We asked Finlay for his top tips for introducing children to skiing.
• A well-fitting helmet is essential. Children can be easily hurt and so it’s vital that a ski helmet fits well so that it offers maximum protection.
• If you plan to take you child on the slopes skiing between your legs it’s important that you have the confidence and ability to keep them safe. It’s not easy skiing and being aware of your surroundings with a child between your legs. If you can do this it’s a great introduction and my own son Jenson loved it but you really need to know what you are doing.
[caption id="attachment_1230" align="alignright" width="256" caption="Champion skier Finlay Mickel"][/caption]
• Skiing has to be fun and progressive. Try not to be a pushy parent but still guide your child to the next level. Kids can become easily bored and they want to do more adventurous skiing so it’s your job to help them. Lessons are important and so is the chance to try out their new skills.
• Once your child has the confidence and skills to ski independently buy a tether. This is a handy item of kit that gives children the ability to ski and turn on their own but while tethered to an adult so that if they lose control they will not end up skiing into danger.
• "Stand up". That's what I tell Jenson and it applies to so many beginner skiers. So many children – and adults – end up skiing while leaning back in their boots and crouched down. This might feel safer and more controlled to the young skier but in fact it’s much more tiring and offers far less skiing control. Standing up and leaning forward leads to a much better skiing ability and experience.
• Instead of skiing in front of your child and asking them to follow in your tracks, I recommend skiing behind them. I tried taking the lead with Jenson but he wasn’t that interested and it also left him vulnerable to skiers coming from behind. I now ski behind him acting as a sort of ski patrol to protect him.
[caption id="attachment_1231" align="alignleft" width="187" caption="One of Finlay's first skiing outings as a youngster at Hillend Dry Ski Slope, Edinburgh"][/caption]
• My final tip is about temperature. If you’re cold on the slopes then you can be sure that your child is even colder. It's very dangerous for a child to become too cold. To check their body temperature you need to touch their skin. I stop at frequent intervals to touch the bare skin on Jenson’s hands and feet. This might seem like a hassle to go indoors and take off his boots and socks but it is the only way to be sure of checking his core body temperature. To ensure that children stay warm buy good clothing and keep checking that they are warm enough.
An upbeat Finlay concludes: "It's great to see how my son has taken to skiing. He loves it and I am hoping that Mila will be the same. I can’t wait until we’re all on our own skis, skiing together – and I’m trying to keep up with my children!”
Finlay Mickel is one of Scotland’s highest achieving skiers and finished 10th in the World Cup downhill event in 2006. He coaches the Scottish youth skiing team and lives in Scotland with his young family. Finlay first took his young son Jenson, now aged four, on to the slopes just before his second birthday. His daughter Mila, aged one, has already skied with her dad, while sitting in child carrier on his back.
[caption id="attachment_1232" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Finlay Mickel's top tips for skiing kids "][/caption]
Last winter at the Cairngorms Ski Resort, one of five resorts in Scotland, Finlay enjoyed his first every family ski outing with his wife and two children. He says: “In terms of skiing experiences, being out on the slopes with my family is up there as being one of the best times I have ever had, and that includes taking part in world championships."