Teaching little feet to ski makes you a better skier and better person.
So, you’ve conquered all the levels: Greens, Blues, Blacks and you’ve even spent some time on the Double-Blacks or ducked a few lines to hit some untracked powder. Excellent. Maybe you’ve even placed in a race or two? Through it all, you may have pushed your skiing or boarding ability to a peak. And yet, there’s a higher peak yet to descend. It’s teaching little feet to ski.
That’s right. You think you’ve covered every experience the mountain has to offer, until you feel the unbound joy of helping a child fit into their single-buckle boot on day one. At first, they test the legs up and down, stomp their feet before they start running and jumping like they’re wearing gym shoes. Tip #1: Encourage the energy but beware of the wet, slick sidewalks. It may be a teaching moment as little Sarah says, “OOOK” in a small voice behind a fleece mask, “I’ll be more careful.”
Lesson #1: Walking in boots is a good first step. Those boots are as foreign as they’re fun the first time; they’re stiff, loud and clunky. It’s not a heel-to-toe walk as much as a heel-to-toe-slapping kind of walk. It’s great to test this funny new walk a bit on the carpet at home base. Try them out before those boots hit real snow or iced-over parking lots. It’s ideal to get a warm-up happening in safer environments.
On the hill, double check the layers of socks, foam and plastic. Make sure socks are smooth and the right layers overlap where they should to prevent pinching when tightening the buckle(s). Boots should be tightly buckled, but it’s fine to test the tightness a little at a time. Also get some verbal feedback from the child to ensure they’re not overly tight.
Lesson #2: No-slope ski shuffling. It’s true, if you’re short you have less distance to fall, and that’s a huge benefit kids have over adults. That said, try to minimize fear and maximize confidence. Help those toes find the front of the binding then carefully click in the heel. After that, let a child frolic on a flat plain. If they tip over, it’s easy to get up from a stop and keep shuffling. It’ll seem fun for a few minutes and the child will get to know their limits with their new-found foot extensions.
When balance is achieved it’s time to find a gradual slope. If they’re ready for a magic-carpet lift, great. If not, just find a very gradual slope around the lodge. Eventually you’ll start working on pizzas or plows and noodles. Working on these foundations, expect your heart to grow some sizes in a day.
Yes, you may have an adult lift ticket slapping you in the face for a few seasons, don’t Grinch-out. You will find friends and relatives who can provide a little distraction while you make a few runs down Dragon’s Breath or Ripcord. Integrate a professional lesson into a kid’s day while you test the powder depth at the top of the mountain. Honestly though, perfect runs result from witnessing the squeals of joy as a child gets down the green run, the first time. You can challenge yourself on the greens by safely skiing backward to provide a little direction. And really, how many warm hugs of love and respect will you receive at the bottom of any black diamond? Investing the time with kids on the slopes is immensely rewarding. Remember one thing: Take it slow and soon you’ll measure the memories in vertical feet. If you maintain patience, happiness and fun, you’re bound to build amazing ski partners a few worthy years ahead.