snowboarding

Although this has been a slow start to ski season, one of the more positive aspects regarding a lack of snow is it’s been a perfect time to have your child learn how to ski or snowboard.

For children, there are two crucial issues to address: make sure they are having fun and keep them warm. The best way to insure both is pick a sunny day, not one where it is stormy and cold.

Lake Tahoe is known for its many sunny days and moderate temperatures in comparison to other ski regions in the country. The relatively warm, sun-drenched days of this December and early January have been ideal for ski lessons.

And one more thing about January – it’s National “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” – which means you can probably get a nice cost-saving package deal at most Lake Tahoe ski resorts.

The first question that comes to mind when thinking about the proper time to get your child on skis or a snowboard is age. When is the right time to get started? Be careful, because the answer can vary. Some children are ready at age 3; while a particular 6-year-old might not be mentally prepared and could quickly feel overwhelmed.

Always consider these important questions before proceeding: Is the child physically ready? Are they strong enough to support themselves on skis or a board while sliding down a hill? Are they cognitively ready?

Children don’t want to fail, so you’re job as a parent is make sure that doesn’t happen. A miserable first experience (a cold, snowy day could be the cause) might spoil any possible future.

Best learning environment

Most experts advise against teaching your own child how to ski or snowboard. The best learning environment is placing them in a group lesson with their peers. Most children will flourish quicker in that environment than being taught by a parent.

“Teaching kids is a labor of love. All our coaches are selected by their aptitude for working with kids,” said Tomas Sbertoli, general manager of Heavenly’s Children’s Ski and Ride School. “It takes a special person with patience and understanding to teach kids. Kid’s coaches attend extra training on top of technical trainings to understand kid’s needs and how they digest information.”

One thing Sbertoli and all good ski instructors understand – it’s all about fun! Heavenly makes sure its instructors have their priorities straight, which means an emphasis on safety, fun and learning; in that order.

To ensure that fun is going to occur, Karen Roske, who heads up Squaw Valley’s kids program, urges parents to resist the temptation to interfere during lessons. If you must watch, do it from a distance.

“When you spot your kid on the mountain or on a chairlift with their ski school group, it’s tempting to want to say ‘hi’ or check in on them,” Roske said. “While well meaning, these interactions can be detrimental to a ski lesson. Rather than remind your child that they miss you, watch from a distance to see how they’re doing. This way, you know they are doing well – and they can keep on having fun.”

If the lesson ends early and there is a chance to ride a lift with your child and do a run together, that’s not the proper time to access their progress.

“Skip the last run. Chances are your child is tired,” Sbertoli said. “You won’t see the improvements and risk of injury is higher.”

However, when the day concludes, both Sbertoli and Roske recommend a short consultation with the ski instructor to see how the day went.

“When it’s time for pick up, you want to know how your kid did that day,” Roske said. “But rather than asking vague questions like – ‘how did they do?’ – ask questions like, ‘What kind of turns did they work on? What type of runs did they go on?’ That will help you get more focused answers so you know what your child really learned, and what sort of terrain you should take them on when you ski or ride together.”

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