If you’ve ever thought about taking your kids skiing or snowboarding while they’re young … well, you should act on that thought. Learning anything while you’re young, and in particular snowsports, is a much easier ride, not to mention how much fun your holidays will be!
a great family sport
What activity can grandparents and grandkids enjoy together? It doesn’t matter whether you are skiing or snowboarding, your age or ability, this is a true multi-generational sport. On the way down, you can carve up the mountain in different ways and at your own speed, enjoying the sport how you want to. On the way up on the lift, you can share those experiences and spend time together as a family enjoying the mountains.
to ski or to snowboard?
Although some families are drawn to one or the other for different reasons, under-7s will tend to do best by learning to ski first, as the equipment helps them to stabilise. Whereas learning to snowboard can mean a cold and wet backside and sore tummy muscles, if your kids are already great on a board (whether it be skate, surf or wake), then expect that they will master snowboarding more quickly.
For kids who want to ski, but need a bit more excitement, they can try ‘twin tips’. These offer all the benefits of skiing, such as easy traversing, as well as the ability to do the jumps and tricks that snowboarding offers.
how to get started
For kids, no matter what age, the most important thing is not to push them. If they’re not into it (especially the wee ones) then go and have a hot chocolate, throw some snowballs or just buy the T-Shirt. Skiing and snowboarding is a lifetime passion, but it is built on those first memories. If kids associate the mountain with bad memories, it could take you years to turn them around!
the best way to learn
Getting your kids to ride a Rip Stick or skateboard is a great way to prepare them with some of the skills and balance they will require. If kids go to the snow with learnt motor skills that are similar to snowboarding, they will be better equipped to understand and use the correct movements.
When you’re at the mountain, pay for lessons. Irrespective of what age or ability, everyone can benefit from some expert tuition. You have spent a lot of money to get to the snow, by simply getting your partner/friend to ‘teach’ you, you could be wasting all that money by returning home feeling frustrated or worse. With kids, lessons are a great option because the ski schools make it so much fun. You won’t need to deal with any frustration and tantrums, and kids just seem to find it easier and more fun when they are with other kids.
how long will it take to learn?
It is never too late to learn; no matter what your motivation or inspiration, you could be sliding on snow. It’s all about mileage. Once you get on your feet, go and explore the mountain. Little by little, you will be able to slide faster and on different trails, and before you know it, you’ll be booking your next trip.
tips for making skiing affordable
1 Most mountains offer free day lift passes for kids under a certain age. At Queenstown Coronet Peak, for example, they are offered to kids under 6-years; The Remarkables kids under 10-years; Cardrona and Treble Cone kids under 5-years and at Mt Ruapehu, they are offered to kids under 4-years.
2 NZSki offers great rates for school trips (adults go FOC or for kids’ rates).
3 For an even more affordable option, the Methven community and Mt Hutt have come together to offer a Kids’ Ski, Stay, Ski and Eat for Free Programme. www.kids4free.co.nz.
4 Also, look out for low-cost season passes at Cardrona and Treble Cone usually offered early in the year.
5 Check out all the fields for their kids’ snow-school rates that often include rentals and food.
6 Join a Lodge for a very cost-effective way to stay and eat on the mountain. Some Lodges are right by the chairlifts. Many Lodges are actively looking for members, so go online and check out places near you.
Most larger fields offer a crèche facility for your littlies, some even offer lessons if they are keen to do more than just play in the snow.
Paul Philip has been in the industry since 1995 and is a senior Trainer/Examiner for Snowboard Instruction New Zealand (SBINZ). He is based At Coronet peak as a full time instructor for the NZ winter.