Can a Three-Year-Old Ski?

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Most ski schools I am familiar with start accepting kiddos at three years old. However, can a three year old really learn to ski? I mean they can’t even effectively wipe their own bottoms, so can they really strap on skis and head down the mountain?

I wasn’t really sure of the answer when I started my own three-year-old in ski school a couple months ago when we went to Beaver Creek. I signed her up because I figured it couldn’t hurt (too much), and honestly we needed somewhere for her to go while we skied…but I don’t think I really expected her to actually ski. I think in part to show us what a real family focused resort is like, Keystone is hosting us this week, and so my little traveler is again in ski school.


Well, as is common in the role of mom, I am surprised and impressed. She has done two roughly half day sessions at Keystone this week and technically she skies! She can go, stop, and kind of turn. She isn’t quite ready for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but I call this three-year-old ski myth proven. Three year olds can ski…even if they live in Texas and can’t yet wipe their own bottoms. Who knew?!


So, if you have a kiddo around the same age, know that it is indeed possible for them to learn some basics of skiing.  Of course, at that age the most important thing is that they associate snow and/or ski school with fun, but learning a few skills is absolutely a nice bonus!

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  1. Thanks for that. I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter who I wanted to take with me on one of these trips. After your report, I am looking forward to it even more. Do you know if they offer snowboarding lessons for the kids as well?

  2. Yes! My daughter was skiing with a little assistance at 23 months old and doing it by herself several months before her third birthday. The ski instructor who taught her at 23 months had gotten her own kids up on skis at 18 months. A lot depends on the kid’s personality… I have friends with timid kids who have just freaked out at the same age, so you have to know your kid. Also, if your child has not yet been in preschool and become accustomed to parents leaving him/her, dropping off at ski school may be hard just for the separation anxiety.

  3. My currently 4 year old daughter did great the one time we went last winter. She pretty much didn’t even have to try. This year, she didn’t do quite as well as she had trouble stopping, but she still did ok.

    I think the bigger you are, the more effort it takes to ski, which is why 3 year olds are actually pretty good skiers!

  4. yup! i see 2 year olds with straps all the time on the slopes. generally it’s when i’m cutting across the greens on my way to the black runs, but i see them! little kids also have less fear because they’re soo close to the ground. falling is EASY for them.

    hope you’re enjoying keystone. my recommendation is to hit up Starfire on north peak first if there’s powder before hitting up the tree and mogul runs 😀

  5. When Vietnamese can potty-train under 6 months of age children to the point of eliminating a need for diapers, training a 2.5 year old to ski is a walk in the snow.

    In recent years, we started the young ones in our extended family on skis mostly when nearing 3 years of age and when approaching 4 years of age the real fun begun.

    The young kid ski programs for children under 4 years of age are generally way more daycare than on-the-snow time, so keep that in mind if you want your young ones to learn to ski on their own sooner than later.

  6. John K, some places in Colorado certainly offer snowboard lessons to 4 1/2 year olds. I think Steamboat may be one of those places.

    By the way, does anyone here ever take their young ones in a baby carrier on their back? We got away with it a few times at Aspen and Snowmass but it is apparently against the rules there and the word around is that the GC won’t allow it even if willing to sign a liability waiver.

  7. I was in Jackson Hole a couple of months back and some friends I went with rode on a lift with a little girl who told them she was 3 and skiing the greens with a ski school group.

  8. I’ve seen a 2 year old on double black terrain @ Heavenly before. It was insane! I also encountered an 18-month old on a snowboard and had my butt kicked by a 4 and a half year old in the Gunbarrel 25. I’m hoping to start my little guy next year (he’ll be 2), but we’ll see. I didn’t learn until 5 and I turned out to be ok.

  9. I remember in Garmisch years ago I thought I was tearing up the slopes when this little terror came by me so fast and almost crossing my tips also. Maybe four years old at the most and he was in a perfect tuck too.

  10. -I think there is a pretty big jump from a three year old to a four year old, so next year should be even better for us. Also, my kid is a young 3 (Dec birthday), so an “almost” four would also probably be even better.
    -I think it depends on the program in terms of how much they are on the mountain. At least at Keystone, there seemed to be a bunch of mountain time in the day.
    -Your kid’s personality will dictate all. They have to be able to separate from you for it to go very well.
    -The ski schools I have checked out do require you to be older for snowboard lessons. I believe around 7 for group lessons is pretty common. I would imagine the threshold for private lessons is lower. I certainly saw several kids younger than 7 boarding.

  11. Keystone is great from the view of cost, snow, and space and family friendliness
    The old school was at the base and now the only problem is that the new school is at the top. We learned on the base and when we tried to take our extended family, a lot of the adults gave up as they were scared they would fly off the mountain.

  12. My answer to your question is a firm YES – absolutely!
    Proof is my own teenager, starting when he could barely walk and now happily riding his way to Sochi!

  13. I have had awesome experiences at keystone. Seriously the service culture is better than Disney. My 4 year old falls and busts her lip- here’s the ski patrol with gauze and a snowmobile ride back to the lodge. Hot chocolate spill all over the floor- let me clean it up and here is a replacement. Schlepping a lot of gear – here is a wagon. Lost glove – borrow one from the ski school and it was found by that afternoon. Really friendly place and awesome people.

  14. So, is Keystone highly recommended for the kiddies? Any other suggestions? Mammoth, tahoe, aspen?..
    Somewhere preferrable West coast, where I can redeem avios for cheap =D

    • John, it prides it self on being family oriented, and it lived up to that billing for us. The only gamble is the snow, but that is true lots of places. I will tell you one that I do like about Mammoth (in addition to pretty good snow) is their combo snow/daycare program that lets the younger kids do ski school in the AM and then have quiet/indoor time in the afternoon if they need it. That would have been perfect for C. Aspen caters more to the intermediate and up skier. Which resort is best for you really depends on what exactly you want out of a ski trip, but no question that Keystone is kid friendly! I will be writing much more about it in the near future.

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