In a previous post, I said something along the lines of “don’t hibernate unless you are a bear” meaning get outside and enjoy winter… I want to elaborate further on that and offer some tips/tricks for enjoying winter fun with a family. These tips are specifically families with young-ish children.
Winter activities are very different from summer ones. For the most part, summer sports can be played with very little special equipment; such as a pair of good sneakers. Winter activities almost always require specialized equipment for dealing with the snow/ice or conditions.
For the past several weekends I have been going to the Conway Arena in Nashua to practice ice skating. Altos has a team in the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament this year, and I talked myself onto the 7 man roster. I was the captain of my high school team, and I played intramural in college for a few years. I would spend 6-7 days a week on skates playing organized hockey, referring hockey, playing pond hockey, etc. That was almost 15 years ago…
So, I started going to public skate to practice. After a few sessions I can safely say I am back to about 60% of my previous abilities, it’s like riding a bike. During my practice sessions I also witnessed a few things that inspired this post. First and foremost are parents who have never skated taking their kids to public skate, giving them 2 milk crates that are zip tied together and saying “get to it”.
The biggest, number 1, most important tip I can give you as a parent trying to get your children to love winter sports… lessons. Even if you were the best skater on your team (15 years ago) or a world-class ski racer, don’t do it yourself. Yes, lessons cost money and they require a commitment to going every week but they are worth it, in ways you can’t imagine.
Kids over the age of 5 are used to a group learning environment (if your child is under 5 most likely they will be in a 1-on-1 type lesson). They know how to listen and take turns when an instructor is talking. They learn by watching not only the instructor but their friends as well. Your child will be with highly trained coaches who have been trained to teach age appropriate skills/drills. They will teach them the proper movements, and balance for the sport… and most importantly, they are NOT the parent.
Trust me, I have seen many a parent on the ski slopes trying to scream teach their kid how to ski. It doesn’t work. I have seen little kids slumped over milk crates trying to skate… they will never learn how to balance when their legs are stick straight and they are bent at the waist doing a belly flop onto a milk crate.
You will get such a return on your investment it isn’t funny. First, you can go do whatever you want while the child is in the lesson. Go, ski! Take 2-3 runs without your kids while they are learning it will be the best runs you take all day! Your kids will have fun. Trust me on this one, kids playing with other kids is a great way to learn a sport. They will make instant best friends who will encourage them to come back, even if they don’t pick it up on day one. After all, isn’t that what you are really trying to accomplish?
Many arenas offer learn-to-skate programs. The lessons average out to under $20 a lesson in most cases and include rental skates. All ski slopes have a learn to ski/ride school. January is Learn to Ski/Ride month! Many mountains have programs and packages for first timers that are dirt-cheap (by ski industry standards)! All of the resorts on this list are offering a $29 lift, lesson, and rentals for beginners.
I have highlighted skiing and ice skating, but these principles hold true for X-Country skiing, swimming, baseball, volleyball, soccer etc. Getting someone else to do the heavy lifting with the beginner stuff, so that you can just grab your kids and hit the trails, is the way to go!