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by Kevin Braun
With more than 50 ski resorts in New England, skiing is a fun way to get outside and active with your family this winter. Teaching children to ski at an early age can help them to develop athletic skill, balance and confidence. Many diehard ski parents start their kids skiing by age 2 or 3; most ski schools start teaching children at age 3 or 4. Kids can start snowboarding by age 5 or 6, though learning to ski first is encouraged. Skiing teaches basic mountain awareness, and the confidence gained from learning can be applied to snowboarding once kids are a little older and have more developed muscles.
The most important thing to teach a child about skiing or snowboarding is that it’s all about having fun. If fun is emphasized, technique will follow. Instructors often play skiing games on the mountain to keep beginners from getting frustrated. Remember, the quickest way for a child to stop having fun is to get cold, so make sure your child is properly dressed in warm clothing.
Children can be fully outfitted in ski equipment for under $300, and owning equipment offers the most in terms of convenience. But it can be costly with a growing child if there aren’t any siblings to pass that equipment down to. Many ski shops offer a valuable alternative, renting equipment for an entire season for as little as $100. Single-day and weekly rentals are available at mountain and local ski shops. Single-day rentals cost about $25 a day.
Most ski resorts offer great deals for children, including free skiing for young kids with the purchase of an adult ticket. If you live near a mountain, consider a season pass.
Ski lessons are important to building confidence in a young skier; on the mountain, they can double as a babysitter, allowing you to hit your favorite runs while your kids learn with a professional and peers in their same age group. Skiing fundamentals can take a few days to learn. After that, kids can either continue lessons or ski with a parent or by themselves, depending on their age.
• Don’t underestimate the weather. A warm, sunny day can change fast; better to have too much gear (which you can shed) than to be cold.
• Don’t wear cotton, especially socks. Most people get cold because they’re wearing the wrong clothing, not too little of it. Bring a bag with extra clothing if you’re planning on a long day.
• Pack a lunch. Fast-food-style meals can cost $15-$20 per person at a ski lodge.
• Purchase hand warmers. At only $2 a pack, these go right inside gloves or, ideally, mittens.
• Wear a helmet. They offer protection and more warmth than hats. Kids helmets start at $50.
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