Learn to Ski

Words: Estelle Lee

I started skiing in Flaine aged six. My parents put me into a French-speaking ski school with my younger brother and probably hoped for the best. Not one person spoke English in those days, other than some basic ski terminology, and I don’t remember the experience particularly fondly. Fortunately for your future downhill champions, things have come on a bit since then. I’ve spent the intervening years as an intermediate skier, but very much stuck in a rut – competent but not exactly stylish when it comes to getting down a piste. So when it came to introducing my kids to the mountain, I wanted to do it nice and early. It was important to me to make sure that they had a more positive, fun experience before any fear set in.

One of the best things we could have done was to select Powder Byrne as our tour operator for our first family trip. Their service from beginning to end meant that every single little detail was considered and taken care of. We chose a ski-in, ski-out resort with a ski shop within the complex onsite and a crèche also within skipping distance of our apartment, where nannies and instructors were on hand to wipe noses. Our children wanted to stay there all day, which brilliantly meant more ski time for us, while they were eased into things.

Unless you want to give yourself a nervous breakdown, leave it to the professionals who will have your child snowploughing before the end of the week. As numerous ski instructors have said to me: “Parents always make it worse.” You will find yourself hanging from the branches of a tree trying to watch throughout the week, mark my words.

Some children are eager and willing to have a go at nearly three, others are going to take more encouragement. You know your own child – try not to transfer your own fears onto them, let them get used to the snow on the first day and make sure they see it as an adventure. Skiing is a strange experience and the first few days are usually building blocks in getting used to the sensation of boots and skis. Don’t expect too much in the first trip. And don’t ask the instructor: “When will Cosmo be doing parallel turns?”

It sounds obvious, but layer, layer, layer. If you’re going skiing at Christmas or half term, it will be a completely different climate to Easter, so prepare accordingly. Merino wool base layers are perfect underneath Gortex ski wear and a fleece. Merino layers (I always use lovemysmalls.com) don’t need daily washing as they are anti-bacterial, breathable and make great pyjamas in cold weather, too! Make sure their gloves actually fit, and that they can take them on and off. Help them to be as independent in dressing as they can be. It’s worth taking spare salopettes for any potential ‘accidents’.

Remember it doesn’t have to be all about skiing. Go for walks, drink lots of hot chocolate, build snowmen, take them ice skating, sledging or even dog sledding. The mountains are beautiful and with all that fresh air they’re bound to sleep well.