Introducing kids to downhill skiing

Discover the best age to start, whether you should rent or buy equipment and which hills are good for little ones



Skiing or snowboarding are great family activities but many parents may not know what is available not too far from Montreal and what is the best age for their kids to learn these sports. So here is a little primer on what, when and how!

What age should my kids start?

This, truly, is a matter of opinion.

Doug Roy, director of Rod Roy Snow School in Pierrefonds, says that while children can start skiing as early as 3, he recommends they be at least 4 - and even then it may be too young. “Some kids that age still have spaghetti legs that just collapse on the skis,” he said.

Roy, whose school starts teaching children at age 6, cautions parents that starting too young or too intensely could turn them off. “It has to be in short doses and parents have to make it a very positive experience,” he said. “It really does depend on the individual child.”

The Canadian Paediatric Society doesn’t offer any age guidelines on when children can start to ski but does caution that among young skiers, almost half of the injuries reported occur among beginners, and this can often happen on the first day of skiing. 

Parents can choose to take the kids out themselves – in the beginning, it’s really just about balancing on the skis and having fun in the snow. But if you’re not keen on getting bundled up, or have never skied yourself, most ski hills offer lessons, or you can sign your children up at a school like Rod Roy

Rod Roy

Rod Roy offers a seven-week program on Saturdays or Sundays starting Jan. 13, 2018 for children ages 6 and up, and they can go to various ski hills. Bus transportation is optional. Children have lessons and supervised skiing. Older children have the option of morning lessons and then free skiing. There will also be a March break program from March 5-8, 2018 for 8 to 13 year-olds.

For more information call 514-626-6240 or visit www.rodroy.com

Should I buy or rent ski equipment?

Roy says that depends on the size of the family. “If you have a few kids, maybe (it’s) better to buy so you can pass down the equipment from one child to the next.”

But there are places that rent out equipment, which may be easier if you have only one child or you have one boy and one girl (your son may not want or appreciate pink hand-me-down skis!)

To get started, kids need skis or a snowboard, boots, bindings, goggles, warm mitts or gloves, snow pants and a warm jacket. Helmets, while not mandatory, are highly recommended. “There are specific helmets just for skiing,” Roy says. “It is different than a bike helmet, providing important insulation from the cold.” Bindings should also be checked and properly adjusted. Beginners do not need ski poles.

For snowboarding, the highest reported injuries are wrist fractures and sprains, and so the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends wrist guards.

Renting equipment for the season at ski hills will cost about $110 to $160 or there are several stores around the city that will fit the kids and rent out equipment.

While some stores rent helmets, Paul Brodeur of the Austrian Ski Shop in N.D.G., does not. He says that you never know what has happened to a rented helmet, and once it’s been hit three times, it isn’t safe anymore and should be replaced. A new helmet can cost from $60 to $200.

For parents who would rather buy their gear, Brodeur says a good pair of skis with bindings start at about $200, boots start at $80, goggles cost about $25.

What hills are good for beginners?

Mont Rigaud

This small hill is popular with young families because it is so close to Montreal, especially the West Island. The ski school starts teaching children at 3 years old. Private lessons are available, group lessons range from $270 to $320, depending on age and level. Children also have access to the hill’s “magic carpet”, which takes them just a short distance up the hill. There will also be a March break camp. Call 450-451-0000 or 514-990-1286 or visit ski.montrigaud.com.


Mont Saint Bruno

This South Shore mountain is another favourite of parents of young children because of its location; it is only about a 35-minute drive from Montreal. Private lessons are available, and group lessons for kids 4 to 5 cost $322; for kids 6 to 12, it is $295. It will cost less if you buy a pass that can be used outside class time. Call 450-653-3441 or visit skisaintbruno.ca.


Mont Avila

Located in the Laurentians, Mont Avila offers private lessons and group lessons cost $279 to $477, depending on day and time and age group. Call 450-227-4671 or visit www.montavila.com.


Ski Morin Heights

Morin Heights, also in the Laurentians, offers free daycare service Wednesday to Sunday for children 18 months to 5 years for season pass holders and day visitors with purchase of a full day tickets (reservations required). Private and group lessons are available for kids from the age of 3. Courses run for 10 weeks and prices start at $279 and vary by age and time of day. Call 450-227-2020 or visit skimorinheights.com.


If your family are more the cross country ski type, click here to read our article on introducing your kids to the sport. 

This article was updated October, 2017.

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