Putting Kids in Ski School vs Teaching Your Own Kids to Ski

This post may contain affiliate links where we earn from qualifying purchases. As an amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Find out more in our disclosure.

You’ve got your ski vacation booked, and this is going to be THE YEAR that your family learns to ski.  

That is, until you look at the prices for ski school.  If you thought that lift tickets were expensive at an average of about $100/day, wait until you see ski school prices.  It’s not uncommon to pay over $200 per day of ski school, and that often doesn’t include a lift ticket.  

So you start thinking to yourself “it’s just skiing…I can probably figure out how to teach them myself”.

Can kids learn to ski without being in ski school?

First of all, you need to know that ski school is not essential to learning to ski.  In fact, my husband and I have taught each of our 5 kids to ski on our own.  

teaching kids to ski
Mom teaching the boys how to SKI

In fact, I think that if you’re willing to be patient (and go inside a few times during the day for a hot cocoa break), every parent who is at least an intermediate skier can teach their own kids to ski.

Truthfully, I think that ski school can be avoided for the first few days out with every skier.  Mostly this is because all they do in the first few days of ski school is how to move, stop, and do a basic turn on their skis.  

Especially if you have a child who is hesitant about skiing, don’t take a $250 risk on ski school (crossing your fingers it all works out).  Put in a day on the beginner slope and try it out with them yourself!

At what age can kids start skiing?

Kids can start skiing soon after they can walk. Yes, it’s true and most of our kids were learning to ski while they were just one year old. However, if you’re not as crazy as we are, I generally think that between the ages of 3-5 is a good age to start skiing. If you want to learn more about picking the right age for skiing, make sure to read Everything You Need to Know About Skiing With Kids.

baby skiing with edgie wedgie
Our 1-year-old skiing

What skills should kids learn first when skiing?

The first thing that kids should learn to do is to move around in their skis.  If you’ve got your own equipment, let them practice walking around the house in ski boots and walking around the backyard with their skis and boots on (even if there’s not much snow).  This will likely be the first time that they’ve had restrictive equipment like ski gear, so give them some time to help them get comfortable.  

little girl carrying skis

If you’re renting your ski gear, pick it up the afternoon before your ski trip so your kids can have a few hours the night before to get used to things.

Once you get up to the hill, kids should start off their time by learning to shuffle around and glide on the snow.  Don’t head up the chairlift YET!

How to teach kids to get up after a ski fall

After kids learn to glide on the snow the next thing to learn is how to get up when you fall.  Here are the steps to help you get up when you fall skiing.  

1.  Point your skis sideways.

Make sure that their skis are pointed across the hill so that they can get up before they start sliding again.  Also, make sure that their legs are not crossed.

2.  Put your hands in front of your boots.

This gets the kids leaning forward and more off of their butts.  We do our best to encourage BOTH hands on the snow (this will be especially helpful on steeper terrain).

3.  Push up.

Push up off of the snow with their hands.  If they are having a difficult time, getting all the way up, have them hug their knees and pull up that way.

Teaching kids how to stop on skis

Before you head up the chairlift, you need to be able to do three things.  

  1. Move around on your skis, both gliding and shuffling
  2. Know how to get up when you fall down on your skis
  3. How to stop in a wedge
baby skiing with mom

Most ski areas have some sort of a beginner area that’s perfect for learning to stop BEFORE you get on the chairlift.  This will probably be a tow rope or even a magic carpet conveyor belt to stand on.  

For kids, the wedge is is hands down the best stopping technique around.  Basically, getting them slightly on the inside edges of their skis and making a triangle shape will stop them in an instant.

toddler skiing with edgie wedgie
Practicing Wedge Turns

The only problem is that young kids don’t know what an edge is, let alone a triangle or wedge.  An Edgie Wedgie solves that, and is our #1 suggested ski tool that every parent should buy (don’t worry, they’re super cheap).  

See, an Edgie Wedgie is essentially a bungee cord that clamps onto the tips of the skis to keep them close together.  It helps so their skis don’t cross, legs don’t get tangled, and it makes forming a wedge about as easy as can be. Truly!  All you have to do is spread your legs apart and VOILA! WEDGE! This is priceless, especially when skiing with toddlers (or anyone under the age of 6 for that matter).

I’ve spent A LOT of time on the bunny hill teaching our 5 kids how to ski, and I’m surprised how many parents AREN’T using an edgie wedgie

 I look at the parents who aren’t using it and pleasantly smile at them, practically begging them to ask me for advice.  In my mind I’m screaming at them “stop being so crazy – this will be a whole lot easier and less stressful on you and your kids if you’ll just fork over the $15 and buy an Edgie Wedgie”, but instead of speaking up, I just smile invitingly (because no parent wants to be told they are doing something wrong ESPECIALLY when they’re frustrated).

kids skiing with edgie wedgie

Honestly, all I do is tell my kids to make their legs BIG (our code for spread them apart) and magically we get a wedge.  When I want them to go, I tell them to make their legs smaller or do “french fries” and they take off again.

What a lot of it comes down to is muscle memory.  When little kids are skiing, there are a lot of new things to master and muscle memory is a major part of that.  The Edgie Wedgie is pretty much the best tool around to help kids figure out that muscle memory so they can focus on figuring out the rest of skiing.  As soon as they can consistently make a stopping wedge, take it off. If might take a day, or like our little Chloe, they might ski with it for almost 3 seasons…either way, it’s all just fine.  When your kids have the strength, confidence, and desire, they’ll be able to get it off (no worries folks, I’ve never seen a 10-year-old who still needs one).

On the downside, with an Edgie Wedgie on, kids can’t walk uphill (sidestepping or duck-walking) or shuffle fast because their tips are stuck together, but helping them with those little things is a small price to pay for how much easier it will make the rest of your ski trip!

Okay, that was long – have I convinced you that you ABSOLUTELY NEED an edgie wedgie??

How to teach kids to turn on skis

Turning on skis is easier than most people think, especially for kids.  Generally speaking, kids will go where their focus is. If they’re looking at a tree, they’ll crash right into it.  If they’re looking across the hill, they’ll go there. The easiest way to get kids to turn is simply by playing follow the leader, with the parent making smooth gentle turns down the hill.  Where the child’s focus is, their weight will naturally shift. We love to play racing games, Do As I’m Doing, tag, and pretty much anything silly we can think of to get the kids watching and following us down the hill while we turn.  

teaching kids to turn on skis

While they may not instantly start following your tracks on your first run, chances are that after a few, they’ll be able to follow you anywhere, if you can just get them to focus on YOU.

What tools do I need to teach my own kids to ski?

There are a few ski teaching tools that I think EVERY parent must have before they try and teach their own kids to ski.  The first tool is an edgie wedgie.
If I haven’t convinced you by now that you NEED to buy one, I probably never will be able to.

The next thing that every parent should have to teach their kids to ski, is a harness.  A ski harness is helpful with kids until about age 6. While we don’t usually use the leashes on them, they’ve got a handle on the back which will save your back all day long.  They’re amazing at helping kids get on and off the chairlift, hold their squirming bodies in place during the ride, and to pick them up when they fall down. Read our article on how to use a ski harness the right way, to learn how to properly use it (hint: your child should never be pulling your down the mountain with their harness on.)

Who is ski school best for?

Most kids ski schools are geared towards kids ages 4-12.  A few will take 3 year olds in a private lesson, but for group lessons, 4 is the general starting point.  After age 12, kids will generally be in the same lessons with adults. If you’ve got a younger kid, consider teaching them yourself like we shared above.  

man and boy skiing

Ski school should ALWAYS be used if the parents are not feeling extra patient OR if the parents are not good intermediate skiers themselves.  

When should I NOT take my kids to ski school?

  1.  Don’t take your kids to ski school if they’re really nervous.  It’s really expensive and will likely end up being really pricey daycare.
  2. If your kids are very young, most ski schools won’t accept them, so don’t bother.  
  3. If a child has just learned several new things in ski school, consider taking a few days off of lessons to just ski with the family.  It will give them a chance to solidify their new skills without getting overwhelmed by learning something new right away.  
  4. If your kids are not feeling well, keep them home. Ski school is just like regular school in that your kids will be miserable if they are not feeling well, and will probably get others sick too.

When should I put my kids in ski school?

While there are a lot of things that you can teach your own kids about skiing, there are also some great benefits of ski school.  Ski school is a life saver when your kids are learning new skills like hockey stops, parallel turns, skiing steep terrain, and how to ski moguls.  Ski instructors are specifically trained to teach people how to master these skills, so you’ll probably learn better from an instructor than just figuring it out yourself.  

ski school with ski instructor

This year, we signed up our oldest three kids for a ski school program where they ski with the same class for 3 weeks in a row.  Each of them is at a point where they’re going to be learning a lot of new skills this year, and we wanted them to start off the season right.  We know that sometimes our kids listen better to other people, so we went ahead and signed them up. Yes, it was an investment, but it was worth every penny.  

Getting the most out of ski school

If you’re going to put your kids in ski school, here are a few things that you can do as a parent to get the most bang for your buck:

  1. Talk to the instructor.
    Take some time to discuss your child’s progress with the instructor instead of just assuming they learned what they should. 
    The instructor will be able to provide valuable insights on where your child needs to focus their skills. 
  2. Instead of asking an instructor what color of runs they skied, ask what skills they learned to really understand what they learned.
    It’s often a long process to move from one terrain color to the next (often taking several years), and skills are a more accurate indication of how your child is progressing. Also, don’t be discouraged if your child has to stay in the same class for multiple days (it’s so much better than putting them in a class they aren’t ready for).   
  3. Don’t assume you know where your child should be skiing – ASK the instructor what they have done together. 
    We made that mistake with our middle son recently and assumed that he had been skiing some blue trails all day.  Turns out, he had been skiing on a beginner hill as he was working on his parallel turns, which was so helpful. As parents, we too often push our kids into terrain that’s too difficult for them and the kids get really scared by it. 
    When you take a run with your child at the end of their lesson, be extra patient and don’t force them to go if they don’t want to. Remember that they’ve been skiing A LOT during the day and they’re likely really tired and a bit grouchy. Follow their cues and focus on ending the day on a happy note.

Is ski school worth the money?

Absolutely.  But kids don’t need ski school every time they ski.  Take them after they have learned how to stop (a $15 edgie wedgie is WAY cheaper than a full day lesson – you’ve GOT THIS!), when they’re learning a hard skill, or when they’re ready to tackle harder terrain.  Beyond that, just practice, practice, practice…which means lots of fun family ski days!!

Overall, we recommend a bit of a hybrid to teach your kids to ski.  Teach them yourself the easier skills like stopping and turning, but for more complex skills, ski school is a fantastic option.  Also, by taking on some of the ski instruction yourself, you’ll be saving A LOT of money so that you can ski more!

How many days of ski school should I sign my kids up for?

If your kids are just starting out and learning to ski, I suggest signing them up for 2 out of every 3 days for ski lessons. That third day, just ski together as a family and enjoy the fact that they can sort of get down the hill.

Once your kids can comfortably ski all green hills, take a little break. When they’re ready to learn hockey stops or want to try some blues, sign them up for another day or two. The biggest key is to tell the ski school and the individual instructor what you want your child to work on so that they can help them progress how you want. Of course, they’ll probably learn much more as well!

How long does it take kids to learn to ski?

So often people ask us “how many lessons does my child need to learn to ski” or “How long does it take to figure out how to ski” As you can imagine, that can vary a lot.

boy skiing in the trees

It can take kids YEARS to learn to ski well. By skiing well, I mean proper form and technique and the ability to ski all over the mountain. Our oldest has been skiing for 11 years and he’s still got a long ways to go.

In fact, I’ve been skiing for almost 35 years, and I still can learn more and even take adult lessons every few years – you can always learn more.

Typically kids can learn to ski alright on a green run in about 5-8 days. It takes a couple of seasons to get kids good enough to comfortably ski a blue run, and even longer to comfortably ski black diamond and double black runs.

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

1 thought on “Putting Kids in Ski School vs Teaching Your Own Kids to Ski”

  1. Great tips. The ski mountains and PSIA will try and make it seem like you’re a reckless cheapskate and bad parent for trying to teach your kids yourself but with a the right prep it can be done, and especially 3-4 year olds will be much happier with Mom or Dad than a stranger.

    I’ve also done a mix of teaching myself and lessons and the lessons have been hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get a fantastic teacher on a slow day and your kid gets an amazing private lesson for the price of a group. And sometimes it’s crowded as hell, the teacher sucks, the other students are late or whine too much, and your kid gets maybe 20 minutes of instruction….

    I would add that to be an effective teacher for young kids you need to be a good enough skier to feel comfortable skiing backwards. But overall you have the right idea.


Leave a Comment

6 − three =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.