Tips for Learning to Ski or Snowboard with Kids: First Time Guide

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KIds on a ski slope
Photo credit: FamVeld for Shutterstock



Skiing and snowboarding is a lot of fun and can be a bonding experience for families. If you’re a beginner, it’s important to take lessons and get expert tips for learning to ski or snowboard. 

We started skiing as a family after I saw so many families with older teens and college students having fun at ski resorts. Since it’s an individual sport, teens and college students have the freedom to explore and meet up with their family later. 

Most kids pick up skiing or snowboarding quickly. After one ski lesson or just a couple of snowboard lessons, most can safely navigate the beginner terrain. It’s kind of like riding a bike. Muscle memory kicks in so most kids won’t forget the basics of skiing or riding from year to year.

Ready for fun the snowy slopes? Read on for tips for learning to ski or snowboard with kids.

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SheBuysTravel Tip: Make your family ski trip more affordable by visiting one these resorts where kids ski free.


Tips for Learning to Ski and Snowboard
Stay active this winter while enjoying the outdoors. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Liberty Mountain Resort

Learn to Ski and Snowboard

My kids started learning to ski at different ages and I found they all picked it up fairly quickly. So don’t stress about age, just sign them up for a beginner ski/snowboard package, which usually includes a group lesson, rental equipment and beginner lift ticket for the day.

The industry understands it’s important to get kids hooked on skiing early. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and there are great learn to ski and snowboard packages across the country.

Read More: When You Need a Break from the Slopes, Try Snowshoeing with Kids!

ski or snowboard at Northstar Resort in California
Northstar California Resort in Lake Tahoe offers excellent ski/snowboard classes. Photo credit: Northstar ski resort

Your Family’s First Ski Trip

Taking the kids skiing for the first time seems monumental. I know, I’ve been there. Learning to ski in my 20s was easy. I picked out the perfect outfit, took a lesson from the cutest ski instructor and then drank a cocktail. My glamorous ski days started late and ended early.

Then I became a mom and everything became more complicated. My kids started on the slopes when the youngest hit 2 and the oldest was 7.

So where do you start if you have never skied as a family?

tips for learning to ski or snowboard
Mammoth Mountain is a family-friendly resort in California. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

Finding A Family-Friendly Ski Resort

Before I look at lessons for the kids, I find a family-friendly ski resort – the kind that truly likes and caters to families. To find one, consider the following:

  • Location. To save money, I prefer a ski resort within driving distance.
  • Parking Lot. I prefer to park in front of the resort instead of riding a shuttle. I never get everything I need in the first haul.
  • Beginner ski lifts. I prefer resorts with conveyor-belt type lifts for beginners. Conveyor, surface, or Magic Carpet lifts keep the kids on the ground and not dangling from a wire like a trapeze, especially important for kids under 8.
  • Beginner Areas. I make sure a beginner area is available to all skiers and not restricted to the ski school.

Read the Trails Map

Next, I look over the resort’s trail map, located on the resort’s website. I count how many green trails they offer. A color-coded trails map shows the percentage of easy (green), intermediate (blue) and expert (black) trails. 

SheBuysTravel writer Liana Moore lives in a ski town and her definitions vary a little. In her family, dad will definitely head straight to the blacks and sometimes with the kids in tow. Fortunately, after a couple of ski race seasons, her daughter has outpaced her mom and can keep up with dad.

But truly, black ski runs are really meant for expert skiers. The last thing you want is to get stuck with no way down but a run beyond your ski level. So, not only is the number of green ski runs important but also a good trail map to keep you where you want to ski. 

Tips for Learning to Ski and Snowboard
Let kids pick their sport, ski or snowboarding. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Tips for Learning to Ski and Snowboard

Ski and Snowboard lessons are a must for kids, notes Linda Irvin, executive director of the Pennsylvania Ski Area Association. “Most parents can’t teach their kids. All the ski slope meltdowns happen when parents try to teach their kids,” she says.

I couldn’t agree more. All the instructors I’ve met through the years are great with kids. They pace the program according to the ability of the kids in their class. They’re patient with missing gloves and potty breaks. If they tell corny jokes and rattle off riddles, even better.

I prefer ski and snowboarding lessons in a separate fenced-off area with its own conveyor-belt or Magic Carpet lift, like Liberty Mountain Resort. I want my younger kids in an area away from the older kids with different needs and skills.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If the ski school offers rental equipment, use it. The instructor will fit the kids and they’re pros at getting little feet into ski boots, which is more challenging than it sounds. Plus, it means you won’t have to lug more gear.

How to Cut Costs on a Family Ski Trip

A family ski getaway doesn’t have to cost a fortune. My top tips for keeping costs in check include:

  • Find regional ski resorts. Ski resorts can be found across the country. For instance, consider Pennsylvania, home to 19 different ski resorts for your family ski getaway.
  • Look for online specials and discounts. Purchasing lift tickets a week or more in advance can save up to 40 percent. Some resorts even offer free skiing for students in 4th and 5th grade.
  • Ski midweek if you can.It is not only more affordable but less busy. You avoid the weekend crowds and get more personalized attention from instructors or other ski area staff.
  • Go on an off-weekend. Some ski resorts feature demand pricing during winter school breaks. That means they boost lift ticket prices during those popular times such as Presidents’ Weekend.
  • Buy a season ski pass. If you will ski more than ten days, a season ski pass may make the most sense. Day ski passes can be expensive.
  • Check out consolidators. Lift ticket consolidators sell discounted tickets in advance.
  • Pack a picnic and snack bag. Most resorts allow picnicking outside on their decks.
Child learning to ski.
Photo credit: Pixabay

Tips for Learning to Ski or Snowboard on the First Day

If you’re timid about the first day, don’t be. Here are a few tips:

  • Reserve lessons and lift tickets in advance. First, I find that some resorts offer discounts for advance lift ticket purchase. Second, ski lessons sell out, especially during holiday breaks and three-day weekends.
  • Eat a good, solid breakfast. Sounds a bit old-school, but I recommend old-fashioned oatmeal. It’s warming and won’t burn off in the first hour. My kids don’t know they’re hungry until they get cranky and argumentative, not a good thing when learning a new skill.
  • Rent your equipment from the resort. This is key for your first experience. It simplifies the process and most first-time skiers just need standard equipment in good condition.
Tips for learning to ski and snowboard.
Using the chairlift requires common sense and some easy-to-follow rules for kids. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Liberty Mountain Resort
  • Arrive early, ideally before 9 am. Getting your lift ticket and fitted for equipment takes time. And the first ski lessons of the day or full-day ski school start early.
  • Book the earliest ski lesson for the kids.That way, kids can practice their new skills after their lesson and before the lifts close for the day, usually at 4 pm.
  • Be patient and don’t be in a rush to move up the mountain. This is hard for kids (and sometimes dad) to understand. Accidents happen when skiers and snowboarders overestimate their ability.
Teen learning to snowboard
Photo credit: Pixabay

The First Lesson

All-day programs start around 8 or 9 am and last until 3 pm. Most programs will fit kids with equipment. Usually, there’s a morning lesson, then lunch followed by an afternoon lesson and practice.

I like to stop by and look in on my kids while they practice. Most resorts allow this, like Blue Mountain Resort. If the ski school frowns on this and it’s important to you, this ski school probably is not the best fit.

Half-day morning programs start between 8 and 10 am and finish about four hours later. Most programs start with a lesson and then practice toward end of the program. The same schedule holds for the afternoon programs. I recommend the morning program unless you have a cranky morning kid.

Groups lessons last about two hours with solid instruction. The group will be skiing or snowboarding as a group.

Tips for Learning to Ski or Snowboard: Preschool Level

For the youngest skiers (ages 3 to 6), ski lessons emphasize fun. If kids start to cry, they go inside and play where it’s warm.

Preschoolers will learn the basics, like stopping and maybe making some turns. Instructors jog beside them yelling Pizza! and French Fries! Pizza to make a wedge to stop. French fries to keep the skis parallel.

Most ski resorts keep the preschoolers corralled in a separate area with a dedicated surface lift.

Don’t expect your preschooler to race down the mountain after one lesson.

Tips for learning to ski and snowboard.
If your child is snowboarding, she will spend a lot of time in this position and that’s normal. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Liberty Mountain Resort

Finding snowboarding lessons for kids under 5 can be difficult. Most resorts start preschoolers with skiing first.

Note: All preschoolers have to be fully potty trained to be allowed into ski classes.

Tips for Learning to ski and snowboard.
Terrain Parks aren’t as scary as they sound and I think of them as snow playgrounds though keep younger kids away from advanced teens. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Shawnee Mountain Ski Area/Bushkill Terrain Park

School Age Kids

Kids just want to play on skis and snowboards. Races and follow-the-leader are better on the snow, even with an occasional snowball.

For the older kids (ages 7 and up), skip the ski school and sign them up for a beginner ski/snowboard package that includes a group lesson, equipment and a lift ticket for the day. Older kids need to learn the basics, like turning and stopping, then practice for the rest of the day.

They pick it up fast since they have the coordination. However, they can have a problem controlling their speed. Most resorts allow non-skiing parents to walk in the beginner trail area to keep to eye on their kids.

If you’re skiing for a three-day weekend, I suggest signing the kids up for two lessons on consecutive days then practice the final day.

Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Services

Need ski lessons for a person with physical, sensory or intellectual challenges? Some resorts offer adaptive ski and snowboard equipment and trained instructors, like Camelback Mountain.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Keep school age kids off the chairlifts for the first day and use surface lifts, if available. Then move up to riding chairlifts with a ski instructor who will teach kids how to get on and off a ski lift.


Tips for learning to ski and snowboard
Find the right group lesson. Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association (Ski PA)/Whitetail Resort

Tips for Learning to Ski or Snowboard: Teen and Adult Lessons

Teens and college students often want the challenge of more difficult terrain. Their classes move fairly fast and many teens can ride down most green runs after two lessons.

For adults, group lessons might not be the way to go for first-time skiers. Group adult lessons combine too many people with different levels of fitness. 

Women-only ski groups offer a comfortable environment to learn to ski or snowboard. Since many moms take a sizable break to raise families, we need a little encouragement to get back on the skis.

Make the effort. I did. A day skiing with my kids is so much better than a day babysitting a snack bag in the lodge.

How to Dress for a Ski Getaway

Before I buy new stuff, I dig out what my kids already have. If you have to buy, head first to thrift stores and the Internet for deals on gently used youth gear.

Layering is the name of the game here. And each person perceives cold differently so I tend to over-layer rather than under-layer. It’s easier to remove a layer than to add a layer you forgot at home.

  • Helmets. Necessary for a safe ski or snowboard outing. Here’s everything you need to know before buying or renting.
  • Winter Coats. Grab the one with a hood and throw it in the washer. After a good cleaning, grab several cans of water repellent, spray down the coat and let it cure.
  • Snow Bibs or Pants. I prefer bibs for most kids since ski pants are hard to fit around a kid’s waist. Everyone gets black bibs so I can hand them down. Kids sit in the snow a lot, so I spray the pants with water repellent, especially the seats of the pants.
  • Base layer. Most kids have them for sports. Skip the waffle-weave long underwear and go for a polyester or spandex-type base layer since it doesn’t itch.
  • Fleece Layer. Again, another item most people have. Wear it or pack it just in case.
  • Ski Gloves. Make sure they’re water-repellent gloves; anything else and the kids’ hands will get cold and wet. I buy inexpensive gloves for the kids since one will get lost, every single time. Spray gloves down with water repellent too.
  • Scarves and Hats. Instead of scarves, my kids like neck gaiters or infinity scarves. Add a ski hat or beanie to wear after taking off the ski helmet to cover sweaty, wet hair.
  • Socks. I use the two-sock method for my family, a polyester sock liner first, then a thick-blended ski or hiking sock.
  • Hand and feet Warmers. Tiny pouches that warm up when needed. Buy them at home and bring them with you to the resort. They work wonders for cold hands and feet. They’re also available at resorts. 

SheBuysTravel Tip: Be sure to check out our comprehensive ski packing list before you go!

Family Snack Pack

With the kids out skiing and snowboarding, I like to pack snacks for grab-and-go convenience. I use my reusable shopping bag and stash it at the outdoor table so my older kids can grab a snack when taking a break. Here’s what I pack.

  • Water bottles
  • Gatorade or flavor packets
  • Hot water in a thermos
  • Instant hot cider or cocoa packets and tea bags
  • Instant Cup-of-Soup
  • Granola bars and Protein bars
  • Jerky
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Dried fruit or fruit leather
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Freeze-dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Cookies
  • Marshmallows and roasting sticks

Since most resorts feature a fire pit, I hand my kids a fluffy marshmallow to roast at the end of the day. Their faces light up after a long day on the slopes. 

Other Things that Make Life Easier

I pack another bag for the non-food stuff, including a first aid kit with bandages (blisters), a baggie with lip balm and a small can of sunscreen for their faces. Don’t forget the tissues and wipes.

Gloves always get lost, so I pack extra gloves and drop in a phone charger. I keep the ski googles in there but my kids prefer to use sunglasses for sunny days.

Some families change into ski boots at the car but I find that kids slip and fall. I grab my giant reusable bag and haul all of the equipment and boots in there. I can fit all ski and snowboarding boots and helmets in the bag as we make our way to the ski lodge.

Tips For Learning to Ski or Snowboard

  • Reservations are required during holiday breaks, like Presidents’ Day Weekend. Ski school sells out.
  • Kids should be required to wear helmets.
  • Remember: Beginner runs are not the same as GREEN runs. Just because it’s labeled green doesn’t mean your kids are ready to cruise a green run after one lesson.
  • Some ski schools offer half-day programs but not during school holidays. The ski resorts prefer full-day programs over holiday breaks.
  • Kids learn to ski and snowboard faster than adults.
  • Remember to sunscreen everyone’s face and keep lip balm in the pocket of each jacket.
  • Pack some high energy snacks, like dried fruit, nuts, protein bars.
  • Remember to hydrate. Put a bottle of water in jacket pockets and toast the mountain before or after every run.
  • Grab your giant reusable bag, if you have one, to lug gear. Can’t be beat for ski boots and helmets.


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