The Art of Teaching Kids to Ski


My daughter didn’t love skiing as much as I hoped she would.

This winter I was a guest contributor for Ski Vermont’s All Mountain Mamas blog. My final post in a three-part series includes a Q&A with Olympian Barbara Cochran about keeping kids interested in skiing. It’s not as easy as you think!

In the end, my 3-year-old daughter preferred making snow angels over pizza pies.

And that’s OK. If there’s one thing I learned from the Ski Tots program, it’s to go with the flow. Teaching my daughter Phoebe to ski at Cochran’s Ski Area turned out to be a valuable lesson in parenting, and a memorable experience for both of us. Over four weeks, I learned to keep my expectations in check and just have fun.

A Local and Legendary Place for Teaching Kids to Ski

Olympic gold medalist Barbara Ann Cochran is the director of Ski Tots, a program established in 1985 that teaches parents how to teach their preschoolers (ages 3-5) to ski. Since the 1960s, local children have been learning to ski at Cochran’s in Richmond — home of the legendary “Skiing Cochrans.”

Siblings Barbara Ann, Bob and Lindy all made the United States ski team and each raced in the Olympics. At the 1972 Winter Games in Japan, Barbara Ann won a gold medal in slalom. We were lucky enough to have Barbara Ann as one of our instructors in the Ski Tots program.

Not only does Barbara Ann know a lot about skiing, she also has a keen sensibility on what really counts when you’re on the slopes with your kids. My daughter Phoebe had her ups and downs in the four-week program, and I eventually realized that’s to be expected.

The process wasn’t a perfectly linear one where she loved skiing more each week. But I began to figure out what worked for her and what didn’t.

The Ups and Downs of Teaching Kids to Ski

Phoebe liked skiing under certain conditions: Barbara Ann needed to be nearby, and Phoebe preferred that I keep a few M&Ms in my pocket for some snacking in between runs. Making snow angles before and after lessons was also key to a successful day.

What did my daughter not like? She wasn’t a fan of the worm device that connected her two skis and helped her make a snowplow (or “little pizza, big pizza,” as instructor Sue Carpenter described it when teaching). The concept of snowplowing was a little tough for Phoebe to grasp as well. She just preferred gliding down at her own pace with myself and an instructor. On most days, we didn’t take more than three runs.

It turns out that Phoebe is not preschool-aged skier who is gung-ho and fearless on the slopes. Even though she has a strong sense of adventure and loves the outdoors, she isn’t entirely sold on the concept of skiing. But she learned a lot at Cochran’s, and so did I.

Continue reading my All Mountain Mamas Q&A post with Barbara Ann Cochran on how best to ski with children who might be a bit reluctant on the slopes.


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