Due to broken bones and hectic schedules, the only snow my 6-year-old had ever seen was at SeaWorld during the holidays. It doesn’t snow in San Diego and the day prior to boarding our plane to Denver, with Keystone Resort as our final destination, we were all wearing shorts… in January.

Perhaps because it had taken us so long to get my daughter up on skis, she wasn’t keen on the idea. In fact, she had convinced herself that learning to ski at ski school was going to be the worst thing ever. Ultimately, she loved it. Based on our experience, I offer the following advice if your child is nervous about skiing for the first time.

5 Tips For Getting Kids Excited About Skiing

1. Involve Kids In Ski Gear Selection

Pink googles? Check. Fuzzy Burton hooded jacket? Check. Allowing kids to select their own ski gear emotionally invests them in the project. And, no, kids ski gear doesn’t have to break the bank. Search the internet for sale, overstock or prior year’s ski clothing for kids (and you). Department of Goods and Moosejaw are excellent sources of high-quality, discounted ski and other gear. We’ve ordered from both.

What ski clothes do kids really need in Colorado and similar climates?

  1. A base layer of thermal underwear made from synthetic material such as silk or polyester (cotton is a huge no-no as it wicks absorbs moisture rather than wicking it away from the skin)
  2. Wool or other warm, long socks
  3. Ski pants
  4. A good fleece
  5. Ski jacket
  6. Gloves
  7. Hat and/or a neck gaiter

I’m a big believer in neck gaiters. If it’s cold, kids will need one to pull up over their mouth and nose as protection from the wind. Keep in mind that kids will wear helmets so a fluffy hat will need to be removed during skiing. And, of course, sunscreen is an absolute must. If renting ski clothes and gear suits you, Mountain Threads delivers to Colorado resorts.

2. Don’t Assume Kids Know What Skiing Is

After months of me hyping this trip, she confessed that she didn’t really know what skiing entailed. She’d seen people on snowboards and skis on TV, but which one would she be doing? How exactly would she learn? Would she fall down? Does it hurt when you do? The more information you can arm first-time skiers with, the better. Even my simple explanation of, “It’s sort of like using your Razor scooter down a hill except you’d have one on each foot…” seemed to ease her fears.

3. Tell Them That Their Friends Do It, Too

Someone you know has probably already Facebooked a photo of their kid(s) on skis or in the snow. And, if it’s on Facebook, the kids are probably smiling and on their best behavior. Show these to your nervous skier. Peer pressure does work.

4. Consider Whether Or Not To Call It “Ski School”

Kids on skis at Camp Keystone

If your child draws a bad association to the word “school” then omit “ski school” from your vocabulary. The truth is that these days it’s not at all like the ski schools I went to. It’s a fun day at camp filled with other snow and indoor activities in order to give tired legs a break. Call it “Camp Keystone” or “ski lessons” or whatever you think will resonate better. Make it sound as fun as it actually is.

 5. Go To A Kid-Friendly Ski Resort

And, make sure you stay at least a few days. Because my daughter hadn’t seen real snow before, building a snowman was at the top of her list. Arriving a full day prior to hitting the slopes allowed her to tick these bucket list items off, acclimate to the climate and altitude, and get used to wearing much more clothing than a Southern California day-out entails.

A number of ski resorts offer other kid-friendly activities in addition to skiing. The program at Keystone is called Kidtopia and we did everything from ice skating to painting pottery, not to mention that kids ski free throughout this entire season. The presence of other activities prevents a child’s mind from becoming too focused on the unfamiliar place otherwise known as ski school or whatever you choose to call it.

Tips For Nervous Ski Parents

Find comfort in the fact that most kids kick up a fuss about learning to ski and ski school. I highly encourage doing whatever it takes to just get them through the door. My daughter’s attitude skiing changed as soon as one of the Camp Keystone staff members started fitting her helmet, boots and skis. After her gear was set, they led her to a coloring area and I left without a peep from her. At the end of the day, her mood was elevated and she couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was.

Resist the urge to hover and hit the slopes yourself. Your presence is daunting for the instructors and could add pressure to your child. Missing the perfect photo opp is worth a successful ski day for everyone involved.

What are your tips for getting kids excited about learning to ski?

Photos are also courtesy of Julia Vandenoever/Keystone Resort and Sarah Wieck/Keystone Resort.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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One Comment

  1. Stop doing it as soon as they aren't having fun anymore. Basically let them run the schedule. You want them to love it, any bad associations of it on the first experience will make it challenging to get them to want to go back for more!