I was four years old the first time I strapped on skis and there began a love affair that only increases with time. So I always planned to start my own two children at a young age too, get them up to speed so we can ski together one day.
With my oldest boy now five and his brother aged four, this winter seemed like the right time to give it a ago. Not only is four the magic age recommended for kids to start skiing when their muscle development can sustain it (and when they can handle the cold), it’s also the age when they can (almost) dress themselves and walk unassisted!
Skiing can be a palaver at the best of times: so much gear and such a hassle to even get on the slopes let alone make it down in one piece. And that’s without kids! So I was a little nervous how it might go.
I have learnt a few things from several decades of skiing mainly that organisation is key, so I made a list of essentials: ski suits, mittens, goggles, thermal socks and bought it all in one go. I decide to rent the ‘hardwear’ (helmets, skis and boots – no poles required at this age) on the mountain to save time and effort.
I chose Thredbo for their first skiing experience. As a previous Thredbo Snow Reporter, it’s a place close to my heart. Thredbo is also ideal for little ones, the Friday Flat beginners area just made for them, and I love the quaint village atmosphere, everything in walking distance. For hard core grown up skiers like myself, there’s also has a range of challenging runs in close proximity.
We arrived, parked at Friday Flat, and walked straight into Thredbo Sports where my boys were kitted out in boots, helmets and skis within minutes (no queues even though it was peak school holiday period) and were straight on the snow.
We began at Magic Carpet – a free ride beside Friday Flat, with the perfect decline for beginners (of all ages) trying to feel their way. I clicked their little skis on, gave them a nudge and they were off. And over. “If you’re not falling over you’re not trying hard enough”, I said, passing on some wisdom from my own childhood skiing days. It became their mantra over the next few days.
It’s so much easier for kids to find their feet than first-time adults. As well as being lighter and more agile, they have no fear and if they fall (which they will) they usually pick themselves up (or get yanked up with a helping hand) and give it another go.
Still, nothing beats proper instruction, so they can learn correct techniques from the get-go and get their confidence up. I may have been skiing forever but I wasn’t sure how to pass on those skills to my children. I spent most of that first morning picking them up, encouraging them to keep going.
We checked into Thredboland (ski school for 3 to 6 year olds – like snow preschool snow) for the afternoon. They were taken under the wing of a bubbly instructor named Ashely and taught to make a piece of pizza with their skis (in my day we called it ‘snow plough’), skills they’ll have (if they so desire) for a lifetime. They climbed aboard the Freddy Express train with a pile of beaming kids in Thredboland singlets and helmet heads, giggling as they were whisked up to the beginner slopes. And I went skiing.
I hadn’t skied myself in six years so it was exhilarating to dust off the ski suit and helmet and slide into my trusty boots (still going strong), click on a pair of state-of-the-art rental skis from Thredo Sports and head up the chair just like old times. Would I still be able to ski after all this time, I wondered? My first run felt like freedom. It’s like riding a bike, they say. And It came back to me no trouble. The wind in my hair, the fresh mountain air, the breathtaking view. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
By the time I picked my boys up from Thredboland on the third afternoon they were both skiing! The three of us skied down the slope together (slowly, sure, but still, it was still skiing). “Skiing is awesome, Mummy!” they gushed. It made me so happy I cried!
They loved tobogganing too.
Thredbo has a new dedicated Snow Play area for tobogganing, tubing, snow man building, and throwing snowballs. After coming off the slopes, my boys tobogganed until nightfall (where do they get the energy?) their laughter rippling across the valley as they tumbled down the hill.
They also toasted marshmallows at the fire pits outside the Thredbo Alpine Hotel (a cup of marshmallows for $4), built their first snowman (with Smarties for eyes) and, in another highlight, met the delightful Torah Bright, world champion snowboarder and Thredbo Ambassador.
They left exhausted but happy, two new converts to the love of skiing. I got what I came for.
Taking Kids Skiing For The First Time: Thredbo.
How to get there:
Drive from Sydney to Thredbo: Approximately 5.5 hours. It’s wise to stay overnight in Cooma or Canberra or somewhere else along the way, not only to break up the trip but to get an early start and make the most of the first day at the snow.
Bus: There are daily coach services ex Sydney and Canberra.
Fly: Regular flights ex Sydney to Cooma with Rex Airlines. 1 hour drive or bus to Thredbo.
Regular flights ex Sydney and Melbourne to Canberra. It’s a 2.5 hour drive or bus ride from Canberra to Thredbo.
Where to stay:
Thredbo has a range of accommodation options from apartments and lodges to hotels.
Thredbo Ski Accommodation
You can also stay in Jindabyne (30 minutes drive) or Lake Crackenback.
Ski / snowboard / equipment hire:
Thredbo Sports at Friday Flat at the base of the beginners slopes.
Thredboland: 3-6 year olds (half day or full day program including hot lunch and indoor play).
Thredbo Freeriders: 7-14 year olds
More information at ww.thredbo.com.au
Child Friendly Factor: 8/10
Accommodation, ski runs, ski hire in close proximity.
Easy to get around.
Jacinta Tynan stayed at The Denman Hotel Thredbo (at her own expense) and was looked after by Thredbo Alpine Resort.
This story was first published in Ski & Snowboard Holidays With Kids in April 2016