The Brave Ski Mom - Tips for dealing with scared skiers
Sometimes it can be scary being a kid.

This is especially true when trying something new. While some kids embrace novelty and change head-on, others approach life with a bit more trepidation.

This doesn’t make one child better than one another. It just makes them splendidly different.

It can also make it tricky for parents to know when to push their child forward and when to hold their child back.

Our Mistake. His Terms.

When our younger son was 10 he loved biking, especially with his older brother.

One spring afternoon, the boys cooked up a plan and invited my husband to go mountain biking with them on a steep, undulating ribbon of sandstone, an advanced trail that drops 1500 vertical feet over 3 miles. While we knew our younger son might not be ready for it, he was so enthusiastic that we let him go.

Four hours later, I got a call to pick them up. My son was battered and bruised, as was his bike. He was also terrified by a rather dramatic fall. Luckily he wasn’t seriously physically injured.

But he was injured — his confidence was severely shaken and he refused to get on a bike for the next 2 1/2 years.

While his bike sat in the garage and collected dust, we fretted, fumed and plotted to get him back out there. Nothing we tried worked.

Then one day, he announced that he was ready to ride. He picked the trail and the company. He set the pace. He got back on his bike on his terms, not ours.

He’s now an avid mountain bike rider. And this has nothing to do with his parents or his brother. It’s all him.

I’m sharing this story, because although our story doesn’t involve skiing, it is similar to stories I hear from other families whose children are afraid to ski.

Like our son, some of these kids took tumbles and falls and were understandably reluctant to try again.

And in almost every case, the parents had to step back, provide opportunities for their child to try skiing again, and let the healing process take place on the child’s terms.

Parental Responsibility

As you might gather from our story, my husband and I could have protected our son a bit better. We knew he wasn’t ready for that trail, yet we let him go.

I’ve seen the same thing happen with skiing. A child is enthusiastic to try a harder run, or a bigger feature in the terrain park, or to chase friends through a powder field or glade, even though this experience may be above their ability.

It’s a hard call for parents. Do you say “no” and plant a seed of doubt? Or do you let the child go for it, consequences be damned?

Truly, it depends upon the child and their temperament. Some kids thrive on challenge and pressure. Others learn more cautiously, studying a situation, mulling it over and then, only when ready, making an attempt.

As a parent, this is ultimately your call. If you don’t think the experience will end well, set your child up for success by suggesting a different run, and then ski it with them. Explain progression: “if you can do this, next we’ll try that!” Be encouraging and keep the emphasis on fun.

Likewise, be prepared to dial back your stoke. Don’t push your child to try terrain that is too hard for him. Don’t push your child to ski when she’s tired or hungry.

Your goal is to consistently help your child grow in confidence, not suffer a huge setback due to fear.

What to Try When Fear Sets In

1. Identify the Fear: If you can, identify what is bothering your child. Did he find himself on terrain he wasn’t quite ready for? Or maybe she started out in a ski school class that was too hard and she couldn’t keep up?

Or are you, the parent, transmitting fear to your child? While you don’t want to be recklessly encouraging, children can sense when you’re afraid. If you are fearful about your child skiing, chances are he or she will be fearful, too.

The best approach is to balance being upbeat and enthusiastic with being realistic and protective.

2. Group Lessons: Kids enjoy being with other kids and sometimes forget about fear if they are having fun with their peers, according to Kate Bruchak, an instructor with the Ski and Ride School at Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Colorado.

Group lessons offer enjoyable interaction and socialization. Watching other kids try something in a safe, controlled environment can inspire a reluctant skier to join in.

If you think it’s important, speak privately with the instructor (away from your child) and let her know that your child is afraid.

Children’s instructors are trained professionals that know exactly how to deal with these issues and how to motivate kids.

3. Always Keep it Fun: Kevin Jordan is the Childrens’ Coordinator at Snowmass, Colorado and the father of a young boy.

Both as a professional ski instructor and a parent, Kevin stresses that having fun is the most important goal.

He started his son on skis this winter, and explains that they are taking everything very slowly.

“I just want him to enjoy sliding and to build positive feelings about moving on snow,” Jordan explains. “Learning to turn and stop can come later.”


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.

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