When it comes to turning kids into excellent skiers at a young age, ski and snowboard racing clubs can really help.
Ski and snowboard racing clubs, whether focused on recreational or competitive skiing or snowboarding, offer a lot to children. Clubs gets them outdoors. They take them away from their screens and they provide consistent coaching along with happy camaraderie. Ski or snowboard racing clubs also help kids learn discipline. And, at its very best, these clubs help children develop a love of winter sports that will last a lifetime.
Before choosing a club for your kids, here is a quick “what you need know” to help you get prepared.
Recreational vs competitive clubs
Ski and snowboard clubs, at least in the U.S. where we live, come in two flavors: recreational and competitive.
For most kids, recreational clubs provide their first exposure to on-snow competition, combined with a healthy dose of exploring the mountain.
Kids who have expressed a desire to race, are available for training and racing throughout the winter, and have advanced beginner or intermediate skills are usually good candidates for these programs.
Although recreational programs vary by resort, here’s what I would look for.
- Weekly training with a coach and races throughout the ski season.
- An emphasis on building strong skiing skills.
- Moderate competition with a focus on improving and having fun.
On the flip side you have competitive clubs. These clubs are designed, in general, for kids who yearn to take up competitive ski racing, are passionate about the sport and have parents who are willing to pour time, effort and money into supporting this passion. As with any competitive sport, parents also need to be able to cede control to the coaches. This means parents need to let coaches take the lead and do their job coaching the children.
Once again competitive programs vary by resort, so here’s what I would look for.
- Weekly training with a coach mixed with regular races throughout the ski season.
- A well designed training schedule that includes rests as well as training.
- Coaches who are patient with children and focused on them rather them rather than the results of other clubs.
Your Child’s Desire
The most important factor in determining if your child is ready for any junior ski racing program is desire.
Stephanie Mullins, a Colorado ski mom, remembers when her son was just four years old and skied his first “official” NASTAR race.
“He had so much fun. I could hear him laughing from where I was peeking through the trees,” shares Mullins.
From then on, her son was hooked. “Because he began racing when he was so young, our plan is to let him 100% navigate this ship. We don’t want him to ever feel pressure from us.”
Four years of age is really young to begin ski and snowboard racing, so don’t feel badly if your child is now five or six or ten or fourteen and hasn’t asked to join a club or team. There are many, many other ways to build strong skiing skills.
Instead, take Stephanie’s advice and let your child “100% navigate” his or her own journey through snow sports, whether or not it includes ski racing.
Just for Parents: Always Keep it Fun
While it’s one thing to say “the focus is on having fun,” it’s another to make sure that fun remains the focus. In the heat of competition, it’s easy for parents to imagine their child as the next Mikaela Shiffrin or Beat Fuez. I know, I’ve been there. As a parent who loves skiing, it was tempting to foist my desire onto my young children.
Guard against this. If you find that you’re more caught up in their results than they are, step back and remind yourself that this is not your race, nor your club, nor your life. Participating in a ski or snowboard club can be a wonderful thing for children and parents. Just remember to keep it all in perspective or you may find that your child no longer enjoys skiing or snowboarding they way they used to.
Focus on the positives, highlight them when they happen and if there is a down moment, be there to lift the spirits of your child.
I hope these tips help you find the right club for your child.
Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.thebraveskimom.com