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Teaching Your Kids To Ski

We are a gadget-obsessed society, always looking for the multi-task tool, the time-shaving shortcut, the veritable easy-bake oven. Skiing is no exception; just count the camelback wearing, energy bar munching, cell phone chatting, altimeter-tracking skiers in your next lift queue.

Skiing parents, eager to get their prodigy on the slopes, want doohickeys and devices to teach their kids to ski at a record age. We recommend children's learn to ski or snowboard lessons, and also all day ski and snowboard camps for kids at the top family ski resorts. Most ski resorts don’t accept kids into lessons until they are 3 or 4, which seems like an eternity for pre-pamper-changing powder hounds. Thanks to a few innovative parents and instructors, there are now gadgets to for the do it yourselfer if you want to teach your own child to ski - back massage not included.

Steve Lathrop, former US Ski Team member and Downhill champion proves that necessity is the “father of invention.” Lathrop was eager (you might say obsessive) to get each of his five kids on the slopes, in some cases before they could walk. “I was like any other parent thinking I could teach my children to ski because I knew how,” Lathrop said. “I quickly learned that the between my legs method wasn’t doing me or my child any good.” Lathrop went on to design (and modify after experimenting with his own kids) a series of Kid-Ski line gadgets to aid parents in their pursuit of toddler turns.

For really young kids (1-3 year olds), Lathrop’s plastic skis can be worn with the child’s own winter boots for backyard beginnings. For $39, The Kid Skis are easy to fit and use. Since they are made of plastic, you can pull them around inside on the carpet, then outside - even over gravel.

Another home-helper is The Ski Bar – a mini T-bar that parents can use to pull kids around, and walk or ski next to them offering the bar for support and balance. The plastic bar is adjustable in length and best for 1-3 year olds. The cost is $27, half the price of a chiropractic visit for a sore back. This ski bar would have proved useful to my husband and me. We used a ski pole in a similar capacity with our one-year-old (admittedly he was 23-months). At least we were smart enough not to give our son the pointy end.

One of the critical skills small skiers need to learn is a wedge, to control speed and initiate turns, especially as they go from the backyard to steeper ski slopes. The “pizza pie” stance is not innate to a youngster.

The Egie-Wedgie (also known as the ski bra pre-political correctness) is a tried and true gadget that keeps skis in a pie shape. It costs about $10. The drawback is that the thumbscrews can mar the ski tips and even delaminate the skis. An improved “tip lock connector” uses Velcro and a buckle that easily clips and unclips and doesn’t damage the skis, for about $5 more.

The traditional ski harness, attached over the child’s shoulders, invites almost as much debate as the helmet issue. Some argue this harness can introduce bad habits by turning the child’s upper body and not instilling self-control. Even worse, the leash can get tangled on the chairlift.

On the flip side,The Ski Leash that attaches to the child’s hips instead of the shoulders prevents a speed-seeking tot from bombing the hill (French fries) while introducing steering with the lower torso. The Ski Leash for $32 comes with its own fanny pack for storage during lift rides.

All of these devices decrease the learning curve tremendously. The ski tip connectors are by far the most popular gadget because they are inexpensive, and easy for the child and the parent (or instructor) to use.

Smugglers Notch’s award-winning Snow Sports University use tools to teach small children, including the edgie-wedgies on 2-4 year olds whose balance has not developed enough and whose tips naturally come apart as they tend to lean back. Smuggs’ snowboarding school uses  modified outriggers for really young riders, as young as 4 and 5, to give them better balance.

You don’t have to be U.S. Ski Team alum to teach your kids to ski. You do need patience and a positive attitude that should pervade with your kids too, It's not a race or rush, kids have good days and bad days, hot and cold – and sking should be about having fun with your child.


All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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