When is my child ready for a ski course?
“Experience has shown that participation in a children’s ski course turns out very well for kids who are four or five years of age”, Mitch Schweighofer explains to me. She is a board officer for Ski School Adventure in Rauris and a state-certified instructor in alpine skiing. In all weather and at every time of year, you will encounter Mitch out and about in the Alps. An intrepid “mountain goat” if ever there was one. With up to 35 ski instructors on staff, the school does everything it can to spark the youngsters’ enthusiasm for the mountains. “It helps if the kids have previously had some experience in a kindergarten or preschool, making it a lot easier for them to spend time away from their parents.” On that same topic: Saying goodbye to mom and dad should be kept as brief as possible (kindergarten parents know what I am talking about). On the flipside, the youngsters really love it when their parents stop by 15 minutes or so before the end of the course. In that way, they can show off all the progress they have made. And for our up-and-coming World Cup stars: Private lessons can even be booked for small children. Parents have the best instincts about how ambitious and ready their child is for that kind of instruction.
What are the beginners’ courses like?
“Groups consist of no more than 8 to 10 children. They begin with group games, allowing us to get to know each other better and build trust. Then, we do some easy exercises to get used to the “heavy” ski boots and learn how to clamp on the skis. That requires a certain amount of balance!” Mitch is convinced that fundamentally every child, whether ultra-sporty or more laid-back, can learn to ski. But the focus must always be simply on having fun in the snow. After first gliding across a flat surface, the youngsters then learn to slide down a gentle slope. And from there, it doesn’t take much until they are learning to do their first snowplow turns! How long does the kids’ day of skiing last? “4 hours. From 10 to 12 and from 1 to 3. Lunchtime childcare can also be booked. In that case, they go out to eat with their ski instructor, in our beginners’ classes for example, to restaurant "Albert" at Carpe Solem Rauris.”
Pizza & Fries in Kinderland: ski schools with practice areas
Ideally, the ski school you book will have a practice area just for kids. The “Kinder Land” at Adventure Rauris ski school lies right next to Carpe Solem Rauris, by the valley lift station of the Rauriser Hochalmbahnen. To help them get to the top of the slope, there is a magic carpet as well as a bunny lift. All kinds of features, including slalom poles, fun figures, flags and mats, all help them learn and are actively incorporated into instruction. “Depending on the snow conditions, we build gentle moguls and even small jumps in order to work on their sense of balance – and improve their confidence.” Mitch doesn’t set much store by some of the older-fashioned teaching aids like training harnesses: “Then the kids become far too reliant on them, and they even develop a completely false posture. Also, they don’t learn to correct evaluate dangers or their own speed.” The only really worthwhile preparation for a ski course is to spend time with the kids playing out in the snow. Be that a snowball fight, a sledding expedition or even just building a snowman.
Private lessons versus group ski courses: pros and cons
Fun, team spirit, group dynamics and new friendships are all benefits of group courses. That said, the ski instructor will pace the course based on the “weakest member” of the group, which might well slightly delay when they can move to more challenging terrain. “In individually tailored private lessons, ‘quicker success’ is guaranteed”, says Mitch. “From personal experience, by the third day of the course, all participants should be able to use the snowplow and brake safely”, the ski instructor from Rauris claims confidently. It then continues with extended turns, while by the fifth day, approximately, they will already be switching to the public pistes.
But what should you do if your child doesn’t thrive in that environment? Your ski course can also be rebooked as private lessons, whereas flexible ski schools like Adventure Rauris might also offer you voucher credits instead. Ask about all these options before the ski course begins! Just in case …