• Dave Burrows

Should you start them skiing young?

You know how they say that a builder’s house is never finished. Well it seems it is the same for ski instructors and my attempts to teach my 2 year old daughter how to ski last season.

When can I start my children skiing? It’s one of the most common questions that we are asked before and during the ski season and I hope to give you some answers to this eternal question here.

The truth is that there is no set age when it works best. I’ve seen 18 month olds skiing almost parallel with after their parents but I also know some of the best skiers on my local mountain didn’t start until they were 4.

No amount tiger parenting is going to push a child who is not ready to try skiing and may actually be counter productive. The stories you hear about Swiss kids being on snow at 2 aren’t necessarily true and ‘on snow’ can mean many things.

Take my own experience for example. Zoe is quite strong willed (much like her mother and father) and only really wants to try things on her own terms after much observation and assessment. These aren’t things that she is consciously doing, it’s just her nature, so last season I ended up skiing her gently around our local blue pistes with her in one of those baby hiking backpacks.

Now I absolutely would NOT recommend this to parents who are trying to get their kids to ski. I did this because I’m an expert skier, I don’t fall and I have extremely strong legs to cope with the extra weight. In addition, I went at times the slopes were quiet and I have an extremely good radar for idiots who might look like they are thinking about crashing into us.

Zoe absolutely LOVED backpack skiing and the sensations of being in the turn, watching and skiing next to the other skiers and she loved the little stops we made for hot chocolate and croissants.

Backpack skiing isn't an option this season as she will be too heavy but last year at just 2 years old (January baby) it was ok for what we were trying to achieve at that time and with the temperament of our child. This year we need to find her a pink pair of ski boots with unicorns on it and leave those around the house in autumn for her to get curious about.

Then it will be a case of taking her up there and starting to move around for those first sliding experiences. If it is anything like trying to teach her how to swim this summer, it could take a while and that’s just fine by me. I would rather that she chose to love the mountains and skiing than me imposing my dreams on her. If she doesn’t like it at all, that’s also fine by me. It’s not for everyone.

For you as a parent, the timing is what you have to judge. There is no right time but your child needs to be reasonably interested in snow, it needs to be fun and it needs to be time limited, ideally with something else other than just going up there and hammering the magic carpet over and over. Your child also needs to have reasonable physical strength and a bit of ambition to try something new.

We do often do lessons for kids who are 2 years old but they are super fun sessions that don’t really look like much like a ski lesson, they look more like an introduction to snow and gentle sliding, often with fluffy animals, snowball fights and snowman making.

Once kids hit 3 they are often much more capable physically and this tends to be when we get the little ones sliding and sometimes into a basic snowplough and gentle snowplough turning. At this age, the choice of slopes we use are critical as kids this age don’t have the power to resist the slope too much.

We don’t do ski lessons for longer than 1 hour for children under 5 years old. We looked at our experiences of working with other ski schools previously and there is nothing that turns kids off of skiing quicker than skiing for too long. The experience should be short and positive. We’ve all seen those harassed and tired looking ski instructors trying to get through a full morning session with a group of crying 3 year olds and asked what good is coming from that?

From a physical perspective, unless you have an exceptionally strong and well developed child, the consensus amongst the experts is that 18 months is too young as the hip joints haven't full developed yet at that point.

It often makes a difference for a professional to teach your children how to ski at these early stages. I know, I know, ‘ski instructor sells you ski lessons’ but I see so much bad teaching going on at the beginner slopes by well meaning parents or the uncle who is an ‘expert skier’. This often builds into their child’s skiing problems that will become difficult to fix or even dangerous in future years.

Feel free to contact us to discuss your children’s start to their skiing life. We would be happy to advise you on if your child is ready or do a taster session to see if they like it.

Dave Burrows

Technical Director

SnowPros Ski School


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