Steamboat coaches map out guide to skiing success |

Steamboat coaches map out guide to skiing success

Bode Flanigan, 9, tears down the course of last weekend's Steamboat Cup event at Steamboat Ski Area. At 9 years old, athletes should be introduced to Alpine skiing according to a set of guidelines released by Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coaches.
Joel Reichenberger

— Some are funny: Getting ready to go skiing with young children may take longer than actual time on the hill.

Some are deep: Foster independence in your child. Empower children to carry their own equipment, pick themselves up after a fall and participate in terrain selection.

Some seem mindful: 3-year-olds do not have skier's legs, so they can get tired very quickly.

Big picture or small, they are all part of a guideline developed by two of Steamboat Springs' most accomplished skiers and ski instructors. The goal is to guide the parents and help the children to become but strong, confident and eager lifetime skiers. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine skiing competition director Deb Armstrong and Alpine skiing development director Blair Seymour put together a collection of bullet points divided into eight age groups to help this generation of Steamboat parents raise the next generation of Steamboat skiers.

Years learning to ski, competing at the highest level of skiing and now teaching skiing have taught the two that every point is important, and although they were persuaded to whittle the list down to a sample for the newspaper, they insisted the complete list was key.

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Here's a selection of those points:

2 to 3 years old

■ Soft cuff boots are ideal. No rear-entry boots.

Introduce the equipment indoors, allowing children to walk in skis and boots in a living room or yard.

Make sure children have a positive association with skiing. Ride the gondola for hot cocoa and ride down.

Allow the natural physical instinct of the child to develop. Allow the child to bobble, tip, stumble, recover, jostle and explore slowly and on beginner terrain.

Stay on beginner terrain for the season.

■ Harness use is fine but should not be used as a brake or for direction. Encourage children to turn for speed control.

■ Remember, 3-year-olds do not have skier's legs, so they get tired very, very early. One run is OK.

Adults should be good models of skiing technique.

■ Make sure children's basic needs are met. Carry food and drinks and dress them warm.

Encourage independence on the magic carpet.

■ Have children carry some of their own equipment some of the time.

4 years old

■ Do not be overeager and begin skiing steeper runs. Wedge braking should not be cultivated. Children should turn for speed control.

Children should get poles when they can complete parallel turns on green and blue terrain.

■ Explore mixed conditions and weather, shallow new snow, ungroomed snow and whoop-de-dos on the side of cat tracks. Encourage jumping and hopping to cultivate balance.

5 years old

■ Glide. No braking wedges. Keep children on terrain where they feel comfortable to narrow the wedge.

■ Get mileage in uneven, mixed conditions such as crud, easy bumps and off-piste terrain. Ski from the groomed to the ungroomed edge and then back to the groomed.

■ Children don't get bored with terrain, parents do. Repetition is good.

Mileage is key. The more you ski, the more they improve.

6 years old

At this age children are learning precise and correct skiing movements.

Parents should have a purposeful plan in mind when freeskiing with children, such as terrain choice and games to cultivate skill. Also, use consistent diction as a coach.

Lead children in making round turns, making "S" turns and finishing their turns. Ski at their speed.

Introduce skiing on one ski.

7 years old

Encourage independence when a child packs a bag for skiing, school or other activities.

Never underestimate the importance of mileage and freeskiing in all weather and snow conditions beyond organized programming.

Skiing all terrain. Strong young skiers are capable of skiing black diamonds if they have accomplished prior bullet points.

A child's ski ability is directly correlated to the number of hours spent in extra curricular sporting activities and to time on snow. Have children participate in dance, gymnastic, mountain biking, soccer, Pilates, cross-country skiing and everything else.

8 years old

Allow limited exposure to gates on mild terrain and introduce Alpine ski racing.

Children should be all-mountain skiers in all conditions. Continue to expose them to mileage and cultivate a passion for skiing and the outdoors.

Have them participate in the Steamboat Cup, a local race series for youths ages 7 to 14.

9 years old

OK parents, be real. If your child wants to be a ski racer, have him or her follow a ski racer on the slopes to help model the most modern style of technically correct skiing.

Parents, do your homework. If your child is withdrawing form certain physical activities, work with the child on those.

Don't let your adult agenda and adult thought process interfere with the natural growth process of a child. Allow the child to experience learning and discovering things for themselves.

Children at this age are unaware of danger, which may result in increasing interest in activities involving challenges and adventures.

10 years old

The importance of proper ski equipment increases. Set a child up for success.

This is an appropriate age to choose one primary discipline, but you still can encourage supporting winter disciplines.

If unskilled in group games and skills, children may tend to withdraw. They are socially aware of their incapability. Be sure they are involved in many different things.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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