When one thinks of sports in New York City, images of Rucker Park basketball or Yankees World Series wins are the first to come to mind. Though the city has a long history of sports and athletics, it is certainly not a mecca of snow sports. After all, there are no spacious mountains to learn how to ski and snowboard.
However, if you want to get your children involved in winter sports, there are still plenty of opportunities to do so. And with the snow building up outside, now is the perfect time! We spoke with Tony Keller, Director of the Snowsports School and Lifeguard Operations at Camelback Mountain Resort, to find out how parents can get their kids in to winter sports. Keller has been an instructor at Camelback for close to two decades.
What makes skiing and snowboarding different than other sports?
TK: Sports like skiing and snowboarding are something that you can enjoy with lots of people or alone. You can always push yourself to learn new things and get better. There are always changing conditions, so not every day or every run is the same. There is always new terrain to discover–the better you get, the more you travel, since there are so many mountains of different sizes to explore.
How can interested parents get their kids in to skiing and snowboarding? What age is the best to start?
TK: Research some of your local mountains to get started and see what they have to offer. The younger they start, the better, but it will take time for young ones to get proficient enough to ski or ride on their own. Camelback starts private lessons at age two, but these are really more of an introduction to sliding and the winter environment. The more times they get out, the better they will get.
What should parents look for in camps or classes for young skiers and snowboarders?
TK: Multi-week programs are a great way to get kids involved and to give them something to look forward to each week. The average is three to five lessons, depending on the age of skier or snowboarder, to be comfortable and confident on beginner or “bunny” slopes. You might need to spend a little more time for actual novice terrain on the mountain.
What would you say to a parent who is worried about the safety of their young children on the slopes?
TK: Start with lessons and continue with them as there is always something new to learn and techniques to improve. You can also research on the internet safety topics like lift safety, kids on lifts, and lids on kids for helmet use.
A lot of parents worry about the costly equipment of winter sports. How much of it is necessary? What equipment is a must-buy and what can usually be rented at the slopes?
TK: I would recommend starting with good base layers and outerwear, as well as good pairs of socks and gloves specifically designed for skiing and snowboarding. Everything else can usually be rented at the mountain, with the exception of goggles. As your child progresses and gets serious, find a good pair of ski or snowboard boots. These are very important and can get costly, but your child will be in them often and for long periods of time. Then focus on other equipment when you can afford it.
If your child doesn’t choose, how can parents decide between skiing and snowboarding?
TK: Skiing is easier to learn at first and you will see faster results than first time snowboarders. However, to get really good at skiing and become able to make dynamic turns will take a long time. Snowboarding is harder to learn at first, but once you understand the basic concepts you will progress very quickly. With additional coaching, you will be able to make more dynamic turns on a snowboard and improve your skill much quicker than skiing.
What are other things parents should know before they sign their child up for skiing/snowboarding lessons?
TK: Bring them out for the fun and the experience. Don’t expect them to be pros and don’t push them too hard, too fast, or too long. If they enjoy it, they will progress and they will want to come back, like other sports.
Getting your child interested in skiing or snowboarding can start with just a fun day on the powder. The whole family can fall in love with winter sports even though you don’t live in Vermont or Colorado. Visit skicamelback.com to learn more about Camelback Mountain Resort and you might be able to learn from Tony Keller himself!