Welcome to Mommy Mondays, where I impart plenty of non-wisdom from just four years of parenting.
A few people sent me questions about putting Pigtail in ski school in Colorado last month, so I thought I would start that conversation since Spring Break is coming up and many families will be hitting the slopes.
This was Pigtail's second year in ski school and it was SO much better. We put her in last year when she was 3 years old and while it wasn't a total waste, it definitely wasn't worth the money. When they're three, the instructors take them out for a little bit and let them do the magic carpet (the moving sidewalk that takes them up the very slight incline so they can get the feel of moving on the snow in their skis), but they don't stay out too long. At three, most of the kids were just not strong enough to do much. They had a long lunch and a long playtime. This seemed to be the case for all three-year-olds in the program.
Had we needed to, we could have used it as childcare when she was three. But we didn't need to, which is why I didn't love spending money for her to play in the ski school cabin when she could have been playing at the house with her cousins for free. We did it for two days last year.
I was a little hesitant to spend money on that again, but we decided we would put her in classes for two of our six ski days this year, again just to get her used to the feeling of moving in skis. But after the first day, it was clear that the four-year-old program was way better. It seems like on our mountain they don't judge any kind of skill level until they're four years old. So after a day when she had a coincidentally near-private lesson, she advanced off the magic carpet and was finally being taught some real things. She wanted to go back day after day, and by day 4 she could go on the smallest lift and ski down in the mountain with the other kids in our family!
(I will say that the lift made me very nervous. She is so small, and skis and gloves and all of it. I made my brother ride with her because I was such a ninny about it.)
We wouldn't ever do ski school the whole trip. Everyone learns best by doing. We've had the most luck in our family with letting ski school teach the basics (because those earliest days can be so frustrating, whether you're a kid or an adult, and sometimes it's best to learn from a stranger), then taking the kids out ourselves. My brother and his wife and also my dad are great at skiing with the kids, giving them little challenges, yelling encouragement, stopping for cocoa when needed.
One day we put the group of cousins - age range 5 to 9 - in a private lesson and that day the adults could do all their harder skiing. Since we had a group of kids it was better to book a private lesson than to rely on the packed-out ski school, and it gave everyone a break to do something different.
This year we had a couple of new adult skiers with us as well, and they didn't learn much at ski school at all. I'm sure if you take a group of people will all different natural talents and ways of learning, plus throw in the snow and bulky equipment, it would be impossible to meet every need. But we ended up with a similar formula for the adults as we did with the kids: a day or a day and a half with some instruction, then the advanced level skiers skied with them.
I would never advise learning the basics and then hauling out onto the mountain alone. In our family we have plenty of people willing to ski together, regardless of skill level. If you're a hard-core skier or boarder, and can't imagine spending the day on the mountain with kids or newbies, well then, I'm sure you'll make different arrangements.
But this is how we did it, and this has worked in our family for years now. Don't be afraid to take kids skiing! They'll likely love it. And their knees are better than yours.