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  • clareangus

BEGINNER KIDS - first time on skis

Updated: Sep 29, 2023




I get asked about this A LOT with the main questions centring around what age children can start to ski, the best way to get them started and what to do with them if they aren’t skiing.

So let's start from the top...

At what age can children start to ski?

Really, like anything else in skiing, it depends - but I realise that is not a particularly useful answer!


All children, like all adults, are different. As a general rule of thumb children can start skiing at the age of around 3yrs. Of course it is possible to put them on skis earlier than this BUT think about what you actually expect to get out of this & make sure those expectations are realistic. At this age even just learning to walk around in the boots and shuffle with skis on is a big achievement. They will be getting used to how to move on snow, just on the flat and maybe the very, very gentlest of slopes - it is these small actions that will have them feeling comfortable & confident and will help their long term progress rather than forcing a snowplough down their throats! Their legs are little, not massively strong and they will tire quickly so there needs to be hot chocolate stops, snowman making and general snowily thrown into the mix as well.


We also need to take into consideration the very new and different environment they find themselves in when on the slopes for the first time. Lots of new sights to see & things to investigate for beginner ski kids.


People often ask at what age my children first started skiing. They first put on skis and had a go on snow before their second birthdays. It is a bit different for us as we are here all winter, giving us a lot of control over the environment (picking the sunniest days), the amount of time we are on the slopes at a time and the frequency with which we can have a go. Skiing to my children is a way of life - they are in the snow a lot, they see skiers and ski lifts on a daily basis so the environment is not new territory for them.


For the youngest skiers it is important to remember that THE most important thing is to ensure that they want to come back, so rather than focusing on them being able to ski X run at the end of the word fun needs to be the order of the day. If they are having fun they will learn.

As a general rule of thumb, the younger the child the slower their "progress" will be, due to their strength & stamina and their basic understanding of what is going on & what is expected of them. As children get older and stronger their progress will likely be faster. At the age of 3 I would be impressed if a child could hold a snowplough by the end of the week. By the age of 6 they may be able to manage a controlled descent of the nursery slopes, including turns, by the end of a week.

There are advantages to starting skiing young, before they start overthinking things like us adults do! But, in the grand scheme of things, whether they start at 3 vs 5 or 6 is probably not going to make a huge difference, especially if you are just spending the one week a year on snow.

And the best way to get them started?

Lessons, lessons, lessons!

Yes I am a ski instructor & would say this, but really really really this is my number one piece of advice. No matter the age or ability of your kids get them lessons, proper ones with an instructor, no matter how accomplished you are on skis. Have you ever noticed how much better your children behave with other people??! Or is that just me/mine?! Even though both my husband and I are ski instructors we still employ the services of someone else to teach our kids, and then we get to ski together for pleasure. There are also other big benefits:

  1. Instructors have generally gone through a lot of training and exams (especially in France) and will have a variety of experience behind them.

  2. Instructors will know how to match the slope to your child's ability meaning they are less likely to be taken on a slope where you forgot about that steep section (there are quite a few of them in Val!) and so not have their confidence dented.

  3. Children learn through imitation and so it is important for them to have a good model to copy (not that I am casting aspersions on anyone’s technique!)

  4. They are more likely to learn each important stage (the ones that may have been lost through time in your memory) - this will help build the best foundations and also help you when you take them out and they can already get on/off the lift and get up those little slippery inclines.

  5. They are less likely to get used to skiing at top speed between someone’s legs.

  6. You get some time away from the nursery slopes!

Group or Private Lessons?

There are a couple of companies that will do group lessons for 3 year olds, but the majority will start group lessons at age 4 offering only private lessons to younger children. There are a number of reasons why this is probably a good idea, as highlighted below.


One company that offers group lessons from age 3 is Evolution 2 and the other is Oxygene. Both these schools have thought things through and groups for the youngest children all have an assistant in addition to the instructor - this is a brilliant solution to the difficulties that can arise as the assistant can be there to comfort the less happy, take toilet breaks/warm up stops etc leaving the instructor to do their job.


But in all honesty at this age I would highly recommend private lessons, if possible. I say this because at such a young age children are very hands on and not so good at taking turns or being in a group environment. They will probably have to wait around a fair bit while other children take their turn with the instructor, concentration may wander and of course there is the issue of possibly being a bit chilly. With a private lesson the instructor can focus on your child alone. Without being distracted by a child who may be having a “moment”, another who is adamant that they “hate” skiing and a third who wants their parents the instructor can keep things fun & tailor the session accordingly.


Private lessons are probably the best way to make focussed progress at any age as one is getting the full attention of the instructor who is tailoring the lessons specifically. And for the youngest skiers I would really recommend them, as explained above. However, as children get older and more independent some can really benefit from the camaraderie of group lessons and being amongst their peers. Once children start at school they become more used to being away from Mum & Dad, being in a group environment and listening to/following instructions.

If possible try to find a native speaker of your own language as children can find even the most fluent of bilingual speakers confusing and things may get lost in translation/culture differences.

Whatever you choose for their lessons make sure you prepare them well - a good breakfast, plenty of fluids, suncream, lip protection, appropriate clothing, snacks & hot chocolate money are all super important considerations. And leave plenty of time to get everyone to the right place at the right time, it takes longer than you think and no-one wants to start the day in a sweaty stressed out mess!

Lesson options for kids of all ages and abilities…

If you are looking for private ski lessons then look no further!! I offer lessons/guiding on a private basis for all ages & abilities and am happy to offer shorter “taster” sessions for the very youngest little skiers. Being an independent instructor means I can be flexible & provide options to meet your requirements. And as a Mum I know how important it is that your kids are happy on their skis.


The below are ski schools. All offer private lessons for all ages and abilities. Different options are available at each for group lessons so I have noted corresponding details regarding age/ability specifications for group lesson bookings.

Group lessons for children aged 5+, from green run skiers to race academies. There is also a Ski Beyond programme for proficient teenagers looking to ski harder than they might with their parents, includes an element of mountain awareness skills.

Group lessons for children aged 10+ who can already ski parallel on red runs.

A wide range of group lessons for all ages and abilities. We used these guys for group lessons for our daughter when she was 3 and would highly recommend them.

Group lessons for children from age 4 and from beginner level.

Group lessons for children from age 4 to teens from beginner level to beyond black runs.

A wide range of group lessons from age 3 for all abilities.

TAKE HOME POINTS

  • A good rule of thumb for starting age is around 3 years old.

  • Don’t push it - some 3 year olds will be longing to ski, some will not, in fact some children might be reluctant at/beyond the age of 5,6,7. Remember that it is meant to be fun and a holiday. Tears & tantrums are never a good way to start the day.

  • Try and get to an indoor slope, if possible. This will help them get an idea of what skiing is all about, as well as have a go putting on/wearing/taking off ALL the kit!

  • Leave tuition to the professionals!

  • Pack them a snack & some hot chocolate money in their pockets for lessons. And your phone number - tell them where it is in case of emergencies.

  • Group lessons - remember they need to cater to the needs of the group, there will always be someone who is the weakest and someone who is the strongest.

  • It is best not to loiter during lessons as it can be distracting for the child and disruptive to the lesson. If you want to see what is going on then try and keep out of sight.

  • It needs to be fun, there need to be hot choc stops, maybe even snow angel making - you have got to keep them wanting to come back for more. Enjoyment is more important than progress - if the enjoyment is there the progress will surely follow.

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