How early should you teach your child to ski? This is a tough question to answer. It completely depends on both you and your child. Here are some factors to consider.
At most resorts, your youngest children will get a free lift ticket. Some mountains let kids ski free until 12. Others stop this perk at 4. Regardless, most resorts have some form of free ticket for young kids which is a massive saving. Teaching them to ski early while they qualify for free lift tickets allows you to save money on lessons later.
Along with free lift tickets, most resorts also have special lessons for tiny children. Usually, they function as a combination lesson/daycare for your youngest. They get your kid skiing and you get to have some adult time. Here are some examples of various children's programs:
Camelback in the Poconos: For kids 4-12, lasts a half day, and costs from $110-$129. Rentals are included. They do not provide lunch.
Mount Bachelor in Oregon: For kids 3½-5 and lasts all day. The program costs $129 and lift tickets costs $29. Lunch and rentals are included.
Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia: For kids 3-4, lasts all day, and costs about $175. It comes with lunch and lift tickets. Rentals are not included.
Park City in Utah: For kids age 3, lasts all day, and costs $279.
They also have a program for kids aged 4-6. That also lasts all day, but costs $299.
Both come with lunch, rentals, and lift tickets.
As you can see, programs vary, but all are aimed towards getting tiny children on skis. Most resorts also tend to have programs designed for older kids, typically priced slightly higher than the ones above.
Before Signing Up
These programs are great, but that doesn't necessarily make them the right choice. Before placing yourself in a ski program, ask yourself some questions.
Does your child like the snow? This seems like an obvious consideration, yet every year I hear tiny children complaining how much they hate snow. They get tired and cold, so they get cranky. Make sure your kid actually wants to play in the snow all day.
Will your kid be okay in ski/ride boots? Ski and ride boots can get uncomfortable, especially after a full day. Try to make sure your kids' boots fit well.
Is your kid fully potty trained? Tiny kids sometimes struggle with bladder control. This can be a really uncomfortable problem for both the child and the ski instructor.
Are you and your child both comfortable with separation? Some kids don't like to be away from their parents. Some parents worry constantly when their young child is with other people. Make sure you'll both be comfortable as they spend the day with an instructor.
If you still think putting your child in ski school is a good idea, then I'd say go for it. They're great programs.
Teaching Them Yourself
If you want to bring your kids and teach them yourself, that's great. It can save money and give you quality time with your children.
Have patience: As a parent, you know kids are exhausting. They can be even more exhausting on a ski slope. Teaching your own kids to ski can be very rewarding, but it probably won't be relaxing.
Make sure they can stop: Ski harnesses look ridiculous, but they can be really helpful. Tiny kids are not always in control of their bodies. Snow is really slippery. Fully grown adults get out of control and start rocketing down a mountain.
If your kid is brand new to skis, consider getting a harness. Just make sure to use it correctly or it can teach them bad habits.
Be ready to quit early: If your kid is cold, tired, and frustrated at 1pm, you should probably quit skiing at 1pm. Pressing on will probably just lead to further frustration and exhaustion. Be ready to call it an early day.