Teaching a Toddler to Ski
After my initial post about teaching Huck to ski, one of my friends on social media offered some excellent advice about teaching toddler's to ski. I followed up with some questions for Caitlyn Concklin, and she wrote some helpful guidelines. Now we have a better approach to teaching Huck how to ski. Thanks, Caitlyn!
Raised in Denver, Caitlyn Concklin learned how to ski at the age of 2, and grew up ski racing at Breckenridge. Teaching at Loveland Ski Area, Caitlyn especially loves working with young children (3-7 year olds). "My favorite part of teaching is being able to share my passion for skiing and the mountains with kids, and hopefully inspiring them to turn more towards wanting to play outside rather than inside (even if that doesn't always mean being on skis)."
What do you teach small children on their first day of skiing?
CC: On the first day it is crucial to orient kids with all the clunky gear we make them wear - it can feel so awkward and uncomfortable (even before the skis are on). Sometimes we play games like tag or freeze dance just to get them moving in their boots and gear. Before trying on skis, we get the kids to try balancing on one foot, practice bending their knees, and making "pizza" and "french fry" movements. Once we put the skis on, the movements we have them doing will be a little more difficult, so we want them to be gradual and comfortable. On that first day, we hold up the ski, and talk to to our kids about each part of the ski, familiarizing them with ski lingo, pointing out the binding, edge, tip, and tail. Once the skis are on, we encourage our kids to practice moving, gliding forward on a small slanted slope, duck walking (if they're able) or side stepping. That first day is all about getting accustomed and feeling confident!
What will the first month or so of skiing look like?
CC: For the first month, just expect to be patient. It does no good to be forceful in the learning process because that can turn off kids to skiing all together (I've seen this with some pushy parents). I wouldn't go and set specific mile markers (stopping or turning) in their learning the first month (especially when they're as young as Huck is). Their bodies need to become used to everything first. Children will get tired quickly! Four runs on the magic carpet for them feels like a heavy day of steep skiing for us.
How long can small children stay outside skiing? How do you keep them engaged and interested? And how do you find the balance between encouraging your kids to grow, and not pushing them too far?
CC: Weather plays a large factor in how long children can stay comfortable outside. On a warm day (over 32 degrees) we tend to keep them out there for 2 hours at a time. We take frequent breaks for potty, lunch, and afternoon hot chocolate. If I sense that my kids are getting bored of skiing or begin acting distracted, we immediately head into the "magic forest" (any forest can be magical!). I tell them stories, play duck duck goose, make snow angels, snowmen or just lay in the snow and look up at the trees (young children LOVE this type of play). It turns skiing back to fun over learning for them. Additionally, I've noticed that this type of fun is the first thing they want to tell Mom and Dad about when the day is done. Children live in a world of constant wonder and imagination, so incorporating this into anything and everything to do with skiing and is beneficial to the process. This ties into the happy medium between encouraging them but not pushing them too far. Know the limits your child has, and respect those limits.
What gear do you recommend for a first season? I've seen kids learning with harnesses, hula-hoops, and "edgy wedgies"--- what do you find to be most effective?
CC: Many ski instructors believe it is possible to teach without those tools. We occasionally use Edgy-Wedgies with kids that struggle making a "pizza" movement (especially small children). While different tools may work well, be careful not to let the child become dependent on them! Try skiing a few times with it, and then a couple times without it. This way they will see what it is doing for them but not get attached.
What does the basic progression of teaching kids to ski look like?
- Help your child become comfortable in the gear (without skis)
- Help your child feel comfortable standing on skis
- Getting children to glide forward (on flat ground, progressing to a mild slope)
- Begin teaching the wedge/pizza motion to slow and stop
- Introduce turning in skis
CC: Make anything you can into a game. When going down the bunnyhill we often play "red light/ green light" or pretend to be our favorite animal as we go down, even 'simon says' while skiing can excite them. This way my kids forget that they are actually being taught something and skiing remains exciting.
Thank you, Caitlyn! Have any questions for Caitlyn or comments from your own experience? Please share!