Go Skiing with the Kids
Skiing can be a great way to get some fresh air during the winter, but parents have a lot to consider before hitting the slopes with the family. At what age can kids start skiing? How should they dress? What equipment do they need, and should you rent or buy it?
When to start
“Most kids start skiing between ages 4 and 6,” says Chris Laughlin, owner of the Ski Bum, a ski shop with locations in Glen Mills, PA, and Newark, DE. Before taking the kids skiing, think about how well they are able to follow directions and their resilience to being out in the cold and falling down, advises Laughlin.
Many ski areas give lessons for kids as young as 3, which is “the youngest they can really grasp a lesson and handle the equipment,” says Robin Manfredi, children’s programs director at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, East Stroudsburg, PA.
“I’m a proponent of lessons,” says Robyn Radomicki, a Blue Bell, PA, mother of two boys, ages 5 and 9, who have been skiing since they were 2. They learned through a combination of ski lessons and parent instruction. “It can be back-breaking work to teach a toddler to ski yourself,” she warns.
How to dress
“Parents need to be educated about how to dress their children,” says Manfredi. “They tend to overdress them.”
Here’s what kids need:
A moisture-wicking base layer. ClaireAmy Roberts, the winter apparel buyer at Danzeisen & Quigley, an outdoor outfitter in Cherry Hill, NJ, cautions, “Even though it’s cold out, you do perspire.”
The right socks. “Doubling up on socks is the worst thing you can do,” says Laughlin, because multiple pairs can cut off circulation and make little feet feel cold. Instead, wear a thin wool sock and rely on the liner of the boot to keep feet warm, he says.
Gloves. Make sure gloves fit properly. Kids need to have the dexterity to grip, advises Laughlin.
Waterproof jackets and pants. Look for snow cuffs and powder skirts on jackets and gators on snow pants; all function to keep snow out so kids stay warm and dry, says Laughlin. Most snow clothes adjust so kids can get two or three seasons out of them, he says.
A face mask, balaclava or goggles are optional but can provide extra comfort in harsh weather.
“It is imperative to wear a helmet,” says Roberts, but don’t use a bike helmet! Choose a ski-specific helmet for safety.
Skiers will also need skis, boots and poles. Should you rent or buy this gear?
Pros of buying. “If you have your own equipment, it’s easier to get used to, which is good when you’re a beginner,” says Melissa Yingling, marketing specialist at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, PA. For families with two or more kids, buy for the oldest child and hand down the gear to the younger siblings, suggests Laughlin.
Pros of renting. “It’s a big investment,” says Roberts, of buying new equipment. To reduce spending, look for day rentals and leasing programs to rent for the entire season. If you rent, you also can get a new size if your child grows before the end of the season.
Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.