This post may contain affiliate links where we earn a small commission from each sale. Find out more in our disclosure.
Welcome to our ski school series. Our goal here is to teach you a few of the essentials you’ll need to know to teach your own kids to ski. In this article we’re going to show you
The best way to teach toddlers to ski
Yes, it’s true, you can teach your own kids to ski, and we’re here to show you what you need to do.
We’ve adopted the philosophy that getting out kids out on skis as soon as possible is the best option for us…so all five of our kids have been skiing around age 18 months! Naturally, one of the questions we are asked most is “how do you teach toddlers to ski”.
No, we’re not crazy competitive parents who are trying to force an olympic ski career on kids who can barely walk, actually just the opposite – we are parents who loathe being stuck in the lodge when great snow is just out the door.
Can a one-year-old really learn how to ski? Yes, but only a little. What they can learn are things like balancing on skis and the earlier that you get them out on the snow, the more comfortable they will be with the idea later on.
At the end of the day, being on the bunny hill sure beats being in the lodge and is a great way to get kids really excited about skiing for the next season when they’re 2 and can actually figure a few things out (yes, all of our kids could stop and turn independently when they were 2 since we started teaching them like this).
Here, we’re sharing our secrets for teaching your own kids to ski!
Gear to set kids up for success
We are firm believers that if you want kids to love being outdoors, you need to give them good gear, ESPECIALLY in winter. If your kids have a cheap coat, or crappy gloves, you can probably cut your outdoor time in half, especially on the ski hill. Also, it’s important that kids have good socks and baselayers (NEVER COTTON), so that they can stay warm and regulate their body heat well. We’ve been teaching our own kids to ski for 11 years (and probably hundreds before that as we were both ski instructors), and here is the best gear that we think is worth investing in.
This is the gear that we use over and over again for our 5 kids. It’s gear that keeps them comfortable, dry, and lasts to be passed down again and again. In fact, in the long run, we’ve saved money by buying better quality gear since we rarely have to replace it.
Best Ski Gear for Kids
Neither one of these are very expensive, but after teaching all 5 of our own kids to ski and hundreds of other kids when we were ski instructors (yes, that was each of our jobs in college), we’ve learned that these are the best tools you can buy.)
Note: Most parents end up using a ski harness incorrectly! We’ve written all about how to use a ski harness the right way.
Next, you’ll need to get some skis and boots. The skis that your child uses don’t really matter, but the length does. Shorter is easier and for beginners, I suggest getting a ski that’s around shoulder height (with toddlers you sometimes have to go bigger – all my kids learned to ski on a 78cm ski because that’s what we had and it worked great).
Choosing good ski boots for kids is hugely important and I can’t say enough good things about Roces Adjustable ski boots. They’re super affordable and will last your child though 6 sizes without sacrificing performance. Read our full review on Roces adjustable boots here.
Hot Cocoa will save you!
Our magic ratio when skiing with young kids has been 2 parts hot chocolate to 1 part skiing. That gives them plenty of rest time, and also plenty of time to get excited about getting back on the mountain.
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on resort hot chocolate, carry an insulated bottle (this bottle has NEVER leaked on us), and bring your own. Also, if you haven’t tried this hot cocoa, it really might change your life.
Realistic Expectations When Teaching Kids to Ski
Like I mentioned before, the first season of skiing with a toddler (especially a 1-year-old) can easily produce no real skills at the end of it. Your goal is to get a kid who WANTS to ski, and hopefully ski a lot! What can toddlers learn?
The most important ski skill is balance.
Yes, I know it sounds simple, but balance is really hard for these tiny kids and will set the stage for a lifetime of good skiing habits. We talk all about how to promote good balance when skiing with kids below.
Teach kids to focus while they’re skiing
Skiing presents an entirely new set of distractions so getting your child to focus and look where they need to is huge. Outside of those things, I consider anything else learned a bonus.
Can a 1-year-old learn to ski? Absolutely! This video is of our youngest skiing at age 1. I want to preface this by saying that of all our 5 kids, he has progressed the most quickly, but I’m sharing it so that you can see what’s possible.
Make skiing FUN
Your job as a parent is to keep skiing fun. As soon as it stops being fun, it’s time to take a break. Whether that’s going in for some hot cocoa, eating a snack, or sometimes you just have to call it a day early and come back when everyone’s in a better mood.
We always carry these treats in our pocket and pass them out to the kids on the chairlift. Never ski without small snacks to share with your kids – it will amaze you at what your kids are able to do if there’s a candy reward involved.
What you need to know before you try and teach your own kids to ski
Now before I begin showing you how we teach our kids, note that this technique should only be used by people who are VERY comfortable skiing on their own. You will spend almost all of your time skiing backwards, so you need to be pretty good at that and also have a good awareness of the mountain (while skiing backwards 🙂 and fast reaction time.
Also, it’s important to remember that kids will fall A LOT when they’re learning how to ski. You can learn to teach them how to get up on skis, but having a ski harness on your kids will be invaluable. We have our youngest always ski with this harness because it has a big handle at the back, which has saved my back after a long day on the hill. It also makes it so much easier to put them onto the lift if you can just pull them up by the handle.
Here’s how we teach toddlers and young kids to ski:
Although you might not have seen other parents using this technique to teach kids to ski, we’ve found it to be the most effective. It works best with kids who are 4 years old or younger (sometimes a small 5-year-old) because bigger kids make it really difficult to ski backwards like this.
1. Start skiing in a backwards wedge
This will be your position for the entire time you’re doing this technique with your child.
2. Have your child straddle your skis
Your goal is to have their edgie wedgie pressing up against your boot or binding like shown in the picture below. With their edgie wedgie pressed up against your binding, you are in total control of their speed and where they go. This set up is especially good for toddlers because they are close enough to you that they don’t get nervous or afraid, but they’re not so close that they can grab onto you. Remember, our goal is to teach them how to balance and to focus, so this is the perfect position to ski with kids.
3. Ski backwards making S-turns
You do this so that your child gets a feel for what they should be doing on the hill. Since their edgie wedgie is pressed up against your binding, they will go where you go. Do this from the very beginning so that your kids learn that you turn whenever you are skiing, which is one of the most important habits kids can develop on skis.
Why is this a good way to teach kids to ski?
Mostly because it forces the child to balance on their skis. They have to stand up all by themselves as they get used to the feel and movement of their skis. It shows them what it feels like to turn and change direction as well. Also, because you are right in front of them, it not only helps them feel safe and secure, but blocks out a lot of distractions, teaching them that when they ski, they need to look at Mom or Dad (trust me, that’s a lifesaver down the road).
As you child gets older and increases in confidence, this is also a great way to teach them to stop in a safe and controlled way (read more on getting your kids to STOP here). Since their edgie wedgie is just pushed up against your binding, if they stop their skis on their own, they really will stop even if you keep going!
Most of all your goal is to make skiing fun for kids. If it stops being fun, it’s time to stop skiing. Remember that the goal of skiing with kids is to build kids who love skiing for LIFE, and that takes time. On the opposite side, it only takes a couple of bad experiences to make your kids HATE skiing, so keep it FUN.
Also, set realistic time goals. No toddler can ski for a whole day or likely even a whole morning. If they make it an hour, awesome! 2? Incredible! 30 minutes? No big deal!
Our magic ratio has been 1 part skiing to 2 parts hot chocolate drinking…yes that’s a lot of hot chocolate.
Are you going to be spending a ton of time on the slopes with a toddler? NO, we talked about that earlier! But it sure beats being stuck in the lodge, or worse, being stuck at home!
Looking for more positions to teach your kids to ski in? Check out this awesome list here.
Advantages to teaching kids to ski at a young age
You might be wondering at this point if it’s even worth teaching a toddler or young kids how to ski. It absolutely is. Although it does take longer for kids to learn when they are really young, we’ve found that once they hit about age 3, their progress really takes off so much faster than all their peers.
Worst way to teach kids to ski (what NOT to do):
If you’re not going to teach your kids to ski correctly, then you should put them in ski school vs teaching them yourself (and the technique above is just one of the many ways you can teach your kids skiing).
Here’s what not to do when teaching kids to ski
- Just skiing with them between your legs and hold onto their backs (you will end up with a rag-doll child in .01 seconds). Remember, the goal is to teach them how to balance, and this takes that away. Only ski with kids between your legs if they are too tired to ski down alone (it happens more than you might think – in fact, each of my kids has fallen asleep on a chairlift at some point)
- Using a harness with leashes to control them before they can stop and turn on their own.
Likementioned above, in the early stages of skiing a ski harness is best used fo the handle. Check out this article all about how to use a ski harness the correct way.
- Don’t be over technical when teaching kids to ski. Remember, they’re kids after all, and they probably don’t even know their right from their left, so introducing words like wedge and snowplow will just confuse them. Personally, using the words pizza and french fry are about as technical as I’ve ever gotten.
- Do not try to teach a child when you are not skilled yourself – it’s a recipe for disaster! To ski
backwardsand use the technique we showed above you need to be at least an advanced intermediate skier.
Skiing with kids requires an incredible amount of patience. If you’re unsure if you should teach your own kids to ski or go to