Stowe Mountain Resort

The Littlest Ones

Tips for getting your little ones on the slopes - with a smile.

Dave Merriam is director of the ski and snowboard school at Stowe Mountain Resort, and former coach of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Demo Team. His wife, Eva, is a former US Ski Team member. They have two daughters whose skiing experience began on their snowy driveway at age two. Here, voices of experience share wisdom for parents taking young children skiing:

• Your expectations are key. Mentally prepare yourself for snowplay. It's not 'Oh, I'm going skiing with my three-year old child,' insists Dave. Try to layer the experience on a child in way that they don't get overwhelmed. Just getting used to playing out in the snow for a few hours is new enough for many kids.

• The deciding factor is that they want to do it. It's fine to expose them to it. But you just have to know your child, what they like and what they're ready to do.

• For newcomers to skiing, expose the kids to the equipment before they get to the ski area. Have the kids walk around the living room or the yard with their skis on.

• For very young kids, consider bringing a sled to drag both equipment and children around. And if the skiing doesn't go over well, the sled may be a hit.

• Eva explains that she and her daughters ski one or two runs at Stowe. "That's just right. To take three runs is a big deal for them. I would caution parents who want to have kids ski really young not to have big expectations," says Eva. "It's easy to get all excited about taking kids skiing, only to discover that you can't even get on the lift. You have to be prepared for that."

• While kids can start skiing at a very young age, snowboarding is best left until they are seven, says Dave. That's the age when a child can move their upper and lower body independently, which is key for snowboarding.

• If you are going to put your kids into lessons, make sure you find out times and expectations for the program ahead of time and leave yourself plenty of time to drop off your children. A frantic rush and confusing transition are even more unsettling in a new experience.

• Pay attention to the weather. They only need to have one new thing. Make sure the experience is good, because that's what it's all about. Remember, you're introducing them to something fun!