Family Ski Vacations

Photo Friday: Little Ripper Ski Tips

This week’s Photo Friday post is a precious shot of a Denver Dad with his 4-year-old son, Henry, taking a mid-mountain ski break. Henry has a ski clip on You Tube and it was crystal clear to me after watching it that Henry is on the cusp of being a better skier than I am after 35 years on the slopes.  How is this possible?

Henry — the self-professed “little ripper” — wore his first pair of ski boots at age 1 ½. Henry’s Dad, Wade, is an avid skier and grew up in Crested Butte, Colorado. He taught Henry to ski on his own — this is a man with solid tips to share.

How did you first get Henry skiing?

For the first few years (age 1 ½ to 3 ½) Henry skied between my legs. This doesn’t teach them skills since they rely on you so heavily to get down the hill, but it is still fun and gets the process started.

At 3 ½ he was finally big and strong enough to ski on his own. The greatest initial challenge was teaching Henry to control his speed, especially since he refused to snowplow. The key thing that worked for me at this point was the “edgie-wedgy” which allowed me to ski backwards in front of him and then force his skis into a snowplow.

Ski backwards? OK, this is a tip for parents that are good skiers and teaching their kids to ski — this is why I like ski school although then again, my son is far from a “little ripper”.

How do you keep the ski experience positive?

1. Warm gear is essential. Buy a balaclava ski mask — it keeps their face warm and is ideal under a helmet. Make sure ski pants fit snugly on the bottom so snow can’t get in. Put mittens on before the ski jacket so snow doesn’t get jammed down in the mittens.

2. Take breaks. Hot chocolate and snack-time is key.

3. Monitor frustration. There is a fine line between getting frustrated when kids aren’t doing what you want and being too relaxed when they simply aren’t trying.

What techniques are you using now?

One thing that works well is to have kids ski at the end of your ski poles — meaning, they hold onto the end of the pole to create a little separation between you and they make turns alongside you. Directions are easy — turn to Dad, turn away from Dad and so on. Another option that works for us if my wife is there, is to stand on either side of the hill so he can ski to one parent and then to the other. This gives them a fixed point to ski to — again, it’s all about getting them to make turns and control speed.

What do you think about ski school?

Ski school can be great, but it’s expensive. The problem is that ski school for kids under 4 is oftentimes glorified babysitting and kids are not learning any real skills. Instructors are worried about ticking off parents by pushing their kids too much. I’ve learned that you have to set expectations with the instructor around what you want your child to accomplish that day.


Check out Henry in action on You Tube — a “little ripper” indeed.

Start a Discussion

  • Henry looks right at home in his ski gear. Good for him!
    I never had any real chance to try downhill skiing, although we do like to get out and do a little cross country skiing.


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