[Editor Note: From time to time, SeniorsSkiing.com re-publishes an article from its archive.  Here’s one from Harriet Wallis about teaching your grandkids to ski from way back in 2014. Comments welcome.]

Five Non-Obvious Tips For Making Learning Fun For All.

Because you love to ski or ride, you probably hope that your grandkids will also share your passion for the snow.  Here are some ideas to get things off to a good start if you plan to teach them yourself.

How about those smiles? Credit: Harriet Wallis
How about those smiles?
Credit: Harriet Wallis

Look for deals. Some resorts offer free or low cost tickets for youngsters. A cheapo ticket can take the financial pressure off you, especially if the day’s weather is iffy, or if your grandkids are in town only for a short, gotta-teach-them-to-ski-right-now visit.

Start on flat ground. “A child will not miraculously assume a balanced stance on the beginner hill,” says Jo Garuccio, a Snowbird, UT, instructor and PSIA trainer and examiner. “Children should have some prerequisite sliding time at the bottom of the slope.

“It’s imperative that the child stand and slide independently on a flat surface before giving the child a downhill experience,” she says. “Initially, the terrain should be flat enough so that the child can go straight, lose momentum and stop.”

My friend Larry Green did just that with his granddaughter. He gave little Yoella her first sliding experience on virtually flat snow. “She loved it, and she egged me to pull her up that slight slope again—and again— and again—so that she could slide down. I even used my old snow skates to make it easy for me to maneuver with her. But I’m exhausted,” he said. “That three-year-old totally wore me out!”

Cool kids. Pediatric journals say that children heat and cool differently than adults.  Their bodies cool off faster than adults because they have proportionately more outer skin surface in relation to their body size.  So even though you have them bundled up—and you might be comfy—when kids say they’re cold, it’s time for a hot cocoa in the lodge.

Edgie-Wedgie keeps ski tips from wandering Credit: Amazon
Edgie-Wedgie keeps ski tips from wandering
Credit: Amazon

Gizmos. The snow sports industry offers a variety of devices such as harnesses, leashes and Edgie Wedgie tip clamps. “But aids are not a substitute for skill,” says Garrucio. “Don’t take your child on to high level terrain with tip clamps or leashes. Stay on easy green or very light blue slopes.”

Stifle your own expectations. Be sure to make it fun for the kids, says Mary Whittke, retired ski school director of Brighton Resort, UT. Even if your grandchild is super coordinated and athletic, put your own expectations aside. Kids don’t instantly morph into Olympic champions just because you love the sport. Give them little tips, but back off from the overkill of teaching, teaching, teaching. Help them have fun on the snow.

There’s a warning that comes with teaching your grandkids to ski or ride. Kids catch on and progress so rapidly that they’ll ski and ride compatibly with you for only 15 minutes of their lives. After that, they leave you behind. But maybe that’s okay.

Would you teach your grandkids to ski or ride?  What’s your advice?

15 Comments

  1. Avatar larry green says:

    Great work on this one.
    Looking forward to the next installment
    (When looking down a steep slope you used to ski easily, it is always good to remember “My insurance doesn’t include stupidity”. Tips for the aging skier)

  2. Avatar Marie Minnick says:

    Great that there is a magazine for seniors,as more and more of them are staying active well into their 80’s and some into their 90’s!!

    • Avatar Michael Maginn says:

      Thanks Marie. We hope to provide information and useful articles for our audience as well as help influence the ski industry to recognize the “power” of senior skiers.

  3. IMHO – really not a good idea to teach family.

    That being said – IF you have recent instructor (SUCCESSFUL) experience w/young never-evers – take a chance. BUT remember – it’s about having FUN! It’s not about getting them to ski where you want to ski.

  4. Great article. I would add, fall down with the kiddies, throw some snow balls, take a break before they get tired, and be prepared to be exhausted at the end of the day.

  5. We started our grand daughters now 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, 2 years ago…started indoors on our carpet to be able to maneuver the skis, get in and out of the binding. Graduated to outside on the grass just moving around. Got out on the snow doing the same thing. The key was to stop when they got tired. This made it relatively easy when we went to the local mountain. We used between the knees, holding on to a hula hoop, holding on to an extended ski pole, using a ski ring in addition to the harness to make it easier to get them up on their feet when they fell. So far, so good…the older one went up the chair lift and came down a green run. The little one graduated to the magic carpet.

  6. I think the advise was very good for the most part. I am an advid skier, have been for over 50 years. I have done many things in skiing. One of them was a ski instructor for many years at a small area in upstate NY. I helped my children learn to ski when they were very young with the falt or almost no downhill part and then right into lessons for a few times. They did great and I was able to ski and get my fix. The point I would like to make is, yes help your children and grand children learn to ski. It is a life time sport and hopefully they will like it as much as you do. There is nothing better than going skiing with your grand children no matter how fast and well they ski. At some point you will be spending time with them and this what it is all about. Do them and yourself a favor. Put them in lessons when the are confident on flat ground. Let the professionals do their job. The children will most likely listen more and learn faster, especially if they are in a group of other children. Have fun and ski safe.

  7. It was my goal to get all of my grandchildren skiing. I insisted that they get into private lessons when they started and only then did I attempt to help them to improve their skiing.. They all became. good-expert skiers, one even preferring, cross country skiing. and he lived in SLC with his parents. His sister, who has CP, participated at the Park City Ability Center. The two in Houston ( not much snow there} traveled to Utah and Colorado to ski, and the two who lived in Naperville learned to ski locally. One comment- the cost of skiing now makes it almost prohibitive for them to frequently ski. , even for seniors.!!!,

  8. Avatar Norb Chehak says:

    I do not recall seeing the word ” safety” in the article but this must be number 1 on the list, followed by Fun Fun Fun.

    • Harriet Wallis Harriet Wallis says:

      You’re right. Safety is #1. As a former ski instructor, our ski school director said: “It’s Safety, Fun and Learning — in that order.” If kids are safe, they can have fun. If they’re having fun, they’ll learn. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Avatar Cathy Meyer says:

    We just got my two year old grand daughter some plastic skis that strap over snow boots, so no struggles with ski boots and easy to use a few minutes a time. She’s great at walking around on the carpet already! We have had short experiences on snow but when she didn’t like it, that was that. My dad taught me, I taught my daughter, and now we have a 4th generation skier in the works! We get some natural snow so backyard practice is possible and I am an instructor at the local ski hill, so we can get her out there for free. My daughter resisted some of my instruction when she was little but I made her my helper and had her demonstrate some basic maneuvers. 😉

  10. Avatar Cherry Adams says:

    I wouldn’t teach them but I’ve certainly paid for their ski lessons and passes. I love to be able to ski with them but you are right it is a brief moment in time until they are faster than you!

  11. My grandson was on skis in Aspen at the age of 3. They were teaching the wedge. All he did was snowplow. When he was 5 I had an argument with the ski school about the wedge. I said they should put them on an easy hill with a level end and teach what they now call a hockey stop. I took him out of ski school and spent 5 days with him. I took him up the baby lift at Buttermilk and put my arm around his shoulders and his skis next to mine and we made turns. Where I turned he turned. Then I started to let loose and skied next to him instructing weight on the right ski / weight on the left ski. After that I did the same with knees right and knees left. We started skiing intermediate trails on the 4th day and I brought him back to the ski school on the 5th day and said he was skiing parallel. At the age of 6 he was skiing with me and other class A skiers. At the age of 9 he was invited to ski with the US Ski Team Farm Team in Park City. Last Spring at the age of 10 he was skiing double blacks in the fall line at Park City. That is how you teach a kid to ski.

  12. My advice is be flexible each child learns differently. Oldest started at 2 1/2 loved it from the start. Played in the house first with skis made of paper plates, them moved to plastic Lucky Bums. Could walk around and do all the stuff you’d expect a beginner to do. On the snow used a product called Hookeze which attaches a ski pole to tail of the skis. This provided the 2 1/2 year old the ability to find his balance point and get the feeling of steering his skis into a turn. The next year off that and on straps, year three off all devices and skiing the entire mountain locally which I would define as a skiers hill, pitch and terrain. Now at 7 he’s ripping the hill and getting close to a tight parallel turn.
    His brother tried same process and fought us at every turn. Different kid different learning style. So this year we invested in a local parks 2 day camp for him and his 5 year old cousin (both are now 5). WOW!! In two days turning and stopping on his own, no straps on our local beginner slope. Now they have progressed up the hill in three weeks but we used a harness for our peace of mind and hope to cut them both loose by end of season.
    When I asked the one that fought myself and his father how come he learned so fast in camp? His reply is that I could stop and turn by myself, he hated not being in control with the Hookeze. From the mouth of babes!
    As a certified instructor I should have wised up quicker to the fact he wasn’t getting it, but I made the mistake of figuring the older grandchild was successful with this method and the others would be too.
    DONT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE! Find out what works and use it.

  13. when I started my grand daughter last year on plastic skis attached to her snow boots, people would ask ” how old is she?” My response was ” grumpy old grandpa says she can walk, she can ski and oh yes she’s 1 1/2″ .That’s all she did last year, just walk with skis on her feet. This year she is so enthusiastic but we are going slowly, her being comfortable with skis, just like shoes. Little by little, with me as teacher and her teaching me her limits.
    And yes, wearing a helmet, as I am the oldest Ski Patroller on our hill, safety first and have fun!!!

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