Growing up skiing, I went on to become a ski-a-holic and CSIA Level II instructor while my sister swore off the sport. Where did my family and I go wrong?
If I remember right, we were at Nakiska and no more than eight and six years old when my Mum snuck up behind my little sister and gently unhooked the ski leash she was tethered to. Although she was in control, as soon as little Stacey realized her safety net was gone, she went wild with panic, gained a fair amount of speed, and went crashing into an orange safety fence. That was the beginning of the end.
Over the years she humoured us with family trips to Whitefish, Montana or days out on local mountains, but recently, while we were packing for a trip with friends to Fernie, she lamented, “Why doesn’t anyone believe me that I just don’t like skiing?” I don’t know why I hadn’t believed her. To me, skiing is just so damn fun. How could anyone not enjoy whipping down the hill, chill on your cheeks, feeling sheets of untouched snow at the base of your skis? There’s nothing else like it.
So, I figured it couldn’t have just been that one snow fence incident, but rather a collection of recurrent gaffes on the part of our family. Here’s where she said we went wrong:
1. Ski the same hill every time
Keep them super attached to the same bunny hill and same magic carpet. No need to expand their comfort or skill level.
Ski coach fix: Introduce your kids to a bunch of different hills and runs. A change in terrain will give them the confidence to tackle new slopes as their ski level improves.
2. Don’t ask, just do
Ignore your kids’ requests to repeat the bunny hill yet again. Remember, as the parent, you make the rules – they don’t know what they want.
Ski coach fix: Stick it out on the bunny hill until you see confidence levels soar. Don’t rely too much on props to keep your kids upright, as they will rely on you to steer and stop. Play follow-the-leader or red light-green light and let them set the pace.
3. Ski, lift, repeat
Stay focused on your end game – you’re raising a skier here. Breaks should be kept to a minimum, with lap and run count high. The more chairs you get in, the better.
Ski coach fix: Give your kids a break from the descent and still work on their snowplough: find a flat space at the base of the hill out of the way of ski traffic and have them make bow ties and arrow shapes in the snow with only their boots. This helps develop the ability to pivot their feet without the weight of a ski.
4. Seek to ski in cold weather
Snow covered trees and summit vistas are only enhanced by a severe drop in temperature. They’ll be tougher skiers if they go out at 40 below zero.
Ski coach fix: Keep your kids warm and dry to keep them happy. Up your number of lodge visits as the temperature drops and carry extra layers, keeping a close eye out for frostbite (when pink cheeks turn white). On extra cold days, hand and toe warmers and tasty hot chocolate are your best friends.
5. Try to teach them yourself
You’ve got a lot of years under your belt, and you can teach a toddler a thing or two. Nothing brings a family closer together than 24/7 time on the hill.
Ski coach fix: It’s that universal truth that no one wants to hear it from their own family. If you’ve got young skiers, stick them in a lesson. They’ll be comfortable around other kids at the same skill level and chomping at the bit to show you what they learned when class is over.
6. Resort to Peer Pressure
Persuade your kids to do it your way, before they get old enough to realize they can form their own opinions about sports. “Everyone is outside skiing and having fun except you” is a good place to start.
Ski coach fix: Your kids just might not love skiing the same way you do, or they might want to take up snowboarding, play in the terrain park, or try Nordic skiing instead. Keep them loving winter by trading in skis for tobogganing, tubing, building forts and snowmen or snowshoeing and try again next season.
In the end, my sister still has fun in winter and she’s very active. Throughout high school she danced a lot, she plays softball in the summer, hits the gym frequently, and loves to run. I’ve decided to let her go a couple winters free from harassment. Besides, I estimate I’ve only got about five years before I can teach her kids to ski instead.