How to teach your kid / child to ski (snow plow)
Teaching your kids to ski (If you know how yourself)
This is a post for parents who have kids who have never been on skis before (or friends for that matter) and want to teach them how to ski. This is not intended to be a post on sophisticated technique or how to get your kid into the Olympics.
This past year I taught my 6,4 and 3 year old to ski and thought I would share my experiences and how I did it and others might be able to benefit. I taught them myself because I just didn't want the expense of ski school for 3 children, it was vacation and the purpose for me is to see my kids and I thought I could do a better job since it would be me and my kids versus a larger group lesson.
A few critical ground rules: (1) Its about your kids or friends and not about you - so keep it fun and avoid getting frustrated. If they don't have a good time, forget about next time. Fun is Key! (2) Avoid days when there is a lot of weather or its very cold. It takes away from the comfort and fun. Harder to pull it off. (3) Choose a mountain that has a "magic carpet" and sufficient bunny hill that is easy to get to ... I really don't like Northstar at Tahoe for example because you need to ride the gondola just to get to the bunny slope. (4) This is for people who already know how to ski and likely consider themselves expert. If you are not an expert skier I would just recommend private lessons, ski school etc. as most resorts try hard to cater to children.
Step 1: The equipment. No poles. Short skis. Helmets are a must. Also, you should be on skis. I used telemark skis but downhill will work just as well. No poles either. In order to teach them without poles, you need to go without poles. Again - this is for people who already know how to ski well. Check the kids temperature (too cold, too hot) often. Also - bathroom breaks. The two other key pieces of teaching equipment are Edgie Wedgies and a hulahoop (harness will also work). The wedgies will keep their tips from crossing the the hoop can be used to pull and control speeds. Put them aside for now. You won't need them on the first run.
Step 2: The first run. Goal is Balance. You must start on a gentle slope - likely the bottom of the bunny hill or even another location at the mountain. I would not recommend starting on the lift or even the magic carpet. You want to teach balance on the skis and not have them worry about controlling for speed. Repeat this until you believe they have it and are excited.
Step 3: The magic carpet. Goal is speed control. I didn't have a magic carpet growing up but what an awesome development. Its basically a flat moving escalator up a hill at ground level. Get your kids on the carpet ahead of you and tell them to put their hands on their knees - this will keep their balance forward and low in case the carpet suddenly stops. I got on the carpet and then walked up my skis past them to the front so I could pull them off the carpet. Likely the carpet operator will help out as well as everyone riding it needs a little help. Attach the edgie wedgie to the skis and then show the WEDGE. The wedge, snowplow, pizza whatever you want to call it is the key to controlling speed on green runs. Show them how to get into it and hold it. Now with the hoop around them, you behind them, allow them to start down the hill (one at a time). Not much speed but enough that they can begin to move into and out of the wedge and learn how to control speed. This will take several runs (or days) but is the absolute key for safety. Once you think they have it, ski down 50 yards and let them snowplow down to you or even better ski backwards with them in front of you coming down so to make sure you can be there in case they get scared and forget the wedge. Final step is to ski down 100 yards+ and let them snow plow to you. If they can stop at where you are they likely have mastered speed control.
Step 4: Chairlift time. Graduation to green runs. Goal is speed control and riding lift. Getting on a chairlift is scary for a young child. Its mechanical, swinging around at you and a lot bigger than you are so be sensitive to this and help out. It must be one adult to one beginner on a chair to start. Help the child onto the lift (hulahoop in hand and edgie wedgies on skis) and tell them to face outwards to grab onto the outer pole. Hold on to them as the chairlift starts to lift up and push them back into the seat. Hopefully there is a safety bar and pull it down immediately. Talk to your children about how they must sit back, its dangerous etc. I think having a healthy fear of the lift is a good thing. Remove the bar when you are very close to getting off the lift - likely closer than you would otherwise and at this point have them ski straight down while you are holding on to them to keep them up just in case. Again - only for good skiers as you are basically balancing for two people here. Now that you are on the mountain, take it slow. Repeat the 50 yard and 100 yard exercises on the bunny slope. Once you think they have it and can ski in control ski with the hulahoop near them so you can put it around them in case of an emergency. The challenge with the harness is that it's a crutch for kids so they don't focus on the snowplow as much. Its harder to make it work well in my opinion. Its a careful balance between teaching and safety.
Step 5 : The turn. Goal is ringing the lift, controlling speed and learning to turn. Once the snowplow is mastered its time to start working on turning for safety as well as its a required skill for any steeper terrain. Turning in a complete form is complicated and takes a lot of time to get right. I started with simply teaching them to move and shift their weight between their skis and they soon discovered that putting more weight on their downhill ski makes them turn the direction of their skis and putting more weight on their uphill ski will initiate a turn in the other direction. Playing follow the leader etc. and other games can make this fun. I recommend not getting too far ahead of the kids or even staying behind as if they fall they likely still need some help in getting up.
I have left out getting up when you fall, side stepping etc. There are a lot of other beginner skills that need to be taught but in my little experience these come more naturally and are more fun when skiing is involved. Once the wedge is mastered and the kids can control their speed there is then time to teach these things as they events produce themselves. Above all - make sure to have fun, keep it safe and watch out for other skiers (as your kids won't be).
Let me know how it goes and please leave comments if you have other techniques that people could use. Happy trails.