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Downhill Skiing With Your Preschooler-Kindergartener – Helpful Tips

Making a "pizza" down Rainbow Ridge at Homewood Ski Resort (no crowds midweek)
Making a "pizza" down Rainbow Ridge at Homewood Ski Resort (no crowds midweek)

Thank you to Gigi Stahl of Plangarden.com for these helpful and fun tips on taking your young child skiing in Tahoe.

As a former diehard downhill skier who saved every penny for the ski season during college winter breaks,  introducing my son to downhill skiing was a moment I relished.  With a husband who won’t venture beyond gentle
 cross-country ski slopes, I was gung-ho to get back into alpine skiing and “groom” my future ski buddy.

That was six years ago, and yes, I now have a ski buddy though we mostly stick to green and blue trails.  It wasn’t always “smooth skiing” to get here but if there’s one thing I learned,

Ski school is the way to go.

Now if it’s your 4-5 year-old child’s first time in the snow, let her get acquainted with the white stuff first.  Build snow forts and go sledding. Let her get used to bulky snow gear.  Then bring her to a ski area and let her watch other kids her age at ski school.  As you do this, observe your child’s reaction, learn as much as you can about the ski school’s approach, and get the scoop from parents as they’re either dropping off or picking up their kids.  You can learn a lot just by quietly watching and listening to the lingo, like “Make a pizza,” (snowplow), or “Ok, now we’re going to make
french fries!” (skis parallel – usually for the more experienced beginning skiers). Oh and read every ski school’s policies – thoroughly – before you drop Junior off and head up the slopes.

But I’m a pretty decent skier, so why can’t I just go ahead and teach my child how to ski?

Because you love your child and want to preserve that loving relationship with her, because you may actually want to get some grownup skiing time during the day, and because you will learn how to teach your child as she gets more experienced by watching instructors.  In addition, ski school packages (ticket, lesson, rental, lunch) aren’t as
expensive as you might expect.  They can cost just a little more than the admission price for an adult plus rental equipment.

Best Kid-Friendly Ski Resorts

With that said, here are the most kid- and wallet-friendly ski resorts and 2009 ski school package prices for young children in the Tahoe area:
Homewood Ski Resort  -$105/full day, Alpine Meadows  – $129/full day, and Tahoe-Donner Ski Area  – $60/half day.

My favorite has always been Homewood for the quality of instruction, value, sufficiently challenging slopes for grownups, and breathtaking views over Lake Tahoe.  Their “Snow Rangers” program is low-tech and mixes play with
skill-building.  I’m not a big fan of those “moving carpets” you’ll find in other resorts, believing that this sport needs the development and coordination of strong muscles (which your little one can hone hauling a sled several times up a small hill), and that learning to manage ski equipment is critical to safety.

Ski Gear For Kids

Speaking of safety, it’s an excellent idea to invest in a ski helmet.  They’re very comfy, warm, and can be used for other snow activities like sledding.  They also keep their resale value – I sold my son’s helmet within 24 hrs of letting my local mom’s club know about it!

Unless you plan on spending over 7 days/season on the slopes, it’s prudent to rent skis.  First, they come with the ski school package, and second, your child will grow too fast to get more than a season’s worth.

As for specific downhill training gizmos like ski harnesses;  it’s a toss-up.  For a 5-foot, 95-lb mom, it was a bit challenging to operate with short legs (ergo less ski board surface area to brake) and gravity winning the race down the bunny slope.  Ski instructors generally don’t use harnesses, and thanks to good instruction in learning how to control his skis, my son didn’t need one.   On the other hand, “edgie-wedgies” can be effective to keep your child in “pizza” stance, and I recall Tahoe-Donner instructors using them in their classes. 

Do praise your child frequently on matters of handling her equipment (insignificant as this may be to you), getting up from spills, and making an excellent “pizza”!

Be Like Buddha

Lastly, time takes on a whole different meaning in getting stuff done.  For instance, when potty time comes around, take the normal amount of time in non-ski clothes and multiply by 5.  Think of all the layers, bibs and trying to avoid dropping hats and gloves on the restroom floor, not to mention lose them! A helpful tip is to keep your child’s gloves together with a cord that’s threaded through his jacket’s arm sleeves.

Remember to make it fun and giggles for YOUR child so YOU can have fun, too!
Remember to make it fun and giggles for YOUR child so YOU can have fun, too!

So manage your expectations accordingly.  Don’t try to “accomplish” anything.  Ski school will give you some time for your runs.  But you’ll also be working other muscles when hauling your child on/off lift, carrying equipment, and running around the resort to locate that missing hat grandma knitted just for Annabel.  Do pause frequently (kneel so you’re at your her eye level) and discover together things you see in the snowy landscape to make your child’s skiing experience positive and fun!

Gigi Stahl skis on snow and water, and is the lucky mom of a ten-year-old budding saxophonist and swim demon.  She is co-owner of Plangarden.com , an online veggie gardening software that allows you to lay out, plan and track your gardening activities.  Most of her writing time is spent on gardening and foodie topics, but her latest ambition is to memorize highfalutin Latin names of fungi like  Hericium erinaceus.  Just don’t ask her where she left her reading glasses.

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