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  • Teenagers Take to the Snow

    by Vicki Bancroft

    Photo courtesy Obermeyer Take a teenager, let's say about fourteen years old, and plant him/her in a family that's heading to the slopes for the day. Better yet, we'd need two teenagers, because they always function in pairs, especially if they're girls. Add a good loud dose of music, usually hip-hop, and brace yourself for the inevitable generation gap. Does the thought make your heart race?

    Skiing and snowboarding with teenagers brings a whole new set of challenges to parents. The comfort you felt with your kids safely tucked in ski school is gone as you face their budding independence and rebellion. Accept it parents, most teens don't want to ski or ride with you. Don't take it personally; it's as natural as snow at 32°F.

    If you raised your kids as skiers or riders, it's time to have some confidence in their skills. You may feel more comfortable with their snow skills than you do with their life skills, but the slopes offer a perfect setting for both to grow.

    In spite of your teen's desire to take off until the last chair loads, it makes sense to meet a few times a day. The perfect lure is money. Never give them too much and they will readily find you - at the very least for lunch. Having a small amount of cash for hot chocolate breaks is reasonable, but that's it.

    Still, expect some clashes and chose your battles wisely.

    On a recent snowy Saturday, my thirteen year-old insisted on wearing her goggles crooked on her head. "You might find that those goggles work better on your face, don't you think?" I asked while the snow fell steadily.

    "It's the look." she replied stubbornly.

    "What look? If it's snowing, you need the goggles on your face, over your eyes so you can see." It seemed painfully obvious to me, the dreaded parent.

    "I like them like this."

    At this point, I quit. She would find out for herself that her ski goggles were indeed an item of function more than fashion. At least on a snowy day. This particular battle was not worth the energy being expended.

    Other battles are worth your perseverance.

    One father of a fifteen year-old snowboarder, Josh, had a continual debate with his son about listening to music while riding. "My position is clear," dad declared, his frustration boiling over. "I want his attention on his riding, not on his music. It's too distracting and it puts him at risk for getting hurt. He has enough time to listen to his music."

    "He doesn't get it" was the retort. "I need the music to get my rhythm. He skis. It's not the same as riding. I need the music." The gap widened.

    Luckily for both, the solution came from a fellow rider who suggested Josh keep the headphones around his neck rather than on his ears. This way he could hear his music, but could hear everything else, as well. The compromise appeased both father and son enough so they could both get on the slopes and stop arguing.

    You may insist your teen wear a helmet or stay out of the terrain park if they're new to riding. Safety should guide your directives and hopefully your teen will agree, with only a minimal roll of the eyes. Make it clear that if you see them violating safe skiing or riding, they'll be sitting in the lodge.

    At certain mountains, it's possible to keep an eye on your teen's slope habits without them necessarily knowing. While riding the lift, many a parent scans the slopes below for their teen's jacket. This is one of those times you'll appreciate a very unique jacket color or bizarre headwear, as it's easier to, let's face it - spy.

    I have a very fearless and daring nineteen year-old, quite an accomplished skier. When he was sixteen, he and a friend were skiing at Waterville Valley. We had agreed there would be no tree skiing that day, but while I rode the Sunnyside double to the summit, I spotted the two of them turning in the trees.

    "Did you guys enjoy that run in the trees?" I asked at lunch.

    My son has one of those faces that speaks the truth no matter what. Eyes shifted and faces blushed. They'd been seen and they knew it. No way out.

    Skiing and riding on their own can offer teens a chance to prove they are responsible and capable of good judgment. As a mother of two teenage skiers, I initially worried about everything from trail merges to tree skiing. The more my teens successfully and safely skied without me, the easier it became for all of us.

    Letting go takes time and improves with practice. Last year, I spent a week in Switzerland skiing with my son and his friend. Our second day on the mountain, it snowed to near white-out conditions. The boys took off and skied all day without a second thought. I was much more cautious. When I met them later, I was relieved to see they were fine.

    "It was great...we've never skied anything like this before. "

    They were so confident, it was contagious. When I realized they could handle the mountain better than I, I had to let go.

    To survive your teenager on the slopes, remember TEEN: Trust, EnErgy and Negotiate.

    T: Trust your teen. If you've taught them well, there is no reason to think that their behavior skiing or riding will be any different from riding a bike down the street. Let them know that their good behavior earns them trust which leads to independence - what they really want.

    EnErgy: Teens have a lot of energy and channeling it into good habits is important. Snowsports offer a positive focus and outlet. Encourage them to develop the good habit of exercise.

    Negotiate: The total teenager/parent existence boils down to this fine art. Be prepared to negotiate everything from candy bars for breakfast to glade skiing to riding with headphones.

    Eventually, parents and teenagers do find peace on the mountain together. Who knows, you may even get to take a run together.

    ...... Vicki Bancroft is a physical therapist, freelance writer and contributor to the New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times ski journalist and mother of two who lives in Massachusetts.

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