By Ron Kubicki, 

Director of Holiday Valley Snowsports School


Last week I took a step away from tips on performance, and instead encouraged intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders to consider a “coaching session” with one of our pros, which prompted me to address another important aspect of our school — the value and expectations of children’s instruction.

The children’s Mountain Adventures program at Holiday Valley is a well-structured and highly regarded children’s program, as are all our resort’s children’s programs. Children’s instruction is recognized by PSIA-E/AASI, resort management and industry partners as the key factor in the growth of the snowsports business. I have enjoyed a 25-year snowsports career directly involved with kids and have loved every part of it. These little skiers and riders are the present and future of our sport.

One aspect of kids’ lessons that is difficult to address sometimes are parents’ expectations at the end of their child’s lesson. These are not problems with parents, because outcomes and improvements often are not easily identified by parents. Goals and expectations simply need to be expressed realistically when parents and teachers talk to each other, before and after the lesson. The instructor obviously does not know your child better then you do, but they are trained in children’s teaching methodologies. Children’s instructors are creative and skillful teachers and communicators who have received child-specific training.

One of the primary bits of training fundamental to all children’s teachers is the C.A.P. Model. The C.A.P. Model is a guideline for determining a child’s ability and potential within a specific age group. For example, three year olds learn, but not the way an eight year old or like a teen learns new things.


C.A.P. is Cognitive, Affective and Physical development.

C.A.P. is how your child processes information through new experiences. So your three year old, while it may appear they are only playing in the snow, in actuality are becoming familiar with a new environment (Cognitive), getting comfortable being away from mommy and daddy (Affective) and are in big cumbersome boots and will tire very easily (Physical). So, even though they may not get to do “pizza” their first time, if they enjoy the experience, they will come back again and build on the success of that first lesson. On the other hand, it is not unusual for an athletic teen to get to the Creekside Quad (beginner chair) in their first lesson and make controlled and safe turns on School Haus.

Roughly the C.A.P. “breakout” looks like this:



3-6 Years: Can remember one or two things, have active imaginations, copy and mimic well.

7-12 Years: Need to know “why am I doing this,” ask questions, can describe and explain activities, like to be challenged and successful.

Teens: Process and sequence more than one direction, can think in abstract terms, understand complex concepts.



3-6 Years: Need to feel safe, may want mommy or daddy, needs reassurance, like to be told they are doing well.

7-12 Years: Can work independently, want to have fun/play games, compare achievements to others in group, like to know they have done something well.

Teens: Like to be part of the crowd; don’t want to be singled out, talk “to” them  not “down” to them, may challenge authority, like to have fun and achieve goals, likes to be part of decisions.



3-6 Years: High center of mass, head with helmet may be 30 percent of body weight, like to always be moving, tire out quickly though, arms and legs do not work independently if they make “pizza,” arms often outspread as well.

7-12 Years: Like a variety of activities, can practice alone with easy directions, can learn movements through repetition and coaching, can move arms and legs independently.

Teens: May experience “growth spurt” – awkward movements, may be uncoordinated, are stronger than they used to be, girls probably more mature then boys.

This is simply a brief outline of some of the knowledge and tools we use to teach your children.

A couple of other things to remember — good schools do not teach by “pushing” a child and they do not teach by increasing terrain. Putting a child on terrain they are not comfortable on will make them defensive in their skiing and riding, may cause fear and will create some very difficult habits to overcome. Learning how to swim by being thrown out of a boat in the middle of the lake really doesn’t work.

Skiing and riding is a lifestyle and you can improve continually, so don’t expect your child to “do Cindy’s” with you after a couple of lessons. Instead, let them teach you what they learned on “Fiddler’s Elbow.” You will end up with a small skilled and happy skier and rider. If all your three year old did was make “snow angels” this time, well the next time there is no telling what they will learn, because they had fun and liked it, and they will come back without a struggle

Talk to your child’s instructor, speak to the director of the children’s program or find the snowsports school director and ask what and how things are being done in your child’s lesson. You have the right to know and we have the reasonable and educated answers.

Despite what people may say, children’s snowsports instruction is not now and never has been “just babysitting” and we can prove it.

Go with a pro!

From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/

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