Photo: Nic Alegre
Photo: Nic Alegre

A Ski School Mom’s Advice for Children (and their Parents)

Squaw Valley's Karen Roske knows the secret to teaching kids how to love skiing

PHOTO: Nic Alegre

Age: 52
Location: Squaw Valley, California
Roots: By 8 a.m., the line of red-cheeked children (and their parents) waiting to sign up for a ski lesson at Squaw Kids is already out the door and snaking into the parking lot. A couple hours later, somehow, several hundred children are fitted with rental gear, paired with a ski instructor, and on the mountain learning the difference between pizza and French fry. The system is pure organized chaos, and the person orchestrating it all is Karen Roske, who moved from Maine to Squaw Valley after college in 1984 to teach kids how to ski, a job she's kept for 32 years, now as the director of Squaw Valley's ski school for children.

I relate really well to kids. And I don't mind skiing with kids. It's actually fun, like, permission to have a fun day.

You have to talk to them for a little bit. And don't let them out of it just because they say, "I have a tummy ache." Half the time you find out they're just nervous. They have a little anxiety. Or they want a girl teacher or a boy teacher. You know, all those little nuances.

They're more afraid of what they don't know. Those are the kids you really need to spend extra time with. I know because I had one. My son, Max, is that way completely.

Making sure the kids are dressed appropriately makes a huge difference. They can stay out there as long as they're dressed right. Rain? Mm, well. The Australian kids ski in the rain. And the British kids, they have no problem.

If they are rushed too fast too soon and go on something too steep, then they're just stuck in this giant wedge, or they let fear take over and they fall and slide. Usually it's hard to get them back from that.

They're going to be a wedge turner for quite a while, and that's OK.

Kids these days with phones…I mean, 24/7, these kids are checking in with their parents all the time. Good and bad. They're out in a lesson; let them have the lesson. When you go to the lunchroom and you see kids on their phones, it's interesting. It's a different dynamic than when we started.

I think skiing is getting popular again. We see a little dive in our snowboard groups, but we see kids come back year after year after year.

Skiing gives kids a sense of adventure, a sense of independence, and more often, a sense of joy. Once they're actually turning and stopping, it should bring joy. And that to me is the most important part of skiing. And, you can do it forever.