If you are taking your tadpoles skiing for the first time, there is already so much to tackle. We highly recommend you do yourself a huge favor and leave them in good hands by enrolling them in ski school. While my wife, Flora (that's Mommy Frog to our tadpoles, Tad and Lily) learned to ski at a ski school as a young froglet, until very recently I was what the ski instructors affectionately call a "never-ever." As much as Flora loves to ski, she is wise enough to keep our family time on the mountain positive and hoppy, leaving the actual teaching to the teachers. As our tadpoles are also learning to snowboard and ski, we have learned the ropes of navigating ski school. Here are our best ski school tips for fellow parents who are embarking on an exciting winter adventure.
The Frog Family's Top Ski School Tips for Families
Choose a Family-Friendly Resort
Even though most mountains offer some beginner terrain, teach your kids to ski on a mountain that offers plenty of terrain and activities that interest them. You want a ski resort that will give them room to grow into their skills. The ski schools will be equipped to offer your children the most positive experience so that they will be jumping at the chance to go back. We particularly love resorts that make ski lesson drop-off easy on the parents. At a recent trip to Squaw Valley, we were pleased that the ski school outfitted the tadpoles with rental equipment. They kept skis and poles overnight for the next lessons so that we did not have to stand in long rental lines and lug equipment back to our hotel with us. If your family has members learning at a similar ski level, you might consider a family private lesson. Need help finding the perfect family ski resort in Colorado, Utah or Lake Tahoe? Consult our handy ski resort decision matrix!
Reserve in Advance
As soon as you know your travel plans, hop to it and reserve ski school. Lessons can sell out at more popular times. This can also help you save money on ski lessons!
Sign Up for Multi-Day Lessons
You can usually get a discount on multi-day lessons over single-day lessons, and some ski schools will let you leave skis overnight if you have a lesson the next morning. Your little skiers can make a lot of progress in a short time with the consistency of a multi-day lesson.
Consider Full-Day Lessons Over Half-Day Lessons
A full-day lesson provides a better teaching pace. It gives the child a chance to bond with his or her teacher and have fun socializing over lunch. Often the instructor will introduce a skill in the morning, and the tadpoles get a chance to practice and explore in the afternoon. This is an especially good ski school tip if you want to get some adult skiing in while the kids are in ski school. A full-day lesson gives you a chance to explore more of the mountain without having to rush back.
It seems that everything takes longer when preparing for ski lessons or any day on the mountain, including driving and parking. One of our best ski school tips is to arrive early, especially on the first day when everything is new and the tadpoles may have jitters.
Arrive early (with a full belly), get that last trip to the bathroom underway, and get them to their meeting spot before the lesson time. And parents, please be prompt when picking up.
Pro Ski School Tip: Map the hotel and the ski school before your book your hotel. At the larger resorts, there may be several ski school locations, or separate locations for kids and adults. Being nearby at an on-site resort or ski-in, ski-out hotel can be a major time and stress savor.
Dress for Success
Always check the weather report. Make sure tadpoles are dressed for a comfortable and safe day on the mountain with the right amount of layers, goggles, quality gloves or mittens and ski socks. Make sure they have sunscreen and lip sunscreen. Most resorts require the kids to wear helmets.
Label Label Label
Label everything. That way your children hopefully return with all the gloves, hats, layers and goggles that they brought with them. You can also write your cell phone number on your child’s lift ticket or on a piece of paper in their pocket ... just in case. Hopefully they never use it.
Ask Questions in Advance
When you book lessons, confirm the correct lodge and meeting area. Double-check the times for drop-off and pickup. Is lunch included? Do you need to pack a lunch? Are there any waivers you need to sign? Are rentals included? Do you need to get them before arriving or does the ski school outfit them? Is the lift ticket included?
Bring the lunch if necessary, and have your child dressed and ready to go. Bring any equipment or lift tickets if they are required. Put a snack and sunscreen in your child’s coat pocket.
Pro Ski School Tip: Pack a few pieces of chocolate in your tadpoles' pockets. It's an easy pick-me-up and a thoughtful surprise.
Send Them Off with Smiles
Consider Adaptive Lessons
If your child has special needs or disabilities, he or she might do much better in adaptive ski and snowboard lessons. You may be surprised to learn that skiing and sometimes snowboarding are sports that almost anybody can do. There is specialized equipment for blind skiers, people with physical disabilities and skiers who are missing limbs. People with cognitive disabilities, sensory processing disorders and other learning disabilities can flourish in a private adaptive lesson rather than a group ski school lesson. Some kids can even start out in adaptive lessons and make their way back in to group lessons. The great news about adaptive lessons is that they are available at all ski resorts and are usually more affordable than traditional lessons. Call the resort and talk to someone in their adaptive lessons department to learn more.
Consider Early- and Late-Season Lessons
There are some advantages to skiing early or late in the season. First of all, the temperatures may be a bit more kid-friendly. Lessons might be less crowded, meaning your kids might get more individualized attention. The lessons may be discounted from peak season prices. If you get in some early lessons, you have the advantage of building on those skills throughput the ski season. If you spring for springtime lessons, it won’t be that long before you have put those skills to use again next season. We frogs are big-time fans of spring skiing, with sunny skies and warm temperatures.
Tip Your Instructor
At the end of the day, tip your instructor. They do not necessarily expect it, but they will love it. Aim for about $5 to $10 per child per class (or more if you are feeling generous). After lessons you can get some “tips” from them, such as suggestions for the best places to take your skier on the mountain to reinforce what they learned and help them feel confident. Our ski instructors in Vail had business cards (some with their cell numbers) and encouraged us to call with any questions about what to wear on the slopes, where to go off the slopes and anything else that came up.
Relax the Pace
After you pick up your child from lessons, you might be super excited to see what they have learned. They, on the other hand, might feel like they need a snack or a drink or a break first. Let them refuel and then take them out for some fun runs.
Leave the Instructing to the Instructor
When skiing with your children after lessons, let them lead the way. Always keep your time together positive and fun. Let them show off their new skills. This is not the time to criticize or constantly correct them. They are tired and just want to have some unstructured ski time. Staying positive will be more encouraging than offering a second set of lessons. The instructors know how to keep learning fun and how to help new skiers build skills. You probably do not. So much of skiing is based on the head. You want your skiers to feel confident and good about the experience in order for them to stay safe. Your patience will pay off as they grow into lifelong skiers or snowboarders.
Besides our many ski school tips, we experienced ski parents have some more advice on how to make sure your tadpole are hoppy skiers and well as some sanity-saving ski tips for yourself so you can have an amazing trip. If you are looking for some good deals on ski hotels, Undercover Tourist is now reserving ski hotels at many popular family ski resorts and selling Epic Pass lift tickets. Now is a good time to book that next ski vacation … well to us it is always a good time to plan our next ski trip.