What is the Best Age to Teach Kids to Ski? Ski Instructor Mom Thoughts

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After teaching hundreds of kids to ski, as a ski instructor, and then teaching my own 5 kids to ski, people are constantly asking me “What is the best age to teach kids to ski”.

Typically, I tell them “NOW”, but that’s always followed by several more questions on my part, because the choice of when to teach your kids to ski, really has many different aspects to it.

toddler learning to ski

Generally, the overall best age to start your young children skiing is around age 4 since they can go to all-day ski school, have better motor skills than toddlers, and have enough energy to ski all day without getting too tired.

That being said, when you teach your kids to ski depends a lot on your situation as well as on what your long-term goals as a ski family are.  We started 4 of our kids skiing at 18 months, but have friends who didn’t learn until they were teens, and BOTH can be good options.

So if you’re trying to decide when to teach your kids how to ski, here are several things that you need to consider.

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5-year-old skiing

Are you going to be skiing regularly with your kids or are you just taking a one-off ski vacation?

Teaching kids to ski is a serious investment in time and patience.  If you live close to a ski hill and plan on skiing regularly with your kids, I think that it makes sense to get them on skis as soon as you’re comfortable.  If you’re just going skiing for a few days on vacation, I recommend not starting kids to ski until they’re at least 4 or 5 when using ski school is an option. 

The reason that I don’t suggest starting kids younger than that on skis for a short vacation is that they really need a huge amount of help, so if you start skiing with really tiny kids, you likely won’t get much time to yourself to ski.  Many ski schools don’t take kids under the age of 4, so you’ll be left doing most of the teaching on your own (or paying for expensive private ski lessons). 

toddler ski goggles

Are you going to be teaching your kids to ski on your own, or will you be putting them in ski school?

If you’re going to be teaching your kids to ski on your own, you can start them as young as you want.  We started most of our young kids by 18 months, though unless you’re die-hard skiers like we are, I recommend waiting until age 3.  A one or two-year-old skier isn’t going to be able to do very much, so those early years are going to have pretty slow progress in ski lessons.  

If you’re putting your kids in ski school, it really depends on the age requirements of the ski school.  In the beginning, full-day ski school lessons are the best value for your money, so we rarely waste our time with a short 1-3 hour lesson for beginning skiers.  Most ski schools start their full-day programs around age 4-5.

diy ski school

How quickly do you want your kids to learn to ski?

The older a young child on skis is when they learn, the easier it typically is, up to a certain point.  I’ve found that a 6-year-old kid learns much faster than a 4-year-old, though once kids are over the age of 10, they tend to not learn as quickly as younger kids.  Older kids and adults tend to overthink the mechanics of learning how to ski and don’t pick up on things as quickly.  While a 4-year-old can learn to do a ‘pizza stop’ pretty quickly, it will take them longer to advance to more difficult terrain.

If you want your kids to learn to ski quickly, I think that for most young kids, the sweet spot is around age 6-7.  They have a bit more confidence and bravery, and within a week of lessons, it’s not uncommon for a child that age to advance to easy blue (intermediate) terrain.  

What is the youngest age that kids can start skiing?

The youngest that kids can start skiing is as soon as they can walk.  We started most of our kids skiing at 18 months, and nearly all of them could ski independently down the beginner hill by age 2.  While kids can start skiing when they are a year old, their progress will be slow.  None of our kids have been able to ski on intermediate ski terrain until they were at least 4-years-old.  

Do teenagers learn to ski quickly?

Although teens tend to pick up most sports quickly, teenagers generally learn to ski slower than kids who are a few years younger than they are.  They often overthink the mechanics or skip over learning the basics.

It’s not uncommon for teens to struggle with the idea of being on the beginner hill with little kids, so they often skip to more difficult terrain too early and miss out on critical building block skills.  This makes them not be solid in ski basics, so it can really hurt their long-term progress.  Of course, you’ll always come across certain teens that start skiing and it comes really naturally to them, but it’s not as common as in younger kids.

There’s always a bit of a trade-off when deciding what age to start a child in sports, so I’ll tell you our philosophy and how we decided when to teach our kids to ski on our own.  

big family skiing

First of all, I need to preface this by saying that my husband and I are both excellent skiers and have worked as ski instructors for years.  This isn’t a requirement, since the first stages of learning to ski are so basic that most intermediate skiers can teach it, but this is our background.

We absolutely love to ski, and we decided when our oldest was a baby that we would start him on skis as soon as possible.  When he was a baby, we would take turns in the lodge watching him while the other one skied.  It worked, but we were going crazy being stuck in the lodge when there was so much skiing to be had. 

So we decided that we’d rather be on the beginner ski hill teaching a toddler how to ski than stuck in the lodge.  Those early years of teaching our kids to ski were SLOW and the progress wasn’t massive.  The trade-off was that by the time our kids were 5 or 6, they were pretty good and we could ski all over with them.  Most ski schools won’t do much to teach toddlers how to ski outside of short introductory ski runs that last an hour or so, so if you want to teach a toddler how to ski, you’re going to need to do it yourself.  

Mom and baby skiing

Had we waited until our son was 6-years-old to learn to ski, he could have learned more in a week than he did in his entire first year of skiing.  As I mentioned before, age 6-7 is a great young age to teach kids how to ski if you want them to pick it up really quickly.  That would have also meant that my husband and I would have missed out on 5 ski seasons with him.  That’s 5 seasons of making memories together.  5 ski seasons of little giggles, stories on the chairlift, and massive amounts of hot cocoa.  For us, it was worth it to teach our kids to ski as toddlers.  

Is it easier for kids to learn to ski or snowboard first?

For most young kids, skiing is a bit easier to pick up on first. Typically, kids who are 6 or under will have more success if they start on skis instead of a snowboard. Kids who are 7 or older can be fine starting on either skis or a snowboard. Read our post about skiing vs snowboarding for kids to learn more.

Are ski lessons worth it for kids?

Yes, ski lessons are a great idea, but kids don’t always need them. Kids can learn the basics of learning to ski from a parent who’s an intermediate instructor. Read all about Teaching Your Own Kids To Ski and also learn when your kids need ski school!

Can a 1 or 2 year old learn to ski?

Yes, toddlers as young as 1 or 2 can learn to ski. It’s important to note that kids who are this young won’t be mastering any amazing skills, but they can certainly learn to ski down a beginner run. Check out our top recommendations for ski gear for toddlers.

Is 3-years-old a good age for kids to learn skiing?

Yes, age 3 can be great. Kids who are 3 years old can learn to stop, turn, and even be a bit independent on green terrain. The trick to getting a 3-year-old to love skiing is to take them often so they get used to the sport, conditions, and develop the proper muscle memory! We’ve got lot of tips for skiing with little kids to help you.

Is skiing hard for kids?

Skiing is usually easier for kids than it is for adults. If kids go regularly, they will pick up on the sport more than their adult counterparts. Truthfully, skiing is no harder than most sports that require coordination. One great advantage to teaching kids how to ski is that you’ll typically spend several hours each day on skis, so you can really learn a lot in just a few days time.

How can I prepare my child for their first ski experience?

If you want your kids to be well prepared for their first day of skiing the best way to start is by talking positively about skiing together. Tell them what they can expect, show them videos of children skiing, or if your kids like extreme things, show them a kid-friendly ski movie. Make sure they are well-rested and well-fed before their lesson.

How do I choose a ski school or instructor?

Look for a ski school that is certified and has instructors specifically trained to teach children. Ask for recommendations, read reviews, and call the school to ask about their child-to-instructor ratio and teaching philosophy.

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!