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Skiing with Toddlers: How to Start & What to Consider

Skiing with Toddlers: How to Start & What to Consider

If you’re a skiing enthusiast with expecting, or recently had a baby, you might have gotten excited about these cute babies and toddlers skiing on social media. Some are even snowboarding at 2 and doing it better than me. However…

We were excited too. I bought my son his first ski and as we lived in Utah I went to the bunny hill with him where, it’s safe to say, we faced reality and learned. Skiing with toddlers in reality is quite different from social media. It’s not impossible, even we eventually succeeded, but it’s much harder than most think it is.

Skiing with toddlers can be the best of times and it also could be the worst of times. It requires patience and some money for the gear and potential lessons.

Skiing with toddler
First time on skis: age 1.5 years old

Our Experience Teaching a Toddler to Ski and Snowboard

We first put his skis on our toddler when he was about a year old. We practiced in our basement and he absolutely loved the experience. At least for about 5 minutes.

We didn’t give up though and after a few more rounds of practice, we took him to the nearby snowy hill. It’s safe to say that he wanted nothing to do with the snow, couldn’t understand the purpose of skiing and it was a big disaster.

We waited a year and he still wanted nothing to do with skiing. Since my husband is a snowboarder we introduced him to a toddler snowboard.

Toddler riding magic carpet on snowboard

This time around the snowboard was a big hit. Around 2 years old he kept begging to drag him around the basement on his board and had fun with it. However, he was afraid of doing it outside and would only try in our backyard if one of us was holding his hand.

We equipped ourselves with toddler snowboard harnesses and tried on the snow at 3.5 years old. This time also with his brother who was almost 2 years old.

Ironically, the older one who practiced more at home was completely terrified and unstable on a snowboard. He didn’t enjoy it and kept getting scared, despite our best efforts.

On the other hand, our almost 2-year-old had a blast. He even managed to slide down a bit on his own and used a magic carpet with our help.

We only truly succeeded with skiing when our kids were 4.5 and almost 3 when we went the route of hiring a ski instructor. We had to do skiing vs snowboard with our toddlers, because snowboard lessons don’t take kids younger than 6 or even 8, while ski lessons can start at 3 or 4.

What Age Should Kids Start Skiing?

Honestly, there’s a reason why most ski schools don’t take kids younger than 3 or 4. With a few exceptions seen on social media and from people who literally ski every day, most kids don’t get a hang of skiing until 3 to 5.

At least not the kids who don’t ski every other weekend.

In fact, if you talk to various ski instructors they’ll tell you that most 3 year olds last about 10 minutes and cry all the time and even 4 year olds often quit. My son ended up alone at the ski school because everyone else quit and I was told it happens every week.

If you want to have a truly nice experience and not feel frustrated and defeated with a crying and angry toddler next to you, you might want to wait to start skiing until at least 4. Simply because skiing with toddlers is tough.

The bottom line is not every child is ready to ski at the same time. If your child has a reserved or scared personality, it can backfire if you start too early.

2 year old taking a ski lesson
2 year old at his ski lessons

Are Ski Lessons and Ski School Worth It?

Yes, yes and million times yes! While you don’t have to enroll your child in ski school, it’s going to make things smoother. Most kids listen to the instructor better than parents (well, obviously) and don’t complain as much when the second parents disappear from their view.

In most cases, they will learn more quickly with a professional than just you.

Not to mention, even if you are very good at skiing and snowboarding it doesn’t mean that you can teach your child. It’s a completely different thing to ride on your own and hold your child while you ride, especially on snowboard.

Most private lessons will start from 3 years (sometimes 2.5), and from 4 years your child can do ski school with other kids. It’s especially encouraging to share the experience with their peers.

ski school race
Every week ski schools hold a race for little skiers

How Many Ski Lessons Do Kids Need to Take?

The answer will depend on what your goal is for skiing with kids and your child’s personality.

If you want your child to slowly roll down the very easy greens in the US (or blues in Europe) and know how to stop to make a pizza, then even 2 or 3 lessons can do it. Assuming that a child isn’t easily afraid of falling and isn’t of a very cautious personality.

However, if you want your child to become a true skier, someone who can confidently ski on intermediate and advanced slopes, then we’re talking about a completely different set of skills. Which require ski school every year for several years to come.

A few days of ski school every year is one of the best investments that you can make in your child’s ski progress.

Skiing with preschoolers

Where to Go to Ski with Kids

Skiing with kids is tough when they’re learning because you have to sacrifice a few seasons of skiing yourself. Then, you have to keep running on a bunny hill for a season or two. This is why picking where to go is extremely important.

  • Magic Carpet Slope

The issue is that while most mountains offer kids ski-for-free lift tickets, it only applies if you are buying an adult ticket and if you’re teaching your child to ski on a bunny hill with a magic carpet, clearly you ain’t going skiing yourself. Which means that this is a costly option.

Of course, you can start by pulling your toddler up the hill yourself, but I’ll be honest: neither you nor your child will last long doing that. The magic carpet is crucial.

  • Childcare Options

If you’re skiing with toddlers consider a hotel with childcare or research options for childcare nearby. Even at ski schools, your child will ski for about 3 hours at the most, but kids younger than 4 years normally last 2 hours at the most and that includes multiple breaks. Then what? It gives you time to ski and your kids to have a break.

Skiing with young kids can involve a lot of logistics and ideally, you might want to have everything nearby. You and your child will most likely be exhausted after a few days of skiing.

  • Consider a Trip to Europe

Skiing is pricy and when you have little kids who need lessons or ski school, the costs are insane. Did you know that in Tahoe one must spend almost $800 for a day of ski lessons for two kids? Even on a small mountain of NH ski school costs $200-250 a day per child. It’s pure insanity.

Prices of lift tickets and ski lessons are reasonable in Europe and combined with more kid-friendly resorts and options it’s often cheaper and more convenient. It’s pretty standard to pay no more than $300 per week for ski school in Europe.

More on where to ski with a toddler or preschooler.

Ski Gear for Toddlers

I think opinion on that varies and will depend on your situation. Snowboard is easier than skiing because they can strap the board to their regular boots and the board worked for a few years. On the other hand, your little kids will not be snowboarding independently after a season or even two, while on skis they might.

With ski gear for toddlers you won’t get away with the same one every season. Kids grow enormously so they won’t fit into the same boots and skis the year after. If you have a cheap used store nearby you might want to see if it’s worth purchasing and reselling the gear later.

After moving away from the mountains we opted for renting, as in some seasons we only could ski for a week.

Edgie wedgie (also known as pizza maker) was a fantastic help. Some kids might not have the muscle strength to hold the position and this gives kids a sense of safety. I think my 4-year-old wouldn’t have made progress if it wasn’t for it.

Another yet controversial item, once your child can slide down the hill, is ski harness. Controlling speed and stopping are the first things one must master on a bunny hill, but once they upgrade to a regular slope you might need to be able to catch your child.

Personally, and as 99% ski instructors will tell you, ski harness isn’t needed, but certain mountains have tighter passages with a drop on one side. When my kids are under 5 I prefer to have it just in case.

IMPORTANT: Don’t take your child on a blue slope with a harness when it’s their first time skiing, this is insanely dangerous to other people. Kids should only ski in areas where they have appropriate skills for the terrain which means bunny hill in case of beginners.

edgie wedgie for skiing

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