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How Young is Too Young to Learn to Ski and Snowboard?

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Growing up in the town of Salida, in the Heart of the Rockies, had it’s disadvantages…and if you’ve ever read the list of “you’re from a small town if” then you know what I’m referring to, ha. On the brighter side, living just a short drive from Monarch Mountain Ski Area – and having not a whole lot else to do – meant abundant time on the slopes.
My mom began teaching my brother and I at a young age how to *ski*…because I’m older than snowboards, wild concept to my children! It was her “fun job” on the weekends: ski instructor and it scored the whole family free season passes. I completely took most every moment of it for granted but I did learn to ski.
So, in my adulthood I figured I’d try this boarding stuff. I think still recovering from my full-day, private lesson at Winter Park, ouch. It’s not that I didn’t have a fabulous instructor or that it wasn’t my THIRD time on (and I use that term loosely) a board. I think what it really boils down to is the one thing I had a whole lot LESS of as a child…FEAR.
When is the best time to get your kiddos out there? RigHT NoW!
Just bundle those babes up and head on out to make snow angels or throw snowballs. The more comfortable they are playing in the snow (and braving the elements,) the better off they’ll be when they set out on a real adventure. Santa brought Noelle a pair of practice skis this year for exactly this purpose – so she can go out after a big snow storm and ski down the driveway! Her learner skis strap onto regular snowboots, making it easy to take them on and off – and yet I still end up giving piggy back rides to the top.
Several resorts and ski areas in Colorado offer lessons to children as young as three. Noelle sampled the three-year-old ski lessons at Winter Park, Beaver Creek and Steamboat Springs last year. She absolutely LOVED all of them. Now, if you’re mental picture includes your child’s tiny skis dangling several feet over head as they zoom up the hill on a chair lift – you can relax. Little learners use a magic carpet (similar to a moving walkway in an airport) to get to the top of a small slope. Their skis don’t leave the ground and instructors are with them at all times. They are usually corralled inside some sort of special “ski school” area to contain the wanderers. Their lessons also include long, indoor breaks filled with fun games, yummy food and winter snacks like hot cocoa, s’mores and swizzle sticks (a WP favorite of ours.)
Silas also took lessons but he chose to skip the skis and went straight for the snowboard…he’s now an avid eight-year-old boarder (yea!). We most recently took a trip up to Echo Mountain near Evergreen to see what it’s all about. I was impressed with their accommodations for learners. The great thing about Echo: it’s beginner-sized. Far less intimidating than huge resorts and everything is easy to find…no map necessary AND you probably won’t loose your children…but you might leave your skis (not really – just me). If you do, they will likely bring them into town for you because they really are that nice (and I tested it out)! If you’re looking for a place to start your family’s skiing/boarding pastime, this is it.
I think the most important thing about learning to ski or snowboard is that both you and your child are comfortable with what you choose: boarding vs. skiing, big resort vs. small ski area, several lessons vs. no lessons, hot cocoa vs. s’mores (I’d go for both!). We are fortunate in our state to have a LOT of options. I recommend shopping around for the best fit for your family, and try out more than one because you just never know. As for me, I’ll be giving that board another try…just maybe not this season, wink.
Author: Jaime

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  • comment avatar Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck January 19, 2012

    I think it’s definitely easier to learn the younger you are (but not too young. 🙂 Both my kids started at age 3 and that first year was a bit of a disaster. My daughter started to get it the next year and now at 7, she’s a good little skier.

    Every kid is different. My biggest thing was to make sure they had fun, weren’t too cold, or felt pushed into it. I want to make it a lifelong family sport and introducing it too soon or too much can be counterproductive. I’m hoping this will be our best season ever!

  • comment avatar Martha Fish January 19, 2012

    We taught our 2nd son at the age of three. It was quite a work out for methe first season but he could do greens in WV the next season. This year hes 4 and skiing at A-Basin. He can maneuver around obstacles (people that is). It’s perfect that no one has to trade out and hes free still so that makes it twice as nice! 😉

  • comment avatar Jenns January 19, 2012

    It really depends on the child. In our time living near Beaver Creek, we had friends who had their kids on the hill just prior to turning three and were doing a great job. My husband taught snowboarding and at the time you had to be six or seven, as opposed to three for skiing, for lessons. Of course, we all think our children are super athletic 😉 and they found people saying that their kids were older just to get them into lessons pretty regularly. It was generally very clear right away that they were too young as most of them just didn’t have the motor skills required for snowboarding yet. For many of the kids in the 3-6 ski program it is more like baby sitting but either way, they all seem to have a pretty good time getting comfortable on the hill even if they don’t spend a ton of time learning to ski.

    I don’t see my kids as being ready any time soon so we will probably get them on skis closer to age 4 or 5 just to make it worth the investment.

    Either way, be sure to tip your instructors! 🙂

  • comment avatar Jaime Swartzendruber January 19, 2012

    I agree, Amber, that pushing any sport or activity might backfire. These are definitely choices based on the individual child and Jenns makes a good point in considering the investment.

  • comment avatar Lindsay January 20, 2012

    Depends on the child. My older son started at3 years. My younger son tried skis at 2. He had enough coordination and wanted to join us. They love it and it’s a great, although expensive family activity. And we have a wonderful family tradition they can look back on. They both ski. I think they would have a hard time starting in a board at such a young age due to the leg and core strength needed, although now that they are older, I told them they can board with me anytime. 😉

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