09.01
2017 Advice and tips

It’s all about using your common sense really; just as long as you ensure they take it easy, practising only for short periods of time whilst having fun, there’s no reason why children can’t try their hand at snowsports from an early age. 

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There’s no fixed age at which you can start snowsports, even if children who live in our ski resorts and the surrounding areas often start at the age of two or three. According to Jean-Baptiste Delay, president of the Association of Mountain Doctors, «It’s important to make sure your child actually wants to give it a go. Don’t force them or you may well them put them off it altogether». «First and foremost, they need to feel comfortable in the snow to enjoy skiing; and what better way to do that than by toboganning! Children need to see the snow as something fun; making snowmen is another way to achieve that», advises Olivier Buloz, director of the French Ski School (ESF) in Les Carroz d’Arâches.

Proper skis, right from the start 

Some parents put their young children in mini-skis with buckle strap bindings, which can be worn with snowboots. Jean-Baptiste Delay isn’t a great fan of these: «Mini-skis don’t have edges, which means they go all over the place and the child is bound to take a tumble. Falling over is tiring, and not much fun at all, so it’s better to use proper skis from the very start. They’re a bit heavier, requiring a little more muscle strength so that it’s not too tiring: It might be worth waiting a few more weeks or months».

Short sessions

«It’s best to start with short bursts, no more than 30 minutes to an hour to begin with, although from the age of 4, you might possibly be able to stretch this to 2 hours. When they’re small, children get tired and cold very quickly, and even if they’re not thirsty, still give them plenty to drink; you dehydrate quicker in the mountains because the air is often a lot drier», explains Jean-Baptiste Delay. Try and take them skiing at the warmest time of the day.

Learning whilst having fun

Children can start ski lessons from the age of 2½ - 3, «as soon as they are out of nappies in fact. There are no other specific requirements. We make sure that skiing is seen as something fun, like a game, and we encourage the little ones to carry out technical movements through exercises we set up for them, like skiing around fun characters (bears, wolves etc)», Olivier Buloz tells us. It is also really important to remember to offer a variety of fun activities. «Sessions in the ski kindergarten often last between  2½ - 3 hours, but we’re not skiing all of that time, far from it. We stop for a snack and if we feel that the child has had enough, we’ll let them have a go at toboganning, or we’ll take them to meet the fun characters in the ski kindergarten... » continues the director of the French Ski School (ESF) in Les Carroz.

Getting used to the altitude

Are there any altitude-related risks? According to the president of the Association of Mountain Doctors, you don’t need to worry whatsoever about holidaying in a high altitude resort, even with a (very) young child. «There might be a few minor issues, for example some children don’t fall asleep as well in the mountains, the Eustachian tube - the little tube that links the middle ear to the back of the nose and the upper throat – can get easily blocked with the slightest cold, making the eardrum painful, especially when you drive up the road to resort, getting to higher altitudes, or when you take a cable car. You need to try to get the child to swallow, offering a drink or a lollypop to suck», advises Jean-Baptiste Delay, who also suggests skiing on the ski area’s lower slopes rather than at the summit. «At the age of 3 or 4, children don’t appreciate the views as much as an adult, and the slopes on the snowfront should be more than enough for them».

©Actumontagne for France Montagnes

Photos ©Zoom

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