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Ski instructor with two kid skiers at Snowmass

How to Set Your Child Up for Ski School Success

Tips and tricks for helping your kids prepare for ski and snowboard lessons—so they can be lifelong rippers and riders.

Catherine Lutz

A person’s first memories of skiing and snowboarding can have a profound impact on their future love of the sport. Learning the fundamentals of gliding down the mountain while surrounded by snow-covered trees, delighting in snack breaks between runs, and giggling with new friends on a chairlift can leave a lasting impression. When kids have fun while learning, they make positive associations and gain lasting confidence—and a lesson with a professional is the perfect way to facilitate both. Here are a few tips to help make your child's first lesson a success so they can fall in love with skiing and riding, and cherish their time on the slopes for years come.

Prepare Them—Physically and Emotionally

The practical part of preparing your child for ski school is equipment and outerwear. Consider getting them excited about their lesson ahead of time by trying on their pants, jackets, and helmets at home the day before. And, encourage them walk around in their ski and snowboard boots for a bit to get used to the fit.

Emotional preparedness can also help your child get the most out of their lesson, and will provide the foundation for a long-term interest in skiing or snowboarding. Luckily, at Aspen Snowmass, this less-tangible side of learning is at the heart of every lesson. Pros use the CAT model (which has cognitive, affective, and physical components) to help their students learn on the mountain. And the “affective” piece of the equation—the emotional aspect—“almost always supersedes all other things,” says Alex Kendrick, Private Lessons Senior Coordinator at Buttermilk.

“If a child is a very strong skier but they’re afraid or don’t feel included, it doesn’t matter what they physically can do,” says Kendrick. “We want to make sure they’re comfortable before anything else. We’re teaching people here—I call them little humans—and everyone comes to us with different needs and different experiences.”

Child smiling on ski slopes at Aspen Snowmass

The Right Gear with Ease

Don’t stress about gearing up your kiddos—with nine convenient locations across our four mountains and two town, Four Mountain Sports makes renting everything your child needs easy.

Asking Yourself and Your Kids These Questions

How can I, as a parent, help prepare my child emotionally for a ski or snowboard lesson?

Ask your child what they’d like to do and what their goals are (the way you ask the questions will depend on the child’s age). Ask what they’re excited about and what they’re concerned about. Understanding what a child’s expectations are can help mold the parents’ expectations.

Especially with kids who are tentative and may not want to go, it’s important to have this conversation. Tell them that this is an opportunity to learn something new, to make new friends, or to have an instructor who can show them all the coolest stuff on the mountain. Sometimes, it’s just about taking the time to introduce them to their instructor, and talk together about what they’re going to be doing that day and who they’re going to be with.

What about at the end of the day, especially the first day? What should I talk to my child about to make sure the remainder of the lessons go well?

A good set of questions starts with, “Did you have fun?” To find out what they learned, you may have to be more creative. Ask them what the best part of the day was, and what would they have changed if they could. If they say they wished they could go faster, maybe they need a higher-level lesson. But if they say they were scared or had trouble getting down the slope, maybe it’s worth talking to the instructor about whether their current class is too advanced.
Learning to ski at Snowmass
Girl on a magic carpet lift at Snowmass
Kids going down the slopes during a lesson at Snowmass

Get Creative in Assuaging Any Fears

Information is power. If your child is tentative or has never experienced snow sports before, there are plenty of online opportunities to get them prepared visually before leaving home. Look at the website of the resort you’re going to; show them trail maps and photos. If they can start to see some of the things they’re going to experience, it won’t all be so brand-new looking when they actually arrive.

If possible, come out to the mountain the day before the lesson starts. This gives children the opportunity to see where they’re going to be, to meet the instructors dressed in red uniforms, and to get a feel for what they’re going to be doing.

Talk to a Pro

We strongly recommend that parents talk to the children’s instructor at the end of the lesson. Ask what runs are appropriate for the family to ski together. Ask what skills they’ve worked on throughout the lesson. Then, allow your child to shine and to show off the skills he or she learned in ski school. Let them lead you down the run.

Remember It’s About Having Fun

Skiing and snowboarding are about getting outside and enjoying time in the mountains. While gear, logistics, and emotions can sometimes present challenges, the overall experience is meant to bring everyone joy. If it’s becoming too stressful, consider taking a step back and a deep breath, and remember what made you fall in love with skiing and riding.

4 Reasons to Put Your Kids in Ski School

1. Children get on the right track early

Aspen Snowmass Ski Pros are specifically trained and certified to teach children the fundamentals of skiing and riding. When the learning experience is enjoyable and productive, it sets kids up for a lifetime of fun skiing or riding, and reduces the risk of bad habits forming from the get-go. 

2. Lessons enhance your on-mountain family time

By leaving the teaching to the Pros, you can use family time to enjoy each other. After their ski lessons, your kids will be thrilled to show you their new skills and tricks. They can show you their favorite trails, lead you on an adventure, and maybe even teach you a few things. Let them. You’ll be surprised how much fun you may have. 

3. Professionals do the leg work, which takes the pressure off of you

Traveling with children can be challenging. Just keeping track of everyone can be daunting. When you put your kids in lessons, ski school takes care of the details—equipment, lunch, learning, and logistics. This gives you time and space to relax, take some ski laps, and enjoy your vacation.

4. Lessons translate to more than skiing and riding

At Aspen Snowmass, we prioritize helping kids fall in love with the sport and the mountain environment, even when stepping out of their comfort zone. Spending a day on the mountain with a Pro helps children learn to acquire life skills such as responsibility, decision-making, teamwork, and perseverance.