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Get your kids exited about the sport – Boston Herald

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Some like to say that it’s the moms who make the family activities happen: Find something she loves, and it’s going to become part of your family experience.

But having raised two daughters and now enjoying grandparenting two little girls and a boy, I’m going to push back on that.

The true way to build a ski and riding family is by winning over the kids. After all, when the kids are happy, we’re all happy.

Building a ski family is more challenging now, it seems, with so many other things pulling at kids (year-round indoor sports leagues, for one).

But think of the “value.” Skiing and riding are sports you carry with you for a lifetime. You can ski or ride alone, with friends, with family: it’s a sport that adapts to any group. It gets you outside and active at a time of year when many are stuck on the couch. It separates you from video games. It puts you in locations you may never have seen otherwise.

I say: Worth it.

But how? The details on how to start your kids skiing/riding are unique to age, personality, likes and dislikes and more.

How to know the time is right: Most ski schools take children beginning after they’re potty trained; two and a half or three years old, depending on the resort. It’s important, when starting a child out early, to have realistic expectations and to help them feel ready and excited.

First, said Harley Johnson, Director of Ski School University and Children’s Programming at Smuggler’s Notch (https://www.smuggs.com), long one of the nation’s most beloved family ski resorts, don’t simply go on what age a resort allows learners. Rather, let your parent gut tell you if it’s time.

“Parents know their kids and their personalities better than anyone,” she said. “Here at Smuggs we start kids on skis and snowboards at age 2 1/2 years old in our Little Rascals on snow program. We have an all-day camp program for 3 years and up. We recommend young kids try as soon as parents think they are ready and want to try.”

And, she says, go softly at the start.

“If they are not into it then don’t push it. Circle back and have them try again in a few weeks, months or the following season. It is important for them to like it when they are young and not force it,” she said.

More parents may find children are hesitant, said Meghan Kelsey, assistant director of Snowsports at Cranmore Mountain Resort (https://www.cranmore.com) where children and adults have been learning to ski since the 1930s.

The pandemic is the reason.

“You want to ask yourself: how independent is your child?,” she said of deciding if the time is right. “The last couple of years, children have gotten used to being around Mom and Dad a lot, and having them do things for them.”

She suggests making sure your child will enjoy that independence they get at ski school – even if a bit nervous.

For older children, particularly teens, the age when children both think they can do anything and don’t want to follow parental protocol, ski school and lessons is actually very important.

The irony here is they’ll have more fun at ski school than trying to figure it out with their buddies, Johnson said.

“For teens and older kids, it has to be about them and it has to be fun. Having them ski or ride in either a private lesson or a group teen lesson is important – and critical to their success,” she said. “Having a trained professional help them have fun and identify with the best way for them to learn. When they try to figure out on their own or with their friends that is when they can get easily frustrated.”

Why lessons are best: it’s tempting, if you are a capable skier or rider, to teach your child yourself. Don’t. Even PSIA-certified instructors often send their kids off to ski and ride school.

“The biggest reason is that kids don’t’ always want to listen to their parents,” Kelsey said. “Plus, Snowsport pros understand the movement and have the ability to break it down and teach it correctly, something many very good skiers simply don’t know.”

Johnson herself sent her children to ski school.

“As a professional ski and snowboard instructor, I found my kids learned more and progressed faster when in a group of their peers with an instructor,” she said. “You will not get that same result when you try to teach your family member or let them figure it out on their own.”

Plus, ski school is fun. Kid’s make friends (and important part of the ski experience for life), get a taste of independence (“Mom! I bet you didn’t ski where we did!”) and often bond with their instructors.

Expectations: It’s important to realize that skiing – and riding – are not set-it-and-forget-it sports. True, equipment has made that learning curve much easier to take on, but you should still expect to keep your kids learning for a period of time.

“We strongly recommended taking at least 3 lessons in a row to become a skier or rider,” said Johnson. “The more time you spend with an instructor the more comfortable you will be on the slopes. For children we recommend the all-day camp. This allows them time to ski/ride in the morning, enjoy lunch together and then more skiing/riding in the afternoon. Children who participate in the all-day program tend to make new friends and progress faster than children who only take a 2-hour lesson once a day.”

But you can expect some joy right off the bat.

“If you’re coming as a never-ever, it’s reasonable to expect a child to be able to slide around independently in the (learning area),” Kelsey said.

And that sensation? It’s fantastic. Keep the kids learning and before you know it, they’ll be happy when you prioritize ski days as a family.

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