Five positions for teaching your young kids to ski…

Probably the question we get asked the most during the winter is, “How do you actually teach your kids to ski? I mean how to you physically help them on the hill?” Today we are going to attempt to answer this question or at least share a few ideas.

There are so many good ways to teach a young kid to ski. And as we’ve worked with each of our three kids, different things have worked. Some used an Edgie Wedgie or ski harness for a time. Others, not at all. Overall, you have to work through the process of trial and error. Below are the “teaching positions” we use when working with our young skiers.

1. Between the Legs

Skiing with young kids at Canyons Resort

Great for steep sections of a run or when you need to cover some ground quicker than a “snail’s pace.” Our caution: many kids will lean/hang from you (making you very tired) and resulting in the child not really learning the feel of standing on their own skis.

2. Side-by-side, holding hand.

Skiing the meadows with our beginner skier

Great on low-angle easy runs. The child gets the feel for balancing, turning, etc on their own skis but with the comfort of having you nearby. Our youngest has excelled using this “technique.” Our caution: Depending on everyone’s skill level, skis can become easily entangled. Parent must figure out how to hold the kid’s hand without pulling or unbalancing them on turns. It will take some practice on both parts.

3. Side-by-side with ski poles

grandpa and toddler skiing at Snowbasin

Much of the same benefits as holding hand, but with a little more support for the unstable beginner. This “old school” way of teach a kid is probably my favorite. And it was the very same one my parents used with me. Our caution: Um… besides killing your back? I’ve seen some kids hang or lean on the poles. It is also hard for the really young (2-3 yrs of age) to hold on to the poles well.

4. Parent goes ski-less

Teaching toddlers to ski, Solitude Ski Area

This is great for the really little kiddos. You can run behind, run in front, catch them at the bottom, easily help them up, or give a hug without the hassle of having skis on. Our caution: Only really works well at the super beginner stages.

5. Parent skis backwards, controlling kid’s speed with poles

Dad skiing with toddler at Canyons Resort, Utah

This is a great option to stick in your back pocket for super easy beginner terrain. It gives the child a feel for turns and shifting their weight. Our caution: Well, the adult needs to be comfortable skiing backwards, which depends largely on terrain and crowds.

What methods have worked for you as a child or with your own children?

 

21 Comments Permalink
21 comments on “Five positions for teaching your young kids to ski…
  1. It’s hard here to ski with the kids in beginner areas because most hills make you pay to ski the bunny hill! Crazy. The kids are free but the adult has to pay at least $20 to ski with them. One blessed hill lets adults use their skis. The local hill near my house even charges parents $5 per time to just walk on the bunny hill!!

    My husband has been playing tag with my son in the beginner area which is working well. He runs ahead and my son has to chase him. My husband does zig zag patterns so my son has to practice his turns. Done in boots, but really does work well.

    Wish I could ski backwards.

  2. We did one season of kid between our legs and hula hoop to try and teach our oldest and it wasn’t much fun. I came across these- http://www.hookease.com/ and decided to give them a try. I have nothing to gain from promoting this product and it isn’t something I would normally do but they have been awesome. We have a 5 year old, 4 year old, 2.5 year old, and 1.5 year old. I totally credit the hookease for helping my oldest two become independent skiers last year. With them both okay on their own we are able to go as a family (at least on the magic carpet, we haven’t figured out chairlifts with all of us yet) which is pretty darn awesome!

  3. Great post, gave me some new ideas for when we take the kids skiing in February. The side-by-side and holding hands techniques were new to me. And it’s comforting to hear that kids can start skiing so young – we’re mainly going for the sake of our 6-year-old but now I’m thinking we may let the 3-year-old give it a shot too:o)

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  5. I like this post because it makes us parents feel less like we are “doing it wrong” – you have a lot of options that are all simple and somewhat obvious. But you don’t say “the only position to use is X, anyone who uses Y is just plain wrong” like it seems most online advice on this issue I find says. So thank you for that!!!!

    I’ve done 4 out of 5 so far – have not done the ski-backwards one yet – unfortunately our local hill is a bit too crowded to make it practical.

    With our 6 y.o. I have used the side-by-side hold-the-poles method to get him through steep patches. The only drawback I find with it is when he is on the outside of a turn he ends up getting whipped around so fast that he’s just hanging on for dear life… (this is because I’m doing it on a steep patch, so I can’t turn too slow). It also is a good thing to do on the first run after a long break, until he gets his confidence back.

    We just had our 3 y.o. up for the first time yesterday and I had her between my legs as you show. The first run she was leaning way back with her full weight on the poles and ignoring my pleas to “stand up!” But by the third time she was only using the poles when losing her balance. I think this method is ok to use as long as you try to make sure they don’t rely on the poles too much – which I am hoping I can do by letting them droop/sag when she puts too much weight on. 3 short runs was all she could take but you have to start somewhere. It was a good experience for first time on skis. I take the “lets go faster” comment she made on run #2 as a sign of good things to come.

    Thanks again for the articles.

    • I have been told “I am doing it wring” many times, sometime insinuated from the smug glance of an instructor. I am glad I could encourage you in that!
      We too have had the “slingshot” effect of the side-by-side pole option, a definite downside. And 3 runs is good for a first time! Our kids made it about 30 minutes.

  6. This is awesome! We are coming back to Utah for Christmas and my kids want to learn how to ski. Since I’m not amazing, I was thinking of trying to sign them up for lessons…. but then, if we are only there for a short while I’m not sure how that will work. Any ideas?

    • If you are wondering then get them the lessons. A good instructor will improve their skiing a lot faster, and with short time and Utah terrain being a notch above the average ski area, they really will benefit from lessons. You would too!

  7. I tried a lot of positions and harnesses, and I highly recommend Slope Ropes (www.sloperopes.com). The length of the ropes keeps you far enough back to allow you to snow plow, and it saves you and your back from being bent over with your kid between your legs.

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  9. I tried between the legs but it broke my back! Then tried a hula hoop and ultimately took Sean’s suggestion with Slope Ropes. The hula hoop worked but was just annoying to carry – plus one friend who used to be an instructor told me a horror story about them breaking in the cold. My little one is a speed demon – I couldn’t risk her getting away!!! 😉

  10. Great tips! We’ve done them all with our oldest and then forked over the money for lessons once she got better. Our second just wants to bomb down the hill so it’s going to be a challenge teaching her! I love skiing with my kids and watching them enjoy it!

  11. I taught both my kids using Hookease. They are a device that attaches to the backs of the skis and connects to your poles. You can help the child control speed and make turns while skiing behind them. It gives them a good feel for independence. My children both used Hookease for one season (when they were 1.5) and could ski independently and in control by 2. They are 3 and 5 now and ski the whole mountain with control and confidence.

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