What is the best age to teach kids to ski?

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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, relly has many different parts to it.

Generally, the best age to start your kids 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.  

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

5-year-old skiing

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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 5.  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 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).  

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 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 skiing isn’t going to be able to do very much, so those early years are going to have pretty slow progress.  

If you’re putting your kids in ski school, it really depends on the age requirements of the ski school.  I think that in the beginning, full day 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 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 over think 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 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 younger kids.  They often overthink the mechanics and many of them also struggle with the idea of being on the beginner hill with little kids, so they often skip to more difficult terrain too early.  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 very common.  

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 their 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.  

Had we waited until he 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.  Like I mentioned before, age 6-7 is a great 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.