Being a professional aerial skier and married to a Fin who is an ex pro mogul skier, it’s hard not to get excited when the ski season rolls around. Even more so now that our son Kai is at the ripe age of 3 and is ‘ski ready’. We put him on skis for the first time at 2yrs old in the Finnish winter (bloody cold) merely to test the waters and see how keen he was. It wasn’t long before he was up and down the magic carpet, circling laps on the little kiddy slope. A few days later, he was on the chair lift. As parents, it was all smiles and we were proud as punch.
Any parent will know that you can’t force a toddler to do anything but here’s a few things you can do but warm them up to the idea of skiing and to ensure your little one has a good first experience on skis:
TIP 1: Start slow, make them feel comfortable.
We started Kai on strap-on-skis over his winter boots. These are great, you just attach them to normal winter boots and your little one can start sliding around on those. Before we hit the snow, I had him trying them on in the house and on the grass and he loved it.
Then, we started out on the flats. We’d pull him along with our poles and go over a few different surfaces.
Next was the magic carpet. First, we helped him on to it and walked along side with him to help him off at the top. From there it was a matter of having a firm grip on his ski suit and slowly letting him ski down the gentle slope “Keep your knees slightly bent, arms in front, look where you’re going”. We did that for a few laps and each time, we let go of his suit a little bit more so that he was skiing by himself. By the end of day one, he was up and off the magic carpet and down the slope by himself.
After a few days of that, we swapped his strap-on-skis, to real boots and skis (no need to buy them, just hire them). First we had him try them on inside so that he could get used to the feeling of walking around in them.
It wasn’t a big step to go from the strap-on-skis to real skis – you’ll find they’ve got more control and are more stable. Then we started up a T-bar – you just put your little one in between your legs. At first you can ski with them holding on between your legs but soon enough we were again just holding him by the scruff of his suit to slow him down in places. From there we started hitting the chairlifts and stuck to the gentle slopes and he was happy. Happy kid, happy parents!
TIP 2: Take breaks
We found, like most things, that Kai would lose interest after about 1 hr so we’d get the skis off and replace them with a shovel – digging is his all time favourite thing to do, or build a snowman or making slides down the banks. Then we have another go after lunch.
TIP 3: Have the right gear
Toddlers don’t need the bees knees of gear but there are a few essential items.
- Beanie that ties at the bottom: I find these to be more practical because they cover their ears and don’t slip off.
- Warm but light layers: You’ll find one of the challenges when taking toddlers to the snow is getting them dressed. Don’t bulk them up with too many layers because they’ll be sweating before they even head out the door (and so will you), just start with a pair of leggings and long sleeve underwear sand adjust according to the weather.
- One piece suit: Onesies are way easier than a two piece. They stay all tucked in and warm. Handy to also have one with a hood for the extra cold or windy days.
- Mittens: I prefer mittens over gloves because I find them easier to put on. Whatever the case, they should be waterproof.
- Thermal or woollen socks. Keeping your kids feet warm and dry is perhaps the most important thing to remember.
Once they’re comfortable in those items, you can get started in introducing goggles and helmets.
TIP 4: Keep it fun and positive and stay patient!
Let kids be kids. Pushing them might very well turn them off for good, so go easy, be patient and have fun.