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Steamboat Magazine

How To Raise Kids Who Love To Ski

01/11/2022 02:19PM ● By Kelly Bastone

The Brosterhous family uses a lift ride for a photo op at the Steamboat Ski Area. Photo courtesy of Brosterhous family.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – My 10-year-old daughter recently told me that she wants to be a ski bum when she grows up. I was overjoyed because, earnings potential aside, her announcement told me that she has embraced skiing with the kind of love and commitment that brought her dad and me to Steamboat Springs 20 years ago. Here are the strategies that we and other local parents have used to foster that passion.

When our daughter was about a year old, we let her play with a pair of plastic skis (similar to the Lucky Bums Beginner Skis) that strapped to her snow boots. We didn’t try to teach her anything, only let her flounder around in the yard. Her growing brain had to figure out how to use “feet” that were now two feet long. And she loved the sense of belonging she felt when she strapped on skis like her parents and neighbors did every day.

“When the weather is nasty, just don’t go,” cautions Terry Brown, a longtime SSWSC coach whose daughter, Eliana, will also teach skiing this winter after several seasons as a junior coach. Eager parents may balk at postponing a ski-date with their kid, but heading out into forbiddingly cold or windy weather teaches developing brains to link skiing with physical discomfort, Brown says.

As a coach and parent of two young skiers, Luke Brosterhous isn’t a big fan of using candy or other extrinsic rewards to get kids to love sport. Instead, “We try and really ask them how they interpret and digest the feelings that sport gives them and focus on those qualities, over saying things like, ‘you looked great’ or ‘nice work,’” he explains. “It’s not work, it’s play, and there is a big difference!”

Terry Brown and his daughter, Eliana, now work together as coaches at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Photo courtesy of Brown family. 


Parents love skiing, but kids love romping around just as much. So when Brown taught Eliana to ski, he broke up each run with one or more breaks for rest or play. “She wasn’t focused on skiing as a chore, but as a way to get from fun adventure to adventure,” he explains. He also kept outings super-short: The effort to get kids dressed and ready for skiing may actually take longer than the ski sessions themselves – and that’s OK.

Many parents push their kids onto tough terrain too soon. Social media may be a factor: I’ve seen plenty of proud parents posting videos of their tiny tykes careening through the bumps or trees. Trouble is, those kids are almost always using desperation moves (like sitting “in the backseat” on the tails of their skis) that reinforce bad habits rather than strong ski skills. Brown and Brosterhous agree: Don’t over-terrain your kids. Brosterhous adds, “The gnar will always be there, so there’s no need to force that too early.”

If your kids say they don’t want to go skiing? “We don’t push, but we don’t change our plans either, and we don’t give them the option to renegotiate our values,” Brosterhous says. “They can take a day off here or there, but ultimately we feel that if we commit to providing a safe, terrain-appropriate environment in which they can explore the power of being outside in the mountains and skiing, the sport will hook them for life.”