By Mari Syverstad
When I was seven years old my parents took me on a trip to the Swedish mountains and I tried downhill skiing for the first time. I remember it was really difficult but also really fun. Since then my family went on ski vacations every year to different ski resorts in the northern part of Sweden. Just being together as a family those weeks and having fun outside all day are some of my most precious memories from my childhood. I have many lovely memories of skiing in the piste (trail) and off-piste in the forest, singing in the lift, drinking hot chocolate and having a traditional sauna after a whole day of skiing.
Skiing is fun
When I had my own children, I wanted them to learn alpine skiing. We continued our weekly trips together with my parents and my sister’s family. My oldest daughter was 3 years old the first time she tried skiing. The first year it was more about having fun. She started on a very small hill, just to get used to the equipment and finding her balance. When we got to the “real” slopes, we played together while skiing down the hill and made up different games. For example pretending to be a meatball, bending the knees as much as possible, or pretending to be a train by holding on to each other. As soon as she got tired of skiing we took a break, it is important to not to force them skiing.
In the beginning we used a ski leash before my daughter was able to turn and control speed herself. That was a great way to keep control but still let her go on her own.When she was able to turn and stop, and when we didn’t have to control the speed by pulling the leach, we stopped using it. Another learning aid that I have seen, but never tried, is a tip connector . It connects the tips of the skis, and helps the child to keep a wedge, or pizza slice, position. I think I will try that on my youngest daughter.
She is 3 years and has tried skiing for the first time here in Canada, at Blue Mountain. That was a perfect ski resort for families. The smallest slopes were perfect for beginners. The lifts were “magic carpets” (ski lift), so she could get to the top of the hill all by her self. She went up and down for several hours and had a lot of fun. I felt so warm inside when I was standing behind her on the magic carpet, and she started to sing all by herself.She is 3 years and has tried skiing for the first time here in Canada, at Blue Mountain. That was a perfect ski resort for families. The smallest slopes were perfect for beginners. The lifts were “magic carpets” (ski lift), so she could get to the top of the hill all by her self. She went up and down for several hours and had a lot of fun. I felt so warm inside when I was standing behind her on the magic carpet, and she started to sing all by herself.
The day will come when the whole family can ski together all day, but in the beginning it is a bit of work from the parent’s side and you need a lot of patience. Just putting all the clothes and gear on and getting to the slopes seems to be a challenge. But it is worth it when you see the ear-to-ear smile on your child’s face and how proud they are when they are able to go down the slope.
I think it is very important to stop when the child doesn’t think it is fun or when they are cold or hungry. When children are wearing proper clothes and comfortable boots they will be warm and have much more fun skiing.
Wearing a helmet is a safe way to prevent head injuries. Both my children and me are always wearing a helmet and the good part is that it also keeps us warm.
Let your child try downhill skiing on a small hill to begin with. Just a little hill in your neighbourhood park can be enough, and you don’t have to buy expensive lift tickets.
You have to be experienced skier or patience parents to teach your children how to ski; it might be a good idea to take some lessons from an experienced instructor. Almost all resorts in Canada and US offer lesson from three years age through ski schools or private lessons. When you book your ski destination also book ski school or private lessons for your child.
Skiing makes me sing
Today my oldest daughter is 7 years and she skies on almost every slope. She likes to compete or play “follow-the leader” down the hill. Skiing together with her makes me feel like a child again. We go through the trees, we love taking a break and reward ourselves with hot chocolate and we sing songs together on the chairlift.
Mari lives in Sweden with her partner and kids.