So as the sliding season is quickly approaching and with it ski shop openings and ski club swaps it's time to decide what your munchkin needs for the season. The info below is based on past shopping for our kids as well as our previous experience as ski instructors....my husband 7+ years and myself 5 years. I broke this down by age/ability. Enjoy!
AGE = Not or Barely Walking: Just add snow and fun. At this age it is all about getting them used to the snow and making sure they love it. Take them for a ride on a sled or in a pack while you snowshoe.
AGE = 2nd year+ Walkers: Continue the activities from the "Not or Barely Walking" but now put on those klunky snowboots and let them tromp and stomp around the house during the summer months. Then once they have gotten used to the heavy boots let them check out some plastic skis...first just by touching them then let them walk around the house with them (WATCH YOUR SHINS). This helps them get used to maneuvering the extra inches added to their feet and even though not snow will will start getting them used to turning all that extra length without crossing them. As soon as any child is placed on the snow...with plastic skis or the real deal they should have a helmet and eye protection
Boots: Should be something with traction. And preferably one with a drawstring/gator top. This will keep snow from coming in through the top with they're treading through the freshies. Good source: http://www.outdoorkids.com/
Plastic Skis: There is pretty much one pair on the market...KID-SKI Happy Ski Good source: http://www.kidski.com/
Helmet: Kids should helmet for protection from their own accidents as well as those caused by others. Added benefit 80 percent of heat-loss is through the head. Good source: http://www.lidsonkids.org/home.asp
Eye Protection: Kids should have sunglasses and goggles with them. Skiing and riding is a lot more fun when you can see
AGE = Ready to slide on the real deal When you are ready either rental-wise or purchase-wise get your kids on the real deal take them to get measured at a ski shop. And when you get them measured and more than likely trying out a pair of boots ensure to do so with a pair of ski socks. Now you are the only one who knows your ski practices and what would be the best deal financially, but here's some options:
Rent: If you are only going to go a few times a year this may be your best option. Most resorts offer packages for lessons and rentals that are worth looking in to. If you are going on a vacation for a few days you probably want to check into a ski shop in your destination town. Good source: http://www.breezeski.com/index.cfm
Swaps: These are huge flea market type atmospheres where people bring their old gear and put it up for sale and the organizers take a piece of the sale to cover expenses or donate to some charity. Watch your local papers they generally happen well before the snow flies in October or November. You can generally find some good deals, but you need to be very careful to check the gear for proper working condition. You need to be positive about fit or ensure bindings allow for some adjustment to ensure they fit the boot. In fact it is best to have the boot with you if already purchased.
Ski Shops: People generally see dollars melting like snowflakes when they think about buying children's skis from a shop. Not necessarily so. Many shops offer future trade-in deals on their new and used equipment. Meaning if you trade it in after 1 years use you recoup 50% of it's value towards your child's next purchase...2 years 25%. So if your child is going to be going going a lot this is definitely one you should look in to.
Do not get your beginning child poles! Kind of think about the old adage...don't run with a pencil. Enough said, but seriously they are not needed. In fact one could argue a lot of adults could use a back to basics course and have their poles taken away. Kids are flexible and can easily get up without them. Kids are already struggling with coordination as it is...poles will only create more issues.
Definitely feel free to leave a comment and tell others a local ski shop or a swap upcoming in your area where someone might find good deals on equipment for a child to go sliding on the cheap.