Using a Ski Harness the RIGHT WAY!!

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You’re getting ready for ski season and trying to figure out the best way to ski with your kids WITHOUT spending a small fortune on ski school every day.

And then you think “I’ve seen people use those ski harnesses, and that looks EASY!  I’ll just grab one of those and we’ll be set.”

WRONG!  While ski harnesses can be a great tool, if you use them the wrong way, they’ll actually make your kids WORSE SKIERS!

How to use a ski harness the right way

 

The problem with ski harnesses

From my own experience skiing, I would assume that close to 90% of the people that I see using ski harnesses on the slopes are using them incorrectly.  It’s like the skiing version of the teenager “walking” the dog who is really just pulling him on his skateboard, but the kid is the dog taking the parents for a ride.  Not a good foundation for a lifetime of ski habits!

If you’ve been anywhere near the slopes in the last 10 years, you have to know what I’m talking about and have doubtless seen some kids on a harness taking their parents for a ride down the slopes.

So for years we avoided them when we were teaching our kids how to ski, because as a ski mom and a former ski instructor, I’ve seen the bad habits they create.  Because like most things that bug me, there are only certain things about ski harnesses that drive me crazy, and after using a ski harness to teach our youngest kids to ski, I now know personally that if you use them right, they can be great tools.

 

When to use a harness:

Like I mentioned a harness is just a tool to teach your kids how to ski.  Teaching your own kids to ski is totally doable, but you really need to know what you’re doing and not just wing it.  We talk all about the beginning steps that you need to take in our Ski School Series.  The best tools you can buy to teach kids to ski are an edgie wedgie and a good harness.

We think that harnesses (with the leash) should really only be used by small kids who can already balance and just need a little redirection.  They are really ideal for kids under age 4, and I don’t recommend them for kids over the age of 5 since they have the motor skills and strength to ski independently.

Before you ever put a harness on your child, they need to learn how to balance.  This is a critical skill that will be the foundation of their skiing, so check out our #1 way to teach a toddler to balance on skis.  They are great for picking kids up and helping them got on the lift if you have one with a handle like this harness, so the harness alone can be a great addition to any day.  In fact, we always have our younger kids wear a harness and only get the leashes out probably 10% of the time.

Harness leashes are great TOOLS for times when you’re having difficulty getting your child to turn and they just need a little help figuring that out (all it takes is a little tug to turn them).  We also put a harness on our kids for the first few times down harder terrain so that they have a bit more confidence knowing that they’re not alone and that if there’s a problem, someone’s right behind them to help.

If you’re like us and have multiple kids on the slopes, having the youngest wear a harness can be a lifesaver to help give the littlest skiers a boost when they’re trying to keep up with a crowd.  For us, the kids all want to ski together, but with such a HUGE skill range this is a good cheater way to all get a run in together (however, we only do that for one run a day so that our youngest actually has to LEARN to ski, instead of just taking off down the hill after his speedster siblings).

When NOT to use a ski harness:

Don’t use the leashes on their very first day of skiing – this will prevent them from trying to learn how to stop and turn on their own.  Also, if your leashes are tight the whole time, your child is depending on it too much; it’s time to take it down a notch either in speed, terrain, or both.

Don’t repeatedly use a harness for your child to go on terrain that their not ready for.  We’re all about a run or two for some togetherness time, but if you’re relying on it the whole day, it’s not helping your child.

Don’t use a harness if you as the adult are not a strong skier.  It’s amazing how much it will make your legs burn to ski in a wedge behind a 30 pound kid whose only goal is to go down.  Also, if there comes a point when you realize that your child is leaning into their harness or otherwise not balancing well, it’s time to put it away for a while and get back to basics.

Don’t use a harness with just a leash or a static cord.  You need leashes with some sort of bungee so that your child doesn’t get hurt or pulled over when there’s some tension.  We’ve used this harness for 6 years and it’s been a lifesaver for us.

Teaching kids to ski timeline

1-  Start on a gentle slope and teach your kids how to shuffle their skis and get up when they fall.  Learn how to do that here.  

2 – Practice gliding down a super mild slope (magic carpet areas are ideal for this).  This is where kids learn to balance on their skis.

3 – Learn how to stop.  Call it a wedge, call it a pizza, but whatever you do, make sure that your kids can stop solid before taking them up the chairlift.  If you get an edgie wedgie, it’s so much easier because all they have to do is move their legs apart and it makes the wedge for them. We’ll show you how to teach your kids to stop here.

4 – Practice turning.  For the most part, kids skis will go where they are looking, so simple follow the leader games are the best way to teach this.

5 – Put a harness on and head up the chairlift!

What we use with our own kids

Like I mentioned, we put a harness on our younger kids EVERY TIME, mostly just because the handle makes it so easy to help them on and off the lift and it saves your back when you’re picking them up all the time as well.  The harness that we use can easily fit both our 2-year-old and our 5-year-old, so there’s lots of adjustability.   The harness that we use has a backpack that the straps can fit inside so that they stayed stored when not in use, which is a majority of the time.  The best feature about this harness is that it has the elastic bungee straps, so that when you give a small tug, it’s gentle to your child and doen’t just make them fall over.

42 thoughts on “Using a Ski Harness the RIGHT WAY!!”

  1. My dad taught me to ski at a very early age. I don’t think they had/used harnesses back then. Although I don’t have any kids yet I hope to someday! My plan is to get them onto skis as early as possible!

  2. My niece says she doesn’t like skiing because she doesn’t like falling down. I tried to explain every one falls down once in a while. She didn’t buy it. How do I get her over this fear?

  3. Did you guys always have your own gear for the youngest kids? If so where’s the best place to pick up cheap, but good gear? If not, I’m curious to know about any rental experiences (if places even carry stuff that small)?

  4. I have plenty of questions… Dad knows how to ski.. me not so much.. the baby will probably be put on ski’s as soon as she can walk. Questions I’ve got a ton but right now I just want to know what will keep my child while skiing.

  5. Can I learn to ski at the same time as my kids? I have always wanted to try but never had the chance until this year

  6. We just took our older boys skiing, but haven’t taken the toddlers yet. Would love to try this harness. My daughter is 3, should I wait till she is 4 to start?

  7. I hadn’t used a harness, but think it would help. My question is this–with various abilities in your children, how do you let everyone ski where they want to/are able to without leaving the others out. We have 3 kids and 2 parents so usually the best skiier doesn’t get to ski at his difficulty level. I don’t know how to keep everyone safe. :-/

  8. Tandi Cortez-Rios

    This is great! I’m hoping to take my kids skiing soon and would love to have this. Thanks for the chance!

  9. Pingback: To Use a Ski Harness or Not to Use a Ski Harness: That is the Question | LaunchPadGear

  10. I am with you on not liking many of the harnesses out there. I have found most of them to be inconvenient to use, ill fitting, poorly constructed, and dangerous on lifts. There were only static leashes until someone figured out that retractable leashes would work better. So, we bought the Lil’ Ripper Gripper.
    This one combines the proper anchor placement (on the hips for skiers, and fore & aft for riders) with a 5 point harness and retractable leashes – much safer and more functional.

    1. Yes, it’s HUGE to find a good harness and make sure that you use it right. I’m glad you found a good one for your family!

  11. check out these guys: mdxone.com
    I bought one two weeks ago and it’s awesome!! good looking and very versatile. finally something that works for snowboarding. My 3 years loves his MDXONE backpack and bring his turtle on the slopes. The leash is so awesome!!
    Cheers!
    Matt

    1. Duncan Anderson

      The biggest issue with the MDXONE (and other backpack systems) is safety. Many ski hills ban the use of backpacks on lifts due to injuries and lawsuits. Why would you strap these safety hazards to your child when riding chairs?

      1. Duncan, if you look closer, you will find that this is not really a backpack. It is essentially a pouch to hold a few yards of webbing. My kids can still sit with their backs flat against the chair so I have no safety concerns about it at all.

  12. Pingback: 35+ Perfect Gifts For Ski Families - Bring The Kids

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