Two of the most important lessons your child's instructor will teach are to ski in control and follow the rules of the slopes to avoid accidents. Remind your skier or snowboarder of the Responsibility Code, which will be posted throughout the mountain. This includes looking uphill to check for oncoming skiers when merging or entering a trail, not stopping unless you can be clearly seen from above, staying visible, and standing up quickly and moving off to the side of the mountain in the event of a fall. But smart skiing doesn't end there. When you ride the chairlift, keep the bar down until you see signs to raise it and tell the operators if your child is new to the lift. They can slow it down so you'll have a smooth landing. Finally, tuck your cell-phone number into her pocket and designate a meeting spot in the event that she becomes separated from you during a run.
The right gear will also keep your child protected and comfortable. Invest in or rent a snow-sports helmet. Not only does wearing one cut the risk of an E.R. visit, but it's warmer than a hat -- and some mountains even require one in their children's programs. Layers will help stop your child from catching a chill and are simple to shed if the temperature rises throughout the day. Start with a close-fitting base covering, like thermal leggings, then add waterproof snow pants, a jacket, and moisture-wicking socks. (Her regular cotton kind will absorb sweat and result in frozen toes.) Tuck her coat into her mittens or gloves to stop snow from sneaking in if she falls, and slide on a fleece neck warmer -- they're safer than scarves, which can be a strangulation hazard, and are easy to pull over your kid's nose if it gets really cold. Finally, choose goggles that provide 100 percent ultraviolet (UV) protection, and cover any still-exposed skin with sunscreen; the increased level of UV exposure at higher altitudes plus reflections from the snow up the risk of a burn.
Keep in mind that a full day of skiing might be too much for young kids. Take frequent indoor breaks to warm up, check for damp clothing, and make sure your child's not too tired to ski safely. Also know that she's bound to take a few tumbles while learning how to ski but that the falls will probably scare you more than they do her. Once your kid gets the hang of whooshing down the slope, your biggest challenge of the day may be getting her off the mountain.