We interviwed Pierre Koszali, former ski racer and instructor at Villars Swiss Ski School. Pierre has an advancd federal certificate of high VET in Snow Sports.
From what age can my child ski?
Children from 3 years old can start learning ski. Manufacturers have developed specific boots and skis for them to enjoy learning skiing
How quickly will my child pick up the basics?
From the age of 5, children have enough strength to pick up basics in a couple of days, say during a week of holiday with lessons in a snow garden. That is: walking around, gliding on very shallow slope, using the snow plough technic to stop and turn. Learning this gives them more and more confidence and fun.
What do I need to purchase in terms of kit and equipment, and what can be hired?
You should purchase good and warm gloves (probably most important), ski suit, goggles (with good sun protection) and thermo underwear if you don’t have. Frozen kids never enjoy skiing…
Everything else can be hired: boots, skis and poles, helmets. Please use real skis, not plastic ones you may find in a toy shop.
Should my child wear a helmet? What are your thoughts?
Yes, I strongly recommend helmets for children. Safety first. A child’s head is proportionally much heavier than an adult’s one, so they tend to fall on it more often. Not to mention more fragile as well in case of collision.
Today’s children helmets are light and warm. They are comfortable and look good. Kids enjoy having a good helmet, they feel like being champions!
I recommend for adults too by the way. I wear one all the time, as well as a back protection, not because I ski fast but because of possible collision. You wear a helmet while cycling, on or off road, then why not while skiing where speed usually exceed cycling? Ice can be as hard as concrete to fall on.
Where’s best to take my child skiing abroad, and are dry slopes at home a good idea for them to practice on?
If you go with children on ski holidays and want them to learn skiing, choose a resort with good specific slopes for kids and dedicated snow gardens. This might not be in the most famous and biggest resorts but will definitely help your children learn to ski quickly.
Indoor skiing is fine for practice, especially during basics and preferably on real snow. Dry slopes do not feel the same as real snow under your skis. You end up more sliding sideways than really shaping a nice turn on snow.
Are ski schools the best way to go, or is it easy to teach a child the basics?
Sure, I recommend going to a ski school, in private or group lessons. Your children will enjoy and learn more. They will pick the right technic from the beginning, which will help them to progress quickly.
Teaching is not easy for parents, especially if you are not a good skier yourself. How to choose the best slope, what to teach and in what order.
How many hours should my child spend on the slopes per day?
This is difficult to answer: the time spent on slopes is depending on weather, tiredness, ski level, snow conditions, fitness…
I would say 1 or 2 hours in the morning (like 10-12) is enough for beginners. Then, do some sledging for example and you may see if your child wants to go back on skis in the afternoon. Do not forget that you use a lot of energy in the beginning and cold temperature also makes children tired quicker.
What safety precautions should parents be aware of when accompanying a young child on the slopes?
a) Warm clothes and sun protection
b) Adapted slope to ski level.
What should I pack in terms of First Aid and any other supplies for my child, just in case?
Good sun protection and a couple of basic plasters for small cuts on fingers or so but nothing much more. Snow personnel are educated and equipped for common injuries.
What’s the one question you’re most frequently asked by parents of children that are new to skiing?
Do I recommend teaching with a ski harness on the child?
Well, I prefer a child to master his speed and direction alone. If he can’t, basics are are not learned yet or the slope is too difficult. I personally didn’t use a harness for my 3 children but I cannot say it is not good.
By Pierre Koszali, Villars Swiss Ski School