GETTING STARTED...WITH KIDS by Natalie Hammel
Ski Schools are training facilities that offer juniors and other
water skiers a great opportunity to heighten their skiing capability.
They are also an excellent, active vacation for a water skiing families,
as many are a camp-like operation. Schools are spread throughout
the country, but the majority are found in the southern states due
to warm weather and a longer season.
Generally ski schools run on
weekdays, 5-days a week, and skiing is dismissed on the weekends.
All schedules differ within the ski schools however.
Generally ski schools run on weekdays, 5-days a week, and skiing
is dismissed on the weekends. All schedules differ within the ski
schools however. There are additional plans that you can choose
from at ski schools. Weekend lessons and private lessons by
certain coaches are available at most ski schools. These can
be infrequent and availability should be asked of the owner of the
ski school. If you choose not to stay a week, plans also go
by the day, hour, or set.
Each ski school has
their different definition of a set but usually they last around
15 minutes. This is about 6-8 slalom passes or 5 jumps.
Normally, on a week or day program, a skier will receive 4
to 5 sets a day. In all sets you are coached and driven by
staff members that will help improve your childs or your technique.
The hours on ski schools can
vary, but I've found most to start skiing around 7:00 to 8:00 am
and finish around 5:00 to 6:00 pm. Skiers will ski about 2-3
sets in the morning. At noon or 1:00 pm lunch is served.
After about an hour lunch break, skiing is resumed and skiers finish
the remainder of their sets left.
When picking a ski school,
take into consideration your child's needs and priorities along
with some things you would consider to be assets. I would
recommend that the first time your child goes to a ski school that
it be a family trip or at least one parent goes along. This
is because kids might tend to be intimidated by ski schools.
Also, there might not be any children your childs age so they could
get lonely and homesick.
Magazines like Water
Ski can help you pick a ski school. They print
lists of ski schools in their magazine yearly. The directory
was just published in the November/December issue of Water Ski.
The list included the levels taught, address, rates, telephone and
fax numbers, e-mail and web site addresses, events taught, top instructors,
their season, accommodations, and boats used. You can also
check on the internet at USA Water Ski web page (www.usawaterski.org)
to find out recommended ski schools.
Another excellent way
to find your perfect ski school is word of mouth. Ask people
at tournaments which ski schools theyve been to or would recommend
for younger children. Find out what they liked and didnt enjoy
about the school. Compare and contrast until you find a ski
school suited for you and your children.
Before sending your
child down to a ski school by themselves or with your family,
call the ski school and ask them some questions to familiarize yourself
with how they operate. I have listed below some questions
you might want to ask the owners.
If your child is flying
down by themselves, check to see what arrangements need to be made
between you and the ski school so that they are successfully picked
up and their baggage is located. Also, you might check with
the ski school if they are sending someone to the gate to pick up
your child. If not, ask if they can and also do it when your
junior has to depart.
All ski schools run
differently, with different accommodations, meals, instructors,
entertainment, and their schedule. Before sending your child
to one or taking a family trip yourself, question them on these
subjects. It is important that you know whether your child
will be supervised and instructed on the schedule of the ski school
or whether it is expected of them to be more independent.
Some ski schools provide
activities for children to do at night but it should not be assumed
that all do. Check with the ski school to see if they include
nightly activities for children or children and parents. If
not, depending on the location, there might be some fun shops or
attractions that your family can explore.
The next step after
choosing your ski school is deciding when to go and how to get your
child ready - being able to prepare them physically and teaching
them about ski schools. Below I have listed some topics you
as the parents need to work on figuring out with your child.
Ski schools are run
like tournaments in the sense that when the boat comes back to the
dock, the next skier should be ready to go. Make sure your
child is comfortable with the set up of the course and is able to
communicate with the driver. They should know the proper hand
signals and be able to verbally communicate their desires.
For example, if they want their trick speed slower or to raise their
slalom speed they must know how to communicate this.
You need to decide what
timing is best to send your child. Do you want them to go
in the spring to get a head start on their skiing, or in the summer
before an important tournament? Ski schools can be busier
at certain times than others, especially the spring, and the rates
might differ according to these times.
Skiing five days a week
can be exhausting and tiring. Conditioning your child before
they go to a ski school can help with this. If you decide
that your child is going in the spring, try to time it at a point
where your child has skied a few sets before they go. In addition
to this, you might want them to do some aerobic and strength exercises,
or a sport before they leave to build up cardiovascular endurance
How long should you
spend at a ski school? Several things factor into this question:
the amount of money you're willing to pay, your child's conditioning,
if you're going along with them, and their level of skiing.
Ski schools can be expensive, running along $500-600 average per
week. For beginning and intermediate skiers, I would recommend
a weeks stay, and if you can fit it into your schedule perhaps two
weeks. Different children from all ages to go ski schools.
What age you decide to send your child though is an individual decision.
I've seen children as young as five at ski schools. My first
ski school experience was when I was entering my second year in
girls one and was eight years old. It was a family trip with
my dad and older sister, then 12 years old. At that time I was learning
how to run the course at 28 m.p.h. and execute beginning wake tricks
on one trick ski.
I feel that instead
of judging when you should send your child based on age, send them
based on maturity and ability. For your child to get the most
benefit and value for your money, I would recommend that they be
able to at least be able to run the slalom course and do a couple
of surface turns on a pair of trick skis. However, ski schools
can help any level of skier. Maturity is the key factor though. Your child needs to be
able to follow directions, listen, apply what the instructors tell
them, and be able to interact with other ski school members with
There are also some
things parents need to keep in mind while at the ski school.
For example, it is fine for parents to ride in the boat to help
their child adjust but just make sure you let the coaches do the
coaching. While in the boat, its a good idea to talk with
the coaches and have them explain to you why they told your child
a certain technique. After understanding, jot down the pointer
in a note book. Then, when back home, you can recognize what
your child needs to improve on and teach them what the coach recommended.
After a full week of
skiing, you and your children will probably be exhausted and a little
tired of skiing talk. Take the time on the drive home or flight
to just enjoy each others presence. Wait until the next ski
session to talk about their skiing from your notes. With this
little break, theyll be more willing to cooperate-and as always,
things will be more fun!
For those who dont feel
ready yet to send their child to a ski school or spend the amount
of money needed, clinics are a great alternative. You can
check to see what clinics are in your area according to your region's
web site and listings posted at local tournaments. Also, you
may inquire about clinics by asking your Junior Development Committee
Clinics usually last
from 1 to 5 days. According to the experience and rating of
the coach or coaches used at the clinic, cost will differ.
Clinics are run just like ski schools and tournaments in the sense
that you must be ready when the boat comes back to the dock.
They also might supply meals but this would have to be verified
with the person organizing the clinic.
Clinics can be more
child friendly and less intimidating than ski schools. Clinics
that are just for juniors are great since the coaches will know
how to coach juniors well, there will be a lot of children your
childs own age, and the experience level of the group will be roughly
The atmosphere at clinics
can be slightly more laid back than that of a ski school but they
still follow most basic guidelines that ski schools do. The
same questions that you should ask upon the ski school owners or
figure out with your child, should be done with clinics.
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