This ski season, though the driest on record for Tahoe ski resorts, has been the best ski season of my life.
Last year I got some tips on teaching toddlers to ski from my friend Kevin, who has two kids a little older than mine who are ripping big time this year, and my dad, who taught 3 of us to ski, was a level 2 ski instructor and ran a youth ski club for more than 10 years. The tips were golden. If you want to get your kid into skiing, follow their advice.
Fun and familiar
The biggest thing for us is making the experience of skiing familiar, comfortable and eventually fun. Skiing was just a brief trip for us at first. Lapping the magic carpet for half an hour, then retreating for PBJs in the lodge. That’s a great place to start. Don’t expect much more than that.
This season I started by skiing the easy hill with him between my legs. I supported him under his arms and said, “Slow like Katy, Fast like CHOO CHOO! Slow Like Katy, FAST LIKE CHOO CHOO!!” Then we hit the jump… The video below shows his progress after a few trips practicing the Katy/Choo Choo method:
Slow Like Katy / Fast Like Choo Choo
In an effort to make things more fun and familiar for my son, I hit on something that got him to snow plow (Pizza) and straight line (french fry) in just a couple runs: Two of his favorite books by classic children’s book author and illustrator of The Little House, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Calico The Wonder Horse, Virginia Lee Burton.
Katy and The Big Snow
This is the story of a red crawler tractor who saves the town of Geopolis when a big snow storm hits and all the city’s truck plows get stuck in the snow. Katy and her giant snow plow help the police protect the city, the firemen get to a fire, the doctor save a patient and much more. The story is great, the illustrations are awesome and the book is a nightly read most weeks. Katy and The Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton is a great story and I recommend it highly.
This is obviously the snow plow cue. Basically, all I did at first was get him to make a wedge with his skis. The heuristics of snow plowing are pretty good, so he figured the rest out on his own. As you can see in the video below, he can stop him self at will on the not-so-steep runs, so he’s got the concept, if not the strength.
This is another great little story with wonderful illustrations. It’s the story of a little steam engine and tender who decides like pulling trains is too boring and slow and decides to run away. Choo Choo speeds through town causing havoc and looking his tender in a daring draw bridge escape jump. Choo Choo eventually runs our of steam, literally, in a dark forrest where his engineer finds him and returns him to service. My son loves it, and it and Choo Choo by Virginia Lee Burton is a must have.
We use this in place of the traditional “french fry” cue for straight lining. There’s no story about french fries, and there is no personality to a side dish for kids to love. You can’t act like a french fry, but you can go fast like Choo Choo and hit the jump as he does in the book.
But Choo Choo and Katy aren’t the only literary characters we see when we go skiing. On the lift ride there’s wooden turret shaped water tower that my son says looks just like Barron Orlando’s Castle, from the book A Tournament of Knights by Joe Lasker. Later the Galena chairlift at Mt. Rose passes over some gentle snowy swales that conceal the cavernous home of The Grinch.
When bed time rolls around we snuggle down under the covers and read our books and remember the awesome shred we had that day and we both dream of snow plows, ski boots, stories to read and tell, french fries, PBJs and char lift rides with best buddies.