Olympic gold medalist Barbara Ann Cochran, an instructor at Cochran’s Ski Area in Vermont, offers advice on how to teach your kid to ski.
By Heather Atwell
Dec 14 2012
Ski Instructor Barbara Ann CochranPhoto Credit : Corey Hendrickson
Barbara Ann Cochran grew up at Cochran’s Ski Area (cochranskiarea.org), a small operation in Richmond, Vermont, that her parents started in 1961 to give their kids and neighbors a place to hone their skills. From that little mountain, champions were made. Cochran kids went on to race for the U.S. Ski Team and to become national champions–and in 1972 Barbara Ann captured the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Japan.
Today, Cochran’s Ski Area is still thriving, and Barbara Ann is still an integral part of the mountain’s operation. One of her greatest passions is working with kids and their parents. Her program, “Ski Tots,” coaches parents in methods they can use to teach their children to ski. “You can go out on an easy trail and have a great time with your child,” Cochran says. “That’s really all it takes to give your tot a chance to develop a lifelong love of skiing.”
Keep It Fun
Cochran advises starting kids out on a backyard mound of snow, or a gentle 20-foot hill, where they can get used to standing on a pair of skis. Have them slip and slide. And if they start to tire, switch gears and play in the snow: Go sledding, make a snowman, or take a hot-chocolate break. “Make it more like playtime,” she advises, “and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.”
Falling for It
To show kids how to get up after they fall, Cochran has them get on the snow and roll onto their tummies. Then she points each ski tip out and up so that they’re making a V shape. Next, she has them do a push-up to get up on their knees so that they can then stand up.
That Skiing Feeling
When the child is ready for a ride, Cochran suggests heading to a gentle slope. Hold the child under his or her armpits with the skis between yours and on the snow. Then bounce the child lightly up and down to let your little one explore his or her balance. This lets the young skier instinctively get a feel for flexing and extending the ankles and knees as he or she balances in motion.
Tools of the Trade
Cochran is a big fan of the “Edgie Wedgie,” a clamp that connects the tips of the child’s skis together and helps him or her make and maintain a skiing wedge. Cochran’s advice: Don’t fret about being too reliant on these training wheels: “If they’re gaining confidence with the Edgie Wedgie, it’ll come off sooner rather than later.”
Pizza or Apple Pie?
Cochran introduces the wedge to kids by having them place their skis in the shape of a piece of pizza or apple pie. From there, she has them practice with their skis in the shapes of different wedge sizes so that they learn how to control their gliding and stopping speeds.
Turn It Up
To introduce turning, Cochran asks her students to be either a soaring bird or a plane. As they ski down the mountain, one wing will dip toward the woods, in the direction of the turn. That makes the outside ski heavier and helps point the skier in the direction he or she wants to go. “As long as you make sure that each activity to build a skill is playful,” Cochran reminds us, “then the process will be fun and your child will learn to love skiing.”