Most of the ski schools that Mark Warner works with teach children aged four and up – and with good reason. Learning to ski is all about taking things at a sensible pace – rushing into something may make a child lose control and put them off for life.
For this reason, the best children’s ski lessons focus on the fun aspect of things, through games and activities relying on basic ski manoeuvres. These vary by age and/or ability but include the likes of balloon hunts (which teach kids to traverse while going downhill) and follow-the-leader. They also use incentives such as stars and/or certificates, or, for older kids, races and safe off-piste excursions.
We asked Hervé Favre, founder of Alpine ski school Evolution 2, at what age children can start learning to ski.
“If this question were put to a local Alpine family,” he said, “I suppose the answer would be ‘as soon as they can walk’. However, our response is that the most important factor is to ensure that all children fall in love with the snow and the mountains so as to guarantee many years of fun and enjoyable family ski holidays!”
Favre stressed that every child is different, and that while some children find the concept of skiing and the feel of the snow very daunting, others love the speed and freedom skiing gives them.
“We believe that introducing skis to a three- to four-year-old is probably the earliest and most common age at which children would warm to the idea of skiing,” he said, adding that it is also at this age that a child has the basic strength required to ski.
Favre highlights the fact that the introduction should be gentle and the child should not feel forced or pressured. He recommends that kids learning to ski at this age do so within a snow nursery or safe area on the nursery slopes, with qualified professionals.
“Keeping skiing fun for children is the most important thing,” he concluded. “Our Yeti Academy provides children with the opportunity to develop their skills in a safe and encouraging environment while having lots of fun. They have the opportunity to ‘hunt’ the Yeti at the end of the week and are not subjected to any stressful testing at the end of the course. Instead, our instructors continually assess each child throughout the week and award them all with their medals and official record booklet that records their entire training and evaluation history with Evolution 2.”
All Mark Warner resorts are suitable for beginners, with La Plagne rating particularly highly as a place for children to progress and families to ski together, with plenty of beginner areas and espaces luges for freeplay, and great general facilities. Alternatively, Val d’Isère has a big nursery area right in the centre of town.
Mark Warner tip: Make sure your child has a good breakfast combining complex carbohydrates, quality fats and proteins (eggs and oatmeal are ideal) – three hours of skiing can burn up to 1500 calories.
Read more about family ski holidays with Mark Warner.