Teaching kids to ski can be both exhausting and frustrating for everyone involved and usually more so for the parents than the kids. Many families, therefore, just rely on putting kids in ski school and pay someone else to handle the task. We absolutely believe ski school lessons for kids done by the professionals are an invaluable part of teaching kids to ski. But we also believe that relying solely on ski schools takes away from the fun and exhilaration your family can experience even in those earliest days on the bunny slope.
In this earlier article, '7 Tips to Teach Young Kids to Ski or Snowboard', we talk about a great way to incorporate, ski school lessons, ways to make learning to ski and snowboard look both fun and achievable, ways to challenge and motivate your kids, and we touch briefly on using ski training tools to help teach your kids to ski.
In this article, we'll dive deeper into what we find are the 3 best ski training tools for kids. And despite their popularity and benefits, we'll also highlight a couple that we think are better to avoid.
Ski training tools have come a long way with new ideas and innovations hitting the market all the time. However, more ski gadgets mean more choices, making it increasingly difficult to know which ones to choose. To help you out, we're sharing a few of the most helpful and innovative ski training tools for children who are first learning to ski. With any ski training tool, we recommend using sparingly, only long enough to get the initial benefits, but not to the extent they become a "crutch" or otherwise inhibit real skill development.
Our first recommendation is not a ski gadget and is actually not meant for use on the mountain at all but will make that first day on the mountain an even better learning experience. If your beginner skier is 5 or older, you can skip this tip but for 3 or 4 year olds (and especially 2 year olds), a great place to start learning to ski is actually in the backyard using plastic beginner snow skis.
The point is just to get comfortable balancing while moving on skis and experience wha sliding on snow feels like. You can start by towing your child around the flats and move up to having him or her slide down gentle slopes as well.
There are several brands of beginner snow skis for kids (costing $40-$70) and they all typically have universal bindings that strap over regular snow boots rather than requiring expensive kids ski boots. When you do move on to regular skis and bindings, it will be time to either rent or buy real ski boots for the kids. (See this article for our suggestions on the best kids ski boots for 2019).
While you certainly can take these skis to your local resort and slide around near the lodge there too, keep in mind that they are not designed for use on the mountain. The bindings are not as secure (think dropped ski from chairlift), they definitely don't provide the rigid support required for control that a real ski boot and binding combination do, and without metal edges they won't provide the same control, carving, and turning capability your child will need to learn to ski, even on the bunny slope.
Once your child is used to what it feels like to have skis on their feet and slide across the snow, it's time to hit the mountain. Usually, that means the bunny slope and learning to ski with "pizza and fries", the pizza being the wedge or snowplow.
Do you remember trying to keep your skis in the correct wedge position as you were starting out? Or have you seen kids alternating between crossing their tips in one moment only to have each ski go a different direction ending in a knee-injury-defying wipeout?
The Edgie Wedgie is a great little ski gadget that simply clips onto the front of your child's skis and connects the tips, allowing your child to maintain a balanced and controlled wedge position. This is especially helpful since most younger kids don't have the strength or conditioning to make a strong wedge by themselves
With the tip connector, children's skis stay in a safe position, stop skis from crossing or drifting too far apart, and help control speed and turning.
Costing only about $10, it's a top tool well worth the investment.
As with all ski training tools, use in moderation which in this case means only until your child can ski and maintain a good wedge on their own.
The Ski-Ring is exactly what it sounds and looks like. It's a plastic ring that resembles a steering wheel for children to hold in front of them while learning to ski. At first glance you might think "hey, I could just use a frisbee instead" and maybe that's true. But there are a couple things we like about it.
In general, it helps promote a centered and athletic posture, facing forward and down the mountain, and it starts kids off with a ski stance they will use later when holding poles More importantly, we believe it helps kids learn to keep their upper bodies upright, bending at the knees but not at the waist which is one of the common and difficult things to teach beginners of all ages learning to ski and especially kids.
While it's obviously still possible to hold the Ski-Ring and bend at the waist, the imagination of "driving a car" and steering their way on the hill does seem to keep kids upright and looking forward far more naturally then if they drop their hands to their thigh or hold them out to the sides for balance.
Yes, you could use any similarly shaped device like a frisbee but for only £30, this ski training gadget won't break the bank to get the real thing.
Because they are so similar, we are including a kids ski harness and kids ski rope together as two ski gadgets that we don't recommend.
Some people do swear by kids ski harnesses and ski ropes and they do have benefits if used correctly. Some parents use a ski harness or ski rope primarily to give their kids some initial confidence knowing their parent is right there to help if necessary. Others do use them sparingly by leavin slack in the rope and only helping to slow down a kid that is truly getting out of control. There is some value in both of those in the earliest days of learning to ski.
However, the reason we don't recommend using these ski gadgets is that all too often they are not used correctly and they inhibit real skill development more so than other ski training tools. When the ropes are pulled taught to slow down a kid, they pull the child's weight backwards onto their heels, further inhibiting their control or actually causing a wipeout. Most importantly, learning to ski under control is the most critical ski skill and one we believe should start from day one. With a good pizza wedge and learning to traverse the hill across the fall line to bleed off speed, kids are able to learn very early on how fast they can go while still under control and only start to ass more speed as their ability to turn and stop improves. Will they still get going too fast now and then and wipeout, Sure, but wipeouts are part of learning to ski too.
While not considered a ski training tool or ski gadget, one more important element of teaching kids to ski is the clothing they wear. The way that part of their gear plays a role is that you only notice it when it's not working. If kids are cold, wet, or otherwise uncomfortable, that is all they will think about and none of the other ski training tools or techniques will overcome the frustrations that day. And, worse, those experiences will often carry over to the next days with either simple anxiety about whether they'll be cold again or a decreased interest in learning to ski or snowboard.
We don't make ski training tools, ski gadgets, or kids ski boots, but we do put a lot of thought, research, and effort into making the best kids ski clothing on the market.
Check out this article to learn more about 'What Makes Good Waterproof/Breathable Snow Gear for Kids'.
Coach Nelly is back with Part 3 of our guest blog safety series, this time teaching beginners (and reminding everyone) of safe terrain park etiquette.
SHRED DOG Editor