How Young Can Kids Start Skiing?

When to Start Introducing Your Child to the Slopes

Family skiing, rear view
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Skiing can be an enriching experience for both kids and adults. If you're eager to get your child on the slopes, it's important to remember that many factors contribute to a child's ability to ski. Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not your kid is ready for the slopes.

Is My Child Old Enough for the Full Ski Experience?

A child as young as 18 months is old enough to bumble around on flat terrain in ski boots and/or skis. As long as your child is stable enough on his legs, he should be able to handle playing in the snow—and that's the approach most ski schools take to introduce children to the sport. However, it's generally agreed that a child should be at least 3 years old before taking on the full ski experience—that is, independently "turning" on flat-to-mild terrain, and using a magic carpet or a chairlift.

Should My Child Go to Ski School?

The youngest age that most ski schools will accept a child into a program is 4-5 years old. Children younger than that typically have not developed the attention span, motor skills and physical strength to handle a day of skiing. However, this certainly varies based on the individual child and his or her personality and level of maturity. Some ski schools may offer "snow play" programs for younger children, in which case your child may or may not make it onto skis but will be familiarized with the snow and getting around in ski boots.

Questions to Ask Yourself

In order to determine if your child is ready for any type of skiing, it's important to identify how comfortable they are with snow play and how ready they are for a day on the slopes -- and lessons -- for you're going that route.

  • How long can my child handle the snow? If your child loves the snow and can stay outdoors for a good length of time, they may be ready to be introduced to a ski resort. However, if your child gets cranky or cold easily, it's a good idea to wait until they're a little older.
  • Can my child listen and follow instructions? Your child will get the most out of her skiing experience if she is able to follow direction and listen to adults. While a young toddler might still enjoy snow play, in order to get the most out of ski school, your child should be able to take direction from instructors.
  • Will my child be comfortable in the care of ski instructors? Being taken away from mom and dad and handed over to a group of strange instructors can be a scary experience. Most ski schools advise parents to never force a child to attend a ski program because tantrums and tears certainly don't make for a fun time for child, parents, or instructors. In fact, some ski schools will not allow a child to participate in a program until she has calmed down.
  • Am I patient enough to teach my child to ski? If you choose not to enroll your child in ski school and will instruct him yourself, patience is a must. Skiing takes both mental and physical energy, and young children are likely to tire quickly.
  • How much do I want to spend on my child's skiing? Everyone knows that kids grow quickly, and the earlier you start your child skiing, the earlier you start spending money on ski clothes, ski equipment, ski lessons, etc. It's advisable to do some research before you start your child skiing – check prices for kids' lesson programs, ski resort daycare and "snow play" fees, and rental costs in your area, so you have an idea of how much you'll have to spend.

If You're Still Not Sure, Simply Ask Your Child 

Clearly, there are a lot of variables that determine whether or not your child is old enough to ski. A good way to address the issue is to simply ask your child if he or she wants to start skiing. If your child is old enough to understand and answer the question, at least start introducing him to the sport. While there may be more than a few trial runs, if you make sure your child is having fun, they'll be on the right track to learning how to ski.