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Have you ever been skiing with your kids and wondered if they were ready for something a little more challenging? If so, this blog post is for you! We will discuss 5 questions to ask yourself when skiing with your children. By answering these questions, you can make sure that they are skiing safely and happily on the terrain that they both love and have the skills for.
Downsides Of Introducing Kids to Challenging Ski Terrain
Before we dive right in, I want to tell you that the biggest mistake that I see parents making when skiing with their kids is introducing them too early to terrain that’s too hard for them. As a former ski instructor, I’ve seen kids who were confidently and happily skiing with me on intermediate terrain, be taken on a black diamond with their parents later in the day, and go home in tears shouting about how much they hate skiing.
I know that those beginner years are HARD, and as a ski parent, all your really want is to be able to ski all over the mountain with your kids. The reality is that it takes TIME AND PATIENCE! Between my 5 kids, I’ve been skiing on beginner terrain for a good part of the last 13 years as a ski mom. At times, it’s mind numbing, and I’m tempted to just hook them up to a ski harness leash and lower them down a black diamond so I can get some REAL turns in (DON’T do this – go here to learn how to properly use a kids ski harness).
When kids more to challenging terrain too quickly, both their skills and confidence suffer. A child who is beginning parallel on easy terrain suddenly is on a steeper hill and can only do wedge turns. Or a kid who has a solid hockey stop down on intermediate terrain can suddenly only do a wedge stop on a steep mogul run.
Skiing with kids is a LONG HAUL game, so be patient.
5 Questions To See If Your Kids Can Ski Harder Terrain
As a ski enthusiast and a mom, it’s crucial to my long-term happiness that all of my children fall in love with skiing, therefore we don’t cut corners. I dream of the day when we can all ski ANYWHERE, so we’re putting in the time NOW, to get all the kids to love skiing as much as possible.
So here’s a checklist of questions for determining when your child is ready for more challenging trails so you can have years of family fun skiing together as a family:
- 1) Have my child’s skills improved over the past few weeks?
- 2) Is my child happy with skiing on green terrain all day long?
- 3) Does my child still think skiing is fun (even if they’re frustrated)?
- 4) Does my child need more ski days under their belt before tackling harder terrain?
- 5) Does my child seem like they’re being pushed too hard?
Evaluate these questions carefully to determine if your kids are ready to ski harder terrain. Below I’m putting together a step by step process to help parents know if their kids are ready to ski something harder.
How to know if your skier is ready move from the beginner hill to harder greens
There are a few things you’ll need to be able to do before you ever leave the bunny hill: stop, turn, use the lift, and get up if you fall. It may sound easy enough, but don’t expect your kid to pick it up later if you fly through this. For some kids it will take a few days to learn each of these basic ski skills (or even a full ski season, like my son), while others will master them in an hour or two. Let kids know that it’s okay to spend more time on the basics and that there’s no rush to get all over the mountain. Many resorts offer a beginner ski pass and it’s perfect for both kids and the parent in this phase. We also recommend saving money by spending those first few days learning how to ski at a more affordable budget ski resort.
Without exception, everyone needs to know how to STOP, TURN, and GET UP before moving off the beginner hill!
When is your skier ready to move from green ski trails to easy blues?
Remember that not all blue runs are the same, so for this step, make sure to look for one with a gentle slope rather than a steep one. (If you can’t decide which run is best for this transition, stop in and ask in the ski school office – they’re always incredibly helpful).
Your youngster can most likely ski down an easy blue run using just wedge turns so long as they are skilled at controlling their direction and speed while making both big and smaller, tight turns. However, before moving on to an easy blue, your kids should understand how to sideslip down a slope if things become too steep or uncomfortable for them. This is a skill that should be taught BEFORE getting to harder terrain.
Side slipping is a simple skill to teach, and I’ll show you how we taught it with our kids:
- 1. Stand sideways on the mountain, with skis next to each other and parallel.
- 2. While keeping your knees together try moving your knees from side to side. As their knees get closer to the uphill side of the mountain, their edges should engage and “bite” into the snow. As their knees move downhill, the edges will disengage and they will begin to slide downhill.
Practice this skill in a few different positions so that kids can get comfortable side slipping when they’re in different situations.
Aside from that, going up to easy blue terrain is mostly a mental transition. Your kid will be exposed to steeper ground for the first time, so discuss it with them ahead of time. One of our kids jumped right onto blue terrain without thinking it was anything big, while another child had amazing skills, but mentally was scared to ski a run labeled as a blue for MONTHS! Remember that each kid is different, so remember to keep the whole skiing experience as fun and positive as possible.
Easy blue terrain is also a good place to introduce beginning parallel turns and Wedge/Stem Christies!
NOTE: If your child starts skiing straight down the hill in a giant wedge OR is not stopping or turning in control, move to easier terrain as quickly as possible. Skiing like this is dangerous to both themselves and to other skiers.
Ready to move from easy blue ski runs to harder blue ski trails
The difference between a simple and a difficult blue is usually how steep of a slope there is. When picking what activities to do with your children, keep in mind the steepness of the slopes. This is not marked on trail maps, so will require some advance knowledge of the mountain, or asking around A LOT. When in doubt, ski something easier!
Knowing how to sideslip will be incredibly important here as this is the first real JUMP in terrain that kids will take on skis. If kids want to ski on harder blue terrain, they need to know how to do a solid hockey stop and to turn with their skis parallel. It’s almost impossible to ski steep terrain in a wedge, so make sure your kids know how to parrallel ski BEFORE skiing a hard blue. Their form doesn’t have to be perfect, but they need to be taught these skills on easier terrain.
Kids love learning how to parrallel ski and hockey stop since they can measure their skills with how big of a spray they create! Make learning to hockey stop a fun family ski game!
When are kids ready to move from skiing a blue to skiing a black diamond
There’s nothing quite like the pride a parent feels when your kid skis their FIRST BLACK DIAMOND! I can still remember the day my oldest skied a black for the first time, and I felt like all of the years we had spent teaching him how to ski were absolutely WORTH IT! Make no mistake, it takes a lot of time and energy and usually several years of skiing with kids before they’re ready to ski a black.
Here are the skills that are needed before you start skiing a black diamond:
- Know how to ski solid parallel turns on steep slopes
- Know how to properly plant ski poles on both groomed and off piste runs
- Ability to hike uphill alone AND put skis on alone on a steep slope (for when they crash hard and lose a ski)
- Have quick reaction time to avoid hazards
The most important skill kids need to be able to ski a black diamond is a lot of self confidence. It’s a big mental leap to go from skiing a steep blue, to a steep black diamond covered in moguls, so be prepared to provide lots of instruction and encouragement.
How Do I Encourage My Kids To Ski Harder Terrain?
If you know that your child has the skills to ski the terrain, encourage them to go slow and wait for them often. They’ll feel more overwhelmed if everyone is just waiting for them at the bottom and they’re left alone to navigate the new ski terrain alone. Another great trick is to play follow the leader. Have your kids focus on following you down the ski hill instead of looking farther ahead. Before they know it, they’ll be down the hill and it will be a huge confidence booster for them to look up to the top of the run and be able to say “WOW, I just skied THAT!!!!”
Being able to have your kids ski the whole mountain is a LONG TERM GOAL that can take years and years, so don’t give up. Once you can get your kids ski skills high enough, you’ll end up with a ski buddy for life!