Children often see the world very differently than us adults. My daughter underscored this a week ago when I brought up the subject of her very first skiing lesson, which we will do in a few weeks.

“I don’t want to,” she said.

Surprised, I asked her why.

“I’m scared of riding the chairlift,” she replied.

It had never occurred to me that she might be afraid of heights. For those of us who grew up skiing, few things could seem more natural than enjoying the snow and mountains on a pair of skis.

Whether it is a fear of heights, separation anxiety from Mom and Dad, or just a feeling of unease about the equipment, it is not uncommon for kids to be nervous about a first lesson. Here are some tips on how parents can help put their child’s mind at ease (and how the Ski & Snowboard School is here help).

The Most Important Tip: Prepare Your Child As Much As Possible Beforehand

Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School
Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School

“The kids who do the best are the ones who came in with their parents the day before,” says Jamie Maybon, who runs the 6 and Under Programs at The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center at Snowmass. As an employee of Aspen Snowmass’ Ski & Snowboard School, she sees kids wrestling with their fears on a daily basis.

“So much of it is fear of the unknown. It is such a radically different environment from what they are used to,” she adds. “If you can, take them to the meeting place (like the Treehouse at Snowmass or The Hideout at Buttermilk) the day before and we will show them the lay of the land.”

Her biggest tip for parents? Do as much as you can to mentally prepare them beforehand. And not just for when they are on the slopes. Every detail can be cause for anxiety.

Equipment Concerns

Kids Anxieties about Skiing Equipment
Kids Anxieties about Skiing Equipment

“One of the funny things I see has to do with equipment. Some children are afraid of putting goggles on their face. They might be from a place that doesn’t have the intense sunshine that we have here, and suddenly they’re asked to wear a helmet and these big goggles ... It can feel suffocating.”

Jamie’s advice is to buy supplementary equipment — such as goggles and other items that are not part of your ski rental package — well in advance and have your child try them on at home before the trip. And be sure to explain their purpose and why they are important.

Chairlift Uncertainty

My daughter’s anxiety about chairlifts is not all that uncommon, according to Jamie. Instead, she recommends, focus on how their first lesson utilizes a surface lift — essentially a moving walkway that leads up the lower slope. It also helps to underscore that no one is forced onto a chairlift; you only ride it when you are comfortable and confident enough to do so. Discussing these topics can be a good way to not only assuage fears, but prepare your child for what a lesson entails.

However, chairlift anxiety can sometimes be about something completely different, like seeing Mom and Dad leave.

“For young kids, they don’t realize that the chairlift goes to the top, and the parents ski down. I’ve seen several kids cry because they watched their parents ride away, and they don’t think they’re parents are coming back.”

This leads to the most common fear of all: separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School
Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School

As a parent, you know there is no substitute for Mom and Dad’s presence, and new surroundings — regardless of what they are — tend to amplify feelings of separation.

Jamie notes that a sibling or a cousin who is also enrolled in a Ski & Snowboard School program can be a big help, even if they are in a different class. Sometimes, just knowing that a sibling is doing the same thing is enough to get a child to overcome those initial feelings of detachment.

As with all of these fears, the more you communicate with your child in advance about their day, the easier the transition will be for them.

Fear of Falling

Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School
Tips for Overcoming Kids Anxieties About Skiing - Aspen Snowmass Ski & Snowboard School

Some kids are afraid of falling, and if they are unfamiliar with snow, they might not realize how soft their landings will be.

“I had a teenager one time who was skiing very, very slowly at first, and I couldn’t figure out why,” Jamie said. “Then she fell, and realized it didn’t hurt. It was an amazing break-through for her and she was really able to advance her learning after that.”

Not to pound this point too hard, but the more you can identify these fears beforehand — and find ways to discuss them — the quicker your child will find a comfort zone in their lesson. It might sound absurd, but even bundling up and practicing a few falls into a snowbank (without skis) can go a long way.

Have Any Questions?

Talk to Us Now

Advance Sales & Reservations

June 4, 2016 - April 16, 2017

8am - 5pm Weekdays, 9am - 4:30 pm Weekends

Contact the Ski & Snowboard School

Did we miss a fear or anxiety that your child is wrestling with before their day on the slopes? Give our Ski & Snowboard School a call, and we’ll talk through it with you. We want every one of our students to succeed, and the more we can help you and your child prepare for their big day, the more likely we’ll be at ensuring they have a wonderful day.

About the Author

Aspen Snowmass blogger photographer Kevin Day
Aspen Snowmass blogger photographer Kevin Day

KEVIN DAY
Kevin Day is a Colorado-based writer, photographer and content developer. Born and raised in Denver, he has been skiing since he was 12 years old and hiking since he could walk. His obsession with the mountains, food and wine has taken him all over Colorado, as well as Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Ecuador.

He has also done volunteer trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, including a stint on Pyramid Peak.