Monday, November 25, 2013

Downhill Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN!

A week ago I started a new series on making winter sports FUN for kids to learn and enjoy.  The first post in the series was Ice Skating with Kids - 10 Ways to Make it Fun.  Today, we continue and move on to a sport my family is actually not familiar with yet - downhill skiing.  My husband and I used to love resort skiing and made it out to nearby hills a couple of times a month.  Since having a child though, we haven't made the jump to downhill skiing as a family.  We've chosen to spend our time on cross country skis and my husband does his alpine skiing in the backcountry. 

Therefore, since I am hardly an expert on downhill skiing with kids, I would like to welcome Alyssa Erickson to my blog today to offer her advice and fun suggestions on how to get out and enjoy skiing as a family.  Alyssa is mom to three children ages 6, 4 and 2, and is no stranger to life on the ski hill with her family.  She is also the creator and author behind the amazing blog, The Kid Project, which offers a wealth of advice on getting outside as a family and taking the kids with you on your adventures.

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

Downhill Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN!

You gear up your family with ski pants, a good coat, helmets to protect their precious head, and rent a whole slew of skis and boots. Good vibes are sky-rocketing as you motor to the ski area. For once the kid’s chat happily in the back seat. In fact, things are going so well that you march up to that ticket window and don’t pass out as you hand over the credit card.

The morning seems to be going well, until one kid falls and through their angry tears shouts, “I hate skiing!” The day snowballs into a heap of misery for everyone involved. No one likes to invest good money and a super human dose of energy into preparing for skiing, only to have the kids complaining and unhappy.

To be honest, our battle usually starts before we even leave the house. Keeping everyone cheerful and moving in the right direction is hard (For a detailed look into our lives of enchanting dysfunction visit A Day in the Life of a Skiing Family.) 

The right clothing and a host of great snacks all work to make a day successful. But in every parent’s back pocket should be a plan to make skiing a ton of fun. Here are games and ideas we use to keep everyone having a blast on the mountain!

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

1. Jumps, Bumps, and Tree Skiing

Strategic “run planning” is just as important for skiing as picking the right trail is for hiking. For example, if you are skiing with young or inexperienced kids, make sure to choose short runs. Their little legs tire quickly and frequent rests on the chair lift will greatly improve your chances of success. The same thing goes for run difficulty and amount of time instructing the kids. We try (and sometimes fail) to keep our on snow instruction to roughly 2-3 runs before just letting the kids have fun.

But here is the truth about kids, when they are skiing, 99% of them just want to fly off jumps or dash down a tree trail. Get them a good helmet, find a fun beginner run and lap it as many times as they want! Learn to look for those secret fun stashes and talk them up on the chair lift ride. Many ski areas now have beginner terrain parks that are super fun too.

2. “Tinhorn” Down-hill Race

The next best thing to flying through trees is racing your buddy. Or your dad. I stole this game (or the name of it) from my parents, who played it weekly in the ski lessons they taught. The key is to choose really easy terrain that preferably goes flat at the bottom.

Draw a line in the snow traversing a run, line them up side by side on the line. Explain the finish line clearly. And say, “ Last one down is a rotten egg! On your mark, get set, Goooo!”

Adults always be the rotten egg. This serves two purposes, the second being you are there to pick up any major wipe-outs. And the kids always love it no matter what age! The most important thing is that the run is not too steep. And the winner should get a reward, like choosing the next run. :)

3. Pop Quiz

This game is great while waiting in the dreaded lift line. But is also serves an educational point. Here are some ideas:
“Pop Quiz: What is the name of this lift?”
“Pop Quiz: How many minutes does it take to get to the top?”
“Pop Quiz: If someone gets lost, where do we meet?”
“Pop Quiz: What time does this lift close?”
“Pop Quiz: Who are the safe people to ask for help if you get lost or hurt?”

Obviously this game is a bit better for an elementary age skier, but you can adapt it for toddlers.
“Pop Quiz: What color is mom’s jacket?”

4. Follow the Leader

Do I need to explain? I didn’t think so. What is fun about follow the leader is:
1. Most kids love a chance to be the leader and make the decisions on where they are going (within reason).
2. If you are in the lead you can circle your arms, hop on your skis, do doughnuts, or (on easy terrain) ski backwards. All these things teach balance and edge control while having fun.

5. Know when to “call it quits.”

Lastly, don’t go skiing with something to prove, either to yourself or someone else. I’ve done this. Thinking to myself, “We need to ski till at least 3:30 to get our money’s worth.” Only to ruin everyone's day when the kids are totally wiped by 2:00.

The right runs, fun games, and a handful of candy will only get you so far. Kids get tired and then cranky. Be ok with calling it quits or have a plan to switch off hanging with the kids in the lodge while the other parent skis a few runs. 

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

I have to thank Alyssa so much for writing this!  We are heading out for our first downhill ski day as a family in a couple of weeks - and I'm terrified!  Hopefully I'll have a suggestion or two of my own to add to this list soon.

Need more tips and suggestions?  Check out these links to other stories written by fellow outdoor family bloggers:

Learning to Ski - Backcountry Parenting

Alyssa Erickson's Bio: I am a Jesus lover, wife, mom, rock climber, skier, photographer and all around adventure lover with a passion for writing. I have my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado. I live and play near the Wasatch Range, partnering with my husband and teaching my kids to make the most of life and the One who gave it to us.

1 comment:

  1. Keeping active as a family is so important. We like your suggestions for making skiing fun for young children. Thanks!