Years ago – in the BC (before children) age – we went skiing. For several seasons on the trot, we’d head to the hills for a wild week of fun in the white stuff, zipping down the slopes, breathing in the crisp mountain air and eating our body weight in cheese. Such holidays – along with long lie-ins and small handbags – have fallen by the wayside since our daughter was born. While we’re not wishing her life away, we occasionally miss the old days and have started having those ‘is she old enough yet?’ conversations. After all, those whizzing European midgets who put us to shame on the slopes may have been born with skis on their feet, but they couldn’t have been much older than she is now, could they? Apparently not. Our very own Ski Dubai starts ski lessons for nippers as young as three, so with it’s cautious optimism that a friend (also a former ski bum) and I decide to take our three-year-olds for an hour-long discovery lesson.
As we discover though, when it comes to kids and skiing, one hour can easily stretch into two or three. This is not a quick-and-easy activity. Swapping shorts and sandals for clobber designed for sub-zero temperatures takes some doing, not least because mums are supposed to know (and remember) their child’s shoe size, weight and age. Once we pass the test, and boots, socks, snowsuit and helmet are handed over, we’re faced with the time-consuming challenge of getting children into said snow gear. (Do all kids wait until you zip up the snow suit before announcing they need a wee or is it just mine?)
Half an hour later, we’re ready to embark on the trek to the slopes. For our young friend, who’s skied before, it’s a walk in the park, and off she plods, looking very cute (like a suited- and-booted Yoda, minus the sticky-out ears). For my little first-timer, putting one lead-weight foot in front of the other is a little disconcerting. As I scrape her off the floor for the fourth time, she turns to me and declares that ‘skiing is very tricky!’ I haven’t the heart to tell her that it’ll get even trickier once she reaches the snow.
After picking up the most adorably diddy skis (no poles at this stage) and meeting Mounir, the girls’ instructor, we emerge through the sliding doors where the blast of icy air and novelty at seeing their own breath is greeted with ooohs, aaahs and girlie giggles.
Mounir begins the lesson without skis, instead showing his avid pupils how to bend their knees and put their toes together in a snow plough position. ‘Let’s make a slice of pizza!,’ he yells. There’s some bewilderment, and while one edges her feet into the correct position, the other takes his instructions to heart and starts to eat the snow.
Mounir, who has that comforting ‘I’ve-seen-it-all-before-and-worse’ air, is unfazed, and hunkers down to physically maneuver her toes in the right direction. ‘This is the first step in teaching them how to stop,’ he explains. ‘This is the brake. It’s kind of important.’ Quite.
Yet they take it all in pretty quickly and spend a happy few minutes pointing their toes and jumping in the air. My friend and I look at each other in amazement. They’re listening! They’re doing as they’re told! Are we free next February?! Emboldened by their quick grasp of the basics, we progress to skis and, again, they battle through the challenges of crossed skis and falling on their bottoms without a tear or tantrum in sight.
To be honest, the girls seem oblivious to the fact that they’re learning. To them, it’s just fun to be in the cold and slipping and sliding about. It’s amusing, they get to giggle and squeal, and it’s certainly entertaining to watch. After a few teeters and tumbles, they’re ready for their first forays down the learner slope – a short bunny hill about 20 metres long. Mounir is with them all the way, either hanging onto their toes as he skis in reverse, holding their hands and using a clip to keep their toes together, or wedged behind them with his skis keeping them in position. By the beaming smiles on their faces, they’re enjoying the thrill of speed (although I reckon I could beat them on foot on a good day). ‘It’s wise to start them early, and really, we’re just getting them used to the feel of the skis, of being in the snow and the cold, and enjoying the slide,’ says Mounir.
They’re having a blast, and, just as fingers and noses are beginning to get too cold, Mounir brings the lesson to a close with high-fives and hugs. So, ‘are they old enough yet?’ Well, that’s for parents to decide, but I’d say that provided they’re physically strong, up-for-it and able to pay attention (these two will listen keenly to anyone not called ‘mum’) then they’ll certainly enjoy the experience. Now, where did I put that brochure…
Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates (04 409 4129; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.skidxb.com) A 60-minute discovery lesson costs Dhs150 per person. Group lessons cost Dhs160 per hour for kids aged three to six years, Dhs190 per 90-minute lesson for kids aged six to 12 years.