Teaching Your Own Kids To Ski: 5 Critical Skills To Teach

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Have you ever wondered if your kids actually need to go to ski school to learn how to ski? After all, most ski schools will put you back between $150 and $300 per day of instruction for kids. The real question is whether the cost of ski school worth the expense?  

The truth that most ski resorts don’t want you to know is that especially in the beginning, most parents can teach their own kids to ski. If you’re careful about how you go about teaching your kids to ski and learn what to do beforehand, teaching your kids to ski will not only save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars but it can be a great experience to get your kids loving the sport of skiing from a young age. 

As a former ski instructor who is also taught each of my own five children how to ski I’m here to tell you that teaching kids the basics of learning to ski is something that most parents who already know how to ski are capable of doing.  Yes, you absolutely CAN teach your own kids how to ski, and I’m here to show you how.

 Am I a good enough skier to teach my own kids to ski?

Before you start teaching your own kids to ski the first thing that you need to ask yourself is “how good of a skier am I myself?” At a bare minimum, you need to be a very comfortable intermediate skier in order to teach your own kids to ski. You need to be comfortable on uneven terrain and you also need to be really comfortable with your balance so that both of you can ski more safely (there will be times where you may literally have to hold your child’s hand while skiing). 

You also need to be very in control at all times so not only can you model good skiing behavior but that you can manage to help your child  while you’re skiing down the hill if necessary. As an added bonus if you know how to ski backward it will make teaching your kids how to ski even easier!  Don’t worry though, most people teach their kids to ski while simply skiing forwards.  

Is ski school necessary for kids?

Ski school can be a great tool for learning how to ski, but kids do not need to go to ski school to learn to ski.  Many parents cannot afford to put their kids in ski school, or their child may not meet the ski schools age requirements.  We will give you some great steps to teaching your own kids to ski successfully.

Ski School may be the norm, but parents can teach their kids to ski without ski school

What is the best age to teach kids to ski?

Kids of all ages can learn to ski.  Most of our kids learned to ski around 18 months, but that’s on the very young side.  Many kids start learning how to ski around ages 4-8.  If you aren’t sure what age to teach your kids to ski, read our article about the best ages to teach kids to ski (and what you need to consider for each age). 

Do I need any special tools to teach kids how to ski?

To teach kids to ski, you may want to purchase a few tools to teach your kids how to ski. Most of them are inexpensive and easy to use. However, not all ski training tools are actually helpful, so make sure to read all about the best ski training tools, here (there’s one that’s surprisingly cheap that you really must buy).

5 critical skills that you need to teach your kids so they can learn how to ski without ski school:

Skill Number One: Gliding And Moving On Snow

The first thing that you need to teach your kids when they start to ski is how to comfortably get on and off their equipment and to glide around on the snow. This can easily be done in your own backyard if you live somewhere where it’s snowy or in an open area at the base of the ski resort. I recommend letting kids spend at least a couple of hours learning how to practice getting their equipment on and off as well as how to move back and forth on the snow before they even get on the ski slope.  Yes, it takes a little bit of time, but you don’t need to purchase a lift ticket to teach kids how to do this, so don’t rush them!

Teach your child how to glide going forward and also teach them how to sidestep up the hill or to duck walk to get up slightly uphill terrain. 

wkiing with an edgie wedgie

Skill Number Two: Getting Up When You Fall

The next thing that you need to teach your kids to do before they even get on the ski hill is how to get up and they fall down. This is something that can be really difficult for some children so remember to exercise a lot of patience with them.

The sooner kids learn to get up on their own skis the faster they will become independent skiers. There are two great ways where you can teach your kids how to get up on their skis and these skills can easily be taught indoors and then practiced on a gentle slope. 

ski crash kid

Method #1 (often easier for young kids)

Step 1:  Point your skis sideways across the ski hill
Step 2: Move your weight over the back of your skis so that you are almost sitting on top of your back binding
Step 3: Hug your knees and pull yourself up into a standing positing

Method #2 (often easier for older kids, or on a steeper slope)

Step 1: Point your skis sideways across the ski hill
Step 2: Sit on your uphill hip
Step 3: Put your hands in front of you and slowly walk them toward your skis, in between the bindings and the ski tips
Step 4: As you walk your hands towards your skis, push yourself up into a stand

If you teach your kids how to get up when they fall before they even go on the ski hill your job as a teacher will be significantly easier. If you have a child who is especially young (under 4 or younger) I do recommend putting a ski harness on them.  Do not use a ski harness for the leashes but because there’s a handle on the back of the harness and many kids at this age have a difficult time getting up on their own and if you use the ski harness it will be much easier on your back to assist them as they stand on their skis. I wrote all about how to use a ski harness correctly, so make sure to read that as well.

Skill Number Three: Teaching Kids How To Stop On Skis

NOTE: If you do not have a magic carpet surface lift at your ski resort, teach skill number 5 before you teach skill number 3.

Now that your kids know how to glide on the snow, and how to get up when they fall, it’s time to take them to the beginner hill so that they can learn how to stop. If the ski resort that you’re visiting has a Magic Carpet surface lift, I highly recommend starting your kids out skiing there since they don’t have to deal with the logistics of getting on and off the chair lift. On a Magic Carpet surface lift, it’s much like a moving walkway at the airport where you just shuffle your skis to get on and shuffle your skis to get off at the end. If you’re looking for ski resorts to teach your kids to ski at, I highly recommend finding a ski resort with a surface lift.

The best way to teach kids how to stop on their skis is to teach them to stop in a wedge shape. This is often referred to as a pizza or a slice of pie for kids since they understand those shapes very well!  You may also refer to the wedge shape as a snowplow stop for kids.  

To get your kids to stop in a wedge you need them to have their knees apart, point their toes together, and make sure that the tips of their skis don’t cross. The bigger they make their wedge the slower they’ll go. 

Since this can be a little bit difficult for younger kids to figure out, if you have a child who is under the age of 8 the best way to teach them to make a wedge-shaped is by using an edgie wedgie. Edgie Wedgies are surprisingly affordable and one of the most effective ski teaching tools that you can buy. 

Many children, especially as they get older can learn to stop in a wedge on their first day of skiing and will no longer need an edgie wedgie, but the price is so cheap that you should buy one to have on hand just in case. For children ages 5 and under it’s common for them to wear an edgie wedgie for much longer and the younger the child is the longer they typically wear their edgie wedgie.  

When a child is wearing an edgy wedgie all they have to do is spread their legs apart. I see what you will make their skis into a wedge shape and after going through the motions for a while, their muscles will begin to memorize what they need to do to stop. Most children over the age of eight can learn to make a wedge stop without an edgie wedgie fairly easily which is why we don’t recommend using them for older children.

Make sure to read our article all about the pros and cons of edgie wedgie use, and which edgie wedgie we recommend (and what to avoid) for young kids.  In our experience, using an edgie wedgie is one of the most important tools to use in parent child ski lessons.  

Parent Tip: To make sure that your children know how to stop well before moving onto the next skill, play games like red light, green light with them so that they will learn how to stop fast and slow.  

Skill Number 4: Teaching Kids How To Turn On Skis

Teaching young kids how to turn on their skis is much easier than you might anticipate. The best thing that you need to remember when teaching kids how to turn on their skis is that their skis will typically go wherever they’re looking. That means that if your kids are looking at a giant tree chances are they’re going to slam straight into that tree. 

If you can get your kids to watch you while you’re skiing down the hill chances are they will follow the direction that you’re going. To get kids to learn to turn on their skis the best way to do this is by playing a game of Follow the Leader. Have your child follow behind you about 10 ft and practice making big S turns down the mountain with them and have them follow in your tracks. If your child is having a hard time focusing on you and getting distracted, try skiing backward with them and playing games holding their eye contact to help them focus.  

Parent Tip: Our favorite ski games to teach kids how to turn on skis are Do As I’m Doing, Follow The Leader, Race Car Driving, and Simon Says.  Do all of these games while doing your big S turns.  

Skill Number 5: How To Ride A Ski Chairlift

Once you can get your kids starting to ride the chairlift, the real fun of skiing begins.  At this point, you’ll get to spend more and more time on the snow learning and preparing for harder terrain.

When you are teaching your child how to ride a chairlift, make sure that you are choosing a lift that accesses easy beginner terrain (green circle), and where the chairlift moves slowly.  

Before getting into line to board the chairlift, watch a few other people getting on and explain to your child the steps that they are doing, so that they know how to ride a chairlift on skis.  I always advise parents to let the lift operator know that you have a beginning skier with you.  They will usually slow the chairlift down even more for you, and will be ready to assist them getting on the chairlift as well.  If you have a young child, make sure to use the handle on their ski harness to help them get on and off the chairlift.

How to get kids on a ski chairlift

Step 1: Slide your skis up to the waiting line, and wait for the chair in front of you to pass.
Step 2: Once the chair in front of you passes, slide your skis up to the loading area.  Most resorts will have a line on the ground that says “load here” (or something similar).
Step 3: Look over your shoulder and extend your hand behind you so that you can grab the chair when it arrives.
Step 4: When the chair is right behind you, reach out your hand to grab the back, sit down, and pull yourself to the back of the chair.
Step 5: Pull down the safety bar.

We always use our time on the chairlift to praise our kids for the things that they have learned so far.  Our family tradition is that every time we get on a chairlift, the kids get a treat like a Tic Tac or a Lifesaver.  This makes our kids look forward to chairlift rides and also helps them see their progress, and gives them a chance to reset if they’ve just had a difficult ski run.

At the top of the chairlift, you’ll need to prepare your child for how to get off the chairlift.  

How to get kids off a chairlift on skis

Step 1: Look for the signs as you approach the top.  There will be a sign to tell you when to raise your safety bar, raise it there.
Step 2: Point your skis slightly upward to prepare to get off the lift.
Step 3: Look for the unload here sign.  When you get to the sign, stand up, and ski down the loading hill.
Step 4:  Move out of the unloading area quickly since there will be others behind you and you do not want to get hit as they get off the chairlift.  

Once you get to the top of a chairlift with kids, it’s time to start practicing teaching your kids how to stop on skis and teaching your kids how to turn on skis.

skiing during covid ski lift

The other secret to teaching your kids how to ski is plenty of hot cocoa and snack breaks.  When our kids are first learning to ski, we typically take a break every hour.  Kids age 5 and under will likely not ski more than 3-4 hours a day when they are learning to ski, while older kids may be able to ski longer.  

Remember, you don’t need ski school to teach your kids how to ski.  You can teach your own kids to ski, it just takes an advanced plan, patience, and a love of skiing.