I carry a picture of my son with me. He's 11 months old in the photo on a tiny pair of skis at Park City Mountain Resort. I brag as I display that picture. "Yes, Noah skied before he was one," like he was some Albert Einstein of the ski world. Go ahead and call me a stage mom for trying to turn him into a tiny Tommy Moe. He's my kid and I'm a professional skier. How could I wait until he was in kindergarten?
Although Noah is now a great little skier, I admit it is not because he was on the hill from the day he could walk. What you don't see in that photo is a child too young to ski screaming as he was carried back to the car.
I'm a former ski instructor. I would never have encouraged a parent to start a child so early but, he was my son and, in my mind that made it different. Each year I struggled to get my guy comfortable enough to snowplow down Crooked Mile at Alta. I backed off after three years of agony. Noah was losing heart and I was losing my mind.
Noah came running out to the car just after his fourth birthday as I was preparing to head up to Alta. "I want to go skiing, too" he told me. A smile spread across my face and I grabbed his coat and tossed him in the car. Instead of skiing, I took him to watch the kids in ski school. It only took a few minutes for his competitive nature to kick in and the desire to swoosh down the mountain began to consume him.
I took him back up the canyon a few days later and enrolled him in a lesson at Alta. His skiing went from zero to fifty. Not because he had a miraculous instructor, but because he was doing this for himself. He was mature enough to be without me for a few hours and strong enough to hold his wedge without help. He is now able to ski, with encouragement, down some of the toughest terrain Alta has to offer.
Noah decided for himself when the time was right to learn and I learned that I couldn't "make" my son ski. I also learned that just because I was this great skier, it did not mean that I was the right choice to teach my child the basics of skiing. Some parents may never be the right choice to teach their own child to ski.
Luckily for me, Noah is now willing to listen and watch as I try to improve his stance, edging, pole grip, etc. We love the time together and I know these moments are fleeting. He still benefits from lessons with other instructors and will continue to benefit from technical training with various coaches, as much as I like to be the one who instructs him in the sport.
Isaac, my three year old, is now requesting to stomp around the house in his boots and skis. He may be an easier learner as he has an older brother with whom to compete. However, if we get up there and he isn't into it, believe me, I am not pushing him.
Although, I think with a little help from some great new ski gadgets and a private lesson or two, he will be cruising with his big brother in no time.
So, don't be distressed by the cute tot at Deer Valley shredding it up with her instructor. Every kid is different and, if you introduce skiing in a positive way, your child will most likely develop a life long love for the sport.