Using a Ski Harness for Kids (and when to ditch it)

You’re getting ready for ski season and trying to figure out the best way to ski with your kids WITHOUT spending a small fortune on ski school every day.

And then you think “I’ve seen people use those ski harnesses, and that looks EASY!  I’ll just grab one of those and we’ll be set.”

WRONG!  While ski harnesses can be a great tool, if you use them the wrong way, they’ll actually make your kids WORSE SKIERS!

How to use a ski harness the right way

The problem with ski harnesses

From my own experience skiing, I would assume that close to 90% of the people that I see using ski harnesses on the slopes are using them incorrectly.  It’s like the skiing version of the teenager “walking” the dog who is really just pulling him on his skateboard, but the kid is the dog taking the parents for a ride.  Not a good foundation for a lifetime of ski habits!

If you’ve been anywhere near the slopes in the last 10 years, you have to know what I’m talking about and have doubtless seen some kids on a harness taking their parents for a ride down the slopes.

So for years we avoided them when we were teaching our kids how to ski, because as a ski mom and a former ski instructor, I’ve seen the bad habits they create.  Because like most things that bug me, there are only certain things about ski harnesses that drive me crazy, and after using a ski harness to teach our youngest kids to ski, I now know personally that if you use them right, they can be great tools.

When to use a harness:

Like I mentioned a harness is just a tool to teach your kids how to ski.  Teaching your own kids to ski is totally doable, but you really need to know what you’re doing and not just wing it.  We talk all about the beginning steps that you need to take in our Ski School Series.  The best tools you can buy to teach kids to ski are an edgie wedgie and a good harness.

We think that harnesses (with the leash) should really only be used by small kids who can already balance and just need a little redirection.  They are really ideal for kids under age 4, and I don’t recommend them for kids over the age of 5 since they have the motor skills and strength to ski independently.

Before you ever put a harness on your child, they need to learn how to balance.  This is a critical skill that will be the foundation of their skiing, so check out our #1 way to teach a toddler to balance on skis.  They are great for picking kids up and helping them got on the lift if you have one with a handle like this harness, so the harness alone can be a great addition to any day.  In fact, we always have our younger kids wear a harness and only get the leashes out probably 10% of the time.

Harness leashes are great TOOLS for times when you’re having difficulty getting your child to turn and they just need a little help figuring that out (all it takes is a little tug to turn them).  We also put a harness on our kids for the first few times down harder terrain so that they have a bit more confidence knowing that they’re not alone and that if there’s a problem, someone’s right behind them to help.

If you’re like us and have multiple kids on the slopes, having the youngest wear a harness can be a lifesaver to help give the littlest skiers a boost when they’re trying to keep up with a crowd.  For us, the kids all want to ski together, but with such a HUGE skill range this is a good cheater way to all get a run in together (however, we only do that for one run a day so that our youngest actually has to LEARN to ski, instead of just taking off down the hill after his speedster siblings).

When NOT to use a ski harness:

Don’t use the leashes on their very first day of skiing – this will prevent them from trying to learn how to stop and turn on their own.  Also, if your leashes are tight the whole time, your child is depending on it too much; it’s time to take it down a notch either in speed, terrain, or both.

Don’t repeatedly use a harness for your child to go on terrain that their not ready for.  We’re all about a run or two for some togetherness time, but if you’re relying on it the whole day, it’s not helping your child.

Don’t use a harness if you as the adult are not a strong skier.  It’s amazing how much it will make your legs burn to ski in a wedge behind a 30 pound kid whose only goal is to go down.  Also, if there comes a point when you realize that your child is leaning into their harness or otherwise not balancing well, it’s time to put it away for a while and get back to basics.

Don’t use a harness with just a leash or a static cord.  You need leashes with some sort of bungee so that your child doesn’t get hurt or pulled over when there’s some tension.  We’ve used this harness for 6 years and it’s been a lifesaver for us.

Teaching kids to ski timeline

1-  Start on a gentle slope and teach your kids how to shuffle their skis and get up when they fall.  Learn how to do that here.  

2 – Practice gliding down a super mild slope (magic carpet areas are ideal for this).  This is where kids learn to balance on their skis.

3 – Learn how to stop.  Call it a wedge, call it a pizza, but whatever you do, make sure that your kids can stop solid before taking them up the chairlift.  If you get an edgie wedgie, it’s so much easier because all they have to do is move their legs apart and it makes the wedge for them. We’ll show you how to teach your kids to stop here.

4 – Practice turning.  For the most part, kids skis will go where they are looking, so simple follow the leader games are the best way to teach this.

5 – Put a harness on and head up the chairlift!

What we use with our own kids

Like I mentioned, we put a harness on our younger kids EVERY TIME, mostly just because the handle makes it so easy to help them on and off the lift and it saves your back when you’re picking them up all the time as well.  The harness that we use can easily fit both our 2-year-old and our 5-year-old, so there’s lots of adjustability.   The harness that we use has a backpack that the straps can fit inside so that they stayed stored when not in use, which is a majority of the time.  The best feature about this harness is that it has the elastic bungee straps, so that when you give a small tug, it’s gentle to your child and doen’t just make them fall over.

Scroll to Top