Last week I gave some ideas for keeping children entertained during the dank and dark winter months.
As the temperature drops and the nights draw in, my only consolation lies in planning a ski holiday and checking the snow forecasts as regularly as a meteorologist. Having spent a year working in a ski resort, I start to crave a warm hat, a vin chaud and the unique feeling of snow melting on my eyelashes. Skiing may be my choice of a winter adrenalin rush but if a year in a ski resort taught me nothing else, I learnt that the scope of winter sports on offer is truly startling. There is something for everyone no matter how much or how little adrenalin takes your fancy. With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, (starting on February 7th) what better time to introduce children to winter sports. For a full list of winter olympic sports, please visit: http://www.olympic.org/sports
It can be hard to choose which sport might be right for your child and winter sports can provide some rather different barriers to entry than most other sports. There is always someone to knock a tennis ball about with but there isn’t always a bobsleigh track to perfect your turns. Kit tends to be technical to combine both warmth with movement and functionality and that is before you include hardware such as skis and skates. Much has been done to increase access to winter sports over the last few years but even so there are some things to consider:
1. What kind of access do you have to the sport of your choice? These could be financial or logistical considerations such as how far do you have to travel? How much kit do you need to buy? How often can you partake?
2. In terms of the age that you start your child on a winter sport, whether skating or skiing, think carefully about their level of athleticism, their balance and their interest in new activities.
3. Winter sports skills can build team work, coordination skills and can bring aspects of science and geography to life. Children learn to follow instructions and how to assess risk as well as learn survival skills.
4. If children are young think about mixing up winter sports with snow play activities and less physically intense activities.
5. Try to acclimatise children to both the equipment and the cold. Comfort is so important so gage your child’s reaction to trying on the equipment. If there is an indoor slope, rink or ice climbing wall nearby, use it as an opportunity to trial equipment, layers of clothing and become accustomed to the cold. Winter is the perfect time to try skating with pop up rinks in cities around the world.
6. Remember that many winter sports are hard work so children need plenty of food, plenty of sleep and plenty of liquid.
Winter sports can take place close to home even if that is a city or hot country but it is true that the opportunities are not the same as for those living in the mountains with cold conditions in the winter. But for those keen on sampling a range of winter sports without wanting to commit to one, many resorts and winter sports holidays offer a host of activities to try from snowshoeing to snowboarding, husky sledding to ski-biking, ice diving to ice-climbing, cross-country skiing to bob skeleton as well as speed skating or figure skating. Here are some pointers on a few popular choices:
Skating: Children can often start at around the age of three and some ice hockey leagues even take children as young as four. One of the more accessible winter sports, many towns and cities have ice rinks to build up momentum without having to go anywhere. Skating can be a great confidence builder as well as help develop coordination whether your child chooses figure skating, speed skating or ice hockey.
Skiing/Snowboarding: Most ski schools take children from three or four whereas a lot of snowboard schools recommend children starting a bit later at around the age of seven. There are well developed areas for young children to become acclimatised to the equipment and movements that are required and both these sports could foster a lifelong family passion. There are also a huge number of options from within these sports whether freeriding is your passion or you want to head for the half pipe in the park. Many ski clubs offer race training for children which is a fantastic way to develop their skills and discipline.
Bobsleigh: You might not think that a tin can reaching speeds of 140kmph is something available for children but many commercial tracks now have different types of sleigh which don’t go quite so fast and which children from the age of 8 can ride on their own. Younger children can ride accompanied. Sounds great if your children are adrenalin junkies or love roller coasters.
Sledging and snowman making: Never forget the fun that can be had on a sledge for those of all ages! Winter sports should always be fun and sledging never loses its appeal whether young or old!