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M&M’s, good gloves and patience help make skiing fun for the whole family

It’s important get children ski lessons before hitting slopes but also save time for whole family ski together.

It’s important to get children ski lessons before hitting the slopes, but also to save time for the whole family to ski together.

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Updated: January 24, 2012 3:20PM

One of the worst things a parent can see on the ski slopes — short of an injury — is the swelling of a tear underneath the layers of facemask, goggles and helmet. That little drop of water could mean the moment your child is turned off from skiing or snowboarding for life.

That wasn’t going to work for me. Some of my best childhood memories happened on my little Hart Gremlin skis and I had decided probably before my kids could walk that it would be that way for them, too — whether they liked it or not.

At first it seemed a definite “not.” They whined. They cried. There was a flat-out refusal to put on snowpants.

Eventually, with the right pink helmets (I have two girls), foot-warmers and what seems like an endless supply of granola bars and M&Ms, I have two devoted skiers who now voluntarily give up birthday parties and sleeping in to spend time with Mom and Dad on the slopes. That has made what really were just a couple of frustrating days so worth it.

Stephanie Unter, a New York-based fashion stylist and blogger, has heard the complaints, too: Her kids had stomach aches, or they couldn’t buckle their boots. But, she says, she’d bite her tongue, help them out, have bowls of oatmeal prepped each morning and ply them with hot chocolate. “I had a gung-ho attitude and I decided to just keep it going, keep the momentum, and I didn’t let them stop.”

Do they share her passion for it? Not yet, she says, but they are getting closer. The key is never making it feel like a stressful experience, Unter said.

Kevin Hicks, of Valparaiso, Ind., said it only took his older children a day or two to get with the program, and he thinks that is because he insisted on a very slow start.

“Most kids are fearless and want to shoot straight down. That isn’t skiing,” he says. Instead, Hicks focused on teaching control. He’ll scream from behind “pizza,” reminding the kids to go into a slow, triangular snowplow when they’re struggling, and encourage the more advanced, parallel-ski “french fry” when they are cruising.

It turned out Unter’s older daughter was frustrated that she didn’t think she was improving. “She didn’t feel like she was good at it,” Unter says, “so I took a video of it one day, and she saw she wasn’t that bad.”

It’s important for children to be in lessons at the appropriate level, says David Iverson, snow sports manager at Burke Mountain in Vermont. Otherwise, you have the nervous parents who want to keep their children on the magic carpets far too long, and the over-achiever parents who want their kids on black diamonds before they’re ready.

He adds: “A lot of times it’s really better if mom and dad don’t stop by the lesson.”

Here are other tips from pros and passionate skiers:

◆ Many problems are rooted in not-right clothing, especially too-bulky socks and knit gloves that get wet. If you are making the investment for lift tickets and lessons, make the investment in the right gear, Iverson says. Two pairs of socks is a no-no; you want thin wicking socks that won’t bunch up inside the boot.

◆ Fill jacket pockets with snacks. “You need to eat or aren’t going to survive a day on the hill,” says Iverson.

◆ Plan evening meals and activities that give way to a decent night’s sleep.

◆ Hand out trail maps the night before so kids can plan their favorite routes, says Kara Woods Seeley, spokeswoman for Woods Valley in Westernville, N.Y.

◆ If you are booking a hotel or condo rental, ask how far it is located from the ski school and if there is a shuttle, suggests Sherman.

◆ Woods Seeley recommends a locker at the mountain. It’s a bit of an indulgence that “is a major convenience for parents.”


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