And that’s pretty much how it happened.
I decided to wait until my youngest boy tuned four to teach them, the same age I learnt to ski and also the age recommended for kids to start when their muscle development can sustain it.
I took my boys (aged four and five) to Thredbo. Having started my career there as one of the original Thredbo Snow Reporters, returning for countless winters since, it’s a place close to my heart. As a hard core skier myself, I love its range of challenging runs and more easy going runs all in close proximity, and nothing beats the quaint village atmosphere. Thredbo is also ideal for little ones, the Friday Flat beginners area just made for them, and everything in walking distance.
Skiing with kids can be a bit a palaver especially when they’re not yet at an age (like mine) where they can dress themselves. You are responsible (in my case) for three sets of gloves (including your own), goggles, ski boots, helmets, and skis (thank goodness they’re not using poles yet). Which is why hiring on the mountain is the way to go. I had expected it would be a lot more expensive than renting gear in the city but prices are surprisingly comparable. And it’s so worth it for the convenience.
We drove down from Sydney in the afternoon (in a sleek black state of the art Ford Territory on loan from caradvice.com just to top things off, The Lego Movie on high rotation on the DVD in the back), staying overnight in Cooma to give us an early start. When we arrived in Thredbo the next morning, we parked right there at Friday Flat, walked straight into Thredbo Sports where the boys were kitted out in ski boots, helmets and skis within minutes (no queues even though it was peak school holiday period) and were on the snow by 930am.
This was the moment I had been waiting for. After taking photos of the boys touching snow for the first time (“Look, Mummy, it melts in my hand!”) I helped them click their skis on, gave them a little nudge and they were off. And over. “If you’re not falling over on skis it means you’re not trying hard enough”, I said to them, passing on some wisdom from my own childhood skiing days. It became their mantra over the next few days.
The pressure was on. I so desperately wanted my children to like skiing as much as I do. Skiing is the only sport I have ever shown any aptitude for and so one of the few sporty things we might be able to do together.
Thredbo’s Communications Manager, Susie Diver, who I met the year I worked there, suggested we go straight to the Magic Carpet – a free beginner ride to the side of Friday Flat, with the perfect decline for people (of all ages) trying to feel their way on skis. You really notice the difference with kids learning to ski as opposed to adults. As well as being lighter and more agile, they have no fear and if they fall (which they will – and should) they get straight back up to give it another go. Still, it’s advisable to book kids into ski school so they can learn proper techniques and get their confidence up. I may have been skiing forever but I wasn’t sure how to pass on those skills to my boys. I spent a to of time picking them up and trying (in vain) to explain snowplough, encouraging them to keep going.
Which is why after a couple of slow going runs on the Magic Carpet, I took my boys to Thredboland (ski school for 3 to 6 year olds) for the afternoon – like a warm vibrant preschool on snow. They were taken under the wing of a smiley, enthusiastic instructor named Ashely and led through the paces of beginner skiing, skills they will have (if they so desire, like their mummy does) for a lifetime. I watched them climb aboard the Freddy Express train with a pile of beaming kids in Thredboland singlets and helmet heads, giggling as they were whisked up to the beginner slopes. And I went skiing.
Apart from a few runs when my oldest was a baby, I haven’t skied myself in six years so it was exhilarating to dust off the ski suit and helmet and slide into my trusty boots (still going strong), click on a pair of state-of-the-art rental skis from Thredo Sports and head up Gunbarrel Chair just like old times. My first run felt like freedom. Would I still be able to ski after all this time, I wondered? It’s like riding a bike, they say. And It came back to me no trouble. The wind in my hair, the fresh mountain air, the breathtaking view. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
They went back to Thredboland the next day and part of the next and by the time I picked them up on the third afternoon they were both skiing! I took Jasper (aged five) up the chairlift for the first time, his younger brother, Otis, riding just in front of us with his instructor (Jasper had been moved up a level) and the three of us skied down the slope together, (slowly, sure but still, it was skiing). It was a sight to behold. It made me so happy I cried!
We did a few more runs like that, the three of us riding the chair together and I couldn’t have been happier. Neither could they. “Skiing is awesome, Mummy!” they gushed. What a relief!
Until they discovered tobogganing.
Thredbo has a new dedicated Snow Play area for tobogganing, tubing, snow man building, making snow angels and throwing snowballs. You can hire a toboggan ($15 a day) and go for your life. As well as being a mountain of fun (pun intended) it’s also a way of getting children used to the snow before they progress to skiing or snowboarding. After coming off the slopes one afternoon, my boys tobogganed until nightfall (where do they get the energy?) their laughter rippling across the valley as they tumbled down the hill.
They also toasted marshmallows at the fire pits outside the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, built their first snowman (with Smarties for eyes) and, in another highlight, met the delightful Torah Bright, world champion snowboarder and Thredbo Ambassador, who is regularly seen around the resort.
They left exhausted but happy, sleeping all the way back to Cooma (warm as toast in the back of the Ford Territory). What is certain is I have two new converts to the love of skiing. I got what I came for.
How to get there:
Drive from Sydney to Thredbo: Approximately 5.5 hours. It’s wise to stay overnight in Cooma or Canberra or somewhere else along the way, not only to break up the trip but to get an early start and make the most of the first day at the snow.
Bus: There are daily coach services ex Sydney and Canberra.
Fly: Regular flights ex Sydney and Melbourne to Canberra. It’s a 2.5 hour drive or bus ride from Canberra to Thredbo. NB There are currently no commercial flights to Cooma.
Where to stay
Thredbo has a range of accommodation options from apartments and lodges to hotels.
You can also stay in Jindabyne (30 minutes drive) or Lake Crackenback.
Ski / snowboard / equipment hire
Thredbo Sports at Friday Flat at the base of the beginners slopes.
Thredboland: 3-6 year olds (half day or full day program including hot lunch and indoor play).
Thredbo Freeriders: 7-14 year olds
More information at here.
Child Friendly Factor: 8/10
- Accommodation, ski runs, ski hire in close proximity.
- Easy to get around.
- Inexhaustible fun.
Jacinta Tynan stayed at The Denman Hotel Thredbo (at her own expense) and was looked after by Thredbo Alpine Resort.
Her Ford Territory was on loan from caradvice.com