My husband and I made a choice to live on the Western Slope of Colorado. I often say we are lucky. We are. But we’ve also chosen to make sacrifices to be here. Once we had kids I found myself digging deeper to make sure those sacrifices are worth it. Who knew that what we’ve learned skiing with kids — life skills — would be one of those things making it so worth it?
Is skiing important? We live within 30 miles of two of the best ski resorts in the United States. So, skiing has been a priority for us. Having our kids learn to ski has been a priority.
It wasn’t that we had dreams of them becoming ski racers. Though perhaps now in hindsight we should have. But I’ve just felt it was important that they get outside in the winter and enjoy this place we call home. I want them to be able to navigate the mountain with their friends and with us. To have independence.
Did you and your spouse ski before kids, but haven’t taken a family ski trip yet? This is why we think you should!
You don’t have to live as close as we do to ski resorts to give your kids the benefits of skiing. Find a couple (or few) long weekends to take a family ski vacation. Both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass offer value to those who can get six to ten ski days in over the season.
How Our Kids Learned to Ski
Both of our kids were on skis early. But each with their own paths. Our eldest was in ski lessons at Beaver Creek from age 4 through kindergarten. After that she really didn’t want to take ski lessons and we had a baby at home. So, she took a couple of group lessons a year through school and had a handful of ski with a parent days.
We put our youngest on skis at age 3, with formal ski lessons at Ski Cooper starting at age 4. Now at age 6 he takes ski lessons at Beaver Creek. His ski path still remains to be seen.
But our eldest, our daughter, has climbed a mountain this year. With just a little encouragement she decided to participate in Buddy Werner Ski League (BWL) which is a volunteer driven ski race program. Not because she wants to be a ski racer, but rather to spend time on the mountain with her best friend.
Each child is different. But I think for someone taking a first family ski vacation, age six is a good time to start getting the kids on the ski slopes.
What Benefits do Kids get from Skiing?
So, what are the benefits of having your children learn to ski? What life skills can skiing give kids?
Skiing this year has given our daughter so much growth, in so many ways. After her first day at BWL, we skied with her. We were about two runs in when I told her that she was already a better skier than me. Her form and turns were glorious. All she needed was the hours on the mountain to give her confidence.
Now with just five Buddy Werner days and two school learn to ski days, I am pretty sure she will ski circles around me. But what is most important is how her confidence has grown. She has taken on those back diamonds and moguls, been scared to death, and made it down with a proud smile.
We know that sports are good for our kids. But I think skiing has special life lessons for our kids, and for us. Not only is it good for our mental health to get outside and soar down a mountain, but it is so much more. So, here’s what I think skiing can teach our kids.
Life Lessons Kids Learned from Skiing
Confidence is Gained on the Ski Slopes
When you stare down a steep slope scared to death. Understand there’s no where to go but down. Focus and go. How do you think you feel when you reach the bottom? When you fall, wipe out, have a yard sale? Then there’s nothing to do but get back up. You put those skis back on and head on down the hill. When you are 6-years-old and miss the ski lift with your friends, what do you do? You have to ride the next chair with a stranger. There’s no way you couldn’t gain confidence in your abilities.
People watch little kiddos whiz by on the ski slopes and think how easy they have it learning so early and having their center of gravity so close to the ground. But the reality is that their biggest fear is not about getting hurt. Their biggest fear is loosing their people. Or getting stuck on a run that scares them to death. Skiing can be scary. So it builds confidence when a kid sticks with it, and masters it.
When you can make you way down a double black diamond ski run, or even just a regular black diamond run you know you can do just about anything.
Bravery Earned Skiing
Okay, maybe this was covered above. But really, I landed just last weekend, on a slope steeper than what I usually take. I looked down. It scared me to death. My husband worried. He was trying to encourage me. Telling me I could do it. I told him, “I know I CAN”. I went slow and focused on my turns. That didn’t still my beating heart. The only thing that could do that was seeing the end of the run in sight.
While skiing you will find yourself outside of your comfort zone and scared. You can’t be brave unless you are scared. You will be brave skiing. No question.
You will go outside your comfort zone.
How do you think you make it down that steep hill when you are scared to death? You focus. You think about your turns. You flash back to any ski lesson you have had. Am I planting my poles? Is my weight in front of me? You plan your path and you follow it. Focus is something we’ve lost in this crazy digital world. But you surely have to have it when you push your limits skiing.
Learn from Your Mistakes
You will not learn to ski without falling. Some falls will be due to your ability and need to learn. Other falls may come from a lack of focus. Falling is not a bad thing.
Along the way maybe you will learn to laugh at yourself a bit. My black diamond skier husband had a wipe out on a cat walk first day out this season. I had to come help dig him out (after taking photos). There was a lesson there. Though I’m not sure whether the lesson is about not laughing at your husband or him being able to laugh at himself. By the way, he did laugh at himself.
What happens when you fall? You get back up, shake it off and continue skiing down the mountain. There’s no criticism, no blame. It is natural. We need more of that in our modern life.
Use All of Your Senses
As you ski down that mountain there may be many people around you. You can’t control them, their speed or where they turn. And, you can’t see all of them. Of course you are watching with your eyes. But you are also listening with your ears. When the sounds of a snowboarder cutting a line gets too close for comfort, you move the other direction.
And, you trust your gut. There’s a sense we have that we don’t identify perhaps because we can’t articulate it. But it helps us know our limits and to sense others’ limits.
Practice Makes Perfect and It Can be Fun Too
It may be like pulling teeth to get your kids to do their homework, or to practice piano. It feels like work. But skiing doesn’t. Yet it yields the same benefits. You know how I talked about my daughter surpassing my ski form after one day in her new ski program this year. Well, she has had so much practice since. She has over 100,000 vertical feet under her skis. She has practiced. That practice has sharpened her skills and given her confidence.
There’s a good chance that you will get lost on the mountain. And, then you will find your way down. I suspect that our daughter will soon be leaving us to ride the singles line. It is so much faster. But it is only for someone who knows they can figure out where they are going and how to get there.
Plan & Dress Appropriately (And, communicate!)
I took our son to his first school ski lesson on a Monday, the day after his first Form Your Own Team ski lesson on Sunday. It was a cold, cold day. I hadn’t thought to check his gloves the afternoon prior. As we were leaving noticed that they were cold and wet from the day prior. Fortunately we had pulled out some hand warmers so I was able to use those to warm the gloves up on our way to skiing.
We skied with our little guy the next weekend. On a catwalk, we instructed him to grab our pole so we could pull him. He couldn’t accomplish that task. Come to find out that he was skiing with his fingers curled into the main area of the gloves and not even using the finger slots. We’ve since switched him to mittens. And, of course, we tried to reinforce to him how important it is for him to make sure we know when he is wet or cold.
Nothing can break a ski day more than being wet or cold. Have that check list and use it the night before.
What Kids Learn Skiing — Life Lesson #9: Be Safe, Prepared & Wear a Helmet
Perhaps most important, protect yourself from others. Wear a helmet! We require it of our kids and they’ve never given it a second thought.
But I didn’t start wearing a helmet until 2007. I remember that ski season distinctly. I was lucky. On a photo shoot scouting trip at Breckenridge at the very edge out out-of-bounds I caught an edge. I had a yard sale as I followed Ski Patrol down a double back diamond. No real damage. It was scary. With my heart beating I put back on my skis and headed down the hill.
A week later at Vail, a girl who had no business being in Blue Sky Basin, knocked me into the trees. This happened as she screamed like a banshee careening out of control right into me. Again, lucky. No real damage. But I did go purchase a helmet and have worn it every day skiing since.
Buddy Werner League
We feel fortunate to have stumbled across Buddy Werner League. While we live in a ski town, we are not competitive athletes ourselves. We’ve not dreamed of our children becoming Olympic athletes. We really aspire for them to be good people and citizens first and foremost. We wouldn’t have ever sought out a ski racing league. But our daughter’s bestie participated in BWL, so she gave it a go. Our daughter’s participation in BWL Beaver Creek is what grew her skiing, and pushed her limits.
The league is volunteer driven and we were fortunate that she had such great coaches.
As a result, our son, now seven, is participating. And, my husband is coaching. It is a commitment. But we’ve enjoyed every day on the mountain so far. And, we are learning even greater lessons ourselves.
Buddy Werner is a good organization, with a solid philosophy. If your child is interested in skiing, you should check it out!
How to Teach Kids to Ski
Some parents are great teachers, even with their own kids. You may be one who is able to teach your kid to ski. But we are big believers that a few professional ski lessons are key to getting kids off on the right track. After they have some basics down, then it is hours on the mountain that will build confidence and skills.
We started with Form Your Own Team (FYOT) ski lessons at Beaver Creek and then moved to Buddy Werner League.
Here are some tips for putting your kids in ski school from our friends over at Ripped Jeans and Bifocals, who just returned from their first family ski trip.
When Can Kids Start Skiing?
I think our youngest first got on skis for the first time at three years old. But it was a couple of times out for just a couple of hours that included hot cocoa breaks. Most ski schools require that kids be potty trained to attend ski school. You and your family’s lifestyle will determine what is right for your child. Just be sure to make your kids skiing adventure fun!
Where Do Kids Ski Free?
Several resorts offer programs where kids stay free, ski free, or get free rental equipment. This is typically an offer that is valid when buying passes or rentals for each paid adult. So, it isn’t really free. But every little bit helps. Here are a few of our favorites:
- At most ski resorts, children ages five and under do actually ski for free. Check your preferred resort to see if they offer this perk. You will likely still have to go to the pass office for their free season pass. And, you will have to provide their equipment.
- At Keystone Resort Kids 12 and under ski free with two or more nights of lodging booked direct with Keystone Resort.
- The catch here is that you must live in the state where it is offered (Colorado & Utah) and must register your children in person prior to ski season in October… But Epic School Kids offers four days of skiing and riding for free at each of the state’s top-ranked resorts for kindergarten through fifth grade students.
- When you rent your kids equipment (ages 7 to 12) from Four Mountain Sports, and they’ll get a free Aspen Snowmass lift ticket for every day of rentals!
Thinking About Taking a Family Ski Vacation?
We hope that you are convinced that a ski vacation can teach your kids so much. If you’ve enjoyed it, read more about taking family ski vacations!
What have you learned from skiing? What life skills has skiing given your kids? Tell us below!
This is an update of a post originally published January 2019.