How to Make Skiing Fun for Preschoolers

Preschool Ski School Lesson

When introducing young children to skiing, it is important to remember that (a) they have short attention spans, and (b) they may not know how to react to the cold. Preschoolers can quickly shift moods from happy to bitterly sad and angry in just a few short moments. Here are a few ways to keep young skiers happy and healthy on the slopes (plus, a few extra insider tips).

Staying Dry and Warm and Protected from the Sun

Staying dry and warm are the No. 1 priorities for having fun on the mountain, followed shortly by protection from the sun and wind exposure. The sun’s rays are greatly intensified at high altitude, so don’t forget sunscreen and lip balm even on snowy days. Plus, the glare from the snow is extremely harmful to eyes and exposed skin.

Full Bellies

Full bellies are also key for preschoolers. Just like a normal school day, make sure your child sleeps well the night before and eats a healthy breakfast in the morning. If your child doesn’t eat beforehand, be sure to mention this to the instructor so the group can make an earlier snack break, if needed. It’s also nice to tuck a few extra snacks in their pockets, just in case. Extra snacks are especially helpful if your child has a food allergy.

Ski school for preschoolers at Aspen Snowmass

Photo by Hal Williams

Smaller Expectations

Keep in mind that the end goal for your child is to enjoy life in the great outdoors and look forward to skiing. To help meet that goal, it may be wise to enroll your child in ski lessons. Know and respect your own relationship boundaries. As a parent, I cherish the time I spend with my boys on the mountain and I try not to be a coach and parent all wrapped up into one feisty package. Plus, the ski lingo is ever evolving and simplifying. For example, try to describe the term “snowplow” to a 3-year-old and they immediately look for a giant truck. Professional ski instructors are not only experts in the sport but, like school teachers, they have more patience and special “tricks” for keeping children happy and interested.

Insider Tips

  1. Keep spirits high by creating a skier name, like Racecar Dan or Speedster Sally. My son loved to be introduced to his new ski instructor as Thomas the Tank Engine. It was memorable for everyone!
  2. To prevent facial chaffing, it is helpful to apply a base layer of thick lotion before applying sunscreen. The lotion moisturizes while the sunscreen “blocks” the UV rays.
  3. Use handwarmers. Hands aren’t used in beginner ski lessons, so they quickly get cold.
  4. Before leaving your home base to hit the slopes, a pre-departure checklist is always helpful. An easy song for all ages is “Head/ Shoulders, Knees & Toes…” you take it from there. In addition to having all the appropriate gear, make sure everything is labeled.
  5. If your child can’t read his/her name yet, or if the item is too difficult to label, dress it with a colorful ribbon or fancy duct tape.
  6. Cold hardened snacks are no fun. Soft fruit chewies, chewy granola bars and even cheese sticks work well.
  7. Keep your child well rested. Spending all day outdoors and clomping around in heavy gear is extremely exhausting. Be prepared to offer a hearty after-skiing snack, because your little one may fall asleep before dinnertime!
  8. Our preschoolers’ favorite spots to eat are Bumps at Buttermilk (the buttered penne and rice krispies treats are the best) and Elk Camp at Snowmass (the gondola ride is enjoyment enough for our littlest skier)
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About Becky Musselman

Born in the Catskills of New York and raised in Basalt, Colorado. Becky is the oldest of three girls born to an Aspen ski bum and a Kiwi transplant. As a result, all three girls are dual citizens and have logged many ski travel miles. Their early travel experiences are eerily similar to many Warren Miller out-takes. Nevertheless, Becky has had the good fortune to ski throughout the United States and Canada, plus Europe and New Zealand. After getting married, she and her husband moved to New York City to pursue graduate school and experience city-life. However, after the birth of their first son, the mountains called them back. The young family was lucky to relocate to the Aspen area and has stayed ever since. Becky is now the mother of three boys, aged 11, 7 and 2. The age gap means that the oldest son is hiking and skiing the Highlands Bowl and the youngest is making his first turns at the Snowmass Meadows. Never a dull moment! And, when the family is not skiing on snow, they are waterskiing and wakeboarding together.