Ski Schooling – That First Day [2&3 year-olds]

I figured another ski post was in order to celebrate the opening of nearly every ski resort in the west this weekend! Today we are going to talk about that first day on the snow with your kids. I don’t think it is a coincidence that one of my most famous posts is “Swallowing Our Pride…” all about last year’s first day on the snow, the ski boots we forgot at home…the bindings that were too loose… and of course how we overcame it all.

Where should you go?

It is hard not to get excited when the resorts start opening and you start planning that first day out. But be very strategic on where you go. You don’t have to go to a “ski area”, did you know that? In fact I’d say don’t.

Packed out sledding hills work great. And yes, that means you will be pushing, pulling or carrying them back to the top. Front yards are even better. 🙂

Here is why: I am from Colorado. I love Colorado. And I love their resorts. But they are not user friendly. They try…but getting a little kid and all their gear into the bunny hill is enough to drive both toddler and parent to tears. Your kid will most likely be ready to go home by the time you get there. This advise may not apply in Utah :). Salt Lake Areas are painfully easy and you can often drive up to the bunny hill this time of year.

Opt for close to home (or a home base), someplace you can drive right up to, on a day when the weather is decently warm. No driving snows. Set yourself up for success.


  1. Time: Two and three-year-olds really only have a couple hours, max, in them before they will be done for the day. My youngest’s first day on snow? It lasted ten minutes (of actual ski time) and was in the front yard. Both my older kids started on the sledding hill and made it thirty minutes. So you can see why NOT planning some epic trip to your favorite resort is a good idea. For the parents sake… 🙂
  2. Food: Bring a ton of snacks. You might be standing there…but your little one is exhausting his little legs! Simply balancing on the skis is hard work for him/her. They are burning a ton of calories. A hot chocolate might be in order too.
  3. Gear: Bring tools if you feel adept. Tools for adjusting and tightening bindings. Every year my kid’s bindings are set too loose. They walk out of them on the first turn or click out when they simply fall over. Having to deal with skis that won’t stay on can be a deal-breaker. However, if you are new to adjusting ski bindings, ask for help from your local ski shop. Over tightening them can be dangerous, increasing risk of injury if the skis don’t release when they should…
  4. Equipment for you? Should the parent be in skis or not? We’ve gone both ways. It can be helpful to be in your skis, with a set of poles, if you want to help your kids by having them ski with you between your legs. If they can stand and walk decently well in their skis, maybe go sans skis. It looks like this: Send one adult to the bottom of the hill to grab any fly away toddlers. Or pick a low grade slope and run next too or in front of them. Having you NOT in skis will simplify this first trip out.

Basics of the Basics

Here is what you will work on:

1. Getting in and out of skis: Visit my last post, Before you go on snow, for my break down on getting in and out of skis. Just know it will be more difficult on a sloped, snowy surface.

2. Walking: Yes, walking…both in the ski boots and with the skis on. The feel and weight of having a large stick on your foot is…weird. Let them learn to maneuver the ski themselves, turn them, and untangle their legs when they inevitably cross their tips. 🙂

Teaching toddlers to ski- between the legs

3. The feel of sliding down the hill: Most likely you will position your kid at the top of the hill, and the moment they start sliding down the hill they will simply fall backwards. Chances are they haven’t ever used the core muscles needed to stay upright while moving forward! Let them get a feel for it. This may require two adults. One to help them at the top. One to catch them at the bottom. If there is only one adult, then you’ll be getting the child used to the feel of his skis either between your legs or to the side of you.

4. Body positioning: Two things are significant here 1. Bent knees and 2. Weight forward. Accomplish this any way that works! Here are some commands that work for me:

-pretend you’re holding a pie in front of you

-hands on knees, looking forward

-point your hands down the hill, where you want to go

5. Also, as much as you can reinforce the idea that they will go where they are looking (hence say,”look where you are going”) all the better! Toddlers are sort of like a herd of cats. Easily distracted, going every which way.

6. Have fun! This might mean a lot of different things. But let go of your expectations: be prepared as best you can and bring a sled! When they announce they are all done…don’t push it too hard. A good 30 minutes of sledding or playing in the snow will do wonder for their spirits (and yours). Plus, they’ll still be putting in time in their ski boots, which will strengthen their legs and get them more comfortable in them!

Join us next week as we resume our photography series and guest blogger, Laura, from My Morning Moxie! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!


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6 comments on “Ski Schooling – That First Day [2&3 year-olds]
  1. Pingback: Extreme Sports: Waxing And Tuning Methods For Ski And … | How To Ski

  2. Thanks for all the tips… I’ll have to put some to use as I continue to get my son on skis. The only reason that we’ve hit the actual ski slope with our son is that it’s free to do so (Under 5 is free/Magic Carpet is free to accompany) and the carpet is really toddler friendly – the rest of the time we’re hitting the toboggan hills near home.

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