Which Winter Sport is Right for Your Child?
So, which winter sport best fits your child? Check out these instructor tips, which take into account your child's age and other athletic interests, so you know what lessons to book next.
Figure Skating1 of 5
According to Dawn Piepenbrink-McCosh, instructor at the famous Ice Den (the rink is sending a whopping six skaters to U.S. Nationals), located in Scottsdale, Arizona, kids can start skating as young as two and a half.
"The first lesson can be a little scary for about the first 15 minutes," Piepenbrink-McCosh says. "The ice is slippery to them as they first get on, but after a good 30 minutes or so they seem to get the hang of it."
Piepenbrink-McCosh says little skaters can also practice off-ice jumps (testing out complicated moves while attached to a harness) to gain confidence. Have kids who are interested in ballet or dance? Figure skating will train the same muscles and get them in great shape for each season.
Hockey2 of 5
Like figure skating, little hockey players can test their skating skills around the rink as young as age two and a half, but don't put the hockey sticks in their hands until after the skating basics are covered.
You can find beginner hockey sessions across the nation, whether you live in sunny SoCal, where Anaheim Ice holds a Hockey Initiation Program for 4-year-olds, or in hockey-crazed, snowy Minnesota, where St. Louis Park welcomes 4-year-olds to their "Hockey Tots" program. Youth leagues start soon after.
A popular off-season sport for pro hockey players is golf, so if junior shows an interest on the green, perhaps suggest giving ice hockey a try. The swinging motion of hitting a golf ball builds muscles in the arms and translates to tapping a puck across the ice.
Downhill Skiing3 of 5
Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado, which offers daily ski lessons for children, gives this helpful tip: enroll your child in gymnastics three to six months before their first ski lesson. The balancing skills taught in gymnastic help what coaches call "teaching for transfer," or using a technique from one sport to benefit a student in a different sport. Ice-skating and rollerblading also transfer for skiers.
Eldora instructors also suggest practicing falling down (you can do this with a game called "Dead Ants," where you shout "dead ants" and everyone falls over) to teach your child that falling is safe and OK.
Generally, children as young as three can start taking their first lessons. Depending on your child's comfort level, you may opt for a private lesson or a children's group lesson.
Snowboarding4 of 5
Since skiing and snowboarding share many of the same basic principles, kids may opt to pick up both. Similar to skiing, tykes as young as three can begin snowboarding lessons.
"Any balance-orientated sports involving movement or balance, such as soccer or dance, are learning transfers to ski sports," says Andy Buckley, Director of Skier Services at Northstar California Resort. Older children who skateboard also have an advantage when it comes to balancing on a snowboard.
"Parents can expect that their kids will learn the fundamentals of snowboarding during their first lesson," Buckley says. "These topics include how to stop safely, how to control their movement and how to gain balance on new equipment."