Are your kids ready to join you in more challenging places?
Congratulations—shredding with your progeny is the whole reason you’ve been paying for lessons all these years. But before you go up for that first Ridge hike, here are some tips to keep it safe and fun.
In steeper or more complex terrain, you can boil things down to two essential skills:
- Stay over the feet, especially at the end of the turn. The steeper it is, the more important balance becomes.
- Maintain a controlled speed—don’t get taken for a ride on steeper sections. If your kids can demonstrate these skills consistently, they’re in good shape to explore safely.
On the other hand, there are some clear signs of defensive skiing, indicating the terrain is too steep: a backseat stance, with calves pressed against the back of the boot; a stiff, straight-ish downhill leg and weight leaning into the hill; and reluctance to turn, making a long traverse, death-wedge, or heelside sideslip on a snowboard. Though most of us can survive steep terrain using these compensatory tactics, it’s tiring, not particularly fun, and instills “survival skiing” habits that can take years to break.
Here are some games and tactics to build high-end skills:
These are fun to practice for strong, precise moves. Start with medium speed, then dial up the intensity without losing accuracy. Up the skill level with one-footed hockey stops, using just the downhill foot. This drill is addictively hard. It reinforces balance over the downhill ski instead of leaning away from it.
Shredding with your progeny is the whole reason you’ve been paying for lessons all these years.
Do you know where Pine Cone, Humpty Dumpty, and Cookie Queen are? Use these narrow shots as practice for more technical terrain, with the goal of linking consistent turns down the fall line. If your kids aren’t quite pulling it off, find a spot that’s less steep but still somewhat narrow, and try again.
In ungroomed terrain, it’s not easy to know exactly where to start that next turn. This can lead to bad or deferred decisions, with long traverses waiting for the perfect situation to magically appear. A game called “Guide Dog” allows the leader to set a smart, easy-to-follow line. Ski at whatever pace allows the follower to stay close behind, staying in your track. Then switch roles to let your kid lead while offering real-time feedback and cheerleading.
Don’t Be “That Parent”
Barking orders at your kids is never a good look. If you find yourself head-butting or losing patience, consider signing your child up for a lesson. Working with an instructor is a great way to develop new skills, letting you be a cheerleader rather than a drill sergeant.
Reinforce Healthy Etiquette
Unsafe behavior diminishes the experience for all of us. Without exception, everyone needs to ski in control, and watch out for others. Kids can get overly focused in their own world, so be sure to point out places where trails merge or where traffic is high. Set a good example for your kids to learn from.
Most importantly, enjoy these magical years. You have a vanishingly brief window of time before your kids are way better than you, so make the most of it!
Karin Kirk is a Bridger Bowl ski instructor and Ridge guide. She’s also a geologist and a climate-science writer for NASA.