“Skiing transcends into so many other sports, so it’s a great way to spend time on the mountain,” says Todd Ecklund, the lead tech who oversees the junior ski lease program at Sports Authority’s Spokane Valley store. By age three, most children are ready to learn how to ski – and even younger toddlers can do it. Of course, only you – the parent – can accurately gauge your child’s readiness to ski. But if your child enjoys being in the snow and wants to learn to ski, and has good balance and leg strength, then why not give it a try? Here are some DIY tips for gearing up your kid and having fun on the bunny hill.
Ski “teaching” gear: A ski tip connector, halter and a harness or tether system for controlling your child’s speed are a good idea – options include the Launch Pad™ (hookease.com) or the CoPilot™ LIFT Multi-Sport Halter and CoPilot™ Ski Trainer, made by Snowcraft (gosnowcraft.com).
Where to find gear (if you didn’t get lucky at the ski swap): Alpine Haus offers a junior lease program that includes skis, bindings and boots, or a snowboard and boots ($119.95). They also can lease boots ($55) or skis ($75) separately. Sports Authority leases junior ski or snowboard packages ($89), but has a limited supply of skis this season. Sports Creel has a trade-in/trade-up program for used junior gear – a program that this family-owned business has been offering for nearly 60 years to help make skiing affordable for families with growing kids, according to Store Manager Micah Genteman, whose father started the program.
“We’ll start with a new or used package and, as kids grow, families can trade-in parts and pieces for bigger or longer gear,” he says. “The great majority of used skis started at the shop as new merchandise. If we have relatively recent equipment, a traditional used ski will cost $45-50, plus $35-40 for bindings. Used boots are about $40-50. So, it costs about $100-125 for an entire package, and at the end of the season you have gear that your child can use next season, and trade-in or trade-up any components.”
Where to go: Lift tickets for children age six and younger are free at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass and Schweitzer ($10 at 49° North). Schweitzer’s “Musical Carpet” (free) is a great tool for teaching toddlers and preschoolers.
Must-use teaching terms that kids understand: “Pie” or “pizza” (snowplow) and “French fries” (straight skis).
Teaching Tips for Parents: Have realistic expectations – children have short attention spans, and they get tired and cold more quickly. Make it fun, be enthusiastic, and praise effort and hard work. Stow special snacks in your jacket, and enjoy them on the chairlift or even mid-run (e.g., fruit snacks, candy – whatever might help keep your kid motivated). Provide goals and rewards – such as, “Let’s make five runs and then go to the lodge for hot chocolate.”
Ecklund, a former ski racer who has been working in the ski industry for over 20 years, taught both his sons to ski when they were toddlers. His advice for parents: “Start in a very controlled, wide open area. Helmets are a definite must. Have fun with it. Don’t make it a chore.” If you have any concerns about teaching your child to ski, contact a local mountain ski school.