Introducing kids to downhill skiing

Find out what is a good age to let kids try out this sport and learn more about a place in Montreal that is offering ski and snowboard lessons

Skiing or snowboarding are great family activities but many parents may not know 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 Pediatric 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.

Where can they learn to downhill ski? 

Rod Roy offers a seven-week program on Saturdays or Sundays starting Jan. 11, 2020 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 2 to 5, 2020 for 8-to 13-year-olds.

For more information, visit www.rodroy.com

For the first time this year, there is place in Montreal where you can sign your kids up for downhill ski lessons. La Pente à Neige, a winter playground that opened two years ago, will be unveiling several new features this season. Located at Ignace Bourget Park near Angrignon metro, the aim is to encourage families to take part in winter sports.

This year, the park is introducing new slopes for skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Amateur skiers and snowboarders will now have access to an intermediate-level slope approximately 130 metres long (twice the size of the original) that will  have an old-fashioned T-bar lift. Six-week ski lessons (once a week) will begin either January 3,4, or 5, 2020 (first session) or February 14,15,16 (second session) and cost $240. Kids as young as 3 can take lessons. Those who sign up can benefit from discounted lift tickets and equipment rental at Saint Sauveur as well has 50 per cent off season passes.

For more information, visit La Pente à Neige.

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, 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.

What hills are good for beginners?

Apart from La Pente à Neige in Montreal, here are some hills outside of the city that cater to young kids.

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 and group lessons are available. 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. 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 as well as group lessons for kids 4 to 12. Visit skisaintbruno.ca.


Les Sommets

Located in the Laurentians, Les Sommets ski hills offer private lessons and group lessons. Visit www.lessommets.com.


This article was updated November, 2019.