Telluride is full of parents who want nothing more than their kids to love skiing as much as they do. So, it is with great care that parents broach skiing with their children and try and create successful experiences on the mountain.

To find out how they do it, I interviewed parents who have skied regularly with their young kids (ages two to five) and whose kids averaged 20 to 40 ski days last ski season.

Additionally, I sought the expert advice of Kevin Holbrook and Tracy Taylor, both of whom are parents, have over 20 years experience teaching skiing, and currently are instructors for the Telluride Ski School.

Here’s what the parents and experts had to say.

1. Start Before You Get on the Mountain:

According to Holbrook, young kids, especially those who have never skied before, can do plenty without a mountain, or snow for that matter. He advises parents to provide opportunities for their kids to walk around the living room (or maybe the basement, depending on how nice your floors are) with their ski boots on, then on one ski, then on two skis. They can practice clicking in and out of their skis and shuffling around the house before they get to the Magic Carpet.

2. Practice Ski Skills Without Skiing:

Holbrook strongly believes that there is plenty a young skier can learn about skiing without skiing. Earlier in his career he had a class of kids from Portugal. He didn’t speak Portuguese; they didn’t speak English. He got creative.

Holbrook showed his class how to walk around with one ski, then they played soccer on one ski. They put the other ski on, practiced shuffling around, then played soccer with two skis. Next, he had them duck-walk up the hill.

When Holbrook finally took the kids onto the mountain, they surpassed the other groups who had been “learning to ski” all morning. He calls this method “lateral learning.”

“You’re tricking kids into learning the technical elements of skiing,” he said. “Kids are learning balance or something about skiing when they do these things. It’s not just about getting down the hill.”

3. Put in the Miles:

Both Holbrook and Taylor, stress the importance of repetition and getting lots of “mileage” with young kids.

“I did not mind doing Meadows (an easy green run in Telluride) over and over again,” Taylor said of skiing with his daughters when they were just learning.

He does recognize, however, that having the patience to ski green runs repetitively is much easier for someone who lives in a ski town, than someone who only gets a few weeks of skiing a year. Still, he emphasizes the importance, “ If you want the kids to be skiers when they’re older, you’ve got to put your time in.” he said.

4. Skip the Steeps:

Holbrook believes kids benefit from being “under-terrained,” or skiing terrain at, or below their ability, rather than being encouraged to ski something above their ability.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “They have the rest of their life to get better. If you get on the blacks right away, you can scare them and lose them for a time period.”

Instead of aiming for the steeps, Holbrook urges parents to find different elements on the easier runs. Just the other day, he recalled, his three-year old son skied 15 yards of powder on a green run.

“We dabbled in powder,” he said. “Then, when we got on a slightly harder slope, he saw powder and went for it because he had done it successfully in a controlled environment.”

5. If it Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It:

Both Annie Carlson, (mother of Taylor, 6, and Skylar, 4) and Kristin Holbrook, (Kevin’s wife, mother of Brady, 5, and Leyton, 3, and a former PSIA Level II Certified Ski Instructor) advise parents to choose the days that they take their kids skiing, wisely.

“Even if it’s the perfect day that fits in with your schedule, it might not be the best if its really cold, gray, or limited visibility,” Carlson warned.

Holbrook added, “I make sure the weather is perfect when I bring my little ones skiing. If it’s a warm, sunny day, the success rate is usually 100%.”

6. Quit Before Quitting Time:

For Wendy Hampton, mother of Breton, 5, and Zoe, 3, success is also quitting on time. “I don’t try to squeeze in one more run,” she said. “Sometimes we schlep all the way to the mountain and it’s only a two-run day, that is fine with me.”

Taylor concurred adding, “Make sure you finish on your second to last ski run.”

7. Giggle, Laugh, and Play Games:

For Telluride parents, the main part of teaching their kids to love skiing is to show by example.

For Kristin Holbrook’s kids, the fun comes in finding jumps. “Kids love to find jumps everywhere,” she said. “ On the side hills, in the trees, at the terrain park.  We make it a game – who can find the next jump.”

Carlson suggests, “playing follow the leader, waving your arms in the air, crouching down into a squat, making animal sounds, anything that makes them laugh.”

And, for the Hampton girls, a little silliness and chocolate keeps them coming back for more skiing.

“We do a lot of singing and shake your booty time,” Hampton said. “We have a minimum of two Hershey’s kisses on every lift. I never use a treat as a reward with skiing, it’s just part of skiing life.”

Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure.



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