Huck's First Day On Skis
Earlier this week I posted a short video of Huck skiing on Instagram. Those moments were the HIGHLIGHTS. I loved hearing him squeal, "I ski! I ski!!", and seeing his rosy cheeks plump up when he smiled. A video of Huck sitting on the ground repeating "I done I done I done", trying to kick off his skis, shouting, "I STUCK", wouldn't have been as cute. The video of me carrying all our gear and a squirmy toddler (red faced, sweating, and gritting my teeth) wouldn't have been as cute either. But those moments happened. In this post I want to share the reality: what worked, what didn't work, and what our day looked like.
Huck turned two 10 days ago. While I know that it is unlikely that such a young toddler will be able to actually turn his skis, or have the muscle strength to stand in skis for very long, I wanted to introduce him to our world. Alta Ski Resort is our second home in the winter, and I want Huck to feel right at home.
I started by gathering all the gear we needed for Huck: (hyperlinks to the products that worked)
- Lightweight synthetic base layer
- Socks - Need to find something better
- Snow bibs
- Mittens - Need to find something better
- Goggles - Huck refused to wear his goggles, bringing sunglasses next time
- Rental skis and boots
- Harness (borrowed from a friend to help us not have to bend over as much to hold unto Huck)
- Snacks - which I ate most of while I was hunting for a parking spot- big oops
- Storage box for gear
- GoPro for capturing photos and video
Ski gear is expensive--- I'd recommend hitting up friends with kids and seeing who has used/ outgrown gear you could borrow or use. I'm still hunting for some season rentals for skis that are Huck's size (and craigslist).
Once we found a parking spot, I suited up Huck, grabbed our gear from the roof box, and started trekking to the base of the resort. While Huck has been spending plenty of time in his bulky snow clothes this season, this was his first time walking in ski boots. Remember that feeling? I remember falling down the stairs at Powder Mountain spilling my hot chocolate in those stiff ski boots as a kid. You guys, learning to walk in ski boots suuuuuuuuucks. Huck kept wanting to walk, but after a few moments demanded to be carried (while I carried our skis/gear). And then he'd want to get pulled on his skis. And then carried again. Because I wanted to keep spirits high before he started learning to ski, I catered to what he wanted. It was SLOW moving.
When we got to the base of the resort, I wanted Huck to spend a good chunk of time walking around in his boots, getting used to the feeling. We walked into the cafeteria for a cookie, walked around looking at all the skiers, checked out the racks of skis, and walked over to the bunny hill. Once Huck saw the other kids skiing, he seemed much more interested ("a baby skiing!"). We clipped him into his bindings, and took turns slowly pulling him around on flat ground, trying to keep the mood fun, playful, and silly. Sometimes he loved it, other moments he wanted to sit down.
Patton had to keep reminding me to not push Huck. If Huck associates skiing with discomfort, stress, or pushiness, he is going to hate it. My goal for Huck's first day skiing was to have him standing up on his own in between my skis, skiing down a mild slope. WRONG. Not only was I wrong to have had such a lofty goal, I was WRONG to have had my own personal goal for my son's progress. Huck teaches me again and again that he will progress at HIS OWN rate. I should know better by now.
Things that worked:
- Gummy Worms! Having treats to encourage and reward (or bribe) Huck helped him stay focused on earning a reward rather than feel tired or frustrated.
- His coat and bibs were AWESOME
- I was debating about spending $50 for an adjustable, insulated helmet (he already has a bike helmet). The bern helmet fit perfectly, and helped keep his head warm while we were out in the snow. I love knowing that the helmet will work for a few more years because of the wide range of adjustment.
- Finding other small children on the bunny hill to ski by helped Huck know that he was capable of skiing.
- Going SLOW was key. Instead of rushing Huck to get back up, we found that if we played and rested in the snow along side him, Huck would be much more willing to get up and try again on his own.
Things that DID NOT work:
- The mittens I originally bought for Huck did not have a long enough cuff, and kept falling off. We are on the search for a better pair!
- Trying to coax Huck to try again before he was ready made him feel angry and frustrated. We quickly learned that HUCK needs to set the pace.
- The socks I brought for Huck (a synthetic pair of the socks he wears every day) became scrunched down into the toe of his ski boot. Do they make tall, synthetic toddler socks? Searching for a pair now...
- GOGGLES. GOGGLES! Trying to get Huck to wear his goggles were a joke! I'm not sure if they don't quite fit (we couldn't even line them up over his eyes long enough to tell if they would fit). I'm going to need to remember to bring sunglasses.
We encouraged Huck to try again--- but if he wasn't feeling it, we didn't push him. We spent a decent amount of time playing with a cute puppy at the resort, watching kids, eating gummy worms, and sitting in the snow. I guess if I had any advice for teaching your toddler how to ski it would be to keep those expectations LOW. Scratch that- throw any expectation you might have out the window.
By the end of the day, Huck was skiing a few feet on his own between the two of us. Yay!! We ended the day by sharing a pizza friends around the fireplace upstairs at GMD. As I watched my little boy falling in love with the ski culture (fist bumping the local bros, running around with other children around the fireplace, and cheering for tiny skiers on the bunny hill), I realized that Huck's first day on the mountain was a SUCCESS. Nice work, buddy!
Read my followup post on tips to teaching toddlers to ski from an ACTUAL ski instructor.