16 Questions to Ask Before Putting Your Kids in Ski School

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Whether you’re a first-time skier or a seasoned pro, planning a ski or snowboarding vacation with the kids can be stressful. In addition to the logistics of actually getting to your ski resort destination, there’s the stress of putting your kids in the hands of strangers. Even when these strangers are trained and professional ski instructors.

We spoke with local ski experts for advice about ways to ensure your child has a fun, safe and educational ski school experience. They shared helpful information along with 16 tips for putting your child in ski school.

1)  What is the ideal age to start a kid skiing? Snowboarding?

This varies with each child. Most ski schools accept children in group lessons at three-years-old. Snowboard equipment is now available for kids this age as well and many do great. If the child is potty trained, not in need of a nap, follows directions, and generally is comfortable with other kids and adults, they should do well in ski school. It’s also important that they are excited to ski! Pushing too early only sets them back.

2) When are you too old or too young to take lessons?

You are never too old to take lessons. Minimum age to learn varies with the resort, but generally it’s around three- or four-years old. It’s always a good idea to take a lesson to learn or hone your skills. Especially on your first day of the ski season so you get off to a good start.

Kids Ski School tips from Colorado Ski School Instructor Trish O'Connell. Photo credit: Steamboat / Larry Pierce
Kids Ski School tips from Colorado Ski School Instructor Trish O’Connell. Photo credit: Steamboat / Larry Pierce

3) What is the advantage of a full-day lesson over a half-day lesson?

A full day lesson provides a much better pace for children to learn. It allows them to develop a relationship with the instructor and the other kids in class. Having lunch as a group is often the most fun part of the day. Instructors are great at telling jokes and stories and doing different activities that help kids relax and enjoy the day. Typically, skills are introduced in the morning and the afternoon gives them time to practice and explore.

4) What advantages does a group lesson provide over a private lesson?

A group lesson versus private is a choice that depends on each family and how the child learns best. Many, if not most, kids thrive in a group setting. They are used to being in school and often learn from watching others. It’s helpful for them to see their peers doing the same thing as they are. However, it totally depends on the child. Some kids struggle with all the excitement around them and do better one-on-one.

5) When considering enrolling kids in ski school, where should parents start?

Your preferred ski resort website is a great place to start. If there are still unanswered questions, call the ski school directly. They are happy to assist and may help to put parents’ minds at ease.

6) What equipment is required for the student? What equipment does the resort provide?

Each resort is different but most resorts require kids to wear a helmet and almost all ski shops have them available for rent. Skis, boots, ski clothing, goggles and good gloves or mittens are required for all skiers.

7) Is the ski pass included or sold separately?

This varies with each resort but most ski resorts require a lift ticket.

8) What are the top three considerations parents should note when enrolling kids in ski school?

First of all, make a reservation. At busy times ski schools fill up. Second, make sure the child is dressed appropriately for the weather and everything is clearly labeled with their name. Dressing in layers is best. Helmet, goggles, good gloves or mittens, and sunscreen are essential. Third, note the time of lesson and arrive at least 15 minutes early to avoid stress. Also, be on time for pickup. Your child will be anxious to show what she has learned!

9) What can parents do before the lesson to prep the child for ski school?

While it’s a good idea to talk about what the child can expect, try keeping it brief. The more a child thinks about things the more stress it can cause, especially the unknown. Many resorts have pictures and videos on their websites of kids in ski school. This can help ease their minds as well as let them know what to expect.

In addition, there are things you can do before you hit the slopes. Assure your child that there will be someone to take care of them and feed them. Basics, like a good night’s sleep, healthy breakfast and hydration are always helpful. Allowing time for a trip to the bathroom before the lesson is a must.

10) What qualifications do ski instructors have to achieve in order to teach kids?

Resorts differ on this as well but typically instructors are trained on physical and mental developmental stages for children. When resorts hire instructors they are looking for patient people who enjoy kids.

11) What do ski schools do to keep kids safe during the lesson?

Safety is the main priority in ski school. Most resorts have special bibs for kids in preschool. They are brightly colored and easily identifiable to area employees. Lifts are slowed down for them to get on and off and they will typically ride with an adult. Many areas have tracking devices for all kids in ski school. Also, instructors have extensive training in safety. The kids will be hydrated, wear sunscreen, kept warm and fed when hungry. They ski on appropriate terrain. Most lessons incorporate Your Responsibility Code. Kids that come out of ski schools usually have the best etiquette and safety awareness of all those on the mountain.

Kids love hanging out with other kids, another reason to enroll your kid in ski lessons, courtesy Arapahoe Basin
Kids love hanging out with other kids, another reason to enroll your kid in ski lessons. Photo credit: Arapahoe Basin

12) What is taught to the kids about safety during the lesson?

Their safety and the safety of the other skiers is stressed as the top priority of the day. Your Responsibility Code is taught with the emphasis on always skiing in control! Instructors spend quite a bit of time on lift riding as well.

13) What can parents expect their kids to have learned after one lesson? Three lessons? Five lessons?

Again, it’s different for every child but hopefully they will learn how to put on equipment, walk on their skis, glide and be able to stop after the first day. Three lessons typically has them riding a chairlift, turning, and comfortable on green runs. After five they may be exploring steeper terrain. Mental and physical development play a huge part in progress. Also, their desire to ski and motivation for skiing makes a big difference. Skills acquired and actual achievement are not nearly as important as having them develop a love for the sport. If after a week they are still happy to put their skis on, even if they are only walking, it has been a success!

14) What would you tell the parent who is concerned about budget? Safety?

Of all the components of a ski vacation, lessons are the most important. Having a safe and independent skier is worth the expense. It is always a good idea to look online for deals. As for safety, every effort is made by the resort and the instructor to keep people safe. It is truly the top priority. Try not to let your child see you anxious or worried. It is extremely hard to learn new skills if there is fear. One of the things that makes skiing fun is the excitement and adventure. It is part of the sport. Embrace it! (Or at least embrace it in front of your child.)

15) How can a multigenerational family make the most of a ski / snowboarding trip when not all are skiers (due to health)?

There are many ways to have a multigenerational vacation.  The gondola will transport non-skiers to the top of the mountain.  From there you can snowshoe on easy trails or just take in the view and join your family for lunch or photos.

In Steamboat Springs, the Strawberry Park Hot springs are a great way to enjoy the scenery and outdoors. In addition, Steamboat has an authentic western downtown that’s fun to explore. There are numerous shops and restaurants to enjoy.

Photo: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom
Taking the grandkids – Ski School in Winter Park, Colorado. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

16) Why do you enjoy teaching kids to ski?

SheBuysTravel asked Colorado ski instructor Trish O’Connell to tell us what she enjoys about teaching kids to ski. “Kids are great! They have boundless energy, excitement and optimism. They are eager to please and impress,” says O’Connell, who recommends Steamboat Springs for a family ski vacation.

Reasons to Ski At Steamboat Springs

Kids ski programs, kids-only terrain and lifts and family vacation deals like Kids Ski Free™, are among reasons why Steamboat is ranked among the top family ski resort in North America.

Plus, the kids ski program enables a seamless drop-off right at the ski school and has special GPS units that allow supervisors to track children on the mountain. The kids can go online at the end of the day, plug in their number and see exactly where they skied.

Steamboat has an incredible amount of intermediate terrain great for family skiing in addition to challenging trails for those whose skills are improving rapidly. Families also like that Steamboat has many terrain parks and kids play zones scattered around the mountain.”

Group or private ski lessons? One of 16 tips to Photo courtesy: Steamboat / Larry Pierce
Group or private ski lessons? One of 16 tips for putting your kids in ski school. Photo courtesy: Steamboat / Larry Pierce

What Are You Waiting for? Book Your Family Ski or Snowboard Vacation Now

Finally, two more tips and words of encouragement for putting your kids (and adults) in ski school from Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA):

Nearly Anyone Can Learn To Ski Or Snowboard

Across CSCUSA there are a myriad of learning programs covering all ages, abilities, and disciplines. Resorts offer imaginative lessons including groups, privates, semi-privates, family privates, adaptive, terrain park specific, bumps specific, kids’ telemark skiing, teens only, and more.

For more than 20 years, Denver-based freelance writer Diana Rowe has specialized in travel, family, and multigenerational family travel — and rightly so, with 10 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. She writes for multiple publications including SheBuysTravel.com and PrimeWomen.com, and her own blogs: TravelingInHeels.com & WineLoversVillage.com.
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5 responses

  1. Great article – I always hope to see more like this out there for parents! One thought on point 9; I fully agree that talking excessively about the unknown can further stress our little ones, but I find that using media such as children`s ski books (Joey`s First Ski lesson is one of many) and even TV shows (such as Pepp Pig goes skiing), can help to create some expectations, familiarity and fun around skiing before they actually encounter it. Really enjoyed reading – thank you!


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