Teaching kids how to ski or snowboard is a major investment. Not only does is take a long time; it’s also a big investment of your money.
To get you answers, I sat down with Tim Wolfgram, director of Solitude Ski & Ride School, and Mike Tribuzzi, a supervisor and certified ski instructor, to figure out what parents can do to get the most bang for their buck.
“One of the biggest things that parents can do is to get up here early,” Tim said. He explained that so often families are running late and everyone is in a frenzy as they are trying to prepare for ski school. He recommended being ready to ski when the lifts open so parents can take a run or two with their kids before their lesson starts. It’s also worth skiing a couple of runs with students after their lesson is over. “It’s a great way for kids to get prepared for the day.”
However, getting kids comfortable with the idea of skiing can start long before you hit the slopes. “Even just a pair of plastic skis from Kmart is great for kids to play around with in the backyard,” Tim shared. If kids associate skiing with playing and fun, they’re much more likely to step into their lessons with confidence. He also recommended letting kids spend some time with their real ski gear on before the lesson if you have it available.
Mike talked a lot about helping kids come into their lessons with confidence. If parents focus on how fun ski school will be, the child will have much more positive associations with the idea. “If a child doesn’t feel comfortable, they won’t develop the skills they need to succeed,” Mike shared. If you think your child is going to have a difficult time at ski school, make sure to arrive extra-early to help ease them into the transition — or, if possible, go in the day before so they know what to expect.
“Our goal is to create relationships with our students,” Mike commented. Often, students come back several times during the season or year after year, which allows instructors to focus on getting to know each child well.
Our 4-year-old was a bit nervous going out with an instructor, and it was pretty obvious. The next thing I knew, the instructor had donned a full rabbit suit and my son couldn’t stop laughing! It was instantly clear that all the instructors at Solitude Ski & Ride School are well-trained in connecting with their students. While your child might not get to ski with the bunny, they will get someone who’s excited to meet and create a wonderful experience for them.
At the end of the day, it can be tempting just to take everyone out to the car or into the lodge for cocoa, but Tim and Mike suggested a whole list of things parents can do AFTER the lesson is over so their kids get the most out of their instruction:
• Each student is given a report card. Take time to discuss your child's progress with the instructor instead of just reading it on your own. The instructor will be able to provide valuable insights on where your child needs to focus their skills.
• Instead of asking an instructor what color runs your child skied, ask what skills they learned. It’s often a long process to move from one terrain color to the next, and skills are a more accurate indication of how your child is progressing.
• Don’t assume you know where your child should be skiing — ASK! Too often, parents push their kids into terrain that’s too difficult for them and the kids get really scared by it. Instead, ask the instructor which runs they skied on during the day and what runs they recommend you try next.
• BE PATIENT! When you take a run with your child at the end of their lesson, be extra patient. Remember that they’ve been skiing A LOT during the day and they’re likely really tired. Follow their cues and focus on ending the day on a happy note.
Remember that the goal of skiing with your kids is to have fun. If it’s not fun, take a step back and try something easier. This is a lifelong investment, and by putting in the time when they’re young, the rewards will pay off HUGE for your family in the future.
A few things to note about Solitude Ski & Ride School:
• Group lessons are available for ages 3-13 and full-day prices start at $150.
• Students are grouped together by age and by ability. Younger kids will have a combination of skiing/snow play and indoor time while older kids will usually be on the mountain for most of their lesson time.
• Reservations can be made over the phone or online here.
• Lessons for younger kids tend to fill up quickly, so reservations should be made a few weeks in advance.
• Lessons for older kids are often still available a few days in advance. If you’re worried about getting in, call the help line (801-649-5364), and they’ll do their best to fit you in!
• Dress your child in layers so they’re prepared for any weather. If they get too hot, the instructors have places for them to leave some of their layers behind.
In addition to regular snow clothes, all students are required to wear eyewear (goggles or sunglasses) and sunscreen.
• Remember to come early. While lessons don’t start until 10:00 a.m., the lifts open at 9:00. It’s a great idea to be ready then and get a couple runs in before class starts. That usually means that you need to be in the parking lot suiting up by around 8:45 a.m.. Traffic in Big Cottonwood Canyon can be VERY SLOW — especially on weekends or if the weather is bad. If it’s stormy outside, be at the mouth of the canyon by 7:45 a.m. If it’s a weekend, be there by 8:00 a.m. If the weather is good and you’re skiing in the middle of the week, be in the canyon by 8:15 a.m. These are just general suggestions, but you should always check the conditions with UDOT as well.