Before you get
too far into this thing, are you sure you want your child to learn to ski?
Think of money. Think of outfitting a child for skiing. And outfitting him (or
her) again next year. And the next. And every year thereafter in which he grows
or her figure changes. Think of lodging him in the mountains, feeding sides of
beef to his mountain appetite. Think of long journeys in the station wagon to
the ski area and of the curious insanity that creeps over families confined in
a small vehicle for several hours.
Consider how you,
the parent, will stand up under the impact of your child's first broken ski,
his first ripped stretch pants or the doctor's bill of $150 for a cast.
After you have
considered all these things, you are ready for the proposal I am about to make:
as one who has survived and enjoyed the status of motherhood on the slopes, I
honestly recommend teaching your child how to ski. If you take my advice, the
next challenge is equipment. You will want nothing less than the best gear for
your child. "Best" does not mean "most expensive" or "most
elaborate." Sturdy leather boots that fit are imperative. Single boots are
fine—much more practical for youngsters than the fancy double boots, and good
imported models may be had for about $15 or $20. Fit them over a single pair of
heavy Norwegian natural-wool socks. If you have to settle for Orion or two
pairs, be supercareful about wrinkles and folds that can mean blisters in half
Skis now come
ready-made with cable bindings, plastic bottoms (no waxing) and steel edges
(essential even for 5-year-olds). For the young beginner, they should be
shorter than he is tall. Don't let an ignorant salesman give him skis that
reach his lifted hand. Your child's legs are too short to cope with skis
measured by an adult rule. Perfectly adequate skis cost less than $20. Cable
bindings purchased separately may come to $5. Toe irons are fine for
preschoolers, but with the longer legs and the increased leverage and speed of
later years a properly adjusted toe-release binding may save both his tibia and
your pocket-book some pain.
certain the bindings are mounted with the toe of the boot behind the halfway
mark—even if it makes the tails look ridiculously short. Because of the odd
look of very small skis, some manufacturers still put the binding platform too
far forward, which makes it much harder to learn to turn.
From the start,
put your child in good ski pants. Blue jeans soak up water as efficiently as a
kitchen sponge. Stretch pants are best for children. They're warmer, stay
drier, the fabric is more durable. Best of all, they grow with the growing
He must have long
Johns. The fishnet type are best, but flannel pajamas with knit cuffs do
welcome double duty on a ski trip. You (and the youngster) may be glad to have
two pairs of longies for him when the sun doesn't shine. Many loose, light
layers are what you want in dealing with variable temperatures. A wardrobe
consisting of a knit cap, wool-lined leather mittens, goggles, a fishnet top,
long Johns, one light and one heavy sweater and a nylon parka generally proves
adequate for the range of temperatures you will probably encounter, with the
possible exception of extremely cold days, which require a quilted parka.
Cheaper by the
Good rentals for
children are unreasonably hard to find. It is far more practical to buy. Many
ski shops let you trade in outgrown equipment and clothing on new gear. And
their trade-ins may be available for purchase. It may help to join a club and
get to know other skiing families for private handing-down. Families with lots
of children are in luck on skis and boots, which go from boy to girl to boy in
the handing-down process.
Once they have
the right clothes and equipment, children will take to the slopes like young
snowshoe rabbits. They are natural skiers, with physical equipment grown-up
beginners envy. Children's flexibility, low center of gravity, larger impact
area in a fall, short, thickly muscled legs, subcutaneous fat all operate in
their favor. In families that start skiing together, children of 6 to 10
usually surpass their elders after a lesson or two.