Teaching Kids to Ski
Photos by Doug DuKane
Megan hasn’t skied since she was 11 years old. Now 36, she doesn’t look back fondly at her last ’’set’’ on skis. What she remembers most from that day 25 years ago was the dialogue with her dad. It was a loud exchange, made even louder to overcome the noisy engine and an entire afternoon of frustration. It went something like this:
"I said keep your skis together!"
"No, you aren’t. How hard can it be? Now do it!"
Megan didn’t come close to getting up. She swallowed some water and started crying -- in front of a group of family friends.
I don’t want to do this anymore," she finally mumbled, paddling toward a nearby raft.
If only Dad had used the following teaching methods, Megan might be showing her own kids how to ski this summer. These little 1-2-3’s eliminate the intimidation of engine noise and the fear of being 75 feet from the boat. They bring Mom and Dad up close, and make the first time on skis fun.
Start on shore. Put the little one on a pair of trainers and use your own power to pull him or her across the grass, sand or six-inch-deep water. Make sure those knees are bent, arms are straight and there’s no bending at the waist.
Get in the water with your child and help steady the skis. (A second person should sit in the boat and lean over the sunpad with the rope.) When the boat starts moving, help the little skier get started -- as you would with the first bike ride -- and talk to him or her as you let go.
The person in the back of the boat should hold the rope so there’s only about 5-10 feet out, or just enough to get your skier out of the propwash (if you have a transom tow eye, use it). The boat should go no faster than 10 mph. Keep talking. Your voice is comforting.
- Boat speed: 10 mph
- Rope length: 5-10 feet
- If you have any way of using a boom, do it. Booms are the best training tools in skiing because they put the skier next to the boat instead of behind it. (For information on booms, go to www.barefootinternational.com or call 800-932-0685.)
You can teach starts on a dock by pulling on just a few feet of rope to lift your child out of a seated position. The child’s technique (arms straight, eyes forward) should be exactly the same when he or she tries this in water.
To keep your skier steady, remind him or her to sit on the back of the skis and not to struggle -- the life jacket will keep them floating. The knees should be bent to the chest, and the rope is between the skis.
Tell the youngster to let the boat do the work. If the arms are locked out, knees bent and back straight, the boat will pull the skier up and onto the water.
Note: Make sure you have a good children’s vest, preferably from one of the major ski companies.