Winter sports 101

Want your child to try skating, hockey, skiing, snowboarding or curling this winter? Our guide breaks down everything you need to know about winter sports.

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It’s hard to believe we’ll be trudging through the snow in a few short months. But look on the bright side: winter presents a terrific opportunity to introduce a new sport to your child! Check out these possibilities.

Skating

Accessibility explains the lure of skating.
“Skating can take place indoors or outdoors, which makes it convenient for people of all ages,” says Carolynn Jaworska, a professional CanSkate coach in Calgary.

When should kids start?
Kids can start taking lessons at age three, but Jaworska emphasizes that whenever a child develops an interest in skating is the right time to begin, so earlier or later is OK too.

Why skate?
Not only will skating help your kids’ balance and get them active, it’s also a great way to spend time with friends and family (and have a few laughs while you’re at it!) at minimal cost. It’s a good skill to have, whether or not they pursue it on a competitive level.

Time commitment
Most basic programs offer weekly lessons for eight to 10 weeks, with sessions lasting 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the child’s age. Lessons are based on a badge system with prerequisites needed to advance to the next level. After kids develop skating basics, they can branch out into skating programs that are specific to hockey (Power Skate) or figure skating (Star Skate). These tend to run for a longer season (up to 14 weeks) and, in the case of figure skating, often mean practices at least twice each week for the entire September to March season.

Cost
Most cities and towns offer public skating for a minimal cost (about $3 a person), or, in some cases, for free.

The price of beginner lessons varies, depending on the organization. City-run programs are usually more cost-effective. City of Toronto skating programs, for instance, run between $28 and $58 for eight weeks, depending on the child’s age and specific program. Learn-to-skate lessons offered through the national CanSkate program often cost more because the organization requires more certification of their coaches, says Jaworska. In this case, you can expect to pay between $70 and $120 for 10 weeks, depending on your child’s age. Power Skate lessons cost about $200 for 14 weeks. Star Skate classes cost around $400 for the season, plus students must also become a member of the skating club. This fee varies from one club to another (but expect to pay at least $50 a year).

Then comes the skates and helmet. You can buy standard skates for kids for about $50 but since their feet will grow each season, Jaworska recommends checking sporting good stores for second-hand skates. New-to-your-child skates will usually cost around $20. A junior hockey helmet (recommended for any type of skating) costs around $40 new.

Hockey

While the fear of belligerent coaches, intense parents and injured kids scares off some, Bob Acton, hockey camp director at Beach Sports Academy in Toronto, feels it’s a matter of finding a suitable program; one that emphasizes drills, safety and respect.

When should kids start?
Kids can start playing as soon as they’re able to put on skates. Leagues typically begin as young as age three or four.

Why play hockey?
Asking “why play hockey?” is like asking “why breathe?” It’s a Canadian rite of passage!
“When done from the right perspective, hockey teaches you about teamwork, interacting and gives you a sense of confidence,” says Acton. “We try to put kids who have similar skill sets together and show players what hard work can produce.”

Time commitment
Most leagues require kids to play at least twice a week (one practice, one game) for the traditional September to April season. The more competitive the level of hockey, the more time is required, especially when it comes to travel time to and from games and tournaments in other cities. Ice time is at a premium, so be prepared for early morning practices.

Cost
As you would expect, the price tag doesn’t come cheap. For house league, expect to pay around $375 for 27 games and weekly practices. Then there’s the cost of equipment. Some stores like Canadian Tire and Sportchek sell starter kits, which include a jersey, hockey pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, socks and shin guards, for about $90. You should then figure another $100 for a basic helmet and skates. Acton recommends families on a budget purchase gently-used hockey equipment (most cities and towns have a local equipment trade-in and retailer) for second-hand starter kits, skates and helmets. Buying used means paying approximately only 40% to 50% of the original price.

Skiing/Snowboarding

Hitting the slopes appeals to many families because it’s something they can do together on winter vacations or occasional weekend trips.

When should kids start?
Kids can start skiing or snowboarding lessons as early as age two. Graeme Dugale, director of the snow and mountain bike schools at Blue Mountain Resorts in Collingwood, Ont. says it’s a good idea for kids to develop skills at a young age.

Why ski/snowboard?
“It’s great to be reasonably active in the winter instead of being cooped up inside,” says Dugale. “We find at that age, the kids like being in the environment and they’re not afraid of their equipment.”

Time commitment
Many ski hills offer one-time lessons. For kids over age six, half days and full day sessions are available, as are nine-week seasonal programs.

Cost
A 45-minute lesson at Blue Mountain, for instance (which includes rented equipment and chair lift) is $69. Most ski hills offer eight- or nine-week programs. If you want to sign your child up, expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $465. If your child is in grade four or five, they may be eligible to receive a free ski pass for the 2011/2012 season. Check out snowpass.ca to see a list of participating ski hills.

Curling

Interest in curling has surged, especially since the Canadian teams won a gold and silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

When should kids start?
Beginner curlers can get started as young as age seven, but age is less important than the ability to pay attention for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

Why curl?
Hugh Murphy, who has coached several curlers in Hamilton and Oakville, Ont., sees it as a “game of timing and skill” rather than speed. They also learn to work as part of a team.
“Kids not only interact with each other, but also with senior curling club members for guidance and support,” Murphy explains.

Time commitment
Most curling clubs offer weekly “little rock” programs, a two-hour class where kids use half-weight stones to learn how to play the sport at a basic level.

Cost
Your child can become a curling club member for approximately $100 a year. That price includes all the necessary equipment (sliders, brooms), weekly instruction and full access to the facility, notes Murphy. Kids will just need a pair of clean-soled running shoes. (Find a curling club near you by visiting www.curling.ca).

One comment on “Winter sports 101

  1. If you live in Toronto there is a good learn to skate school offered in the north end of the city in North York on the border of Markham and Scarborough called Skate Toronto. They offer skating programs all year round. You can visit their site at:
    http://www.skatetoronto.com/

    Reply

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