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Ski School 101: What Parents Need to Know to Ensure A Happy Ski School Experience

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Becoming a new skier or snowboarder is easy in Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), especially for kids. CSCUSA resorts have reinvented ski school with new all-encompassing kids centers; creative kids ski programs that focus on fun, safety and learning; and value added lesson packages that fit every familys budget. In Colorado, learning to ski is as easy as 1-2-3.

Lesson 1: Anyone Can Learn To Ski Or Snowboard. Across CSCUSA there are a myriad of learning programs covering all ages, abilities, and disciplines. Resorts offer imaginative lessons including groups, privates, semi-privates, family privates, adaptive, terrain park specific, bumps specific, kids telemark skiing, teens only, and more.

Lesson 2: Ski School Can Be Affordable, Hassle-Free And Is Often The Highlight Of Kids Resort Experience. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month in Colorado and discounted lesson programs and packages can be found at all CSCUSA resorts. Lesson packages sometimes include rental equipment, lift ticket and lunch. Kids love being with other kids while exploring parts of the resort designed especially for kids.

Lesson 3: Professional Instructors Focus On Fun. Colorado resorts employ the best in the business when it comes to ski and snowboard instructors, including many who specialize in teaching children. CSCUSA 2014/15 Instructor of the Year, Trish OConnell from Steamboat Ski Resort, shares her expert advice on ways to ensure your child has a fun, safe and educational ski school experience.

What is the ideal age to start a kid skiing? Snowboarding?

Trish O'Connell, Steamboat Ski Resort Trish O’Connell by Larry Pierce, Steamboat Ski Resort

This varies with each child.Most ski schoolsaccept children in group lessons at 3-years-old.Snowboard equipment is now available for kids this age as well and many do great.If the child is potty trained, not in need of a nap, follows directions, and generally is comfortable with other kids and adults, they should do well in ski school.Its also important that they are excited to ski!Pushing too early only sets them back.

What is the advantage of a full-day lesson over a half-day lesson?

A full day lesson provides a much better pace for children to learn.It allows them to develop a relationship with the instructor and the other kids in class.Having lunch as a group is often the most fun part of the day.Instructors are great at telling jokes and stories and doing different activities that help kids relax and enjoy the day.Typically, skills are introduced in the morning and the afternoon gives them time to practice and explore.

What advantages does a group lesson provide over a private lesson?

Group lesson versus private is a choice that depends on each family and how the child learns best.Many, if not most kids, thrive in a group setting.They are used to being in school and often learn from watching others.Its helpful for them to see their peers doing the same thing as they are. However, it totally depends on the child, some kids struggle with all the excitement around them and do better one on one.

When considering enrolling kids in ski school, where should parents start?

The resort website is a great place to start.If there are still unanswered questions, call the ski school directly.They are happy to assist and may help to put parents minds at ease.

What equipment is required for the student? What equipment does the resort provide?

Every resort is different but most resorts require kids to wear a helmet and almost all ski shops have them for rent.Skis, boots, ski clothing, goggles and good gloves or mittens are required for all skiers.

Is the ski pass included or sold separately?

This varies with each resort but most all resorts require a lift ticket.

What are the top three considerations parents should note when enrolling kids in ski school?

First of all, make a reservation.At busy times ski schools fill up.Second,make sure the child is dressed appropriately for the weather and everything is clearly labeled with their name.Dressing in layers is best.Helmet, goggles, good gloves or mittens, and sunscreen are essential.Third, note the time of lesson and arrive 15 minutes early to avoid stress.Also, be on time for pickup.The child will be anxious to show what they have learned!

What can parents do before the lesson to prep the child for ski school?

While its a good idea to talk about what the child can expect, I recommend keeping it brief.The more a child thinks about things the more stress it can cause, especially the unknown.Making sure they know there will be someone to take care of them and feed themis usually enough. Basics, like a good nights sleep, healthy breakfast, and hydration are always good. Allowing time for atrip to bathroom before the lesson is a must.Many resorts have pictures and videos on their websites of kids in ski school.This can help ease their minds as well as let them know what to expect.

What qualifications do ski instructors have to achieve in order to teach kids?

Resorts differ on this as well but typically instructors are trained on physical and mental developmental stages for children.When resorts hire instructors they are looking for patient people that enjoy kids.

Talk about what ski schools do to keep kids safe during the lesson?

Safety is the main priority in ski school.Most resorts have special bibs for kids in preschool.They are brightly colored and easily identifiable to area employees.Lifts are slowed for them to get on and offand they will typically ride with an adult.Many areas have tracking devices for all kids in ski school.Also, instructors have extensive training in safety.The kids will be hydrated, wear sunscreen, kept warm, and fed when hungry!They skion appropriate terrain. Most lessons incorporate Your ResponsibilityCode. Kids that come out of ski schools usually have the best etiquette and safety awareness of all those on the mountain!

What is taught to the kids about safety during the lesson?

Their safety and the safety of the other skiers is stressed as the top priority of the day.Your Responsibility Code is taught with the emphasis on always skiing in control!Instructors spend quite a bit of time on lift riding as well.

What can parents expect their kids to have learned after one lesson? Three lessons? Five lessons?

Again, different for every child but hopefully they will learn how to put on equipment, walk on their skis, glide and be able to stop after the first day.Three lessons typically has them riding a chairlift, turning, and comfortable on green runs.After five they may be exploring steeper terrain.Mental and physical development play a huge part in progress.Also, their desire to ski and motivation for skiing make a big difference.Skills acquired and actual achievement are not nearly as important as having them develop a love for the sport.If after a week they are still happy to put their skis on, even if they are only walking, it has been a success!

What would you tell the parent who is concerned about budget? Safety?

Of all the components of a ski vacation, lessonsare the most important. Having a safe and independent skier is worth the expense.It is always a good idea to look online for deals.As for safety, every effort is made by the resort and the instructor to keep people safe. It is truly the top priority.Try not to let your fears show to your child.It is extremely hard to learn new skills if there is fear.One of the things that makes skiing fun is the excitement and adventure.It is part of the sport. Embrace it! (or at least embrace it in front of your child).

Why do you enjoy teaching kids to ski?

Kid are great!They have boundless energy, excitement and optimism.They are eager to please and impress.I am in awe of the trust they put in the instructor.They try their best to do what is asked of them and because they rarely think of consequences, they are usually successful.Teaching kids helps keep the kid in each of us going strong.Over a days time, I learn more from the kids then they probably learn from me.