What age can kids learn to ski or snowboard?

Learn about the perfect age for kids to hit the slopes, with insights on when to start your child's skiing journey of fun-filled adventures on the snow.

Girl's Ski School in Beaver Creek, CO.

What Age Can a Child Learn to Ski or Snowboard?

One of the most common things snow-loving parents ask is: “When can kids start skiing or snowboarding?” It’s a great question because getting those little ones on the slopes as early as possible opens up a lifetime of winter fun. There’s no exact perfect age, and every kid develops differently, but there are a few good considerations and tips to keep in mind to set a child up for success. 


How Young Can Kids Ski or Snowboard? 

While some parents who are avid skiers will take their 1 ½ year-olds along swaddled in baby backpacks, most skiing and snowboarding schools require a child to be at least three years old and potty-trained to be in a group lesson. The potty-trained standard is a good metric to shoot for, as an instructor won’t be doing diaper duty. Sometimes, that’s possible before or after three years, but it’s a general average that works well as the best age to start skiing for most kids. 

At age three, most kids are pretty fearless. They are also little sponges that constantly soak up information and new skills. This makes for a good balance when learning how to ski or snowboard, and they’re better primed for learning than an adult. They are adaptable and excited, allowing instructors to quickly teach them important on-snow skills. 


Tips for Teaching Young Kids How to Ski or Snowboard

For the most part, teaching little ones to ski or snowboard is about getting them familiar with the equipment and the feeling of gliding on snow. Once they get the feel of gliding down, they can advance to riding the chairlift. Remember that they need hands-on help to get the hang of things, which is why a lesson with a qualified instructor is always a good idea.

Taking a good look at cognitive ability is a solid approach when teaching kids to ski or snowboard. So instead of telling a four-year-old to turn left – a direction that might confuse them – a seasoned instructor (or an intrepid parent) will use stickers, colors, and props to help give children directions in a fun, low-stress atmosphere.  

Keeping kids comfortable is also essential when they are learning. If a child is feeling cold or hungry, they are likely to get upset or angry, making the experience much more difficult and sometimes impossible. Comfort is also a safety concern here - kids need to have adequate ski clothing to keep them warm and a full belly with snacks/meals on hand. 

A kid’s ski or snowboard lesson takes these factors to heart, and instructors can bring cold or hungry kids inside the lodge, where caretakers or counselors might have hot drinks, snacks, and games to play. 

It’s also important not to force the issue. Don’t make a three or four-year-old think they have to go skiing or snowboarding. Instead, shoot to make them want to go. Make the experience as fun as possible, or parents and kids might both come home with hurt feelings. You ensure the best chance of success by encouraging kids rather than forcing them to get on the slopes. 

Ski and Snowboard School classes are set up to allow kids to learn with peers of similar abilities. This isn’t always directly related to age, which is another important consideration to keep in mind. Kids should always ski with other kids at about the same ability level so they feel included and can work together toward improvement. It also makes things much more effective for the instructor.  


Challenges for Kids Learning How to Ski or Snowboard

A significant initial challenge for three and four-year-olds on the snow is that they almost universally carry their center of gravity in their heads rather than in their core. This can make snowboarding more difficult than skiing for kids to learn, at least at younger ages. 

Snowboard instructors will say that most kids have trouble getting the mechanics of standing sideways down before age 5. That said, instructors and equipment are available to help children three and up to play on the snow in any way they choose. 

And again, an uncomfortable child is always a challenge. Cold and hunger are the two biggest factors in keeping kids comfortable when skiing or snowboarding. Parents need to ensure those mittens are warm, the socks are doubled, and those bellies are full of nutritious food to keep their little rippers ready for action all day long.  


The Best Age to Start Skiing or Snowboarding

Three to five years old is a great age to teach kids how to ski or snowboard. It’s the perfect combination of fearlessness, body awareness, and adaptability that makes the learning process fun and effective. While it’s possible for kids to learn earlier than three in some cases, there aren’t many ski or snowboard schools that will take kids younger than that who aren’t potty-trained. 

Every kid develops differently, so there are no worries if they start later than age 3. It’s never too late, and plenty of excellent skiers and snowboarders learned a bit later in life. Another lens to look at is whenever a child is eager and excited to get on the snow. When they want to get out there, they’ll be much better suited to learning, exploring, and getting out of their comfort zone to improve.

No matter when they get on the slopes, starting early on in life is a surefire way to get the next generation of skiers and snowboarders excited and prepared for a lifetime of fun in the snow.