Keeping Your Tyke A-Turnin'

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By Julie Clark of the Perfect Turn/Killington Resort Ski School

Killington, VT, Mar. 8, 2001--Teaching munchkins under seven to ski is as much about inspiring them to love the sport as it is about coaching them on technique and skills.

While fundamental imagery such as the "pizza pie" for stopping with a wedge and making "french fries" for paralleling will get them skiing, teaching them to love the sport and the outdoors during winter will keep them coming back.

Ah, yes, it sounds so simple, but unfortunately two sticks, hard boots, and cold fingers can quickly turn an otherwise angelic offspring into their more incorrigible side. Little Johnny has now decided that engaging muscles to assume a standing position and uttering comprehensible words are activities in which he no longer wishes to participate. Crying in frustration seems to be the preferred activity.

What now, you ask? Two bits of advice:

1) Patience. Parents hire others to teach their children because ski instructors are paid for patience. Parents rear children with patience everyday. Maybe the slopes are a good place to let someone else handle your little ones for awhile. If you're struggling with your own skiing, why couple that frustration with a cold, crying, and awkward child?

2) Stop. Do something else. Go play in the snow. Visit the tubing park. Take a ride on the gondola. These alternate activities leave a good impression of skiing.

Remember the goal is to introduce kids to the excitement and thrill of the bumps, powder, and trees--the inevitable adventures of a day in the life of a skier. Skiing for four hours before lunch may rock your world, but children often require a different approach. Spending less than an hour on the slopes and half an hour sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows in preparation for a massive snowball fight will bring a smile to most any hardcore five-year-old skier.

In the end, it doesn't really matter whether you are hunched over on the rope tow, snowplowing with junior between your legs, or, as restricting as those things look, using a ski harness down the bunny slope. If you do it right and jumpstart the interest, there will be plenty of years to master the perfect turn and enjoy the winter alpine experience.