Ski Harnesses | Good or bad??

Let me just say this: around 28 years of skiing under my belt and two parents that have taught skiing for longer than that – and I was still not prepared for how difficult it was going to be to teach my kids how to ski. Frustrating at times, exhausting, hot [cause you’re doing most the work] and slow. But they are learning!

This year has been so fun watching our five-year old recall stopping from past seasons, learn to turn, hold speed, and even manage a few “woop-de-doos” as they are called in this family.

And we’ve tried nearly every tool of the trade out there.  Our conclusion, while some of those tools might help make it easier on the parent – the kid still has to learn to ski the old-fashioned way…by trial and error [ and a little coaching along the way].

We received a Lucky Bum Ski Trainer from one of my parent’s friends and have been using it now for the last two seasons.

The debate is hot right now: are harnesses more harmful than good? teaching kids to ski

Here is my two cents:

Benefits depend on the age of the child and a host of other factors as well.  This harness in particular buckles over their shoulders and across the sternum. The largest downfall of it is the positioning on the child’s body automatically causes them to be pulled into the “backseat” while skiing.  It teaches them to lean back, instead of forward, and does not force them to use their edges, wedges, or anything else for that matter.

For a review of a harness that does NOT have this problem, check out: Lil’Ripper Gripper

So for our five-year old, we don’t use it anymore – in fact the most useful aspect of it is the grippy handle on the back, useful for helping them onto a chairlift or a quick boost up off the ground.

When they are useful:

But I do believe this ski harness is useful on younger kids.  It has been super helpful with our three-year old son.  Now, we have experienced all the negatives with him. But here is the deal: He is three years old.  There is only so much working on the wedge, learning to stop, working the edges we can do down by the magic carpet before we lose his little heart to boredom and frustration.

In his words, “I want to go fast. I want to go on the big runs.”  And after a few hours on the rope tows [my arms are jelly], and I am OK with that.  So we head up the chair and let him fly down the bigger runs – with us controlling his speed all the way.  I can let him have a little bit of fun and feel like a big kid.  And I can give myself a break. Well, sort of.

My beautiful mom on “Abs speed control duty” over christmas.

12 Comments Permalink
12 comments on “Ski Harnesses | Good or bad??
  1. I’ve totally been having this same debate, so it’s nice to see your thoughts on it. I finally ‘caved’ and am getting a harness for our 2 year old now since that’s the only way we can all ski together now since her older brother is getting pretty fast!

    • Yeah I know! We took our 3 year old up and worked with him yesterday just using the old “hanging on to Mom’s poles” method and he did much better with that and even got his wedge down. But in order to keep up with the big sister and have some fun going fast- the harness is super helpful. Also, after a day getting on the lifts with him- the little handle in the back-priceless.

  2. I got Lilah (2) a harness and all she wants to do is go down fast. We spend all day going up the magic carpet and I run down behind her holding onto her harness. I am having a hard time teaching her to turn. Any suggestions? I pull on one side of the leash and it helps her but it’s not teaching her anything. Also, do you recommend them wedging right from the start? If so, how do you teach a 2 year old that? I am a little scared taking her up the mountain until some of the very basics are learned.

    • Sara – I plan on writing a post about this soon as I fought this same battle- and yesterday I think we finally had a break through. First off- Abs is now three and a half, so sometimes at age two their legs aren’t strong enough to hold a wedge and learning the terminology is more difficult. But each kid is different. Abs wasn’t learning anything with the harness on so yesterday I committed to not using it in an effort win the wedging battle. [ You don’t have to teach them to wedge, and can go directly to hockey stop, just not sure how. But my parents might have thoughts…]

      As for the wedge –
      1. We decided to use the Edgie Wedge [ clip to keep tips together] with Abs cause he simply wasn’t getting the “tips together thing.” $9 most places.
      2. I picked simple terminology- “big feet!” While sitting on a bench [with skis on] I showed him “big feet” [ feet spread side, Edgie kept the toes together.] We made a game of it- “small feet [feet together], big feet [feet wide].”
      3. We headed down the hill and when he started going [ more like a creep] I’d shout “Big feet!” After a couple hours of trying this he was starting to get it, and eventually noticed that when he went big feet it would make him stop.

      4. Another form [again using Edgie] is to position yourself in front of the kid, facing them. Using your ski pole by pushing the basket into the Edgie between their tips- slowly walk backwards, controlling their tips and using “big feet” You can help them turn using your pole and again get them to use their edges. For the young ones you cannot really explain using words, they have to get the “feeling” of it.

      Note: the Winter Park [ I am assuming this is where you were] magic carpet area is steeper than Snowbird so you might try just pushing her up a few feet and letting her coast, rather than going to the top of the magic carpet for this- if they get too much speed at first- the wide feet is hard. Also, on bigger runs with my skis on- I did the old “have him hold onto my poles” thing, which forced him to turn with me and get the feel for his edges, something they don’t get if they are just going straight down. I kept reminding him “wide feet” every time we went for a turn.
      And I am sure you are already doing this: but keep it fun and let them play- cause at this young of an age their attention span is limited!
      Ok, I think that is all for now! I’ll let you know if I think of anything else!

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  7. We found a harness useful for allowing a bit more challenge while still maintaining safety. Generally we tried to ski with a little slack in the line, but if I needed to help him slow, I was able to. It allowed him to gain confidence quickly on the bigger hills. Without the reins, we loved how the harness made it easier to help him onto the lift.

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