This European ski season could be the year you’re taking the plunge to introduce younger members of the family to the sport you’re so passionate about yourself.
While some people may be apprehensive about sending their kids out on to the slopes for the first time, with the right approach, the process should actually be a fun experience.
Most resorts have at least one decent ski school and plenty of great instructors working for the ski season, but if you’re a confident and proficient skier, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take on the task yourself.
The Wedge, the Aeroplane and the Pizza
While it might sound more like story time than a ski lesson, using these simple and familiar terms will enable you to engage with your child in a way that’s both fun and educational.
In order for them to get a basic grounding in the technical aspects of skiing, from which everything else will come, you need to teach them just two things to enable them to traverse down a slope in a slow and controlled manner.
The wedge: the turned-in position of the tips of both skis, to control speed and stopping.
The aeroplane: the outspread position of the arms, to maintain balance and optimise core strength for control. You can also call it a zombie position (with arms out in front), depending on the interests and age of your child.
Pizza: moving down the hill with skis in the wedge position (like a pizza slice) and arms in the aeroplane or zombie position.
Of course, simply explaining these techniques to a child won’t make them an instant pro skier, and plenty of practice is needed. But, understanding the concept of how just two aspects ultimately provide the ultimate control is a huge confidence boost.
First Time on the Slopes
If your child is under four you definitely need to invest in tip connectors – a gadget that attaches to the tips of the skis, holding them together to form an instant wedge. Some are screw-in and some are clip-ons, which are slightly more costly but much easier to manage with chilly fingers. Young kids simply don’t have the strength in their legs to hold a wedge position themselves, and even six or seven-year olds may benefit from tip connectors, saving hours of possible frustration and preventing what can sometimes turn into a negative experience.
Once you’re confident your child understands the concept of the wedge and the aeroplane, they’re ready to make the first attempt to pizza down a gentle slope. The key word is ‘gentle’, remembering that what may be an easy incline to you is hugely magnified for a child.
Face yourself upwards to the slope (so you’ll be skiing backwards) and position one of your legs forward so the child’s wedge (with tip connectors in place) is sitting on your front binding. Then you simply ski slowly backwards and the child comes with you in the wedge position. If you’re not really happy skiing backwards, you can use a ski harness, which is attached to the child as you ski behind holding the reins.
For the initial run you shouldn’t even be concerned about trying to teach them to stop – it’s just about staying upright and maintaining the body position. There should be plenty of encouragement along the way, and even some light distraction (“wow, did you see that huge eagle fly past?”) can be beneficial to setting them at ease. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so once you get to the bottom of the slope, lots of high fives and whoop whooping is called for.
Repeat this stage as many times as you think is necessary with your assistance. In fact, perfecting the wedge is not the most important part of the process, it’s all about getting the body stance right. After a few times you can allow your ski to slip away from their tip connectors and they’ll be doing it on their own!
If the child is older or simply more confident, you can set them off on their own from the start – providing the slope is gentle enough.
Let the Fun Begin!
Children are incredibly resilient and adaptable, so most will master the basic techniques in a surprisingly short time. As long as you keep a positive attitude throughout the teaching process yourself, this will translate to the child, instilling them with a relaxed and confident attitude. From then on, it’s simply practice and experience, and they’ll probably be skiing better than you by next ski season!
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you’re planning a getaway this ski season to the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
Learn to Ski in Morzine: A Children’s Paradise
Morzine is a favourite destination for families and their young children. Only a few hours’ drive from Geneva, nestled in a snow-smothered river gorge, this mountain town is brimming with fun and excitement for adults and children alike. With a delightful mix of small shops and family-friendly restaurants, the town of Morzine certainly has all your off-the-slopes needs covered. On the slopes, the ESF ski school has been teaching lessons for many years and is the perfect place for beginners and children to hone their skills, make friends and enjoy their holiday.
The Piou Piou Club
As part of the local ESF ski school, the Piou Piou Club is dedicated to giving ski lessons to children between the ages of three and 14. The children’s ski garden is the perfect place for your children to take their first skis onto the slopes, or to help them build on previous skills. Children below the age of five must go through the Piou Piou Club for group lessons, although those older than five can have regular lessons with the ESF. A typical day at the children’s ski nursery would be as follows:
9:00am: Drop the kids off nice and early at the ski garden. Lessons will begin shortly after all children have been assisted with their gear and accompanied to the starting area by the team. They’ll then begin their lesson, which places an emphasis on mastery of technique and control. Snacks and regular toilet breaks will be provided.
12noon: Lunch time. Instructors will bring the kids back to the garden for lunch. If you have only booked a half day, then you can pick up your child at this time.
2:00pm: Afternoon activities start. These range from more ski lessons to indoor activities, the latter of which are organised by the childcare team. An afternoon snack is provided.
5:00pm: Pick-up. Collect your child and ask them about their day. Don’t be surprised if they talk about how much fun they had all the way home. Luckily, equipment is labelled and can be left at the club, so you don’t have to drag it back to your chalet.
What to Bring
It is a good idea to buy most of your child’s clothing and gear before heading off. Buying and renting equipment in Morzine is expensive, with some gear such as ski outfits only available to buy outright. Therefore, it is best to pack a one-piece ski suit for children, thermals for underneath, a warm hat and good-quality gloves so that their hands don’t get cold and wet. Ski helmets, snow boots and goggles can all be hired out there, so there’s no need to buy them unless you are regular skiers. Lastly, keep in mind that the sun often blasts off the white snow, making sunglasses and strong sun cream necessary on most days.
Piste Protection for the Whole Family
Don’t let financial worries get in the way of your family fun. For peace of mind, it is always sensible to invest in ski travel insurance that keeps you covered in any contingency. For an insurance policy that gives you comprehensive cover, InsureMore’s ski travel insurance is a great option. With lots of low-cost options for single-trip or multi-trip family insurance, spend more money food and fun while keeping the whole family protected.
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global, annual and ski travel insurance policies. Besides offering great deals on travel insurance, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.