From about the age of 4, children can give skiing a go for the first time. At that age, it’s hard for children to choose the right equipment for a day in the snow themselves. These guidelines are here to help you find the best equipment for your little ones :
Children's skis :
Snowblades are great for helping your child learn how to balance and slide on the snow. What’s more, they don’t even need to wear ski boots because the bindings fix onto any form of snow boot, just like rollerblades. Snowblades are between 50cm and 80cm long, and are the perfect way for young children to get to grips with having ski tips at the end of their feet, on the snow.
As soon as your little one can move about easily with snowblades, or if they are too old to start off with this type of equipment, you’ll need to kit them out with proper skis.
Go for short skis, about 15cm shorter than your child. If you hold the skis in front of them, they should come up to your child’s nose.
Try the skis on in the shop if you can before you buy them, or if you’re hiring them (often the best option for children, as they grow and regularly go up a shoe size or more every year), try the skis and boots on together to check the bindings. As soon as your child has got to grips with the basics, opt for bindings that he or she will be able to clip in and out of on their own. This will help them become more independent, and able to put their skis back on as soon as they get out of a ski lift cabin!
As far as poles are concerned, you don’t need to worry about these until your child has got to first star level skiing (when they are comfortable with step turns and side-step turns on a gentle slope) – having their hands free actually helps them to find their balance.
Children's ski boots :
It’s not easy finding a suitable pair of ski boots for your 5 year old who tells you "these are fine" just because they like the look of them, or "no, these are no good" because they’re pink and that’s a definite no-no! Start off by having their feet measured, either in a specialist children’s shoe shop which offers a fitting service, or at home with a pencil and paper:
- Place a sheet of paper on the floor, up against a wall. Your child should stand (remove shoes) with his or her back and heels against the wall
- Draw a line where the top of their big toe is (or the longest toe)
- Measure the distance between this mark and the end of the sheet of paper that is touching the wall
- Add 1cm to your measurement
- This should give you the length of your child’s feet in centimetres - this measurement is referred to as "Mondopoint".
- Then refer to the ski boot sizes available for each brand in the shop, or ask one of the sales staff to help you.
"Rear entry" ski boots are fine for your their first few descents. This system makes it easier to put the boot on, which can be tricky for all of us sometimes!
Then, as their feet grow, they will move on to more traditional models with buckles, that we tend to see adults wearing. These boots are stiffer and hold the foot in place better, enabling your budding champion to progress and attempt new runs with total peace of mind !
Gentle reminder: The need to adjust your child’s ski boots is not to be taken lightly: if they are too tight they will squash their foot, making them more likely to feel cold. If they are too loose, they won’t offer the support needed to ski safely, especially when the descents become harder. If your little one is between sizes, you can go up a size and use a special insole to make sure they fit comfortably.
Children react differently to adults to extremes of temperature. It’s important to dress them according to the weather conditions. Wearing an all-in-one or salopettes with braces will ensure the snow doesn’t get inside their trousers if they fall. A neck warmer is also a good idea as it can stop the cold air getting through the top of their jacket if it’s windy, and can be pulled up over their face if necessary.
In terms of gloves, go for a model that offers either a zip or flap opening, making it easier to put them on and fit over the cuff of their ski jacket. Regardless of their age, choose gloves that have a wrist strap so they don’t lose them on the slopes or on a terrace at lunchtime !
Protective gear :
Rule number1: children should wear a helmet. Remember that on the slopes we can injure ourselves just as much from falling as from bumping into other skiers. Thanks to modern technological advances, it’s now easy to find lightweight, fun, child-friendly helmets! Flashy or discreet, Frozen or Star Wars, there is something eye-catching out there to ensure your little one will wear his or her helmet without a fuss!
Ski goggles or sunglasses are also essential and should be suitable for use in the mountains. Opt for a category 3 or 4 lens, choosing unbreakable lenses for sunglasses that offer good lateral coverage.
Back protectors are a useful addition as soon as your son or daughter ventures onto the slopes with you or an instructor. Worn beneath their jacket, they are lightweight and specially designed so as not to impair movement in any way.
Please feel free to pop into any of the many sports shops in Val Thorens to ask our ski equipment experts for their top tips !
Once the whole family’s kitted out from head to toe, get ready for some fun as you explore Val Thorens’ ski area !