We often joke in my family about how my younger son (now seven) got “kicked out” of ski school when he was four. We had signed him up for an age-appropriate group lesson, but once he was dropped off, he chose to practice passive resistance, lying on a snow bank, licking the ice off his mittens, and refusing to go up the rope tow. After several days of this behavior it was gently suggested to us that he not return to the group lesson the following day. Which suited him just fine, as it meant more time to play in the ski area’s daycare center.
My husband and I were mortified, of course, but also wondered what to do since the remaining members of our family loved to ski. Would this be the end of our family ski vacations? Just what are the options when you’ve got a less-than-enthusiastic skier in your family?
Switch to a half-day program. Most ski schools offer both a full and half-day option. Younger children, or those who are resistant to learning to ski, might prefer the half-day approach. Is your child a morning person? Sign up for lessons before lunch. Or, if your child perks up in the afternoon, wait until then to leave him or her with a group.
Try a private lesson. If your child isn’t doing well in a group setting, you might try signing him or her up with an individual instructor (ask for one who specializes in working with kids). At some resorts, you can take a parent-and-me lesson where you, your child, and the instructor go out together. This can be helpful in showing you the kind of things to say to your child and also how best to help him or her improve.
Offer some one-on-one attention. Some children don’t like skiing with other kids or instructors but enjoy going up the mountain with parents and siblings. You may not feel qualified to teach your child to ski, but if you have any experience with skiing yourself you can probably at the very least help him or her get down the mountain. The positive experience of one-on-one time may mean your child’s attitude about ski school changes.
Take a day off. Your child may just not be in the mood on a given day to go skiing. Take a day off together and try something different like ice skating, snowshoeing, or even just hanging out in your condo playing some board games.
Don’t insist – but don’t give up. If your child is really not happy out on the mountain, don’t continue to insist that he or she try skiing. But don’t assume that he or she will never like to ski either. And don’t feel like you have to cancel your trip or skip skiing yourself. Most ski areas have a day care center or babysitting service – if your child doesn’t want to ski, take advantage of one of these options.
We used a combination of these approaches with my son: He had a few private lessons that first year, and he spent a lot of time in daycare while the rest of my family was outside. But we didn’t assume that he’d never like to ski, and put him back in half-day group lessons the following year. Gradually he came around, and now, he can’t wait to get up on the mountain. In fact, he proudly skied his first black diamond trail this winter.