We’ve all seen them. Super kid skiers swishing down runs, carving turns like it’s nobody’s business, out-skiing timid adults snowplowing down the mountain. Little rippers share a common backstory: They started alpine skiing with their parents at a young age and practice regularly throughout each season.
Viktor Torvik, age 8, is a weekend regular at Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park. Skiing since age 3 with his parents, Tom and Natalya, Viktor joined the Mini Mites ski school program when he was old enough. Now in second grade, he’s in a Kid’s Club advanced group. “I like going fast and jumping. I also like getting trained, so I can be good at skiing,” says Viktor. “My favorite run is Secret X, because I like to go through the fluffy powder between the trees.”
For children who are new to alpine skiing, Viktor’s advice is to “first learn making a pizza shape with their skis. Once they get better, they can turn back and forth. When they get even better, they can do a hockey stop [turning left or right with skis together]. Once they get better at that, like me, they can go really fast and do fast turns. They should also get a cool teacher like Andy [Viktor’s Kid’s Club coach].”
Because his father is a volunteer patroller with Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol, the Torviks arrive at the mountain by 8 a.m. “Viktor started to help the Chair 5 crew set up for the day. This would entail wiping down chairs, setting up crowd control nets, and grooming the loading ramp,” his parents explain. “As time went on, he started to help by scanning passes, closing up lifts, and helping to direct people into the correct line for loading. Several of the mountain employees appreciated his enthusiasm, and they rewarded him by teaching him how the lifts work. This year the mountain management offered to silk screen his coat with ‘Jr. Staff’ on the back along with the Mt. Spokane logo. Along with being proud to wear this coat, he truly loves his mountain family.”
In addition to benefitting from appropriate risk-tasking and physical challenges, Viktor’s mom says, “He wasn’t immune from disappointment when he started, but improving in his skiing ability helps him to understand that persistence, practice, and following directions pays off. Participating in the Mt. Spokane kids’ programs and volunteering has [given him opportunities] to understand teamwork, comradery, making friends, and practicing courtesy and compassion.”
At Lookout Pass, another impressive young skier is eight-year-old Erin McElgunn, who tears it up every weekend and during school breaks. Now in third grade, she, too, has been skiing since age 3. “Erin likes that it is challenging and that she feels good when she goes on runs that were once hard or scary for her. She likes skiing with friends and family, and it’s like having a cool playdate with friends when she’s on the mountain,” says Erin’s mom, Stacy McElgunn. “She has a fair amount of freedom at Lookout.”
Erin’s favorite run is Montana Face. “It looks steep from the top and it’s really fun,” she says. To improve her skills and meet more ski-kids, Erin and her older sister joined the Lookout Pass ski team. She’s now in her second racing season, participating in “a few [Giant Slalom] races per year,” her mom says. “I’ve seen Erin take more risks. New things sometimes make her nervous, and she has become braver about trying things that intimidate her.” Erin offers up some advice for other children: Although skiing “can be scary at first, you’ll love it and be happy. Start on blues [intermediate runs] and greens [beginner runs] and then try harder things because you’ll probably be able to do it.”
With more than a month left in this winter’s ski season, and lots of children having completed ski lessons the past few months, expect to see even more kiddos confidently cruising down the mountain on skis and snowboards. Give an encouraging shout-out – “Looking good!” or “You’re doing great!” – and tell those parents snowplowing with their toddlers and holding on to harnesses, “Keep it up!” They, too, will be skiing the pow in a few years. //
Amy Silbernagel McCaffree writes our Out There Kids monthly column.