Peter Greenberg: Set little skier up for success

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I have been skiing and teaching skiing for more than 30 years in the Berkshires, teaching children and adults alike. I've seen it all, from beginner to experts. In the past few years, I've taught mostly children, of all skill levels and ages, up to their early-teens, developing them for racing or just honing their skiing skills.

Before signing up your child for ski lessons this winter, here are some tips to help your little skier start off on the right ski.

• Clothing: The proper clothing can be the difference between staying warm and dry or being cold and miserable. You don't need to spend a lot of money on clothing — purchase ski pants and jackets and accessories at places like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls for highly discounted prices. Clothing should be layered. I have seen many kids come out wearing only dungarees or sweat pants. This just won't do it, and I don't mean because it is not fashionable.

Start with a base layer made out of some type of moisture-wicking material, not cotton, as cotton is like a sponge. This should include a long-sleeve top and a pair of long underwear. A good second layer is a long-sleeve turtleneck, again of any material other than cotton. Next, layer with a warm sweater or fleece. Ski pants should be insulated, waterproof and breathable — and the same goes for the ski jacket.

A good pair of ski socks made out of non-itch Merino wool, or one of the many fine synthetic materials on the market today, will keep your child's feet warm and cozy on the slopes.

Dress your child according to the weather of the day and remember it could be a "bluebird" of a day, but while taking the chairlift from the bottom of the mountain to the top, the weather can change. If your child is dressed in layers, he or she will be able to manage fluctuating temperatures.

• Accessories: One of the most important things your child can have is a good pair of gloves or mittens. Knitted mittens are not recommended as they do not provide sufficient warmth on those cold, wet snowy days.

If the gloves are too small or too big, they will also not provide sufficient warmth. I also recommend a pair of glove or mitten liners to wear underneath for extra warmth. If you want to get fancy, there are battery-operated heated gloves, but keep in mind they can be expensive. Look for a waterproof, well-insulated pair, ideally with Velcro closures.

No scarves allowed — they are long and can get caught on many things. Get a neck Gator instead and be sure to wash it once in a while.

• Safety: The ski helmet is an essential part of your child's safety. There really is no discussion here. I believe all people, no matter their age or ability, especially children, need to wear a helmet on the ski slopes just as they would on a bicycle or skateboard. Wearing a helmet keeps the child safer and lessens the chance for head injuries. You would not let your child play football without a helmet, would you?

• Equipment: It's important your child is fitted properly with his or her skis, boots and poles. The right fit and size are especially important for boots, and can make or break a child's experience sliding on skis. If this is your child's first year skiing, I recommend renting the equipment. This way you can save some money — if your child doesn't take a liking to skiing, you are not out a lot of money.

Remember, downhill skiing is, and can be, a lifelong sport. You can learn at any age. Kids have the advantage of being flexible, nimble and relatively fearless on the slopes.

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 pgreenberg@berkshireeagle.com.


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