Skiing With Toddlers

This ski season has been AMAZING so far! While the snow in the backcountry has been less than awesome, and I have yet to get a really good day of skiing for myself, I’ve had my son out 3 times so far and he is officially a real skier! I have a great group of friends and family who have helped make teaching my son to ski successful so far so here are some things I’ve learned.

First chairlift ride

First chairlift ride

9 Tips for skiing with Toddlers

These aren’t tips to actually teach your kid anything in particular, but rather to get your kid familiar with the process of skiing and ensure that they first cultivate a love for the snow and skiing. Some of these tips are illustrated in this video of me and my son skiing at Mt. Rose.

One Piece Ski Suit

While it can be a hassle dealing with getting in and out of a ski suit, it’s warm, and snow can’t get in. Also, you can grab a hand full of it and use the suit as a toddler duffle bag.

Lucky Bums Harness + Leashes

There is some debate about whether leashed skiing is great for teaching a kit to ski, but what I’m suggesting here isn’t necessarily teaching skiing. First step as I see it is getting your kid the feeling of skiing. Get them hooked, then follow up later with actual teaching or technique.

The Lucky Bums Kid’s Ski Trainer Harness clips in the front and has a grab handle in the back and a little pocket to stash the leashes. The leashes are long lengths of webbing with a loop on one end and a clip on the other that attaches to the harness. You can sort of turn the kid by pulling on one leash or the other, but it’s mostly to keep them from french frying when they should pizza.

Helmet and Goggles

Your kid will be a lot more comfortable on a cold day in a helmet and goggles, but you have to use a little strategy to get them to wear all that mess. First, YOU have to wear it too. If your kid sees you doing it, it will help. Second, don’t make them wear it the whole time. Start with just one or the other, then get it all on right before you start skiing so they are distracted from how weird the helmet and goggles feel. Third, stickers…

Collapsable Poles

Kids love ski poles for some unknown reason that scientists are working hard to figure out. They can’t ski with poles, but you can certainly let them play with the poles while they romp around in front of the lodge. I use some black diamond collapsable ski poles for back country skiing. Collapsed all the way down they are the perfect size for my son to walk around with. And he’ll walk around for hours if you let him hold ski poles. Kids are weird.

PB&J + French Fries

Skiing is about the experience. From wrestling on the boots to singing silly songs in the car to eating lunch in the lodge in your long johns. To make you kid attach to the sport, you have to make the whole experience fun. For us, a big part of that is having PB&Js and French Fries in the lodge. Whatever your kid likes, make sure you have it or can get it. You don’t have to spoil them, but a little something won’t hurt.

Garden Wagon

Your skis, their skis, the lunch bag, poles, boots, jackets, cameras, oh and toddlers can’t actually WALK in ski boots, so you can’t cary it all in one trip. My dad got a big garden wagon from Home Depot similar to this Tricam FR110-2 Farm & Ranch 400-Pound Capacity Steel Utility Cart. We can transport all our gear plus two boys in it from the lot to the lodge and back. It’s still a hot mess, but it’s a rolling hot mess.

Get off the magic carpet

Mt. Rose has a great conveyor surface lift for beginners that is very very nice for first timers. But when dealing with a toddler who needs constant help, I recommend getting up on the lift as soon as you can. It’ll give you a longer run which means fewer loads and unloads, more fun and less work. I was more afraid of the lift ride than my son was. To make myself feel better about it I used a daisy chain for aid climbing and a carabiner to clip him back to the chair though it was easy enough to just hold him in place.

Some ski resorts have a system where kids wear a vest with magnets in the back that locks them to the chair. The only resort I know of that has this is Alpine Meadows up at Tahoe.

Play in the snow

As parents we forget the peripatetic outlook we had as children. Just because it’s ski time, doesn’t mean thy aren’t just as interested in playing in the snow. I recommend stopping to smell the roses. My son was always wanting to turn to get to the soft fluffy snow on the side of the run. So what the heck, we made a quick stop.

Follow/Chase Games

My dad goes with us when we ski and he has spent a lot of time teaching kids to ski, including me and my two sisters. When we go down the hill he skis in front of my son and acts like he is being chased, skiing backwards, bobbling over himself, freaking out and generally hamming it up in a major way. The boys absolutely love it. It is a great way for them to start to learn how to turn as well as they chase him down the hill.

Do you ski with your kids?

I love seeing other dads out there having a blast with their kids and sharing tips and pointers in the lodge. What tricks and tips are working for you and your family or friends that I forgot to mention? Am I doing anything wrong here?


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  • Kyle James

    Great tips. I have tried to get my kids skiing and snowboarding. My problem is that I am not good enough to teach them so we end up in ski class which they have met with mixed feelings. But the biggest reason we haven’t done much of it is because it’s so dam expensive. Any cheap places to go in north shore Tahoe?

    • Mike Henderson

      Donner Summit and Boreal are probably the cheepest. Though Most resorts don’t charge for kids under a certain age. The package deals are usually best. You could also put them in lessons, then tag along with them. That’s what my dad always did.