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Kids...

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Kids...

Postby JimG. » Wed Dec 08, 2004 12:38 pm

I guess this is directed more to the parents in the forum, but feel free to comment even if you don't have kids. I spent alot of time teaching kids while on staff and my last assignment was as a seasonal program coach for a group of 11 advanced/expert kids ages 7-11.

Most ski areas have strict minimum age limits for kids they will accept for lessons, usually 4-5 years old. There are many good reasons (such as potty training) for that, but none have to do with the child's physical ability to ski.

I have my own ideas about when a child is physically ready to ski; I'd like to hear from other parents about what age they think is the earliest that a child is ready to ski.
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re: Kids...

Postby Cannonball » Wed Dec 08, 2004 7:08 pm

I'd like to extend that request to snowboarding. I've been told that kids need to be a few years older to board. I can't tell if this is for real physical factors, or if instruction programs just haven't caught up yet with snowboarding. I've been told that the gross motor skills (i.e. balance) needed for boarding develop later than fine motor skills (i.e. pizza wedges) needed for skiing.

So far I've only brought 3-5 year olds out on skis just in case (although its a tough sell for 5 yo's that think boarding is really cool. :wink:).

Heck, well I'm at it...what about teles?
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re: Kids...

Postby hamdog » Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:30 pm

I've been told that the gross motor skills (i.e. balance) needed for boarding develop later than fine motor skills (i.e. pizza wedges) needed for skiing.


there ya have it. skiing is easier than snowboarding. haha. :lol:
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re: Kids...

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:34 pm

I spent an inordinate amount of time finding and updating my 2 cents worth on teaching kids in the archives:

I've been down this road with 15 year old Andrew and nearly 20 year old Adam. Adam was pestering us to let him ski when he was 2, so his first day in Mammoth's Funland program was 2 weeks before his 3rd birthday and he was the only kid that stayed out the full 2 hours on a 15F and likely breezy day. Now Mammoth won't teach kids under 4 because too many small SoCal children are intimidated by the weather.

Adam was first parallel with pole plants on Memorial Day 1991 at age 6 years 5 months, unfortunately last day of the season. At age 7 he could ski 80-90% of the terrain I do, including Spiral Stairs/Plunge at Telluride and North Face at Crested Butte that season. Observers warned me that he would leave me behind by 12, and I considered it a moral victory that I held him off until 14. He now skis for UC San Diego's club ski team, and widened the gap over me considerably last season from skiing with team members who grew up in Mammoth or Tahoe.

Andrew has a more casual attitude toward skiing/snowboarding and is progressing slowly as he does 3-5 days per season of each instead of concentrating. Adam has averaged 20 days and 360K vertical per season since age 7. He snowboarded 3-5 days a year around age 12-14, but has since gone back to alpine full time, except a handful of telemark days the last 3 years. With his balance and alpine background he skied 21K on teles his first day after a 1 hour lesson.

For basic instruction I was impressed by Vail. Both kids were at Vail at age 5 and loved the lessons and children's terrain parks and improved greatly over 2 days of lessons. It's expensive but worth it when you see your 5-year-old cruising through 3 inches of ungroomed powder in China Bowl with a big smile on his face.

For an eager 3 or 4 year old I recommend do it yourself. They get a big charge out of chairlift rides and you can cover more ground and they will progress faster. I was fortunate to have Garry Klassen, who enjoyed teaching kids at Baldy, as a consultant. I would describe what Adam was doing and Garry would tell me what to work on next.

With a 3-year-old you need to use a leash and tell your child to put his hands on his knees. This keeps him from being pulled over backward, saves you from leaning over and straining your back, and most importantly teaches your kid to ski leaning forward. When you see a parent holding a child between his legs, the child leans back into the parent, which is of course the opposite of how we want them to ski.

If you child is tentative (Andrew) or resistant, ignore the above 2 paragraphs and find a decent ski school. Our Snowbird timeshare friends have a hard and fast rule: kids attend ski school at Snowbird full time until they are age 13 or reach level 9. Adam and the other 2 level 9 kids always wanted to take a day of lessons together.

For intermediate or better lessons, we prefer the hard core expert mountains because they attract the most passionate and dedicated instructors. Adam still rates his 2 days of lessons at Jackson Hole at age 10 best. The next 5 years at Snowbird rank next (I'm excluding the SMS camp at Blackcomb from this list). The lessons on the annual Snowbird trip are only time Andrew makes any progress at skiing or snowboarding.
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby Ryan » Thu Dec 09, 2004 7:49 am

Tony Crocker wrote:
When you see a parent holding a child between his legs, the child leans back into the parent, which is of course the opposite of how we want them to ski.




This is very true but there is one much bigger reason why I would dissuade ANYONE from doing this. There was an incident at my home mtn. 2 years ago in which a parent was skiing on the nearly flat beginner area with their kid between their legs. Unfortunately their skis got crossed up with the kids and the parent fell directly on top of their 3 year old breaking both of his legs badly. If this sticks with you at all like it sticks with me, please tell anyone you see doing this of the danger. If the child is hesitant and the parent is a fairly strong skier what seems to work well for me is skiing backwards in front of the kid in a reverse-wedge with your hands out. The kid will reach forward for your hands which gets them forward in their stance and you can direct them where you want them to go. You also can easily control their speed. If you should happen to fall your hands are already out in front of you and you can push the child back away from you so that you do not fall on top of them.
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re: Kids...

Postby JimG. » Thu Dec 09, 2004 7:57 am

Tony as usual did a good job summing it all up and I agree with just about all of what he said except for using harnesses for small children 3 and under. Those harnesses ARE better than holding kids between your legs which teaches them nothing and strains your back.

I prefer the edgie-wedgie which is just a small length of surgical tubing with clamps on each end that clamp onto the tips of each ski. This gives the little one an automatic wedge without them having to do too much rotary stuff which is physically demanding for a 3 year old, but it also forces them to stand up themselves. All you do is slip a pole tip under the tubing and pull them around asking them to "stand up".

As they progress, move the pole from side to side and they get the idea of turning and resisting centrifugal forces, again just by standing up. Finally, get them on an incline and ski down backwards, facing the child with the pole under the tubing, repeating the side to side motion. My son Peter said "by myself" 2 weeks into this program and I never touched him while teaching him again. He was 2 years 9 months at the time.

For Cannonball and Hamdog, I'm not gonna BS around and talk about something I'm not knowledgable about, but I'm going to assume that similar ideas apply to teaching kids snowboarding. My guess about the age thing and kids needing to be older to learn snowboarding has to do with those rotary skills I mentioned above. I'm guessing that is more important in learning to snowboard, and it is true that learning to ski is easier than learning to snowboard; however, learning to ski at a high level is alot harder than snowboarding at a high level once you have passed the beginner stages...

Let's see if that last comment inspires any feedback.
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re: Kids...

Postby Patrick » Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:07 am

As always, there are good comments mentionned above.

I will give my experience with my daughter Morgane who started skiing (more like sliding on ski) when she was 2.5 yrs (30 months). First of all, I didn't expect to start her so soon, but after seeing me and her mom go skiing, she really wanted to join in the fun before the season was over.

That first time and only time out before she turned 3 in October was at Edelweiss. We did maybe 2 hours of skiing. The method used was between our legs. Yes, Jim is right, it's definately very hard on the back, especially when I had a back injuring two months earlier. At that age with the spring conditions, her legs were definately not strong enough to ski, support her body and stand (this might not be the case with other kids in other conditions). The goal here was not to teach her to ski, but more to let her experience the fun of sliding on snow like her parents loved doing.

Ryan, I read our comment regarding this method. I agree that it could be dangerous. However, like all the stuff I do when I ski, I evaluate the danger based on my abilities. In this case, the odds of me crossing my skis with my daughter were relatively low. I had 201, not in a full snowplow position and not 100% of my daughter weight were on her skis. But I do definately see the danger in it.

The next season, my daughter was 3 and skiied 8 times. First time out (2 hours) was between the legs(?) and/or with my ski poles used as a harness. The next 7 times was with a harness. The tip of her skis were connected to each other with a velcro strap. The harness was also more related for a safety reason. Of course I used the harness to slow her down when needed, but also a few times to stop her dead in her tracks when someone cut her off or feel in front of her.

When she was 4, she also skied 8 times. I believe that most of that year she skied without a harness. She could edge a turn, control her speed, etc. Ski most beginner runs without any difficulty most of the time.

At 5, we got her register in ski lesson. 8 times again. Why? Because we wanted to assure us that we took the time to go skiing with her, she just had a baby sister. Also because she knew how to turn and control her speed, but didn't necessarly want to listen to her dad. So being with an instructor with other kids her age would help.

Last year at 6, she got the ski bug. She skied 17 times. At the end of the season, she could ski any intermediate runs and a few black diamond ones. Her favorite place, that one visit at Mad River Glen.

Now she's 7 and judging by the way she skied on satuday (not really parrallel yet, but the speed and confidence is there), I am sure that in a few years...I will be trying to kept up with her. Especially when she said she would like to race. :? Not a good thing for those parents that do not want to ski in the same small areas all Winter, at least with the lesson, I am only a prison for 8 Saturdays.

In summary, if you want to get your kid ouside and have fun, regardless of her skiing skills, you can get her on ski at 2yr. However, I remember reading maybe 10 yrs ago, that for the abilities and skills, the skier that starts at 6yr is not going to be disavantage to those you started at a much younger age. The progress curve is greatest around 6-7, regardless of when they started.

There is a couple of stories about age. Skiing at Whiteface when my daughter was at the daycare, there was a kid that was more or less the same age as my daughter (ie. 15 months) and skiing. I believe both parents were ski instructors.

Second story is (hope, for the aging skiers going downhill). The first race I did Master race, John Fripp (82?) (aka same as the name run at Tremblant, ski school director in the 1940s before Ernie McCulloch) beat some much younger guys. Remember the joking with his son (late 40s), that if he wanted to ski like that one day, he better stop smoking in the starting gate and start training. :lol:
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby JimG. » Thu Dec 09, 2004 10:38 am

Patrick wrote:At that age with the spring conditions, her legs were definately not strong enough to ski, support her body and stand (this might not be the case with other kids in other conditions).


Spring conditions are a bad time to try to teach toddlers...the dense heavy snow bosses them around and they get no feel for balance and edging. Many parents tell me it's better then because it's warm, but kids have to eventually deal with the cold if they're going to become frequent skiers, so why put it off?

In fact, the best first lesson often does not involve skis at all...get the kids out there on a freezing cold day and just roll around in the snow and have a snowball fight. My boys loved throwing snow at me and it gets them used to the cold weather fun.
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby Patrick » Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:07 am

JimG. wrote:Spring conditions are a bad time to try to teach toddlers...the dense heavy snow bosses them around and they get no feel for balance and edging. Many parents tell me it's better then because it's warm, but kids have to eventually deal with the cold if they're going to become frequent skiers, so why put it off?.


In fact, our case was that it turned out to be a very warm day. It was only March 5th, still Winter snow conditions time around here. We also decided after her constantly asking to bring her out. Also, age was probably the biggest factor. There was a big different age wise for her between December (26 months) to March (29 mo). 3 months at that age are pretty important.

In fact, the best first lesson often does not involve skis at all...get the kids out there on a freezing cold day and just roll around in the snow and have a snowball fight. My boys loved throwing snow at me and it gets them used to the cold weather fun.


You got to be kidding :wink: , this wouldn't really applies to us, right? :lol:

Morgane's sister, Tara, just turned 2 last month. We will probably get her out on ski this Winter, if she wants too.[/quote]
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby Cannonball » Thu Dec 09, 2004 2:48 pm

JimG. wrote:and it is true that learning to ski is easier than learning to snowboard; however, learning to ski at a high level is alot harder than snowboarding at a high level once you have passed the beginner stages...

Let's see if that last comment inspires any feedback.


I agree 100%. I think that's way so many so many long-time skiers turn to snowbaording....for the new challenge. It's also why so many expert snowboarders go back to skiing...for the continued challenge.

After 20 years of skiing I feel like I've got a lot to learn. After 8 years of snowboarding I feel almost plateaud.
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re: Kids...

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Dec 09, 2004 4:52 pm

There's an outfit called Kid-Ski that makes accessories (tow-bar, tip-locks and leashes) for very young kids. I believe they made a presentation at the NASJA 2000 meeting. The package is offered here: http://www.snowshack.com/kiddelcompac.html .

I believe Jay Silviera in Montana is using this stuff with his son who was less than 2 years old last season.

I would caution trying to transfer the enthusiasm at such a young age. It depends on the kid. One article I read summed it up nicely: Most kids are ready to start skiing at 5, about half at 4, younger than that they should be asking you.
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re: Kids...

Postby Admin » Thu Dec 09, 2004 5:05 pm

Yup, Jay was using the stuff by Apple Rise Sports, Steve Lathrop's company.
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re: Kids...

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:41 pm

I'm pretty sure Steve Lathrop was the guy who did the presentation at NASJA 2000. And you found his website, instead of just a merchant who sells his stuff.
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby JimG. » Fri Dec 10, 2004 7:47 am

Tony Crocker wrote:One article I read summed it up nicely: Most kids are ready to start skiing at 5, about half at 4, younger than that they should be asking you.


So very true and so very important. I would go so far as to say that younger than 4 they should have to BEG to go skiing. My oldest son David wanted to do things with me so badly he would have gone skydiving at 3 if I suggested it. His brother Peter is so intense and competitive he just wants to do what David does, but better. They're both naturals.

Please don't push your kids (or anyone for that matter) to do things just because YOU want them to.
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Re: re: Kids...

Postby Patrick » Fri Dec 10, 2004 8:51 am

JimG. wrote:
Tony Crocker wrote:One article I read summed it up nicely: Most kids are ready to start skiing at 5, about half at 4, younger than that they should be asking you.


So very true and so very important. I would go so far as to say that younger than 4 they should have to BEG to go skiing. My oldest son David wanted to do things with me so badly he would have gone skydiving at 3 if I suggested it. His brother Peter is so intense and competitive he just wants to do what David does, but better. They're both naturals.

Please don't push your kids (or anyone for that matter) to do things just because YOU want them to.


Totally agree on those following statements, as someone who had his first daughter start as 2.5 yrs old. That's the reason why we started her late in the ski season, after months of asking us. Her 2 yrs old sister is pushing and doesn't want to be left behind (dance, games, etc). We haven't made a decision on her on skis yet, it all depends on her (without any suggestion from our part - like we did for Morgane, she ask us a few times). If she insists, we will probably take her out for a few hours in March.

This is a given, but THE LAST THING you want to do is forced them to do something. Taling about BAD things, there was a 4yr kids last Saturday that was crying and had problems getting up slight uphill part of trail. The kid was begging for help, the dad was shouting and insisted she/he did it on her/his own :? . :x
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