Constructive Ways to Push Your Kids into Skiing

Alright, this title might seem kind of aggressive. I get it—we should never push our kids into doing things they don’t want to do. However, as an experienced mother, I have to say: without my insistence, my kids would not have tried half of their favorite activities. I’m not kidding; they kick and scream for the first few weeks, but once they get the hang of it, they begin to really enjoy what they’re doing. It happened with dance classes. It happened with Karate lessons. And, my friends, it happened with skiing.

Pushing your kids is never easy; as soon as you see those eyes swell with tears, it can be difficult to keep insisting they try something. However, there are constructive ways to push your children, especially when the whole family is involved. If you and your partner want your kids to ski, here’s how to get them into it.

If they’re too scared, wait another year.

I started skiing when I was four years old, but those first few years were traumatic. If I hadn’t gotten over it, I don’t know if I’d have ever gotten back on skis. If your kid is too scared of heights or of going too fast, take a breather and wait another year. In the meantime, introduce them to aspects of skiing over time. If they’re afraid of heights, try some small hikes in the summer. If they’re afraid of speed, bring them to a Go-Kart place. Do what you can to assuage their fears.

Let your kid make the decisions. The small ones, anyway.

If letting your daughter pick out a sparkly purple coat is what it takes to get her on the mountain, go out and buy that damn sparkly coat. Let them feel like they have control over the situation; they’ll gain confidence and trust the sport more fully.

Ask the right questions.

If your kid has a rough day on the slopes, ask what went wrong. If they don’t want to go skiing one weekend, ask them why, and really listen to what they have to say. Then, help your kid develop personal goals to overcome their problems with skiing. Sit down with them and talk about why you want them to learn, then have a discussion about why they do or don’t like the sport. Take their comments to heart.

Where to Go and How to Get there

There’s no bigger dilemma for the Suburban skier, especially if you don’t have a history at a specific resort, than knowing where to go to get in the best skiing possible. And while some skiers and families have a clear favorite, I tend to be a variety is the spice of life kind of girl. Here’s some things to consider as you begin to explore and get to know Colorado ski country . . .

Get Away for the Day – If your family is as fanatical about skiing as we are, you’ll find yourself sneaking in a half day when the kids have early soccer games just as often as you schedule a weeklong family ski vacation. And while we all wish we could jump in a front range wormhole that takes us instantly to the deep powder of Steamboat every weekend, or wouldn’t mind hopping on a private jet for an afternoon in Aspen, the reality of busy lives and Front Range travel can make some of the closer resorts at great option for a quick trip to the slopes. Think Eldora and Loveland if you’re in the metro area, and Monarch if you’re down south in the Springs. All are within an hour or two’s drive (at most) from most front range cities.

Bigger isn’t Necessarily Better (and definitely isn’t any cheaper) – Sure, resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, and Copper get all the press, but they’re not the only game in town. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and explore resorts like Cooper, Sunlight Mountain, Wolf Creek, Purgatory, and Echo Mountain. The skiing is just as good, lift tickets and season passes at these smaller operations are a great value compared to the larger resorts, and because they’re off a lot of people’s radar you won’t be waiting in lines at the lift or skiing through crowds on the slopes.

Go Epic or Go Home! – If variety is the spice of life, then the Epic Pass is the skiing equivalent of a bacon wrapped habanero pepper! For just under $1000 you can ski at 14 different Colorado resorts, as well as ski areas in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. For a little less you can purchase an Epic Local pass for season long access to the main Summit County hubs, or a Summit Value Pass for access to Keystone, A-Basin, and Breckenridge. In short, why settle for skiing the same old runs all winter long when you can spend a little more on your season passes and have it all!

Avoiding the I-70 Parking Lot – Whoever said the journey is more important than the destination never spent time on I-70 getting to and from Summit County. The worst part of Suburban Skiing, by far, is the to and from. You don’t have to feel buckled in to bumper-to-bumper traffic and stop-and-go commutes up to the mountains, however. The Front Range Ski Bus, Bustang, Snow Stang, Greyhound Bus Line, SkiCarPool.com, and a host of private Ski Shuttle services are just a few of the many options available to front range families who would rather kick back and relax on the to and fro than deal with the white knuckle traffic that goes hand in hand with ski season. Instead of pulling the “Oh Shit Handle” through the roof of your automotive upholstery, read a good book, check your e-mail, get some work done, or just enjoy the mountain views instead! And it’s better for the environment, too!

Ski Classes

I cannot stress enough how valuable investing in a ski class or two is for the Suburban Skier and her family! Okay, confession time. As I said before, I have some skiing chops, so when my oldest kids were first learning to ski I naively assumed that I would be the most awesome ski instructor known to man. How could it possibly go wrong? The answer to that question is that it can, and it did, in almost every way possible. I’m not sure where deep in our genetic code kids are pre-programmed to ignore and rebel against everything their parent is trying to teach them, but I’ve been assured since that it’s a universal human trait. To make a long story short, I didn’t make it an hour before my kids were in tears and I wanted to throw them both in a snowbank. Don’t make the same mistake that I did! Sign your kids up for Ski School! You’ll get the morning (or the day) to attack the mountain on your terms, and your kid will gain the confidence and skills they need to make skiing a fun family occasion!   Here’s a breakdown of ski-school options to consider. And, hey, don’t forget . . . Ski School can also be fun for adults and entire families!

Kid Ski Classes & Camps – Almost all resorts offer half and full day ski school for kids. There are “camps” for toddlers and younger school age children (essentially day care on the slopes), and beginner and advanced classes for older kids. Certified instructors are patient and knowledgeable with the kids, and being in ski school with a group of other kids gives children a chance to make friends and have more fun as they learn! It’s a win-win for everybody and a great way for kids to gain confidence on the slopes. I have one friend with younger children who signs her kids up for a ½ day lesson every time her family heads up to the high country!

Full Day Packages – Most large resorts offer full day lessons for kids that include lessons, a lift ticket, lunch, and time higher on the mountain as well. If you’re planning a long stay, this is a great way to get your kid moving from from 0-60 in a single day, so that they can make the most of a longer stay. It’s also a great option for parents who want to get in a full day of double black diamonds while their kid works up from the bunny hill to greens and blues!

Family Ski Lessons – If your family is a new arrival to Colorado’s front range with no ski experience and you’re looking to go native and jump on the ski bandwagon together, family lessons are great option. Essentially a private group lesson, family ski lessons allow groups of up to six people to learn the ropes together. This is also a great option for “framilies” (groups of friends) if you’re looking for an excuse to head up to the mountains for good times doing fun stuff with great friends!

Adult Ski Classes – Ski lessons aren’t just for kids! Whether you’re new to skiing, or new to Colorado, or all of the above, group and private adult lessons are available at all levels for skiers looking to break into the sport, and those wanting to hone their skills and gain more confidence. On a side note, adult group lessons are a great way to meet new people, make new friends, and explore parts of the mountain that you wouldn’t know about or have the confidence to tackle otherwise!

Linda Tomsevics and Tony Peters assist Brandon Gauvreau as they ski March 29, 2010, for the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. Tomsevics and Peters are ski instructors for the winter sports clinic. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Renting vs. Buying

Ahhhhh, the age old debate. To own or not to own? Obviously if you’re a genuine ski-bum, with a season pass no less, you’ll want to get your own gear. But what if you only get up to the high country a few times year? There’s something to be said for customizing your own gear, tailoring it to your particular needs, and for knowing your equipment. That said, with skis and snowboards running anywhere from $400 to $1,000 a pop, renting skis can be a much more practical choice for the occasional weekend snow warrior. To add to that, I do have my own gear, but even so I rent a demo package every once in a while just to get a taste of the newest products out there and to sample different brands and styles (especially when I’m in the market).

And how about kids? Truth be told, we always rent our kids’ skis until they’re done growing. Since proper ski fit is dependent on size, it makes a lot more sense to rent seasonally or for the weekend than it does to buy a new pair of skis and boots every year.

Here’s some more advice on making the ski rental business work for you!

Shop Around – A recent informal survey of ski shops in Summit County show rental prices ranging from $9 to $50 per day for the exact same equipment when it comes to junior rental packages that include skis, boots, poles, and often a helmet! And the difference in prices for adult ski packages are even more pronounced, ranging from $25 per day to well over $100 depending on the package you choose. Setting a little time aside before your vacation to surf the web and compare prices can literally save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars over the course of a weekend, week, or season.

The Longer the Better – When it comes to renting equipment, you can usually get price breaks the longer you rent the skis. For example, a three day rental is cheaper per day than a single day rental, and a week-long rental is cheaper yet.

Rent Seasonally – If you have a season pass and are a regular on the slopes, rent your gear seasonally rather than each time you go skiing and save big money on equipment and maintenance. If you and your family skis more than 5 times in a year, you’ll spend far less renting your gear for the entire season than you will renting your gear for 5 individual days. Even better, you won’t have to worry about your kids outgrowing their gear, since they’ll get refit as each new season rolls around, and maintenance and upkeep falls on the shoulders of the rental shop, not on you during the offseason!

Book Online and Ahead of Time – Most ski rental companies offer significant discounts if you make reservations in advance and online, as opposed to walking in. Discounts and eligibility differ shop to shop, so be sure to scout it out ahead of time for the best rates. Nevertheless, discounts of 20% to 30% are pretty standard if you book online and plan ahead!

Rent in Town, NOT at the Resort – ALWAYS rent your skis in town, not at the resort, if you’re interested in saving money. Sounds crazy, but you can literally walk across the street in most resort towns to independent retailers and knock 10%, 20%, 30% off of your daily rate. And if you think ahead and rent on the front range, you can usually save even more! As a side note, we always rent our skis in town because, when it comes to skiing, time is precious. Why drive up in to the mountains to waste time in a ski shop trying on gear and filling out paperwork, when you can bring your gear from home and get right on the mountain instead!

Gear UP!!!!!!!

Let’s start simple. If you’re skiing with kids, the number one thing to remember is that keeping those kids warm and bundled up in the proper gear is the key to skiing success. Nothing will sour a kid on skiing faster than not being able to feel their fingers and toes, and nothing will cut a day on the slopes shorter than a blue lipped, borderline hypothermic kid. Here’s a list of essential items that you’d be wise to invest in before you snap into your skis or strap on a snowboard.

Stocking Cap – No pom poms please! Remember, your child’s hat will need to fit under a helmet!

Balaclava or Neck Gaiter – Some people consider these optional. I do not. All it takes is one plunge through powder or a kodak quality face plant to get snow down your neck and under your clothes. A good balaclava or neck gaiter gives you that added protection and warmth that can be so critical when alpine skiing!

Heavy Coat – I like coats with a zip-in fleece as an inner layer. That way you’re prepared for any contingency. It can be worn as a heavy coat, a shell on warmer days, or just as a fleece if the weather is nice and you’re strutting around town! 3 in one!

Snow Pants/Snowsuit – I can’t stress how important a good pair of snowpants is (or a good snowsuit for younger children). Remember, we’re talking kids here. Even if they’re a good skier, they’re going to spend a lot of time rolling around and playing in the snow. And if they’re just picking up the sport, they’ll spend as much time horizontal on the slope as vertical. Think warm and spend extra for waterproof!

Gloves – Bypass the cheap pair from Wal-Mart, and pick up a quality pair from a sporting goods store or outdoor outfitter. Again, think waterproof and warm, as it won’t matter how warm the rest of your kid’s body is if their gloves are sopping wet and their fingers are freezing. I even pack in a few spare sets just in case, as kids seem to have an uncanny ability to get their gloves wet!

Wool Socks – I prefer smartwool, because it’s warm and comfortable and your kids won’t complain about them being itchy. Worth every penny. Second only to cold hands, cold feet are your worst enemy when it comes to keeping a kid on the slope!

Long Underwear – Any kind will do, though I prefer synthetic materials that wick moisture over traditional cotton long undies (especially for older kids that seat more. Remember, anything wet = cold, and that’s bad if you want to stay on the mountain.

Skiing on a budget (and who isn’t)? 2nd hand stores in ski towns are great places to pick up high quality gear on the cheap! We make it a point to stop at least once a year, especially if we’re hitting more ritzy resort towns like Vail, Aspen, Steamboat, or pretty much all of Summit County. And if you’re just dipping your toe in the pool and only ski a few times per year, keep in mind that most ski rental companies also rent coats, gloves, and snow pants for $10-$20 per day. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not a bad option for the occasional skier, and especially growing kids who need new gear on a year to year basis!

Welcome to Low Country Skier

To say I grew up on skis is an understatement. My parents were self-described ski-bums, and my brothers, sisters, and I loved to carve it up. We spent all of our family vacations on the slopes, and since we had season passes, there was hardly a weekend during the winter that we didn’t load our gear into the Suburban and head to the Colorado high country. When I think back to my childhood, those are the memories that I cherish the most. Mom and Dad piling us into the car in our pajamas while it was still dark so that we could get out of town and up to the mountains before the slopes opened for the day. Bombing down runs with my siblings, much to the chagrin of my parents (and sometimes ski patrol). Epic powder, half-pipes, bowls, and backcountry, and at the end of a long day, hot chocolate and board games in front of the fire with my family.

So naturally when I got married, moved back home to Colorado’s front range to settle down, and started a family of my own, I was intent on turning my litter of puppies into a pack of powderhounds! What did I learn in the process? An awful lot that I wish I would have known ahead of time, which got me to thinking . . . what the world really needs is a comprehensive guide for the family oriented Suburban Skier! So here it is, ski Moms and Dads. From preventing snot sickles on your toddler to figuring out what the heck your teenager means when he tells you that he got in some “gnar jibs in the park before he tomahawked on a death cookie,” we’ve got all the skinny you need to transform your family from a bunch of touron buttdraggers into a well-oiled ski-loving machine!   We’ll tell you where to go, how to get there, what to wear, how to save, where to splurge, and tons of other practical tips on all things skiing for the Front Range suburbanite!

Somebody told me to put a YouTube video up on my site to help promote it, so check this out: