The very best thing to do when teaching your kids to ski or snowboard is to first put them in a lesson. Let them figure out how to do it with the help of a trained professional. There are some tricks and contraptions to help them learn better on the snow once they have the basics.
Ben Boyd confirms. "We put our kids in ski school. Let the professionals handle it. You're absolutely insane if, as a parent, you think you can teach your kids to ski. The worst thing that I see as a professional in the industry is friends teaching friends."
Ben knows his stuff, too. He runs the snowboarding program for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. He is also the father of four-year-old twins, who started with lessons. "It gives them a better entry into the sport and puts them in a safe and happy environment. Then they'll start being passionate about the sport and be happy with what they are doing."
Mike Brown of Vail also has a three-year-old who took lessons to learn, despite Mom, Jen, being a former pro skier and Dad, Mike, being on the U.S. Ski Team for 10 years.
"The one thing that I have found with teaching children at the beginning is it's not necessarily the best thing to have the parents do the indoctrination to the sport. The kids have a tendency to do better with their peers and an instructor. Then, as they get a little more proficient, they can go out with their parents."
That's when the gadgets come into play.
Harnesses are very popular for kids ages two to four. They go around your child's chest, sometimes with a little backpack for the straps. The harness is helpful when loading on a chair lift. The straps are great to give your child the freedom to ski in front of you. You're behind, holding on, in case he or she gets out of control.
Bill Haight with Wee Ski, Inc. has been manufacturing harnesses out of Colorado for over 20 years. "The main idea is to let the child be restrained so they don't feel that they're going to get away from you and get down the hill. It's a security for them. But they get to do their own thing."
Haight says you hold the reins so that they're in position. "The best way is to let the child out on the lead, let them feel comfortable so that they're not going to get away and go down the hill on their own too fast."
Mike Brown definitely plans to use the harness. "Once they get going, they get a touch of confidence. Then, the last thing on their mind is stopping and they don't necessarily understand the consequences of falling.
"The harness is best because it allows them to stand up and use their own balance. You can let them be free. But if things do get out of control, you can slow them down a touch."
Mike adds that the kids learn best by watching. "Have one parent with the harness behind the child and then one ahead of the child, showing them what to do."
Be careful though, that you know what you are doing. Ben Boyd says, "The harness sometimes allows parents to drag their kid around and that isn't always beneficial to the child."
Fred Rumford runs the Telluride Ski & Snowboard School and he agrees,"They become convinced that Mom or Dad are going to slow them down."
Try an Edgie Wedgie. It's a small piece of rubber with attachments on both ends. It attaches to the tips of your child's skis to keep their tips together. Rumford says it's great for motor skills. "The Edgie Wedgie holds their tips together, so when they push out, it automatically makes their feet twist so that their toes are in and their heels are out."
Rumford says to learn the fundamentals through the lesson. "Then, additional practice time with Mom and Dad is what you need."
Rumford adds that with the little ones, it's about a whole snow adventure. "The learning to ski part is only a small segment of the day. For the little kids, their attention span isn't that great. It's about playing in the snow, riding the lift, and having lunch on the mountain. If you bill it that way with the kids, you're going to be much more successful."