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As a professional ski instructor, I readily admit that I hated ski harnesses because of the fact that most people use them incorrectly.
However, as a mom of 5 skiing kids, I’ve grown to love children’s ski harnesses and know that a good ski harness (combined with knowing how to use it correctly), is a great tool to teach kids to ski. In fact, we love our ski harness so much that our toddler wears one every time we ski. If you want to teach your own kids to down hill ski or even cross country ski, a ski harness is a great ski training tool, and here you’ll learn exactly how to use it the right way (and what not to do).
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What is a ski harness?
A ski harness is a device that helps young children learn how to ski. A ski harness for kids is worn around the torso, like a vest, and typically has webbing-type leashes that attach at the back.
When should you use a ski harness?
Ski harnesses for kids can be great tools to teach kids how to ski. Unfortunately, most of the time I see parents using them incorrectly. Imagine a kid out walking their dog and the dog is basically pulling the kid down the street, out of control. That’s how most parents use a ski harness, and it’s completely wrong. As you can imagine, the improper use of them has created a lot of ski harness controversy in the industry.
Ski harnesses are best used to help kids learn how to turn or to perfect their stop on more sloped beginner terrain. If you notice that you ski down a run with your child and their ski harness leashes are tight the entire time, you are on terrain that is too difficult for them and you should probably try something easier. A kids’ ski leash is there only to help give kids a gentle nudge in the right direction, not as a crutch to totally let them loose on the ski hill.
Check out all our other kids’ ski gear reviews:
Best Kids Ski Helmets
Best Waterproof Gloves and Mittens
Best Kids Ski Goggles
Best Snow Pants
Best Ski Socks For Kids
Best Ski Coats For Kids
and of course our Family Ski List Printable
How to properly use a ski harness
The proper way to use a kids’ ski harness with the leash is with the leashes loose most of the time and at slow speeds. If a child gets unexpectedly out of control, a soft tug will slow them down while you remind them to stop with their pizza wedge. The concern with kids’ ski harnesses is that if used incorrectly it will teach your child bad habits. Leaning on the ski harness will make them have improper balance.
Another thing that a toddler ski harness is good for is teaching young kids how to turn. First, make sure you have a ski harness that attaches to the hips, not in the middle of the back. Gently pull on the leash in the direction that you want them to turn, immediately loosening the tension as soon as they have turned. The absolute best way to do this is with 2 adults teaching when possible. Have one ski in front of the child, in smooth wide turns for them to follow, then have one behind them holding the leashes and helping them turn. This helps them to learn to follow someone but also gives them a bit of assistance if they struggle to turn.
You always must remember that a ski harness for kids is a tool, and you don’t want them to become dependent on it. If they start to lean into it too much, it’s probably time to put it away for a while and ski on something easier.
We’ve taught all 5 of our kids how to ski and 3 of them learned how to turn on their own, and 2 of them used a harness to help them learn. When kids learn to ski really young like ours do (most of our kids started skiing at 18 months), a harness can be a great learning tool.
WARNING About Using A Kids Ski Harness
In the last few years, I’ve seen TONS of videos and photos pop up on social media of people taking young kids on incredibly difficult terrain (usually black diamond) using a ski harness. DO NOT DO THIS!! This is incredibly dangerous for multiple reasons.
First of all, a ski harness is a training tool. It is never intended to be used to take kids on terrain that’s far above their ability level. When kids are taken on terrain that’s above their ability level while being held on to with a harness, they often start to think that they can ski anything on the mountain, regardless of their skills. This is dangerous to the child and dangerous to other skiers and riders on the mountain. Kids should only ski in areas where they have appropriate skills for the terrain.
Second, when parents are holding their kids on a ski harness tightly on difficult terrain, it disrupts their balance and center of gravity, making them much more prone to falling…on top of their kids. Trust me, the last thing you want it so fall on top of your child on a black diamond run and have both of you sliding out of control down a ski run. If you teach your kids how to ski properly, there will be plenty of time for advanced terrain, after you put in the time to teach them the basics.
Our youngest is now nearly 5 years old and still wears a ski harness trainer ONLY for the handle on the back which makes getting him on and off the lift so much easier. He’s a solid intermediate skier, but he will continue to wear his kids’ skiing harness until he is tall enough to get on the chairlift alone.
Best ski harnesses for kids
To find the best kid ski harness, it’s important to know what you are looking for in a kids’ ski harness. The best kids’ ski harness will fit your child well and have a handle that doesn’t get in their way when they sit on the chair lift. Whether you are looking for a toddler ski harness, a kids’ ski trainer, or a kids’ ski backpack, you’ll find some great options below:
This is the ski harness that my kids wear and I absolutely love it. We think it’s the best ski harness for toddlers. It’s nice and simple, and the low-profile design means that they don’t need to take the harness off when sitting in a chair. The handle makes it super easy to grab them and the leashes hook onto the sides of the harness. My favorite feature of the Launchpad ski harness is that the leashes have elastic in them (a must-have feature). I also love that there are 2 leashes on this harness so that you can help to turn kids from one side to another by simply pulling one leash or the other. For us, this has been the best toddler ski harness on a budget.
In the last year, we’ve seen more and more of MDXONE ski harnesses for kids showing up on the ski hill. Overall, it has some really nice features that make it one of the best kids’ skiing harnesses for teaching kids to ski. The top feature that we like about this ski training tool for kids is that it has a retractable leash, so you’re not dealing with long cords every time you get on and off the chairlift (similar to a retractable dog leash). The retractable leash attaches to the bungee attachments so that kids are gently helped down the ski hill. The leash can also attach to a child’s skis, which every parent will appreciate if you’ve ever had to deal with pushing kids across flat terrain. We also love that it has a full-functioning backpack that’s big enough to carry an extra layer of clothing and some snacks.
This harness also features an option to use as a full-body ski harness with straps that go between the legs, very similar to a kid’s full-body climbing harness. While many parents love this feature, it may be a bit of overkill, AND it makes going to the bathroom more difficult. The other thing that I don’t love about this harness is that it doesn’t work well for helping kids turn since it only has one point of attachment. The single point of attachment is ideal for snowboarding, making it the best snowboard harness for kids.
The Sklon harness for snowboarding and skiing is a ski training harness with some really great features. While this harness doesn’t have a backpack, it has a few other really great features that we love. The first great feature that I like about this ski trainer is that it has an adjustable back height so that it fits a wide size range of kids (though we don’t recommend using a harness for kids over age 5).
The other feature that we absolutely love is that there are multiple attachment points for the leashes so that you can really customize this ski harness to suit your kid’s needs. The bungee straps also can adjust the length so you can give your kids as much security or freedom as they need. This is the most customizable kids’ ski harness around.
This harness is really simple and has a lot of great features. I love that not only are the leashes detachable, but the pouch to hold them in is detachable as well. That means that after your child doesn’t need to use the leashes anymore, this harness can be used on its own without the bulk of the backpack pouch. The main drawback to this harness is that the leashes are not elasticized.
The Lil Gripper Ripper harness kids ski trainer is the overall best ski harness for kids with its amazing construction. Instead of just a backpack-type harness, it’s a full 5-point harness. Another really great feature of this harness is that it has retractable leashes (much like you would use to walk a dog), so the pull on the harness is extra gentle. Also since the harness is so much bigger, the leashes attach lower than all the other harnesses, for a true hip attachment (most other harnesses mentioned here attach at waist height). The only downsides I see to this harness is that the handle is a little smaller than the other designs and it is harder to take off for quick bathroom breaks. Overall, it’s one of the best ski training harnesses that you can get.
The Mdxone Mini Ox is basically the exact same kids’ ski harness as the Mdxone full-body harness featured above but without a backpack. It has all of the same features, including the full body ski harness option, but for nearly half the price of the backpack option.
I love how simple this learn-to-ski harness is. If you need just a harness with no leashes, this is the one to get. It’s super affordable, has an easy-to-use handle to grab the kids with, and no extra bulk to worry about. If you just need a harness only (perfect for kids who just need a boost up every now and then), consider getting this one.
DIY Kids Ski Harness
Can you make a DIY kids’ ski harness? Honestly, we don’t recommend it. Commercial-grade buckles are used in a kids’ ski harness (which is why we use them to hold onto our kids on the chairlift), so we wouldn’t feel comfortable putting our kids in a DIY ski harness. We also love kids ski leashes with elasticity in them, so that’s a must when looking for the best kids’ ski harness.
Do ski instructors recommend using a ski harness?
Actually, most ski instructors do not recommend teaching kids to ski with a harness. The problem comes not from the use of a ski harness for kids itself but from improper use of the leashes. In fact, you’ll find many ski schools have kids wearing ski vests with handles on the back, but I’ve never seen a ski school, or heard of one that encourages the use of ski harnesses with leashes.
Most ski schools teach kids to ski using an edgie wedgie, but that’s about it in terms of ski training tools for kids.
When should you avoid a ski trainer harness?
A ski harness should never be used with leashes after a child can confidently stop and turn in all beginner terrain. We have our kids wear a harness until they are about 5 years old because the handle on the back of the harness makes it much easier to help them onto the chairlift, and gives you something to hold on to if they start to wiggle during the ride up. Remember, the problem with a ski harness, isn’t the harness itself, but rather the improper use of the leashes.
As a parent, one of the best things that you can do to teach your child to ski is how to balance correctly. Correct ski balance puts kids’ hips slightly in front of their ankles, with their knees bent. If you have tight ski leashes, it’s almost impossible to teach kids to balance correctly while skiing.
A skiing harness should not be used to help children ski down terrain that’s above their ability level. Doing this is not only dangerous for the child in the harness but also for all the other skiers on that run. Make sure that your kids ski within their ability levels all the time. That being said, there are definitely times when you think your child can handle a ski run, and they really are struggling with it. During those times, the handle on the back of the ski harnesses is invaluable for helping them get down the ski hill.
Ski harnesses should not be used with older children and teens and should not be used with adults either. We recommend not using a ski harness or kids’ ski leash for kids over the age of 8. For more information on how to use a ski harness the right way, read this article.
Better options than using a ski harness:
A ski harness can be a good teaching tool, but there definitely are better ski teaching tools out there. First and foremost, you should get an edgie wedgie before anything else. They’re incredibly cheap and are the best ski training tools out there. Learn all about how to use an edgie wedgie HERE.
As a former ski instructor, I think that a couple of days of extra patience works better than a harness in most cases. Kids should know how to stop before they go up the chairlift (start on a magic carpet surface lift), so the real reason to use a harness is to train them how to turn. Most kids respond better to a simple game of follow the leader. Kids naturally turn their skis towards where they are looking so if you can get them to look at you, they’ll follow you.
What to look for when buying a ski harness:
A good child ski harness helps to encourage your child to ski independently, and shouldn’t be used too long, or your child will become dependent on it. A toddler ski training harness can be a great investment for really young kids who ski, especially since the handle really makes skiing with kids easier on your back. Harnesses that connect closer to the hips rather than on the torso will help kids to balance better and maintain proper skiing position. When kids are skiing their knees should be bent, their ankles should be flexed and their hips should be over the top of their boots.
The best ski harnesses have a backpack to hold the leash straps while on the lift, as well as a handle on the backpack. The handle is invaluable to help young children get on and off the lift and it gives you something to hold onto to keep them on the chairlift.
If you do decide to use a ski harness with leashes, make sure to get one that attaches to the sides and is close to the child’s hips. DO NOT GET ONE THAT ATTACHES IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR BACK!!
Also, make sure that you get a harness with elastic in the leashes since it makes any tugs that you make on the leashes extra smooth, and prevents you from jerking your child and making them fall over.
Best Age To Use A Ski Harness
All ski harnesses should properly be called a kid ski trainer or toddler ski harnesses since that is the primary purpose and age they are intended for. I never recommend using a kid ski harness for any kids over the age of 5. If you want a ski harness for a toddler, the options that we shared above are all great pieces of gear and are one of the best pieces of kids’ ski gear for skiing with toddlers or skiing with preschoolers. A toddler ski harness allows you to help younger kids learn to ski or help kids with their confidence when learning how to ski. When your toddler skis, you want the harness to be a backup to the skills they already are learning, not a crutch.
When older kids use a ski harness, they quickly develop a dependency on their ski harness for kids which prevents them from learning the basics of skiing. Again, DO NOT USE A SKI HARNESS FOR KIDS OVER AGE 5!!