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Ski Schools: What Should Parents Look For?

Invest in lessons

Teaching a child to ski isn't like starting her off in softball or soccer. You can't just go out in the backyard and start tossing or kicking a ball around. It is usually in the child's best interest, and well worth the investment, to enroll her in a qualified ski school so she can get proper instruction based on her age and ability, even if you are an experienced skier.

Whether the mountain is in your backyard or you will be taking a family vacation this winter to a ski resort, knowing what to expect when you enroll your child in ski school, and what questions to ask of the instructor, can make all the difference in making her first skiing experience a positive one. It will also make your own vacation more fun and less stressful to know your child is in good hands.

Selecting a ski school

Many ski schools will take children as young as 3 years old. Find out the details of a specific program. Ski school quality is truly a function of the quality of the staff.

In selecting a ski school for your child, ask:

  • Is the staff certified and experienced working with young children? If a ski school uses its kids program to train adult instructors, it may be a tell-tale sign that it is not geared to kids. Look for programs that hire staff specifically to work with children and have low staff turnover; these are signs that it is probably more committed to the specific needs of children.
  • Is the pre-school nursery licensed by the state? If your child is under the age of 3, check to see if the pre-school nursery is a state licensed program.
  • Is the staff screened and trained to provide childcare? Training should include a mixture of on-mountain instruction and childcare.
  • Are parents welcome to observe from a distance? Ask if you and your child can observe a class before signing up.
  • Does the program have a separate play area? Some children need a little extra Tender Loving Care. If a child is not sure skiing is for him, it is important that he have a good time even if he decides not to ski. If the experience is fun, he will want to come back to learn to ski when he is ready.
  • Does the program track where each class is on the mountain? That way you can check in on how your child is doing or if you need to cut the day short unexpectedly.
  • Does the school provide progress reports for each child? Getting feedback is helpful in deciding whether more lessons are needed and to help insure proper placement if you enroll your child in a school at another ski area.
  • Are private lessons available? If you child has a difficult time in a large group environment, you should have the option of investing in private lessons with a children's ski instructor.
  • Is adequate security provided at drop-off and pick-up? Investigate whether or not the program has a security system in place for when kids are dropped off and picked up.
  • Are safety and fun the program's main goals? They should be.

Keep these pointers in mind, and your child should have a safe, enjoyable experience learning to ski!

Sue Way is Director of Children's Programs for The Aspen Skiing Company in Aspen, Colorado

Revised December 13, 2011