Method 1: The human missile approach
This is quite simply the most popular method. The human missile approach entails strapping your child into ski equipment for the first time, with little or no explanation about this foreign footwear. Next, the family finds a suitable slope (possibly at their local ski area) and carefully stations adults at the top and bottom of the slope.
Now for the learning. Simply send your child sliding on their way!
It is important to use encouraging notes such as: "Slow Down!” "Pizza, Pizza!” "Sit Down!" "Fall Over" and of course the old favourite, "Lay on your Back!”
When utilizing this popular method, the important thing to note is that your sounds are being quickly muted as the mini missile travels further away from the origin of noise. Likely, the child is focused on one of two things: first, “Why does my mother seem to be approaching me at supersonic speeds when her feet aren't even moving?” Or better still, “Are my skis purple and why are they pointed and turn up at the front?”
With only two (likely) trains of thought it can come as a minor or some cases major shock when the child’s upper body, cleanly intercepted by the stationary parent, comes to a dead stop and their skis, boots and attached legs keep traveling directly between the planted feet of the wide receiver. The concept of momentum, until now, is foreign, but it quickly becomes apparent once the parental or adult body is now forced firmly forward and (usually) directly on top of the unsuspecting child.
When things go awry in your snow adventure use the opportunity to establish a hardy psyche! A refreshing face-wash of powder snow is a great way to distract from the possibility of injury. Suggested first words of sympathy include "Good job Buddy!" "That was Awesome!" and of course, "High Five!"
It is critical to note that most people that injure themselves in later life in any skiing mishap simply hurt more because there is no one around to high five them and take the pain away.
Method 2 - The MacGyver approach
With its origins in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the MacGyver method of ski instruction involves quick thinking, resourcefulness and an ability to adapt.
Before all that, however, the first step is to review one’s stockpile of college climbing equipment and whatever implements one might use to tow a stranded vehicle from a 45 degree pitch. What you’re trying to do here is create a hauling device that defies not only common sense, but physics.
To other people in the lift line, it’s a tripping, choking and clotheslining hazard. To you and your child, it’s a learning leash.
Your creation will certainly need a couple of heavy duty knots, and here the choice is yours: try a bowline, prussic or highwayman's. Of course the most popular is the never-come-undone-in-a-month-of-Sunday's-knot.
Now for the learning. Attach the victim—er, student—by whichever hitch or wrap seems most suitable and start by walking down a gradual slope, restraining the child with encouraging sentences like "you gotta turn left when I say," and "daddy isn't gonna be here forever." Ignore those who claim you’re giving your child future abandonment issues. They can’t understand that you are gently introducing a sense of mortality to a three-year-old. Oh yeah, and you’re teaching them to ski.
Once the athlete development program has been firmly established by the parental coach, common sense dictates you take the developing athlete higher on the mountain. It is important to use terrain which the adult feels best for expediting the learning. In other words, choose something steep. Begin by encouraging movement forward and, as the concept of gravity is slowly and gradually becoming somewhat understood, immediately contradict it! Do this by pulling the child sharply backwards. Confusing—yet encouraging—wording such as "Hands on your knees, turn left and then right," will be incorrectly absorbed, but as we learned in the Missile Method, what doesn’t sink in right away will eventually be sorted out, or at least drowned out, by emphatic hi-fiving.
We know from peer-reviewed studies that any dyslexic directions being barked out by the instructor will only remind the young learner of many car rides with a fatigued parental unit.
The student’s train of thought will resemble something of the following: "Mom and dad often talk about left and right when they’re driving, and just like now, there seems to be no consistency as to which direction is which. Mom says left, then dad goes right or dad says right then mom goes left anyway.” The rational mind of a child will sort these wire-crossing signals by simply going straight. And when that leash-tightening, chest-crunching halt comes—and it will, for that month-of-Sunday’s-knot rarely fails—the message will be abundantly clear: mom and dad have no idea which way they want me to turn—toward the trees or towards the lift—and therefore, neither do I.
Obviously, more unintelligible explanation at even greater volume is now required; the mangling of your child with your tangle of harnesses and hitches should be supported by equally chaotic comments (you’ll know which ones to use when your legs are wrapped in a hogtie). Now might be the time to reflect on what hasn’t been learned, eg, "I said turn, not throw yourself on the ground!” Don’t forget to remind your dependent that “mommy and/or daddy could have been hurt."
The MacGyver method isn’t for everyone. There are those for whom the elaborate strangling/tangling/mangling riggings systems can seem too complicated. Just going in for lunch can be like a masochistic game of cat’s cradle, which is why the early endeavour is often followed by a hot chocolate to calm the nerves before relenting to the 3 p.m. ski school lesson.
MacGyver types are resolute, however, and considering that they’ve already established the basics, why should it be unreasonable to expect the child to be ready for the chairlift in less than 60 minutes? As always, be prepared for any possibility by being ready to deploy that ultimate MacGyverism: the rapid fire high five.
Method 3: the "Should have done this first" approach
Warning, this method is not for the faint of heart!
What you are about to read may sound shocking and has not yet been classified by the parental guidance committee in conjunction with recognized global safe skiing practices. The author cannot be held accountable for what you are about to read. However, it must be written. Here goes:
Step 1: Take your child to the beginner area wearing ski boots and of course eye protection. Kids often cry because the sun reflecting off of the snow is too bright for them—it hurts!
Step 2: Have a wander ‘round in the snow. Watch other kids if any are around, check out all the happenings on the beginner lift and show your child that it’s fun to learn something new.
Step 3: While walking around, try hopping, jumping, stepping, skipping or any other way of moving to get used to having ski boots on.
Step 4: Put the child’s feet into a triangle shape, followed by “number eleven” shapes, knowing that if they are capable of this in their boots success in actual skis is looming on the horizon.
Step 5: Once all is understood, walk around on a flat section, feeling out general mobility. If you have time, go back to the triangle shape exercise, giving the learner the basics of feet position for a snowplow or wedge. Once the mechanics are firmly established, then it’s time to play on the snow with skis on—establishing a foundation will give you both much more confidence.