Skis for children

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Skis for children

Postby VAskier » Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:25 pm

I just did a quick search of the site, but couldn't find any recent information.

What do PMTS coaches currently recommend for children's skis and boots/bootfitting? I'm curious about information for various ages 4 through 12.
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Re: Skis for children

Postby AnI » Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:03 pm

I've been following PMTS for probably 6-8 years and of course wanted my younger kid to follow the same path from his first steps on skis.

My son is now 9. He has been skiing with Harald and Diana opportunistically (several days per year) since summer of 2014. He is confident on various terrain (up to some double black diamonds) and can certainly be called a developing PMTS skier who shows recognizable PMTS movements and uses them on a different terrain.

You are asking about gear for kids age 4 through 12. This is a very wide age range. The needs for the quality and type of gear may be different between age groups 4-7 and 7-12.

The common opinion based on developmental studies of kids shows that children (in average) become capable of learning skiing around the age of 6-7. I read about it in PSIA instruction manual for teaching kids. It has a introductory section on development of kids. That section is not PSIA specific as it is a review of scientific literature. It is an interesting read. Before the age of 6-7, kids are very good at repeating gross movements which their parents show but they lack understanding of connections between cause and effect and cannot be taught complex and fine movement patterns efficiently. It is hard to explain to a young child that in order to turn they have to make a lateral movement. Additionally, their head is heavy relatively to their body and their muscles are relatively weak, which makes them naturally prefer a wide stance. The conclusions and observations made in that section perfectly matched my own experience with my kid.

I started taking my son to ski slopes (bunny hill) when he was 4. For the first two years those skiing trips were largely waste of time. He had energy and interest to ski for maximum half an hour, after which he wanted only to play in the snow. When he skied, he did not want to do anything but just sliding for fun. By the age of 5 and especially 6, his stamina had improved but his skiing skills and ability to learn improved only marginally. He developed ability to turn in a wide stance. I intentionally never taught him wedge and kept him away from traditional wedge-based instruction. I had intention to teach him some PMTS but he did not want to do any drills nor work on any movements. Consequently, I let him follow his own "path" just because I had no other options. He developed (apparently natural for him) blend of fairly wide stance with some level of ski steering and fairly faint signs of wedging, but certainly no "pizza". I kept him away from the wedge, but was unable to teach him good habits until he reached more mature age.

Only when he turned 7, he started showing rapid progress, developed ability to learn, and improved his confidence. I found that he finally was able to work for several hours on drills (that is, when he was in a mood to listen to Daddy which happened quite rarely).

In general, as far as I know, PMTS coaches do not offer camps or classes for young kids with the exception of junior racers who are already fairly good skiers. Maybe something is going on at Welch Village (the resort in MN which completely switched to PMTS), I do not know. I do know, however, from observing him during his lessons with Diana and Harald that the progress which a kid who reached a certain maturity level can show with a highly skilled coach beats that of adults by a wide margin because kids (once they have reached some degree of maturity) are very flexible (physically and mentally), open to learning, and do not have bad habits on skis which adults suffer from.

Between ages 4 and 7, I was buying either new on sale of used kids gear without much consideration of the brand or model. It is my understanding that all skis under 100 cm are essentially the same - soft low end skis with short sidecut radius. My only preference was to have integrated bindings on a rail to be able to move from one boot size to the other without redrilling. I found that Fischer Watea has such bindings and we had a couple of sizes of Watea. With boots, I've been trying to get a 4 buckle model when possible, but it is kind of hard to find. Slamon makes some of these. Honestly, I suspect it was a wasted effort because kids do not like tight fit anyways.

With the benefit of hindsight, I could had kept him at home until he turned 7. I am not sure what was the added value in ski trips at earlier age other than to satisfy my own desire to teach my son what I have learned. I am positive that at the age of 7 he would learn everything that he learned in the past 3 years within a day or two. Or I could had taken him out on the hill several times per season and use rental gear. I do not think that gear made any difference until the age of 7. What he did was not really skiing. It was just sliding on skis. He was just getting used to snow and to the fun of moving on skis, just like on sleds or on a tube. In retrospective, I really see no need for higher end gear at that early age.

From age 7, when he became mature enough to learn and progress, we moved to Head Team i.SL skis and Head Raptor 70 boots. Both can be found either used or new on sale for reasonable price, as long as the length is under 135 cm and boot size is under 26. At longer ski lengths, there more junior racers looking for those skis, and it can get more expensive. One has to follow searches on eBay and run searches through new inventory using Google on a regular basis and buy for a couple of years ahead to get what is needed when is needed and at a decent price. Decent means $70 - $140 for boots and about the same price for skis, used or new.

Bindings are Tyrolia SX 7.5 AC. It is I think the only kids binding compatible with position of predrilled holes on junior race plates on Head i.SL team skis. They are also compatible with both adult and child DIN norm for the boots. The constraint with selection of bindings is how low DIN settings can go. Young kids are usually in the range 2.5 to 4. Most adult bindings start at 4 or 5.

This is a junior version of the gear which HSS recommends for adults, and they work very well for kids. It is considered "junior race level" gear, which means that these are responsive skis which are easy to control. This gear is approved and recommended by Harald and Diana.

The additional advantage of Head Team i.SL is that I was able to set up, transfer from skis to skis, and modify my son's alignment by installing shims under the bindings. In theory it can be done on any skis, but race plate adds to the tolerances of lengths of binding screws quite substantially. After he grows out of a pair of skis, I can remove the cants and pass the skis on to someone else. You may or may not need it, but this is a notable benefit of skis with a race plate.

Alignment is as important for kids as for adults. It can make learning easy or difficult. My son has fairly bizarre knock-kneed angles and probably would never ski parallel in a narrow stance without alignment. With age, these angles change. My son's angles have decreased quite a bit between ages of 8 and 9, but they are still substantial and outside of the normal range. The tricky part is that his alignment keeps on changing as he grows and requires regular adjustments.

Bootfitting per say has not been an issue for us because kids are not used to, and do not like tight fit. With their feet growing quickly, they usually end up skiing in boots with relatively generous fit. Hence, pressure points and need for bootfitting is unlikely.

Footbeds are as much needed for kids as for adults. I make my son new footbeds at least once per year, sometimes twice per season. Especially if a kid has pronation, footbeds are an important component of the ski gear, if not a must.

I completed alignment technician training in part to be able to take care of his needs, both in terms of angles and in terms of footbeds. Watching him ski, experimenting with his alignment, and discussing it with experts from HSS, I went through a great learning experience and it became a good supplement to the training. For parents who do not have these skills, maintaining kid's alignment can be costly and can require annual trips to a trained bootfitter (who are hard to find). This can be the most challenging part of the whole task of maintainig kid's ski gear up to date. For adults, alignment is done once and lasts maybe for 10 years, as long as the boots last. For kids, re-assessment is required every year over and over again until they stop growing.

I hope this helps.
Last edited by AnI on Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:56 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Skis for children

Postby VAskier » Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:21 pm

Thank you for taking the time to respond. The information you have provided is extremely helpful!
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Re: Skis for children

Postby Basil j » Thu Mar 10, 2016 6:23 am

Elan makes great kids system skis at a reasonable cost. RCS, RCX, SL team, all great skis that are well made. I bought used boots for my kids till they were 7 and now get them custom foot beds and fitted every season with new . I started both my kids on the snow at 2 years old and agree with the observations that the learning curve is slow when young, but my goal was to get them comfortable on the snow and being outdoors in different conditions without the belly aching I see from causal skiers. My kids were under the impression that every family skied every weekend until they were around 6 and realized that was not the case. Fast forward to now, my 12 year old daughter has become a beautiful skier, loves competition and wants to race full time next winter in a more advanced race program than what she is currently in. My 8 yr. old boy is still skiing rather in a wide stance and wants to have fun more than train, but as he sees his sister make great strides, he is starting to understand that you get out what you put in in. I spent the whole month of January every weekend afternoon working with my daughter on tipping, early edge engagement, pressure on the tongue "Early",keeping the inside hip up and javelin turns and it has changed her skiing dramatically. Committing to the outside ski is talked about in ski school but not worked on enough to get the kids to actually ski that way. My son is starting to ask me to drill with him now in the afternoon, but alas it is so warm I fear that the season is coming to an prematurely this season. It is amazing that with a focus, and the right drills, the kids "get it" and learn quickly. I get so frustrated when I see the coaches show the kids a drill and then they ski down ahead playing follow the leader. The coach sees nothing because he is ahead. He should ski down and wait for them 1 by 1 or ski behind them. They get plenty of "on snow time" but limited "learning or critique. I watched the U14 kids compete this winter in slalom and except for a rare few that stood out from the rest, all the kids followed their tips, skied in a wide 2 footed stance and appeared to be surviving more than attacking the course. I know they can do better. When I approached my daughters coach about the very things I worked on with her, I was told that's " "Old school" and out dated.
Fast forward a year and he is asking me what I worked on with her because she has improved so much in 1 year. I told him"old school stuff".
Basil j
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Re: Skis for children

Postby DougD » Thu Mar 10, 2016 6:29 am

Basil j wrote:I spent the whole month of January every weekend afternoon working with my daughter on tipping, early edge engagement, pressure on the tongue "Early",keeping the inside hip up and javelin turns and it has changed her skiing dramatically.

She is so lucky. Can I be your other daughter?! :lol:

Basil j wrote:When I approached my daughters coach about the very things I worked on with her, I was told that's " "Old school" and out dated.
Fast forward a year and he is asking me what I worked on with her because she has improved so much in 1 year. I told him"old school stuff".

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Re: Skis for children

Postby gozoogle » Fri Oct 25, 2019 2:34 am

Great advice on this thread, just want to add my experiences:

My girls are now 9, 7, 5. Having done some teaching of boys vs girls on the slopes, I would say that there’s probably a year or two gap in patience and willingness to do drills or just follow instructions. I tell other parents that I run into that before age 5 (for girls, 6/7 for boys depending on attention span), only bother if the goal is for the parent(s) to go skiing, since ski school is essentially daycare. Of the 3, #2 was the best before turning 5, due to a combination of, I think, innate athletic talent, better instruction and consistently easier terrain. She was skiing parallel with a narrow stance and able to do javelins (sort of). #1 got only a few trips a year at that age and #3 got skiing every weekend like #2, but with much worse instructors and too much exposure to hard greens and easy blues which causes some fear and bad habits. She does parallel with a wide stance and pushing on her outside ski and sits back. Looking to fix that next month as we reset for the new season.

In terms of equipment, I think narrow waist (60s) and soft flex appropriate to their weight are the key attributes. Length hasn’t been discussed, but I think shorter than you think is better for young skiers. Chest high until they start to develop some technique and one ski balance, then moving to chin/nose until they’re ready to get serious. The oldest is on race skis (Fischer SLs) at her forehead, the middle one alternates between Atomic Redsters (chin) and Stocklis (nose), and the youngest is still on her sisters’ old K2 Luvbugs (neck), purely because they’re pink.
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Re: Skis for children

Postby Max_501 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:44 am

For ski length I start about chin height (HH does the same). While chest height skis might be easier to handle on flat ground when learning things like shuffling and stepping they can be squirrely and feel less stable once there is downhill movement.
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