Monday, January 2, 2012

Teach Your Toddler to Ski, Part 1

Little kids have so much fun alpine skiing, and are so cute - and let's face it - you want to get back on the slopes yourself, Mom and Dad.  So here's a method that has worked for me every time.  I've not only taught my own kids to ski but rescued several other parents from disaster trying to teach theirs.  All you need to do is prepare properly, follow the guidelines, be willing to dedicate half a beautiful spring day to your child, and he or she will be off to the slopes in no time!  As a lifelong alpine skier, racing official, and certified disabled ski instructor with three accomplished skiers/boarders for children (and grandchildren almost ready to ski), I humbly offer the following advice.  As in most pursuits, preparation is everything.  You want this to go well.  A little introduction to the concept of skis in the backyard isn't a bad thing but when you're paying for lift tickets, and out there on the bunny slope, it's good to have as many things going for you as possible.  First, let's talk age.  Little girls generally learn to ski earlier than little boys; the former can usually handle learning to ski at about age three, the latter about age four.  (Yes, my sister learned to ski before I did.  Thanks for asking.)  This age factor is not just anecdotal, it is actually borne out by science.  It is well established that girls are developmentally ahead of boys at every stage - physically, dentally, emotionally, you name it - so don't fight it.  There are exceptions to every rule, but remember that little tidbit.  The key here is that your child must be developmentally able to remember three things at once (more about those later), otherwise forget it.  (As an aside, I'll never forget the dipstick carrying his two year-old daughter around the deck of a ski lodge on his shoulders, proudly announcing that her leg cast was because she'd been "skiing too fast".  I have no time for show-offs, especially at the expense of little kids - and the risk of damaging a growth plate on a two year-old just isn't worth it.)  If your child isn't at least three - and able to remember three things at once - wait until next year.  You'll save yourself and your child a lot of grief.  A bad experience could set you back a year anyway, so take my advice and go tobogganing.  Okay, so your toddler is within the ballpark age, and bright as a whip.  Let's talk equipment.  First of all, a well-fitting ski helmet is mandatory.  Nothing else matters until that helmet is in place, for obvious reasons.  Now, the nitty-gritty; remember I said that your child has to concentrate on what you tell them - so forget the distractions: poles, tethers, and probably goggles.  As for skis, get a pair with "fish scales" on the bottom to help them walk in their skis - if you have to carry them everyplace they won't be as independent as soon as they could be.  Children's ski bindings should be mounted and adjusted by a certified technician.  Even then, it's better that the bindings release too soon than too late, so I'd back off the DIN setting one full notch.  (You can re-tighten them a quarter of a notch at a time if they're too loose.)  Goggles are optional, as long as they fit well and aren't a distraction.  The final requirement on your list is a warm, spring day.  Don't try to teach your toddler to ski in the cold.  Okay, now you're both prepared for a great day on the slopes!  Part 2 tomorrow.