The road to teaching your toddler to ski can feel quite daunting – but we’re here to give you the shortcut to teaching your toddler how to ski in 3 days (or less). If you haven’t already, check out our best ski gear for toddlers list (+ other tips) that focuses on how to best prepare your little one before heading out to the slopes. Once you’re ready to go on the mountain, continue reading this article for our 3-day guide on teaching your toddler how to ski.
PSA: Magic Carpet is a MUST!
We once made the mistake of finding a small bunny hill without a magic carpet – and it was a total nightmare. It's not easy for your little one to walk in the ski boots (at first), and your toddler becomes extremely heavy to carry with all their equipment on. Don't tire yourself going up the hill. You'll be exhausted, impatient, and have zero desire to repeat the up-down journey. Magic carpets are truly magical, and kids find it super fun to get automatically transported up. We tried a hill with a magic carpet the following day, and it made a HUGE difference – we got way more runs in, and our little one had fun going down AND up that day.
Effortless go up the hill on the magic carpet
Day 1: Introducing the fun and joy of skiing
The first day should be all about introducing the “idea” of skiing to your little one – it’ll be a day full of new things! Putting on all the equipment (the first time will always be your hardest, especially getting those boots on – make sure they step all the way down!). Riding up the magic carpet. Going down the hill with you.
The toughest part for your little one will be balancing on their skis – it’s an extremely unnatural feeling! While there are multiple positions for going down the hill, I prefer going down with my little one standing in front of me, positioned between my legs, with my poles held horizontally in front of them acting as “handlebars”. I found this position made my son feel safe, and made it easier to keep him standing up on his skis while going down the hill.
Holding the pole horizontally as support while he's in between my legs
The downside of this position is that they may rely on you too much and hang on your poles entirely. It can be tough on your back, and they don’t truly learn the feeling of standing on their skis. However this was our child’s first “aha” moment – going down the hill like this was super fun, and they naturally will want to do it again multiple times (like going down a slide at the playground!). Minimal effort (on their part!), maximum joy!
You might be out for 30 minutes on the actual hill. Maybe an hour. My only recommendation is to listen to your child – when they’re over it, and ready to go home, that means it’s time to pack it up! Just remember: even being out for a short amount of time is better than being at home all morning! Remember, your only goal on this day is to show your little one how fun skiing can be!
[BONUS] Before even starting Day 1, other things I did to prepare my son included: we watched videos of little kids skiing. We read books with kids skiing. We put on the boots a few times (they're super awkward for them!). It's a lot to take in, and exposing them early will reduce a lot of surprises.
Day 2: Learning how to “balance” on skis
After a fun first day, hopefully your little one is excited to go up on the hill a second time. The goal of the second day is getting them to stand on their own while going down the hill. The edgie wedgie and harness (both linked in our best ski gear list for toddlers) will play big roles here! Rather than having your little one ski holding your poles, they will now graduate to wearing a ski harness that you will hold onto while skiing closely behind them.
My two biggest tips for Day 2:
- Useful terminology to use include “tall tree” vs. “wet noodle”. At the beginning, your little one may tend to have legs that behave more like “wet noodles” than “tall trees”. And when they behave like “wet noodles”, they’ll immediately collapse onto the snow, which leads to our next point. Our little one quickly learned they wanted to be like a “tall tree” (yay!) rather than a “wet noodle” (boo!).
- Normalize falling! Whenever my son fell, I’d also fall onto the snow with him to show that it was totally normal to fall, and that it wasn’t “bad”. I would also point out how falling on “snow” doesn’t (usually) hurt as it’s way softer than the playground and they’re wearing comfy snow pants. Ensuring that your child doesn’t have a fear of falling will go a long way!
Practice standing up independently like a "tall tree"
It’ll take some practice but eventually your little one will make the connection that standing tall like a tree will minimize the number of times they fall. The edgie wedgie will keep their ski tips together in a pizza formation, making it easier for them to stay balanced and in control. And if they go too fast, feel free to keep the reins on the harness tight. And lastly, if they fall, the handle on the harness will make it much easier to pick them up and to go again.
Similar to Day 1, listen to your child and pay attention to their moods so that you don’t stretch them too far. As it might be the day they fall the most, you might even want to proactively schedule breaks and snack times.
If they do manage to balance on their skis at some point during the day, I’d make a BIG DEAL out of it. Celebrate it as a huge milestone (it is huge!) as it’s the first time where they’re skiing on their own – it’s that feeling of accomplishment, and desire to improve that will motivate them to keep going on this learning journey!
Day 3: Teaching them how to “stop”
It’s totally okay if they don’t quite get how to balance on their skis just yet, but hopefully each time feels progressively easier (for your little one, AND you!). During the earlier parts of Day 3, you should be aiming for longer stretches of your little one successfully standing like a tall tree.
If you’re feeling like they’re consistently standing tall on their skis, you can now start teaching them how to stop on their own. Learning how to stop is the most important skill for them to learn as it empowers them to ski on their own at whatever speed they’re comfortable with. They’re in full control.
A new term to introduce on Day 3 is “big legs”, and the accompanying action is to spread your legs wide into an exaggerated pizza shape. With the edgie wedgie, widening your legs apart will force the skis into a “wedge” (pizza) and will cause them to slow down to a stop. Before you are on the actual hill, try to practice the action of “big legs” without skis on so that they have the muscle memory to do it on the hill.
You can aim to say “big legs” multiple times during the same run so that they’re comfortable stopping mid-hill. They may have an inclination to lean back and sit down to fully stop, but gently remind them that they don’t need to be on the ground to stop (and in fact, it’s actually easier if they don’t do that, because then they won’t need to get back up again).
"BIG LEGS" -- Daniel at the top of his lungs
At the end of day 3, hopefully they’ve managed to experience stopping on their own. At that point, you can take the harness straps off and they can completely ski down a hill without your help! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on creating a foundation for a lifelong love for skiing!
Why 3 days?
Skiing is supposed to be FUN! While it’s certainly possible to teach your kids to ski in fewer than 3 days, I think having the right expectations for your little one helps reduce the pressure. Often, I see parents keeping their children on the hill longer than they probably should, which leads to complete meltdowns and everyone leaving with a negative – possibly traumatizing (!!) – experience (i.e. nobody is having fun). By breaking it up into digestible goals each day, you’ll feel less pressure to cram everything in one day and hopefully you can leave feeling extremely satisfied with how each day went.
Unlike my skiing days pre-kids, a successful ski day is no longer from 9AM to 4PM. If we’re out for an hour, that’s GREAT. 2 hours – even better! And if it’s less than that, no sweat.
We try our best to limit sweets and other treats on a regular basis, but we loosen things up on ski days – in our case, it’s hot cocoa time! At the end of each ski morning, we’ll always go into the chalet and get a cup of hot chocolate, and it’s consistently such a great moment to just sit and chat. Our little one might be super excited about ski days mostly because of the hot chocolate… but hey, it works!
This 3-day guide is meant for parent skiers of all skill levels, allowing you to teach your little one to ski independently down a bunny hill. At this point, they might have a head start and can enter ski lessons at a higher skill level (and hopefully save you some $$$ as ski lessons can be quite expensive!). The natural progression after this will look something like:
- Learning how to stop without the edgie wedgie
- Learning how to turn (S route down the hill)
- Taking a chairlift
- Going down green runs
- Going down blue runs
If you’re interested in reading about these topics, let us know in the comments! We’re in the thick of the learning journey with our 3-year-old, and we’re happy to continue sharing our tips and tricks with you all as the season progresses.