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The mountains are calling and you don’t want to stay at home any more…
We get it! It’s time to grab your toddler and head to the slopes. Let’s be honest, skiing with toddlers is not always the easiest thing to do. with our toddler ski hacks below, not only will your toddler learn how to ski well, but both of you can have a great day on the slopes together.
Many parents are reluctant to take their toddler skiing. It’s understandable given how difficult it can be to keep track of a toddler, not to mention the difficulties that come with learning how to ski in general. Trust me, we’ve had that internal debate over and over again as we’ve taught our 5 kids to ski (in addition to all the time that my husband and I both spent as ski instructors). Is it actually worth it to ski with toddlers?
Best Age To Teach Kids To Ski
Is there an ideal age to teach all kids to ski? Truthfully, whenever a parent asks us that question, we tell them “NOW is the best time to teach your kids to ski”. You’d be surprised at how young kids can learn to ski, and kids are much more resilient at learning how to ski than their adult counterparts.
Four out of our five kids started skiing when they were only 18 months old. We start our toddlers skiing very young because we LOVE to ski and we’d much rather be on the ski hill with a toddler than sitting in the lodge or stuck at home.
Generally, for most kids 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. Check out our full article on the best age to teach kids to ski for more details.
Set Realistic Expectations
Skiing with toddlers can be completely different than skiing with older kids, so make sure that you have realistic expectations going into the day. Know upfront that your toddler will not want to ski the entire day (nor do we recommend it on the first few days), and that their energy and stamina may be short-lived. We’ve found it’s best to choose a small, family-friendly resort with a lower cost, like Nordic Valley, so it’s not as frustrating if you don’t ski long.
We’ve seen toddlers who only make it 2 runs on their first time skiing and others who can ski for hours before wanting to go inside an take a break. Set your expectations REALLY LOW and just consider everything above that a major win!
Quit Skiing While Everyone Is Still Happy
The best advice I can give you is to always try and end the day on a happy note. Toddlers can only go for so long, and most of them start giving off cues that a meltdown is on the way. At the first sign that your toddlers attidude and energy for the day might be exhausted, pack up and head home. It’s a whole lot easier to get your child to want to go skiing next time if they didn’t end this ski trip with tears and frustration.
The same is true for adults. As much as we don’t like to admit it, as parents, we only have limited patience and skiing with a toddler is going to take all of it. If you literally cannot handle one more game of “I Spy” on the chairlift, or the thought of skiing one more run in a backwards pizza makes you want to scream, it’s time to hit the road.
Plan On Taking Ski Breaks
Ski breaks are pretty standard when skiing with toddlers, so expect to spend a good amount of time in the lodge. When our kids are just learning to ski, we would joke that our special formula for skiing with toddlers was one parts skiing to two parts hot chocolate.
Taking breaks is important to toddlers ski development, so plan it into your day. Toddlers usually need more breaks than older kids because they simply can’t stay as warm (a fleece jacket or lightweight puffy can help with this), but they also need breaks so that they don’t get overwhelmed with skiing both mentally and physically. The terrain is new, the equipment is strange and uncomfortable for them and it can all combine to make toddlers feel overwhelmed. Head into the lodge as soon as you start to see the first signs that your toddler is getting frustrated.
Remember that although skiing may seem natural to you, it’s all foreign to your toddler, so give some some extra grace as they learn (breaks are a big part of that).
Bring Ski Treats For Kids
We NEVER go skiing without ski treats in our pockets (even when we just take our teen and tween). Ski treats are one of the best ways to encourage kids to ski something harder or to reward them for a job well done.
To prevent choking, we only give our kids treats on the chairlift, and keep it simple and small (so that the treat is gone before they get off the lift). Get ski treats that are easy to get out of your pocket and that don’t freeze too hard. For a bigger snack, our all time favorites are these bars for kids – they’re packed with protein, don’t freeze hard, and the flavors are incredible.
We usually give kids just one treat per chairlift ride (or maybe 2 if the candy is really small), and often not on very ride up the lift either. Here are our favorite ski treats for kids:
Make Skiing FUN
If you show your kids that you think skiing is fun, they’re much more likely to think it’s fun for them too. Trust me, all days skiing with a toddler ARE NOT FUN so you may have to fake it at times. Remember that the goal isn’t just to have one good ski day with your toddler, but to get them to love skiing for LIFE.
Take them on a few jumps, cheer out loud when you’re skiing through the powder, and show them some of your best tricks. Basically, just relax and have a good time, and they’ll pick up on your positive energy.
Play Ski Games
Young kids rarely respond well to drills, but they LOVE to play games, so get creative and bust out all your best games on the ski hill with toddlers.
When kids are skiing, their skis are going to go where they are looking 90% of the time, so the best ski games are follow the leader type of games that make your kids look at you the whole time. You can really make up any variation of this, but here are some of our favorites:
Car Ski Races: The kids put their hands out in front like they’re holding a steering wheel and turn the wheel whenever they make a turn. This is fantastic for balance.
Do As I’m Doing:Ski backwards while your toddler follows you. Do fun actions like patting your head, shaking your bum, or reaching towards the sky as you turn down the hill.
Red Light Green Light: This classic game is amazing for getting kids to stop. Stand downhill from them and shout out the colors of the light for kids to stop, go slow, or go fast.
If all else fails, take everyone’s skis off and just play in the snow for a little bit. Sometimes a snowball fight is exactly what everyone needs to bring the FUN back.
Use A Ski Harness
During my years as a ski instructor, I HATED ski harnesses, since almost every parent used them incorrectly. Now, as a parent, I absolutely LOVE THEM. While you absolutely need to educate yourself on the right and wrong way to use a ski harness, the truth is that they can be an amazing tool.
Our youngest is 4 and even though we never use the leashes that came with his harness anymore, the handle on the back is a lifesaver for getting him on and off the chairlift and helping him across the flat areas. Check out our top ski harness recommendations.
Try Our Secret Method For Teaching Little Kids To Ski
As a ski instructor, I learned LOTS of amazing tricks to help teach little kids how to ski. Easily our favorite is our hack for teaching toddlers how to ski. It’s literally amazing and will make it so much easier to teach your toddler how to balance on skis, how to turn, and how to confidently go down the hill, all at the same time.
Bring An Edgie Wedgie
Simple but amazingly effective. An edgie wedgie is the best $10 you’ll ever spend on your kids skiing. They are hands down the best tool for teaching kids how to stop on skis, so we recommend that everyone get one before they even get up to the mountain! Check out our full article about how to use an edgie wedgie to teach kids to ski.