Peter Greenberg | Downhill from here: Three pillars of learning to ski


Let's go over some of the basics parents should be aware of when meeting your child's ski instructor for the first time. There are three principles all ski instructors should go by: safety, fun and learning.

The safety of the children comes first above all else. Then it is time to have fun — a good time for all, and thirdly mix in some learning so the child is instructed in the proper techniques, giving them a good foundation for their experience sliding on skis.

Time to introduce the equipment and the snow to the kids. Your instructor will assume your child has never skied before and that your child does not know how to put on his or her skis or even which is the front or the back. He or she will show the kids how to put on and take off the skis properly. Practicing with your child beforehand usually does not work out so well because it's best they know little to nothing about skiing for a beginner lesson.

Now that the kids have been introduced to the equipment and the snow, the instructor will have them practice walking around on one ski, walking with two skis, climbing uphill, straight runs on a gentle very flat hill, stopping and eventually learning to turn. A child will learn in his/her first lesson the basic principles of turning and stopping using a wedge (formerly called the snowplow). This is the intention of the beginner lesson. It is not a requirement.

Children younger than 4 often spend most of their first time in the beginner area. It can also depend on the individual's muscle control, coordination and development. Skiing can be difficult the first few days. Remember it's important to recognize that walking around in clunky ski boots and skis (extensions of their feet) and straight runs are big accomplishments for children. If your child is safe, they will feel more at ease with the sport for his or her first time and have fun and learn more.

By learning The Skiers Responsibility Code, your child will be safe on the slopes. The code was established by the National Ski Area Association, and lists seven objectives to ensure safety and skiing etiquette.

1. Always be in control of your equipment. Also, know how to stop and how to avoid other people and objects while on the slopes.

2. Let other people in front of you go first.

3. Move to the side of a run if you are blocking a trail or are not visible from above.

4. Yield to others and look uphill whenever you are merging onto a trail or when going downhill.

5. Prevent runaway equipment by using proper ski and snowboard leashes.

6. Pay attention to all signs that are posted, keep off of closed trails

7. Know how to use all types of ski lifts safely.

Other things to be aware of for the first lesson:

• Do not be late: Nothing is worse than showing up late for the first lesson, which may have already begun — or even gone up the hill.

• Make note during holiday periods and other busy times that everything will take longer because of the number of people skiing on the same day, and especially if the weather is nice.

• Be sure your child gets a good night sleep the night before his or her fist lesson, and has a good breakfast in the morning. A well-rested, well-fed little skier makes a less cranky and more mentally aware student.

Peter Greenberg leaned to ski at age 3, and is an avid skier who has taught skiing in the Berkshires for more than 30 years. Email him at


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