twenty-minute read


March 07, 2024 | Kaylin Richardson



They say, "expect the unexpected." Whoever "they" are, I am guessing they have never taken their toddler skiing. When it comes to toddlers and skiing, I say, expect the expected: the entire spectrum of emotions.

I took my daughter, Holly, out for her first day, and naturally, there was whining and maybe even a tantrum or two. These hiccups were preceded or followed by giggles, wiggles, and whoops of joy. Often in a matter of seconds. Patience, in all things parenthood, is paramount. The pendulum of toddler feelings swings at breakneck speed. I take it moment by moment.

But that is what makes it amazing.

This little human I created is developing right before my eyes, grappling with challenges and celebrating victories in real-time. On skis. With me. If you look at it that way, patience becomes easier.



Before we took Holly out for her personal "opening day" at Deer Valley, my husband and I discussed a few things, so we were on the same page. We had already laid the groundwork (see my earlier blog on pre-season prep). Holly was excited, but please review the aforementioned "expect the expected." We knew Holly would struggle, but with gentle guidance and love, we also knew she could flourish. From our short time as parents, we have quickly come to find that having a game plan in advance makes us far better in the heat of the moment.

So we kept it simple (when possible, something I recommend in all things parenting) and focused on just two things.

1. Communication

2. Balancing Autonomy and Support.

Communication is a two-way street. Toddlers like to know what is coming, and Holly is no different. I had prepped her for skiing well. However, too often, we adults fall into the habit of talking at our children, especially regarding instruction (guilty!). I had to keep reminding myself to be receptive to her requests while observing her body language.

Oscillating between giddy and grumpy, I kept assessing whether she needed space or an encouraging nudge. Sometimes, Holly just needed room to figure it out. Other times, she needed a little coaching.

And then there came the times when she needed me to disrupt the cycle. This occurs when frustration hijacks her newly acquired ability to reason. We call these challenging moments opportunities to "switch it around."

At home, after her tea party gets crashed by her little brother or her campaign for 'one more show' gets thwarted, the simple reminder, "Hey, let's switch this around," can be enough. But I think a little assistance can go a long way in such a new and overwhelming endeavor as learning to ski.

It can be a break to build a snowman, a favorite song or video, or a little nibble of chocolate. The latter proved very effective for my Holly. Like her mom, the slight bite of a peanut butter cup is a large enough shot of dopamine to make the world right again almost instantly.

Utilizing these little "hacks" can be incredibly helpful, but I've learned to be highly strategic when deploying them. The aim is for our children to love skiing, not just love the candy they get while skiing. I try to frame it that getting on the snow and making turns as an activity is a treat in and of itself. Because, as we all know, it IS!

When I witnessed Holly get the teeniest inkling of how much fun skiing is, my heart exploded a little. The mountains towering all around us, the feeling of her skis schussing across the snow, slowly but controlled by her, the snowflakes softly falling— it all adds up to this magical thing, and she felt it! Her smile made it one of my best ski days ever.

As much fun as we were having, though, when it comes to toddlers and skiing, we are on their timeline. We can gently cajole and support them through obstacles, but when they are done, they are done. Holly gets this face—I call it her "all done" face—a combination of extreme fatigue and being zoned out.

The ultimate goal is leaving with your kid wanting more. From Holly's expression, I could tell it was her last run before she even knew. When she asked to be carried, I happily obliged. Ending on a really fun note is important. And when she said, "Can we go again tomorrow," it was music to my ears.

Still, there is lots of skiing left this season, and I'm not sure I can confidently confirm she is a skier yet, but she is on her way, and we are both enjoying the process, moment by precious moment.

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