By Greg Whittaker
West Seattle is experiencing a baby boom. Everywhere you look, new families are out and about experiencing all that we have to offer. My family has joined the West Seattle Soccer Club and it seems there is a very young boom happening. A good indicator of just how many kids are here is that during the last 2 years the league has had a hard time getting coaches for all the 5-6 year old teams that are up and coming.
So, these tips are for those of you who have little ones that are now out of diapers and ready to get up into the mountains. If you are new to skiing, introducing your kids to it can get you into a new lifetime sport. Having had a bit of experience with others and my own children, I have some great tips to help you make it worth your while as well as your kids while to get out and enjoy yourself in the mountains.
It is important to repeat the mantra “skiing and snowboarding is fun” throughout
the day and to help facilitate that for the whole family. Sometimes, this means
more hot cocoa than skiing, but as long as you’re having fun with the kids, it
will lead to years of memories for the family.
Those from a skiing family often choose to introduce little ones to the hill before they can walk. But generally, around the age of four or five, kids are able to start taking lessons or learn with the family and enjoy the experience. A good rule of thumb is if kids are potty trained; they are ready to gear up. Whether you are starting your kids off at the age of 2 or 14, consider starting with a lesson. Advice given by parents will often be better received by a person viewed as new and awesome.
Since you will be in an extreme environment, we should also discuss clothing and gear. Goggles are key for everyone. From the tiny one, who is either riding in the Baby Bjorn or riding along in the sled, to you, the parent, who won’t be able to function without vision. Get goggles for everyone. A kid with unimpaired vision will have a blast, whereas a kid getting nailed in the face and eyes with rain, sleet and snow will likely be miserable. I also outfitted my young children with helmets because big bumbling adults can fall on, step on or injure them if they are not protected.
Aside from that, don’t forget the obvious…gloves (a couple pairs as they get wet), base layers, mid layers, and outer layers. Gear that is needed can be found through your local shop, which we wrote about in October. (http://www.westseattleherald.com/2016/10/14/sports/west-side-snow-report…).
To ski or to snowboard, that is the question…
Mom and Dad are shredding boarders, so my kid will snowboard. Well, that’s one way to look at it. I have found that it’s pretty important to just have fun and get used to sliding. Kids with skis can walk around, and the first few days that’s all that really happens when they are young. There have also been studies that indicate hip problems for growing kids that snowboard daily, so if you’re going to go every day, look into that. That said, I have good friends who have successfully lead their kids into snowboarding before the age of 4 and everyone had a blast and can ride. I generally recommend that parents start kids off skiing and move them to snowboarding when they have a good ability to control themselves getting on and off the lifts and can ride a chairlift alone.
Some families also find that cross country (X/C) or nordic skiing is also a great way to get the family out. You can explore local trails and get your glide in without the crowds of a ski area. Think hiking in the snow. Younger kids can be pulled in sleds and still join for an adventure in the mountains. Gearing up is similar, so definitely visit your local shop to figure out how to get the most out of your time going up to the mountains.
When you do decide to get the kids gear, go ahead and make the gear a part of the toy box, particularly the boots. Kids succeed when they can wear the gear around comfortably in the house and are not introduced to a whole new world when they get to the mountains. It’s also important for the younger kids to play around on the skis on the carpet. Kids tend to lead with their head when walking, and it can lead to crossed skis and confusion. If your child can learn to lead with their tips/toes/feet and shuffle the turn on a carpet they are well on their way to figuring out how to get where they want to go in the snow.
So, the kids are now geared up and you’re ready to take them up to the snow to slide. My favorite tool for getting the smallest kids around in the mountains is the hula hoop. Seems weird, but this is a tool that can help you get the kids sliding without breaking your back.
With the hoop held in front of you and wrapping around little Jonny/Suzie like a handle, you can glide in a wedge down the hill with complete control of the floppiest little flopper. When the kid falls, simply picking them up and suspending them from the hoop can untangle skis that are pointed every which way.
The hoop also can be used to pull a child up the hill when they have the ability to grip it. However, the ones under 2 sometimes cant quite grasp the hoop. Some Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) trainers may disagree, but as a parent this tool has led to many happy days as long as you don’t let them rely on it to stand, as they get strong enough to slide.
Reports are we could be skiing as early as Thanksgiving Weekend, so the season is here. We encourage you to get your family up into the mountains to play in the snow. It gives kids experiences and skills and strengthens their connection to the planet we all share.
We will continue this weekly discussion with suggestions on fitness, boot fitting, and other important subjects to help you get dialed in for the season.
Here are links to local ski areas so you can visit their sites for the most up to date info. If you want to contribute, come by Mountain to Sound Outfitters and let us know how your trip was or feel free to post in the comment section. Who’s been to Whistler?
Make sure you check the WSDOT Pass Reports for driving conditions.
Greg Whittaker is the owner of Mountain to Sound Outfitters your West Seattle ski, snowboard, kayak, and paddle board experts that can also rack out your car so you can carry all that gear that wont fit in your trunk.