How to teach your toddler to ski….
Not many people might be thrilled at the above prospect, given that one of the main attractions of going on a skiing holiday is to place your treasured offspring into the capable hands of an instructor, where they will learn the ropes, and you will get to ski/enjoy the mountains/have a bit of peace and quiet (tick the box that most applies to you!). Then you just need to go and collect them when they are worn out, happy and hungry at the end of the day.
If like us however, you leave things to the last minute AND pick a week when a lot of the “baby” instructors are off sick, and then get turned away from the only school that might have possibly taken him (as your toddler is three not four) (tick the box that most applies to you!) then these tips might help you teach your own tiny future Eddy the Eagle the basics, without a) going bonkers in the process, or b) putting him or her off for life…
Double check that you have everything you need for the day. This includes sun cream, drinks, plenty of layers that you can add or take off according to how “too hot” or “too cold” your child is.
Make sure that your toddler’s ski boots are on the comfortable side, rather than too tight and restrictive. Whilst you don’t want them to be so loose so that they risk breaking an ankle, it’s hard to tell how well they can fit, and a toddler (having never worn ski boots before) probably won’t tell you whether they feel OK or not whilst you are in the shop. The last thing you need is to get all the way to the top of a mountain and for them to refuse to wear the boots!
Tiny children often do not have glove compatible hands. We had many a gondola journey up the mountain where the Three Year old would somehow squeeze four fingers into one finger of his glove, or completely ball up his hand and refuse to put any fingers into any part of the glove. Mittens are essential toddler ski gear to keep tiny hands warm and protected when they fall over, which they will inevitably. This makes for a much less stressful time all round. I also suggest investing in two pairs of snow mittens so that you can swap what will be an inevitably icy soaking wet pair for a nice warm dry pair half way through…
Snow suits have my vote over two piece outfits any day for small children. If my three year old is anything to go by, he much prefers to wear something less bothersome, and less likely to expose his midriff and get full of snow when he falls over… Whilst on the subject of clothes, do have a trial run before you even leave the country, whilst hand me downs are great from friends and family, don’t assume that they will fit into something just because their age matches that in the label (yes I am talking from experience here!).
Helmets are completely essential and should fit properly. I am still amazed at the amount of people you see who don’t bother as if they are in the firm belief that they have some magical force field around their cranium. Whilst on the subject of ski helmets, comfortable goggles that your small person doesn’t mind wearing are definitely a must to prevent from snow blindness in both senses of the term – from the sun, and too much snow in their eyes in a blizzard.
Don’t bother with poles. There will be people who will undoubtedly try to shout this one down, but in the first few weeks of your child’s skiing life, they honestly do not need them. I was taught to ski with them, and I am sure they hindered my progress. A small child’s centre of balance means there’s no need for them until they can proficiently ski. Some people might also find it helpful to get the toddler to hang on to their pole and for them to pull them along whilst their tiny person gets used to being on skis (as Mr R did at first).
Snacks, snacks and more snacks. What’s worse than a miserable toddler? A miserable hungry toddler. Have plenty packed around your person. We tend to take those camelback water packs, as you can carry a lot of fluid this way and no-one gets dehydrated which is really important.
Make sure your small person has plenty of contact information for you about his person – I stashed away plenty of business cards, and mobile phone numbers in all pockets of the Three Year Old’s snow suit just in case….
And now you can begin…
Choose to go out on a nice day. You will be not be thanked if it’s wet cold and miserable. Opt for a warmer sunny day if you are lucky enough to have them (as we were).
Start with a relatively flat and empty piece of piste. The last thing you want is for hoards of people to be cutting you up, and you definitely don’t want to start with something on too much of a slant… Encourage them to slide each foot forwards whilst they get used to the whole sensation of being on skis on snow.
Practice stopping by teaching them the “pizza wedge” (snow plough) keeping the tips of their skis together, and don’t even attempt to talk to them about turning until they are a lot more confident. When you do, get them to follow you as you make large slow turns.
Once they are used to having skies on their feet head for the magic carpet lift (if you have one at your resort). Once they are happily sliding about, any area with a magic carpet is gentle enough for them to start with. The Three Year old LOVED everything about the magic carpet experience, from being transported upwards to skiing back down. Mr R and his older siblings came down with him holding his hands at first until he got the hang of it. Whilst on this subject, if you are not on skies, but accompanying your small person anyway, please be careful how you leave the magic carpet at the top. Being transported along and suddenly being chucked off on to icy snow without skies resulting in falling over and squashing your once enthusiastic tiny person is not going to be a great part of your day (even if you can both laugh about it now!!). I suggest you walk up the outside and catch them as they come off at the the top!!
Once they gain enough confidence to go it alone without any pole or hand holding, (and you are good enough to ski backwards – NOT me by the way, Mr R can do this, I have enough problems skiing forwards) encourage them to make a pizza shape with the front of their skis, and keep their hands on their knees with their heads up so they can see where they are going, and away you go! Don’t obviously attempt anything to ambitious and I wouldn’t bother with any chair lifts at first either.
Make every session into a game, and keep it fun, and most importantly, don’t try to do too much in one go, skiing is exhausting enough as an adult, so for a tiny person it’s even more so. Give up when they’ve had enough and they won’t mind going out again!
Hopefully at the end of the day you will have a small person that looks as happy as mine did…
Enjoy the fact that you’ve taught your small person the basics, and should they carry on practising they can thank you in the future for having taught them another valuable life skill (and thus avoiding having to endure any horrendous French Ski School at the age of 23 like I had to!)…
Finally, you might also find this post helpful if you are planning on taking the whole family! Enjoy!
PS. Whilst there are many toddler skiing aids out there to help, from reigns (back saving!) and little clips to keep the ends of skis together, an instructor I was speaking to said not to worry about these too much as they can cause children to become reliant on them…