For you, there is absolutely no doubt that a ski holiday is the best thing since sliced bread! Skiing, snowboarding, sledging – just about everything you can do in a ski resort. The mountain is a wonderful snowy playground for you and life without skiing, would just not be possible. However, sometimes children do not share our passion for skiing. What, to you, is a dream ski holiday, can be quite simply a nightmare for your child if they do not enjoy skiing or snowboarding. To help prevent your ski holiday from being a disaster for everyone, here are some tips to follow if ever one of your children discovers that they do not like skiing!
Often children are very surprised and even confused by the vastness of snow-covered mountains. The environment seems hostile, lacking in colour and comfort and if you don’t let your children get to know and love the snow at their own pace, they might develop a dislike or even a phobia! You have probably already had snow at home and the kids enjoyed making snowmen or having a gentle snowball fight. Try to find small, enclosed areas in your ski resort that look a bit like a back garden, rather than vast expanses of snow that can seem rather overwhelming when you are not very tall – especially if the snow is deep. At the very first signs of cold or tiredness, head home for hot chocolate and a cuddle with your kids in your chalet, hotel or apartment and this will leave them with a pleasant impression of spending time in the snow. No-one likes to feel cold and especially not wet and cold, so rather than trying to jolly the kids along when they complain about soggy gloves and frozen fingers, accept that the playdate with your favourite white stuff is over for the moment and get them inside in the warm!
Tobogganing can be a fun way of getting kids to love the snow. However, there are other feelings and emotions to manage when practicing this sport. Smaller children may be afraid of the speed and of falling off and hurting themselves. Older kids may not like being among the crowds of excited families hurtling down the toboggan run all at the same time. I don’t know if you have ever fallen off a toboggan onto hard-packed snow at high speeds – but I certainly remember some large, painful bruises!
Many ski resorts organise fun activities for young children with the aim of helping them fall in love with the mountains. In the Haute-Savoie ski resort of Le Grand Bornand, small children can even try the pony luge – a sledge towed at low speed by a pony. In Font-Romeu, children can have a go at being a musher and ride a dog sled. If your children love animals, these are great activities that will make them forget the cold, any fears they have and help them become friends with the snow!
It’s important to remember that parents, even as good skiers themselves and armed with plenty of patience, are not necessarily the most efficient ski instructors for their own children. Ski school instructors follow intense, pedagogic training to become qualified to teach young children to ski. If an afternoon of personal ski instruction from Dad turns into a nightmare for everyone, then it is definitely time to turn to the professionals for help. Here's how to raise your children to like skiing...
Remember there are also other options apart from skiing! Downhill skiing may not be the right snow sport for your child! If he or she gets frustrated with all the skiing equipment, gets his or her skis crossed, drops poles off chair lifts, etc, then maybe it’s time to switch to snowboarding – half the hassle! However, if your child is scared of hurting themselves at high speeds, or finds that the slopes are too crowded, then why not try cross-country skiing – a wonderfully gentle alternative that you can really enjoy at your own pace. These alterations are not necessarily definitive – they can just be a transitional activity so that everyone can enjoy their ski holiday. Maybe your child is just too young to enjoy skiing! Once your child has started to enjoy a snow sport and has gained some confidence, the possibilities are endless…
Despite all of the above advice, and even with professional help, it seems that from time to time, children can actually almost become allergic to snow sports! If this is the case in your family, don’t give up – fortunately, it is not set in stone. Soldier on and carry on booking the annual family ski holiday – there are plenty of other fun activities, unrelated to the snow, that take place in ski resorts. Visits to local farms or cheese factories are always popular with kids. Provided you have taken your swimwear with you, many ski resorts now have opened their local swimming pools to the public, some have thermal baths or even water parks! Even if an adult has to accompany the unwilling skier to these activities, if you’re determined to get up on the slopes one day together, then a few sacrifices have to be made! Good luck!
Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!
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