This European ski season could be the year you're taking the plunge to introduce younger members of the family to the sport you're so passionate about yourself. While some people may be apprehensive about sending their kids out on to the slopes for the first time, with the right approach, the process should actually be a fun experience. |
Most resorts have at least one decent ski school and plenty of great instructors working for the ski season, but if you're a confident and proficient skier, there's no reason why you shouldn't take on the task yourself.
The Wedge, the Aeroplane and the Pizza
While it might sound more like story time than a ski lesson, using these simple and familiar terms will enable you to engage with your child in a way that's both fun and educational. In order for them to get a basic grounding in the technical aspects of skiing, from which everything else will come, you need to teach them just two things to enable them to traverse down a slope in a slow and controlled manner.
The wedge: the turned-in position of the tips of both skis, to control speed and stopping.
The aeroplane: the outspread position of the arms, to maintain balance and optimise core strength for control. You can also call it a zombie position (with arms out in front), depending on the interests and age of your child.
Pizza: moving down the hill with skis in the wedge position (like a pizza slice) and arms in the aeroplane or zombie position.
Of course, simply explaining these techniques to a child won't make them an instant pro skier, and plenty of practice is needed. But, understanding the concept of how just two aspects ultimately provide the ultimate control is a huge confidence boost.
First Time on the Slopes
If your child is under four you definitely need to invest in tip connectors – a gadget that attaches to the tips of the skis, holding them together to form an instant wedge. Some are screw-in and some are clip-ons, which are slightly more costly but much easier to manage with chilly fingers. Young kids simply don't have the strength in their legs to hold a wedge position themselves, and even six or seven-year olds may benefit from tip connectors, saving hours of possible frustration and preventing what can sometimes turn into a negative experience.
Once you're confident your child understands the concept of the wedge and the aeroplane, they're ready to make the first attempt to pizza down a gentle slope. The key word is 'gentle', remembering that what may be an easy incline to you is hugely magnified for a child.
Face yourself upwards to the slope (so you'll be skiing backwards) and position one of your legs forward so the child's wedge (with tip connectors in place) is sitting on your front binding. Then you simply ski slowly backwards and the child comes with you in the wedge position. If you're not really happy skiing backwards, you can use a ski harness, which is attached to the child as you ski behind holding the reins.
For the initial run you shouldn't even be concerned about trying to teach them to stop – it's just about staying upright and maintaining the body position. There should be plenty of encouragement along the way, and even some light distraction ("wow, did you see that huge eagle fly past?") can be beneficial to setting them at ease. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so once you get to the bottom of the slope, lots of high fives and whoop whooping is called for.
Repeat this stage as many times as you think is necessary with your assistance. In fact, perfecting the wedge is not the most important part of the process, it's all about getting the body stance right. After a few times you can allow your ski to slip away from their tip connectors and they'll be doing it on their own!
If the child is older or simply more confident, you can set them off on their own from the start - providing the slope is gentle enough.
Let the Fun Begin!
Children are incredibly resilient and adaptable, so most will master the basic techniques in a surprisingly short time. As long as you keep a positive attitude throughout the teaching process yourself, this will translate to the child, instilling them with a relaxed and confident attitude. From then on, it's simply practice and experience, and they'll probably be skiing better than you by next ski season!
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're planning a getaway this ski season to the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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