Start ’em early with a Wee Ski kiddy harness | AspenTimes.com

Start ’em early with a Wee Ski kiddy harness

I learned to ski as an adult; it wasn’t much fun (although I now love the sport, and can hold my own on most runs). My husband grew up on skis, and it’s obvious. So it was a no-brainer that we would teach our children to ski when they were young.It was not a no-brainer, though, how we would teach them to ski. Lessons aren’t really an option until a kid is 3 1/2 (unless you want to pay the big bucks for a private instructor – not!), so it was up to mom and dad.With our daughter, who is now 6, we started off just skiing with her between our legs. Big mistake. As light as she was, it was backbreaking to essentially carry her down the mountain while maneuvering on skis. And worse, she became accustomed to mom or dad holding on to her. She didn’t want to let go – ever.So we got wise and bought a ski harness. And while I’m not a fan of leashing a child just to walk down the mall, we’ve found it essential for those first runs with both Hannah and her 3-year-old brother, Zachary. Our harness is a Wee Ski. And though I can’t seem to find the particulars of the brand online (we got ours at Short Sport in Aspen a few years back), it’s a standard kid’s ski harness. A neoprene band wraps around the child’s waist; two long nylon straps reach from the band, under the child’s arms, and back to the parent, who maneuvers the child from behind. You can steer him, slow him down, and help him stay upright with simple tugs on the leash (I’ve even known a mom who skied her sleeping child down Panda Peak in a harness!). The leashes tuck under the band during lift rides, and they can be adjusted for length while skiing – the more confident the child, the longer and looser the lead, until he’s basically skiing on his own.It’s not perfect. Skiing with a child on a harness can still break your back, and the permanent snowplow is a butt-burner for sure, but it’s much easier than holding him. Plus, the child doesn’t become so dependent on you; within a week of skiing on the harness (under protest, of course), Hannah was perfectly content to take the lead down the mountain. We’ve never given Zachary an option besides the harness, so he knows no better.And to those who wonder if starting your kid on a harness will hamper their ability to ski on their own, relax. Hannah’s now ripping up the Tiehack side of Buttermilk, the kiddy halfpipe and all the tree trails; Zachary, once we trust him not to just point ’em down and let ’em fly, will surely enjoy being harness-free.Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is jmcgovern@aspentimes.com