Every children's ski school instructor is full of tips, hints, and ideas to make it fun for your kids to learn on the snow. That's why you should always put your child in lessons first, rather than trying to teach them yourself. (Same with spouses.) You don't want frustrated kids, as well as frustrated parents.
You're ready for family day after they've had a few lessons, though. That's when the whole family skis together. Some of the country's top ski instructors have some super suggestions for keeping everyone happy.
The biggest thing each instructor agreed on was to talk to your child's ski teacher after their last lesson, to find out how they're doing, what level they're on, and what they can handle, especially when it comes to terrain. Noah Sheedy with Telluride's Ski & Snowboard School says, "Do not 'over-terrain' them. A great, confident young skier on runs they are comfortable with can regress very quickly when forced to do harder terrain."
Greg Willis at the Beaver Creek Ski School says, "My biggest tip is for the parents to use the report card that the resort sends with you. Parents get a little overanxious and they over-terrain the child and it turns out to be a terrible experience. The kids regress and they get angry and they start arguing with the parents because they're in a spot that they shouldn't be in and their skills diminish. Then we have to start all over again."
Meagan Jones at Mammoth Mountain agrees, adding that instructors are always happy to make a suggestion to parents as to the type of terrain your child should, or shouldn't be on. "Through the lesson, the skiing is not muscle memory yet. It has to be repeated over and over again before it becomes muscle memory. If you challenge them too much with the terrain, it throws the skill out the window. It's best to work on skills and skill development, and then work on terrain. Once they're comfortable, then they can progress to more challenging terrain."
Jones says this is critical when a child goes from the "death wedge" or "pizza" to a parallel turn. "When they're starting to parallel, challenge them with easy runs and in the trees. Don't challenge them with the pitch, and avoid the steep runs. Once they're proficient, then you can get steeper. Once it's second nature and they don't even think about it anymore, then you can go on harder terrain."
Another tip from Telluride is to let younger children follow an adult who is making great, round turns. Sheedy says, "Progress is gained through mileage."
Willis says they teach kids how to control their speed coming down the mountain using a round turn shape. Parents should teach this too. "It's their mechanism for slowing down, not the pizza wedge. Everywhere they go, they need to be using those turns. That's what we do as adults. That's what we want the kids to learn and master."
Heidi Clark with Boyne Mountain's SnowSports Academy has some great ideas. She says to be patient, keep it light and fun, and let the kids be the leaders and show Mom and Dad what they have learned.
Noah agrees, saying pacing is important. "Parents need to be aware of fatigue. Even if their young child is a great skier, their endurance will not be what the parent's is."
He adds that it is especially true on those epic powder days that we all love. "They are small; a few inches of powder can seem like feet to them."
Finally, Noah adds the importance of family day: "A family who skis together, stays together."