When I was growing up, my family always skied together. It was our main family bonding activity. In fact, my parents met in ski club. One of the requirements I had in mind for my ideal husband was that he’d also be a skier; it was that central to my background, and the proximity to skiing was a major reason I chose to move to Reno. And now, my husband and I are raising our kids as skiers.
There is a whole culture of skiers here locally in Reno, and that thrills me to no end. I love heading up to Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, where the staff is so friendly that they feel like friends, and where we run into people we know each time we head to the mountain. I love that I know the resort like the back of my hand, and that it is 15 minutes from our house. I love that locals tailgate in the parking lot, and seeing hordes of local kids participating in the ski team program.
The proximity of skiing to Reno means my children are growing up knowing skiing in a totally different way than I did. Growing up in Albuquerque, most of my childhood ski trips were to Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort or Taos, both of which required getting up at the crack of dawn, piling the family of five into the truck for a three to four hour drive, skiing all day, and often driving back home at the end of our day. Since we didn’t have season passes, and we only skied about six days each winter, and there was definitely an attitude of you will be on the first chair of the day, and you will ski until the last chair of the day, and you will enjoy this, darn it, because it took so much effort and money to get here!
I’m not complaining at all, as I am so thankful to have grown up as a skier. But my point is how different living here in Reno has made the experience for my kids. We get season passes, and we can look outside our window to gauge whether or not the weather will be amenable to the kids skiing. If a kid throws a fit (or we like to say if they bonk), we can just go home. We only have a 15-minute ride invested in the outing. The kids also get the opportunity to ski almost every weekend for four to five months out of the year.
If you are interested in getting your kids started in the sport of skiing, here is my list of top 10 tips on how to teach your kids to ski:
1. Before you even head up the hill, put the kids in their ski clothes and ski boots at home and have them walk around the backyard. Put their skis on them in the backyard as well, and have them practice scooting on the grass (or even on the snow right now, yay!), and tell them to practice getting up after they fall down.
2. When you’re first starting, pick perfect weather days. Living in Reno, we have that luxury, and don’t try to take a kid for the first time on a day where they’ll get really cold.
3. If your kids are little (say two to five years old), invest in a leash or a hula hoop. In other words, DO NOT SKI WITH A KID BETWEEN YOUR LEGS. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was skiing with my daughter between my legs when she was five. We were barely moving, our skis got tangled, and we tipped over. I happened to tip at a bad angle, and tore three ligaments in my knee. My orthopedist said that he sees so many parents make this same mistake and end up with knee injuries. Avoid this by using a leash or a hula hoop to steer and control the speed of your child.
4. Have an equipment bag for every member of the family. We keep helmets, goggles, gloves and boots in a bag for each person, which makes the process of packing for ski outings much easier.
5. Keep the kids well fed. I often feed them on the way up, pack a lunch, and keep snacks in my pockets. Hungry kids makes for crying on the slopes, which is not much fun. For longer outings, my husband and I will wear a Camel Bak and offer the kids drinks to keep them hydrated.
6. Reward, reward, reward. I’m not one to bribe my kids often, or even offer junk food, but for skiing, I keep a handful of candy in my pocket. I will hand out M&Ms or jelly beans one at a time for good attitude and if they listen to instructions. I’ve noticed many local parents with this technique. It can be cold, and the equipment bulky and awkward, so do everything you can to make it a positive experience.
7. Start on the magic carpet, which is basically a conveyer belt on the snow. Once your child has mastered that bunny hill, move to the beginner chair. Tell the lifties your child may need assistance, as they are usually awesome at helping you get the kids on and off the chair.
8. Stress safety on the lift. I’m still freaked out by the story of a seven year old ski team kid that fell off the chair at Sugar Bowl a few years ago and died. My kids often get lectures on how the chair is serious business, and there is no screwing around on the chair.
9. Play games. We like to play red light green light and follow the leader.
10. Be aware on the slopes. Hanging out on the beginner slopes can be dangerous, considering there are people who don’t know how to ski or snowboard on those slopes. I’m always watching the hill for anyone who looks out of control, and have taught my kids that following instructions from me on the hill is key to their safety. If I say “stop!” it may be to help avoid a collision.
With those 10 tips in mind, here is another unofficial one…don’t be afraid to invest in some lessons. I’ve found that my kids throw fits and like to screw around more when it’s me trying to teach them a sport. I love group lessons – it’s amazing what a little peer pressure can do for their motivation to learn a sport!
So what are you waiting for?! There is fresh snow on that mountain right in your very own backyard!
Note: This post is in no way sponsored by Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. I am simply a very satisfied customer, and am happy to support such a great local business! Also, skiing is way safer than sledding in my opinion, as you can steer yourself and control your speed.