This blog comes to CSCUSA from Kristen Lummis of BraveSkiMom.com. You can read more from Kristen at www.BraveSkiMom.com.
When our children were learning to ski, we used a hula hoop, a harness and an Edgie-Wedgie a lot. While I still see those tried-and-true tools on mountain, new teaching aids are developed all of the time. Sorting through what works and what doesnt, whats worth the investment and what isnt, can be confusing.
So to find out what really works in the world of learn-to-ski tools, I turned to Earl Saline, my number one learn-to-ski resource at Professional Ski Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI).
Tried, True and New
Tip Connectors: Tip connectors such as the Edgie-Wedgie, were required equipment when our boys learned to ski. They're still a good idea.
A short rubber tube that connects the ski tips to keep them close together, connectors help children learn the basics of turning in a controlled wedge. From a ski instructors point-of-view, Saline likes them because the child is still in control of their stance and balance. They help kids learn how to control their skis with their feet and legs.
Hula Hoops, Bamboo Poles and HookEase: These tools help parents control their childs speed and direction without sabotaging the child's balance. Most kids have played with hula hoops, so its no big deal to hold onto it and slide downhill. Some parents get in the hoop with their child. Others hold onto the outside of the hoop. But the child is always in front of the parent.
If youve got access to a long bamboo pole, Saline recommends skiing next to your child, with both of you gripping the pole like a bike handlebar. A bamboo pole lets you feel if your child is balancing properly or leaning against the pole. It also helps you control speed and initiate turning.
With both of these tools, its important to remember that the child needs to be balancing on their own and that the parents need to avoid getting tangled up.
HookEase are a nifty, new product that uses the parents ski poles as static reins. The HookEase system has two parts: one is an attachment mount that slides onto the back of the childs skis. Parents then attach hooks to the end of their ski poles. These hooks fit into the mount on the childs skis and allow the parent to help control speed and turning without pulling the child backward.
Harnesses: While many parents think of harnesses as a speed control device, using them as brakes works against good skiing technique. Constant tension on the reins pulls a child into the backseat and gets them in the habit of leaning against the back of the ski boots. Thats not good.
Instead, if you use a harness make sure the reins are slack and that your child is holding himself or herself up without your help. The child should be turning and sliding on their own.
Strap-On Skis: Saline likes strap-on Nordic skis for little kids. And not just for Nordic skiing. Instead let your little ones use them in the house (and in your snowy yard) in order to teach balance and movement before they hit the slopes.
For Little Snowboarders: The Burton Riglet Reel is a good tool for the littlest riders. The Riglet Reel attaches to the tip of a childs board and lets a parent pull the child on flat snow while they practice sliding and edging. Even before hitting the snow, however, Saline recommends letting kids play with a board in the house and practice moving it from tip to tail and edge to edge.
Helping Hands: Once your child is mobile on skis, give them a helping hand. Ski alongside your child with your hand out. Encourage your child to set their hand in yours, rather than grabbing onto it. This hand-to-hand connection lets you sense how nervous your child might (or might not) be. You can also tell how well they are balancing on their own, which is, as always, the goal.