Why skiing is good for Kids

By Anna Keeling

Riding a lift recently, I saw the loopiest telemark skier making his ungainly way down mountain.  Pulling up, he yelled “write about why skiing is good for kids!”  I listened because he’s had good ideas for me before plus I have noticed that many Canterbury schools provide opportunities for kids to try skiing.  Others, able to afford it or, proximal to a ski area, provide skiing on a regular basis.  Back in snowy Salt Lake City (my northern winter home), skiing is rarely offered through school but despite marginal NZ winters, many schools tack at least one day of skiing into their sports programme.  While I as a child, enjoyed frequent ski trips with my skiing parents, my cowboy husband saved to buy ski gear and took buses to local Utah slopes.  He never had a lesson but loved skiing and the mountains from an early age.

This past week has been prolific for country schools’ skiing.  Both Hororata and Springfield primary schools took their entire roll to Porters last Monday.  The two met again at the Local Primary School Derby ski race a few days later.  You couldn’t even call it a friendly rivalry.  The kids were simply skiing - ripping through terrain park jumps or shuffling forward to take their turns on the race course.  It was just another sunny day on the slopes.

I vetted kids and parents for their perspective on kids and skiing.  Yes, there’s some suffering - it can be cold, you may contend with wet hands and snow down the pants, crashing and burning, getting dragged by ski lifts and traipsing up to the slopes in clunky boots with heavy loads. You may have to eat lukewarm saveloys from a thermos with no tomato sauce.   But suffering is part and parcel.  A well-known alpinist once reminded me, “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!” -  making a case for the intrinsic value of the ski/mountain experience as a means for gaining resilience and toughness.  

Jim, a D.O.C ranger, prolific club field skier and father of two had a list of reasons:  “If you are passionate about the mountains then skiing gets kids out there.  It provides a fun activity for them in the mountains.  It’s fantastic exercise since you use so many skills - balance, coordination and there’s a real satisfaction from learning and improving.  It’s something we do as a family and since we are club members, it doesn’t cost the earth.  We get hand-me-downs from other families and a pair of skis might go through eight different kids!”

Jim’s ten year old daughter gave kudos to the sport for keeping kids fit and healthy.  Six year old Maddie was enthusiastic at how “it warms up your muscles.”  Five year old Poppy loves to jump.  My son Obie, jaded veteran of ten ski seasons at age seven, told me the cafe was a good reason to go skiing.  Of course, he was looking for a wind up.

I tagged onto a bunch of mums and kids - a brat pack of eleven Springfield rippers tearing up Porters’ McNulty’s bowl.  The kids were flying and I never had opportunity to ask the mums for their perspective, but on ski race day plenty of dads offered sage wisdom.  “We like skiing so they have to,” said John, father of two primary-school skiers, “and it keeps them off the iPad.”  Richard, father of two boys at Darfield school, spoke of the opportunity to teach kids to respect our beautiful environment (and pick up your rubbish so that kea don’t get it!)  Simon, watching his six year old son and eight year old daughter race, spoke of socialisation and skiing - it’s a sport that you get to do with your mates where competition is optional.  

I skied because my family and my friends did and I’m grateful to have been able to ski from a young age.  Many I skied with as a child are still friends.  Through skiing I’ve met a host of great people and travelled to marvellous places.  It’s a living and a lifestyle.


Parents need to ski too (Broken River)

Parents need to ski too (Broken River)

Keelings circa 1979 at Porter Heights

Keelings circa 1979 at Porter Heights