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

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.