Any active minded parent, like me, perpetually faces the conflict between encouraging your kid(s) to embrace experiences while not being overbearing. It’s an ongoing learning process for adults and kiddos alike. I felt the need to introduce my kids to skiing. I've learned a lot from my approach with my oldest.
I grew up in Northcentral PA, where Cross Country was the preferred form of ski travel. We had unlimited out-the-door options in every direction. My parents enjoyed weekend mountain getaways as often as possible and I apparently got stuffed in a box strapped to a sled to go visit neighbors.
One of the highlights of my life (to that point) was getting my first pair of XC skis for Christmas when I was 5.5yrs old. My brother and I got our (parent’s) money out of those bad boys for sure. It’s simply what we did once the snow started falling.
Then, at the mature age of 8, Ski Sawmill which is, liberally speaking, a goosebump of a hill (515ft of vertical drop for you ski bums scoring at home) introduced me to something new. I got a sniff of the adrenaline rush of downhill. No offense to my once beloved XC skis, but dang. This is a whole new world. Speed, air, “cool” factor … it was all a bit more dialed up.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to cleanly hold my own at some other classic bumps across the US … Snowbird, Breckenridge, Solitude, etc. I have definitive plans to enjoy this beautiful sport for years to come. Now, it’s time to share the benefits of skiing with my kids which is both exciting and nerve-racking.
Wait … where do I start? I now live in the urban South (Charlotte, NC). Clearly not the ski-out-the-door environment that I grew up in. Sparse annual snowfall (at best), multiple hours from anything that resembles a skiable hill, the excuses can easily build up.
When Miles was 3.5yrs old, I created a plan to introduce him to the world skiing. Time will tell if my plan results in a relationship of his own, but I’m willing to at least set them up on a blind date to give them both a shot at love.
Date #1 – 11/20/19 - Miles, meet the slopes. Slopes, meet Miles. Once I wrestled his rental boots on in the App Ski Mountain lodge, I knew my plan needed to change a bit. We would no longer “go skiing” during this trip, we would simply begin to get comfortable with having strange sticks stuck to our feet for a while. We would then take the skis off and have a raucous snowball fight. We attempted a few “runs” but the highlight was clearly finding relative success in the introduction of a new environment and of course hot chocolate afterwards.
Date #2 – 3/9/20 – We watched a number of Teton Gravity Research films over the holidays and Miles was excited to go see his new crush again. Of course, now that we are seasoned veterans, I figured that we would up the ante and hit a chairlift or two. We made some minimal pizza/french fry progression, but I certainly didn’t have a little ripper on my hands. It was again, an exercise of patience but I honestly felt like he was beginning to show glimpses of enjoying the idea of “skiing”. I noticed a few more smiles and proud smirks on his face. We obviously celebrated those wins with pizza, and toy trucks (and beer).
Date #3 – 2/16/21 – Nearly a year later, and many more ski films, it was time to reunite these two love birds and see how the relationship has blossomed. Another ski boot wresting match ensued, but this time it was easier. He helped get them on himself. He even tried to clip into his own skis. He automatically used his poles to try and propel forward. Dang, we might be getting somewhere! Another few attempts on the bunny hills, sandwiched between more snowball fights and snacks, resulted in what I would consider a massive success. Success enough to start planning the next trip and celebrate with hot chocolate again!
The third and most recent time was certainly not a charm, but we both walked away with a sense of accomplishment, another great experience under our ski legs and a little more love in our hearts.
Miles learned that he can actually ski on his own without me holding him (we still need to learn how to turn, slow down, fall, get on a chair lift, use poles, watch out for others, etc. … we have a long way to go) and I learned that my plan might be working after all.
This journal entry clearly isn’t a scientifically proven step-by-step tutorial on “How to teach your kid to ski”. I’m sure there are "proper" ways to teach these skills, but a standardized approach doesn’t make sense to me.
Everyone has their own unique way of learning and teaching alike. By explaining a few basic skills and putting him in an environment to learn through natural osmosis, Miles seems to be on the right track in his relationship with skiing.
That relationship may stop at any moment or be launched into a wild love affair from here. Whatever the case, I've learned that you can find a balance of being encouraging while not overbearing, I've learned that the little dude is open to trying new things, I've learned a different kind of patience, and most importantly, I've learned that I love to share these types of experiences with my boys to create the same type of fondness that I remember when I was their age.
Journal - What I Learned Taking My Kid Skiing
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
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