Bringing up a snow baby. What to expect in the first few seasons.

Writer: Kelly O’Neil, Collingwood native Ski Mom

As we are well aware, Canadian winters can seem extremely long! By around mid-January, it becomes very mentally and physically helpful to get outdoors even when we struggle to even want to. Enjoying winter sport as a family takes time and commitment, but when you get there, it is worth every trying moment.

For skiers and snowboarders alike, introducing your children to your winter passion builds a healthy foundation for years of enjoyment. Getting past the beginner hurdles will only enhance winter and healthy time outdoors for your family.

Having been through the past 3 ski seasons bringing up a baby skier to toddler, here are some tips for consideration. Most of this I have done happily on my own as a single parent – no excuses!

Don’t push past the fun factor – especially in the cold!

Obviously, screaming and crying in the cold is not fun for anyone! This is why it is most important to avoid arriving at this point. If your baby has spent time enjoying fresh winter walks and they are dressed properly for the winter conditions you take them out in, it is entirely possible for them to enjoy spending time in the cold.

My best advice is to test out ½ hour increments before you retreat to the lodge to warm up. If your baby is enjoying themselves for short spurts, do not push past the fun factor.

Taking a few gentle turns on soft snow vs. trying to stay out on a cold windy day will help to build a positive association with learning to ski. Your child will be more apt to want to spend time on the hill the next time you get out.

As soon as tears or whining happen, go indoors for a nice break. You can always get back outside for more fun!

Always bring: extra hats, mitts, layers, water, snacks & sun protection

Sounds a little overkill? Maybe, but if you can spare yourself the expense of having to purchase unnecessary items, then you will be less stressed and have more time to enjoy what you ventured out for in the first place. Hats and mitts inevitably get wet and when they do its over. There is no recovering from frozen, cold, wet little fingers.

Sun protection is something I always have in my bag. In Ontario anyway, the day can start out with an overcast sky and quickly clear, even within the hour. Sun and wind on sensitive skin can lead to disaster if not properly protected. Protecting young eyes from the sun is also crucial, especially on a bright day when the sun is reflecting off the snow.

Despite the absolute necessity of protection from head injury, a helmet also helps to cover your child’s head to prevent heat from escaping. A helmet, along with goggles, will cover more surface area on the facial skin that is exposed to the elements.

High energy, healthy snacks will keep you and your child feeling less sluggish while you ski or want to enjoy time outside. By no means am I suggesting that you skip après and the delicious treats that come along with it! This is part of the package for me! But, I like to eat for energy while I enjoy my time on the snow to avoid energy crashes or feeling sluggish.

Harness vs. Freeskiing

You don’t need to be an expert to teach your 1 or 2-year-old how to ski. I do recommend ski lessons to get started, but if you would prefer to teach your child the basics, they are quite simple. Lean forward with hands on knees, ski tips pointing together which is commonly referred to as “pizza”, and looking down the hill to avoid obstacles.

When your little skier has the basics concurred, a ski lesson is a good investment in terms of boosting confidence and continuing skills progression as your child begins to take turns independently.

In her third ski season, I like to remind Audrey, my daughter, to just fall over if she feels out of control or if she’s headed toward an obstacle such as the tree line. Kids are very resilient in their young years and typically bounce right back up. I’ve seen Audrey “yard sale”, eject both skis, roll head over heal down an intermediate slope like a rag doll and simply stop, shake herself off and get up laughing as I stood sweating in a moment of extreme terror.

Some people like to teach with a harness or a leash. This is a personal preference. I stopped using my harness backpack when I felt that I was tugging Audrey backwards so that she was not leaning forward down the hill. Not only is this developing the bad habit of “sitting in the back seat”, I felt like I was tugging her and causing her to loose her balance. It is entirely up to you. If your child is a speedy dare devil, I would recommend this system as it prevents the nerve wrecking experience of a run away!

Let them play!

When it comes down to it, I can’t stress enough the importance of allowing your child to play and explore beginner terrain on their own terms. Sliding around and practicing balance or learning how to fall and get back up can be really fun and hilarious to watch. Be sure to laugh, take pictures and enjoy this incredible time together. It doesn’t last forever and you will be pining for it before the next ski season is upon us.

Have fun and