A few years ago I knew next to nothing about skiing with kids. But after three seasons of doing my best to teach my son, I’ve learned a few things. I hope these tips will help you keep your little shredders happy on the snow this winter!

1. Keep Them Motivated

A positive day on the mountain starts well in advance. Talk about the snow, skiing, and what they do and don’t like. Watching videos of other kid skiers or your own videos from the past season can be a great motivator. Or plan to meet up with your child’s friends or other kids on the mountain since that positive peer pressure is a better motivator than anything mom or dad will ever say. Having a reward after each run works. We dish out a few M&M’s at the top of each run. Apparently chocolate is a powerful parenting tool. Be sure to mix things up as they progress too. Try a new route down the mountain or a new skill or visit a different ski resort. And in between ski days, keep talking about the next trip and future objectives like taking off the harness or going off jumps. 

2. Deploy Strategic Mood Enhancers

Especially for emotionally fragile toddlers, not creating the right happy mood for the day can be disastrous. That may mean swapping out dad’s Nirvana CD for something more calming like Casper Baby Pants on the drive to the ski hill. Once again, chocolate, and even the promise of chocolate in the form of a hot mug of cocoa in the lodge, can make everybody’s day so much better. And by all means, make sure your newbie skier(s) get plenty of rest and healthy food before a ski day. Finally, we found that having a well-stocked cooler with familiar, time-tested lunch items to be a crucial end to a good day on the slopes.

3. Bring All the Right Clothing & Gear

Make sure you have warm layers, water-proof outerwear, and quality ski gear that fits your child. And make sure it’s in the car with you. That last part is critical. Somehow I’ve managed to forget my kid’s gloves, hat, and, one time, even his tiny socks. We have saved money by procuring some great hand-me-down winter gear items from friends, and ski swaps and Spokane’s used gear store NW Outdoors are great for deals. We also lease ski boots, bindings, and skis from Spokane Alpine Haus each season to save money and hassle. When you buy, rent, or lease your ski gear, make sure you also buy the right gear like an “Edgie Wedgie” and ski harness system. I can’t emphasize enough how important that essential equipment is for teaching your child to ski safely and successfully. And be sure to bring extra dry clothing and things like hats, socks, gloves, and scarves. 

4. Know When to Say When

On our son’s second day on the slopes, two months before his 2nd birthday, he was in tears at the end of our last run. That time it wasn’t because we pushed him too hard. No, he burst into tears when we told him that was our last chairlift ride. Since then there have been more tears, including after one difficult run because his Edgie Wedgie broke and evidently most 3-year-olds would rather flop down the mountain like a fish on ice than ski without one. That time we packed up and went home after one hour-long run rather than make an already challenging day into a lasting bad memory. Don’t wait until your kid has a major meltdown or gets so tired they fall asleep mid-sandwich on the way home. In short, know when to say when.

[Photos by Shallan Knowles]