Skiing with kids: 5 lessons from the slopes

Jennifer Pinarski’s family took their first ski trip—and the lessons they learned went beyond slope skills.

family-sports
Jen’s son Isaac gets in some ski fun. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

I love winter. Yes, even this exceptionally cold, snowy and icy winter. The kids and I have been playing outside as much as possible, especially our favourite family sports: snowshoeing and skating. Recently, Isaac started asking if he could try downhill skiing but, unlike other winter sports that my husband or I know how to do, neither of us have any experience. Both kids have inherited our klutziness and, when combined with a lifetime spent on the Prairies for my family, you can see why I’d find a ski trip a little intimidating.

Read more: 50 essential winter activities >

However, when Sir Sam’s Ski Resort in Haliburton, Ontario offered to host my family this past weekend, I tried my best to hide my anxiety when telling my kids they’d finally get to try downhill skiing. My husband, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide his concern. However, the weather looked ideal for a day on the slopes and, with a simple tweet, Sir Sam’s let me know that there’d be plenty of snow to cushion any falls.

There was plenty of snow and I’m proud to say I didn’t fall down once. While I learned the basics of skiing, the lessons I learned about trying something new with my family were just as important.

1. It’s OK to be afraid to try something new
With the exception of my seven-year-old son, we were all nervous about learning a new sport. My husband was worried about injuring himself and I was worried about looking silly and frustrating the instructors with endless questions. When I mentioned to my son that I was concerned about asking too many questions he pointed out that he asks me questions all the time and I don’t get mad.

2. It’s OK to not like a new activity at first…
My usually fearless three-year old daughter spent most of her lesson in tears. She had a hard time being separated from us during her lesson, her boots were heavier than what she was used to and being at the base of the hill with people whooshing past her made for a miserable morning. Instead of making her finish her lesson, I took her inside to warm up and have a snack.

3. …as long as you give it a second chance
After a snack and a boot adjustment, Gillian was willing to give skiing another try. Instead of having an instructor she hadn’t met before give her a lesson, we allowed her to slide around the base of the hill at her own speed. This gave her the confidence to talk to the friendly Pony Tow operators who then helped her make her first solo run down the bunny hill.

4. Adjust your expectations for what your kids can and cannot do
Having to cut my own lesson short to help soothe my daughter was frustrating, especially since she normally learns new physical skills easily. But I reminded myself that she is still quite young and that the goal of the day was to have a positive experience on the hill. Being angry at her for being afraid to try something new wasn’t fair to either of us.

5. Sometimes you just have to let your kids go
After spending all morning on the bunny hill, Isaac was begging to ski a longer run hill. Reluctantly, I rode the hill’s covered lift with him to the top of the bigger hill. From the bottom, it didn’t look that high… but as soon as I got to the top, I was second-guessing my decision. It looked so steep! Thankfully, we were met at the top by another instructor who gave my son a few key pointers (like slowing down and turning, things he typically never does). I proudly watched him go down the hill on his own—without falling, without fear and with the biggest smile on his face.

Read more: 5 hearty winter salads for cozy nights > 

My whole family is asking when they can go skiing again. Lucky for them, it looks like winter is here to stay for a bit longer!

What new activities have you tried with your family? Tweet me @jenpinarski.

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