent in English, the local language and often a third language.
A good litmus test for a ski instructor is to ask for their phone number. Many are reticent to supply this information, more of the fear that helicopter parents will be calling in for hourly reports. However, a good instructor will understand a parents’ need for a lifeline to your little moppet. Do get the phone number but don’t misuse it. Only call in the case of an emergency or if you cannot pick up your child on time.
Just like at school, where the teacher can make or break a child’s passion for learning, the wrong ski instructor can interfere with your little tyke’s alpine development. Most ski instructors are there to share the joy of skiing but if your moppet is unhappy and the chemistry is not quite right, don‘t be afraid to request a transfer to a new group. The short-term hassle will be well worth a happy skier and a successful family ski week.
It may sound elementary, however it is worth noting that youngsters need to be in a ski course with other youngsters who speak the same language. A linguistically isolated child will not make friends, will not enjoy the ski week and will not want to come back next year. Many children form lifelong friendships during these early years on the slopes, and their parents become friends with one another too (hello Susan & Matthew!). When booking the week of ski school, be sure that there will be other children in the group of a similar age who are fluent in your family language.
If your little skier is staying at ski school for lunch, ask about the menu. Chalet restaurants offer a staggeringly poor range of meals – in Austria, it’s Schnitzel, Spaghetti Bolognese, and hot dogs with fries all the way. If these gourmet dishes are not appropriate or acceptable for your family, be sure to pack a snack and provide enough money for an alternate lunch and drinks. Ski resort restaurants are notoriously pricey, even for basic fair, so be prepared to dig deep into your pockets for the sake of a good meal. A hungry skier gets cold and tired faster so make sure your child is well fed and fuelled for a rigorous day on the slopes.
The end of every ski week usually culminates with the big race on Friday. The kids love it, and some parents love it too! As much as parents want to “see results for their money”, don‘t pressure Junior to win the race. Remember, you didn‘t win any medals in skiing either. Kids put enough pressure on themselves, so the best thing to do is congratulate your budding skier on the progress they made at ski school. Praise, after all, is the best motivator.
It pains me to write this, but skiing is not for everyone. Even if you live and die for skiing, your son or daughter may have other ideas of a good time. It‘s cold out there and skiing can be overwhelming for young children. I‘ve seen too many parents who expect too much from their child too early. The fastest learners do not necessarily become the best skiers either, and in any case, the goal is for your snow bunny to love skiing.
Sadly, many children associate a ski holiday with a separation from mom & dad, just like going to day care. Be prepared to spend some time on the beginner slopes applauding Junior’s skill and bravery on the slopes. Above all, listen to your child if they express sadness or frustration with skiing. The reasons may be not about skiing itself and more about the situation, such as a grumpy ski instructor, poor group dynamic which is ultimately a lack of friends, or sometimes just wanting to be with you on the family holiday.
Many parents tend to think that if it's just for one week, it's okay to skimp on childrens' skiwear, which is a huge mistake. Make sure the kids are wearing ski clothes that keep them warm and dry in any alpine weather. A cold and damp child will learn to hate skiing very quickly. If you cannot find reasonably priced outfits, don’t worry. ⇨ SkiGala can deliver top quality rental ski clothes directly to your hotel anywhere in Austria.
If you still are not sure how to dress your Kid for Skiing - our another Blog "How to Dress Kids for Skiing" is worth to read.
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