(A happily-sponsored post to benefit the good folks at Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, Alaska)
One of my first jobs in college required physical fitness, endless patience, and a penchant for knowing the lastest pop songs. I was a youth instructor at a small ski area 45 minutes east of Seattle; I had grown up there, I knew the trails and runs as well as my backyard at home, and most of the people, as well. The idea of skiing in full view of the Cascade range every Saturday and Sunday with a pack of little ducklings, er, kids, snaking along behind me made the scenario just about perfect, and it was. Okay, minus the crying. Or the rain. Or the parents waiting at the bottom of each run wanting to be sure their precious darling didn’t get ‘lost’.Skiing Alaska with kids is a lot like skiing anywhere else. Ski and snowsport schools at our most popular areas offer full-day, hourly, or private lessons to a wide variety of ages and abilities, and we’re thankful for the diverse range of men and women who dedicate time to ensuring a safe and fun experience on the hills. What I really appreciate, however, are those schools that approach skiing as an adventure and hands-on opportunity to figure out how the body, mind, and equipment all come together to allow a kid to shoot down a hill or over a bump and slide to a stop at the bottom, grinning. Eaglecrest Ski Area’s Snowsports School has been teaching Juneau kids to ski for years, and some of the instructors are former learners themselves. From snowboarding to alpine to Nordic basics, the team at Eaglecrest will help kids enjoy their experience, especially if this is the first time skiing Alaska’s interesting terrain and conditions. Completely dialed in to the younger skier’s need for constant motion, instructors spend the majority of a lesson on skis or board, and on the snow, playing games, taking trails, and grooving to the personalities of their charges, who range in age from four to 18. But, says Eaglecrest’s school, there are things parents should know prior to showing up, advice that applies to all ski schools. So, if your family is gearing up for a winter of skiing Alaska or someplace else, check out these tips from Eaglecrest. We’ll see you on the slopes!
BEFORE THE LESSON:
Plan to check in one hour early if renting equipment
Eat a healthy snack that includes protein and carbs to keep up energy and calories lost in cold weather and lots of exercise.
Use the bathroom. Maybe twice, just to be sure. So much time is lost for each bathroom break.
Be “suited, booted, and bibbed” 10 minutes prior to the lesson, and check ahead of time to find out where students should meet up.THINGS TO TELL THE INSTRUCTOR OR SKI SCHOOL DIRECTOR
Any allergies or health concerns, particularly if your child will be in an all-day program during lunch or snack time.
Any speech or learning disabilities; are there strategies instructors should employ to help communication? Are there sensory triggers that might make a large group lesson tougher? Let instructors know so they can help your child have a positive experience.
Confirm who will pick up your child at the end of the ski day, especially if this person is not there at the lesson’s start. Generally, kids will not be allowed to take off after lessons without an adult to sign him or her out.
Be realistic about your child’s ability; ski schools are well-versed in gauging skill levels and will not hesitate to adjust as necessary.
DRESS KIDS APPROPRIATELY
Base layers should include non-cotton fabrics for long underwear tops and bottoms. Socks, too!
Fleece is an excellent middle layer, as is wool if your son or daughter will tolerate it.
Outer layers should be waterproof, not simply water-resistant. Snow may be frozen, but all that motion and varying weather patterns may make for wet conditions. Keep kids dry with tough outer layers and don’t let the water in.
Mittens are warmer than gloves, and instructors will help kids zip and buckle, if necessary.
Helmets are an excellent idea! Please consider renting a helmet from a ski school if you do not own one. Today’s ski helmets are warm, lightweight, and safe. Note: Bicycle helmets do not provide the same level of protection.
Face masks or neck gaiters keep chins and cheeks toasty while waiting in a chairlift line or buzzing down the mountain. Goggles also help protect eyes from driving snow or rain. Great for sunny days, too.
As parents, we want the best experiences for our children, particularly activities of high-investment like skiing. Even if your ski trip is of a short duration, that time can be well-spent with proper gear, open communication, and an expectation of fun.
Big thanks to Eaglecrest for the tips; we’re ready!