Skiing for children

 

Ski lessons for children - Morzine

Pietro M. Dalmasso
+33(0)607933550
pietro.dalmasso@monaco.mc

What age should you start skiing?

There is no perfect age for a child to take up skiing.

There are many physical and mental factors at play, and even children of the same age can be at very different stages. These factors are determined by genetics, the child's innate abilities, and the motor skills they have been practicing since birth.

In terms of their musculoskeletal system, kids are at a real advantage. Children have exceptional natural musculoskeletal elasticity, which makes it extremely easy to pick up the first ski positions (the snowplough). Kids take falls in their stride, and are far less likely to get hurt.

According to Armando Calzolari, head of the Cardiorespiratory and Sports Medicine Unit (Department of Paediatric Medicine, Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome), children aged 3 to 4 are ready to start skiing. Skiing techniques may be complex, but they are based on balance and stability rather than physical strength.

As they are closer to the ground, children have a far lower centre of gravity compared with adults.

From a physical point of view, skiing improves children's agility, neuromotor coordination and balance; in terms of their mindset, it can give them new confidence in their own abilities.

How should a ski instructor teach younger pupils?

Studies and statistics show that 2/3 of the students who take ski lessons in Morzine are children. Today, ski instructors are looking beyond technique and pedagogical skills to help their young students make real progress on the slopes.

They have to tap into their own experiences to support children through their first ski lessons in Morzine, helping them to overcome their fears and feelings of inadequacy away from their parents. By understanding each child's starting point, instructors can figure out any difficulties and help them to overcome these obstacles.

For younger students, skiing represents both a new sporting experience and a time for personal growth, liberation and socialisation. Ski instructors are therefore in a similar position as classroom teachers.

Not only do they need to teach the various techniques and preparatory exercises, they also need to create a learning experience that takes each child's stage and rhythm into account.

Motivation is the key to successful skiing, and children are motivated through play.

Games are a low-pressure way to gradually teach young students a wide range of techniques: standing on the snow, walking, putting on their skis and sliding, slowing down, turning, stopping, etc.
The real challenge lies in bringing together the didactic concepts, the instructor's skills and the child's motivation. A good teacher will be able to maintain a high level of commitment and enthusiasm throughout the learning process, with or without their skis.

Their approach should focus less on the child's age and more on the abilities they have demonstrated. During my ski lessons, I always suggest exercises to suit each child's level. Although age is not a deciding factor in terms of my choice of activities, it does affect the language I used to explain each exercise.

Under 5

During the first few years of childhood, children tend to play by themselves.

Their main focus is themselves and their own basic needs. Very young children may not want to be part of a group or be left alone with any adults other than their parents and relatives.

Children who have grown up as part of a close-knit family unit typically shy away from new situations, wanting to stay with their parents.

Kids should therefore not be scolded or reprimanded for not cooperating during a ski lesson. Young students often associate being separated from their parents with abandonment, and ski instructors should always strive to create a sense of security, serenity and enthusiasm. Kneeling and taking off your goggles puts you on the same level as the kids, where they can talk to you and share their likes and hobbies.

Tiny smiles guaranteed!

Ski instructors can also capture the children's imagination with various teaching aids: a red hoop, an orange club, a yellow rope, and a whole bunch of role-playing games. Morzine and Les Gets offer a selection of first-rate recreational areas, including the Penguin Park and the Indian Run. These snowy fun parks feature an assortment of decorations, characters and music.

Skiing for children

 

They offer a safe and colourful setting for kids to let their imaginations run wild and learn through play. At the Indian Run, children can enjoy an educational experience and socialise with their peers as part of a cool skiing tribe!

For this age group, the learning process is typically fairly gradual. Young children are still developing their motor skills, so every little achievement, from learning to move in skis to sliding down a green slope, significantly broadens their experience.

There is no need to rush it: every child will get there in their own time. "Give children time; the mountains will still be there next year." (source: Collegio Regionale Maestri di Sci Valle d’Aosta).

What is a ski lesson like?

Younger children between the ages of 3 and 4 require a great deal of attention because they cannot manage on their own.

I recommend booking an individual ski lesson in Morzine to meet all of their needs. From the age of 5, children can attend group ski lessons and interact with their peers.

Modern ski teaching follows an in-depth and gradual approach, starting long before the skis actually go on! Children begin by learning to walk on the snow in just their boots, then work their way up from one ski to two.

Should parents stay nearby during the lesson?

I recommend staying nearby to take a few photos or videos, but keep out of your child's field of vision and be careful not to distract them. I always ask parents for their phone number so that they can be on hand if there are any issues.

Ages 5 to 7

In this age range, children have better control over the various parts of their body and can understand spatial terms such as inside and outside, above and below, right and left.

For example, they can raise their right hand or point to their left leg on command. However, their ability to find their bearings on a Morzine ski slope is still very underdeveloped. Simple directions are best: "go to the chairlift", "go to the café" or "turn right".

At this age and stage, children do not have a good grasp of time, so the concept of an hour-long lesson is lost on them. Breaking the lesson down into the number of runs to complete will help them understand and ease the tension.

Their socialisation and motor skills are also becoming more advanced. Young students like to be involved in group games and shared activities. This even includes competitions with their peers and older children. Although their attention span is fairly limited, they do have the ability to focus on activities they find fun and interesting.

Children between 5 and 7 have a good sense of imagination. They can build a fantasy world to bring their dreams and desires to life.

The use of imaginary characters (cartoons, fairy tales, stories, etc.) helps kids to break away from reality and achieve their goals. Good instructors can transform a ski lesson in Morzine into an epic adventure in the magical world of the wood Indians. The instructor takes on the role of a guide between the fantasy world and reality, using the children's favourite characters to motivate and teach them. Simplified teaching through play keeps the learning process simple and intuitive.

"The instructor's job involves finding learning shortcuts" (facilitator) (source: Lo Sci per Bambini, an Italian skiing text).

What are the main concerns when teaching children?

As explained above, teaching kids can be a very delicate process. Instructors should always get the conversation flowing at the very start of the lesson by asking a few simple questions in a calm manner. Sitting in front of the children can help form a connection and make the kids pay attention.

Should you choose a male or female instructor?

As long as you find the right ski instructor, it doesn't matter!

The right teacher should speak the same language as your child (English, French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) and understand their needs and emotions.

Ages 7 to 10

This is the golden age in terms of motor skills. By this stage, children can understand how their body moves, grasp the technical concepts behind skiing and enjoy warm-up games.

Ski instructors can therefore ask them specific questions about their technique and movements: "How does your skiing change on this slope versus the previous one?", "How are your knees on the moguls?" This discussion helps students feel like they are in charge of their actions and emotions and understand their own technical and athletic abilities.

At this age, kids typically transition from beginners to intermediate skiers and start really enjoying themselves on the slopes of Morzine. Games play a less important role in the learning process.

The students are interested and motivated to learn new techniques, such as skiing on moguls. During this stage, instructors should suggest new challenges and set goals within the children's reach in order to stimulate their progress.

They are ready to explore the Morzine resort, hitting some new slopes to try turning on fresh snow and skiing over moguls. This will help keep the students interested and hone their motor skills.

Their social skills are also developing rapidly. The kids often form strong bonds during group lessons. On top of the actual ski techniques, the instructor also has the opportunity to offer a wide range of advice and guidance.

Preteens and teenagers

Adolescence is a critical phase in the development of a child, throwing all previous concepts and ideas into question. Young people start thinking seriously about who they are and who they want to be.

Around the age of 10 or 12, children may experience an identity crisis and a lack of motivation regarding their ski lessons.

Psychomotor and socio-affective development can vary greatly between the genders and between individuals. A rapid growth spurt, for example, can lead to temporary coordination issues and increase a child's sense of inadequacy. Young people may also be stressed due to turbulent family relationships, school worries and tension in their peer group.

Instructors should therefore keep a close eye on their students to address any concerns and stop them from giving up on skiing. At this stage, kids need encouragement, a chance to joke around, stimulating new experiences and increased responsibility within the ski class.

As they get older, teenagers' coordination, perception, and understanding of forces and movement all increase dramatically. Young students can learn new techniques and hone their motor skills very quickly, ready for more in-depth and varied lessons. Ski instructors should introduce their pupils to different types of slopes to broaden their experience.

For a whole new skiing adventure, students can even try freeriding. However, instructors should approach off-piste skiing with caution, bearing their students' age and abilities in mind.

Motivated teenagers can also decide to go down the path of becoming a preprofessional skier. It's the ski instructor's job to guide and teach them to truly appreciate the mountain lifestyle.

What is the best ski clothing for your child?

Children love playing in the snow in the mountains of Morzine. Choosing the right clothes is the key to fun and carefree ski lessons.

Many parents ask me how to dress their 5-year-old for skiing.
Children are very different from adults on a physiological level, especially in terms of thermoregulation: the ability to maintain their body temperature regardless of the surrounding temperature.

Due to their shorter cardiovascular system (less than half a metre between their heart and their extremities), children's hearts can beat up to 100 times more per minute compared to adults.

It is therefore only natural that they are always warm!

To take the right precautions, it is a good idea to check the Morzine weather forecast before leaving home for the ski lesson. Once you know the general forecast, you can dress your child in technical garments (as explained above for adults) to guarantee good insulation from the snow and wind and offer good breathability.

I recommend renting equipment for two main reasons. Firstly, there is no point buying products that your child will grow out of in no time (sometimes just a matter of months). Secondly, ski equipment is a major investment, especially for a week-long holiday. Helmets, skis and boots can all be rented in Morzine, where the best shops offer a range of sizes for children.

The rental shops offer a selection of safe, lightweight and comfortable cutting-edge products. Alternatively, if a week of skiing becomes a few weekends in Morzine, I recommend an annual rental. This solution can save a significant amount of money compared to daily rentals.

Helmets are compulsory for ski lessons in Morzine, and must be fitted to find the correct size. A lightweight and thermal under-helmet hat will keep your child's head totally protected. Their boots should be the right size, comfortable and not too tight, with all the appropriate hooks.

I recommend just one pair of thermal socks, as two could compress your child's circulation and cause the opposite effect: the dreaded cold feet. Thermal long johns and a top will keep your child comfortable, warm and dry. A comfortable fleece and a padded ski suit can also be a good choice.

But don't forget about the potential bathroom issues that come with choosing a ski suit instead of a jacket and trousers!

On colder days, you can add an additional protective layer such as a fleece or a windstopper.

I recommend buying a good pair of warm and comfortable mittens, complete with wrist straps so they can't fall off (even in the chairlift!).

Choose goggles for sunny days and a mask for snowy and windy days. Even on the coldest winter days, the sun can still be strong enough to burn. Remember to apply sun cream to your child to avoid unnecessary suffering.

I also recommend a back protector to protect their spine. These lightweight shields are worn under the jacket to absorb shocks in the event of an impact.

Finally, we come to the skis. There is a wide selection of skis for children on the market, designed to suit every stage from baby to junior. Choosing shorter skis, with respect to the child's height, will make it easier for them to learn.

Don't try and buy skis to last two seasons: they will be too long and heavy for the first year, making it difficult to turn, and by the next winter they will be too short and dangerous. My advice is to choose skis that stand between the child's chest and nose.

Possible ski length variations, whether longer or shorter, should be based on the learner's weight, abilities and aptitude for sports in general. I have included a guide to choosing skis below.

Age years

Height cm

 Weight kg

Ski length
--> cm

3

93

13

70-80

4

101

15

80-90

5

108

17

90-100

6

113

20

95-105

7

118

22

100-110

8

126

25

110-120

9

134

28

115-125

10

139

31

120-130

11

144

35

130-140

12

148

40

135-145

13

155

45

140-150

14

163

50

150-160

  

The experts in Morzine's specialist shops are at your disposal to help you choose the skis that best suit your child's needs.

I also recommend some soft and comfortable shoes for après-ski activities. A pair of classic children’s snow boots is ideal for walks in the snow. A sound investment!

Alternatively, you can opt for hiking boots in a larger size.

 

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Villa Joan
11, avenue de l’Hermitage
MC 98000 Monaco
+33 (0) 6 07 93 35 50
+377 92 167 197
pietro.dalmasso@monaco.mc

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Ski Lessons Morzine