Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Alpine Sports

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Alpine sports involve using an apparatus to slide downhill on snow covered slopes. Alpine sports are not to be confused with Nordic sports, which involve purposeful movement across snow covered surfaces. The two most common alpine sports are skiing and snowboarding and thus are commonly referred to as downhill skiing and snowboarding. At a competitive level, alpine skiing or snowboarding is a discipline that involves making smooth, controlled turns, primarily without leaving the ground. This is in contrast to the freestyle skiing or snowboarding, where aerial manoeuvres are a significant focus of the discipline.

Alpine sports primarily take place on ski resorts situated atop numerous mountains all over the world. Ski resorts use one or more mechanical lift systems, such as a chair lift or gondola, to bring participants up to a higher elevation. Participants then use their acquired potential energy to slide down the snow covered slopes.


Skiing has been around for over 5,000 years. Skiing was important for both transportation and military purposes. Skiing began to be used as a form of recreation in the late 1800s. (“Skiing 101”, 2015)


According to the 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Winter Games website, people have been “skiing” with pieces of wood strapped to their feet for more than 5,000 years. Skiing was important for both transportation and military purposes. Skiing began to be used as a form of recreation in the late 1800s. (Brent, 2015) The use of skis gradually expanded throughout Scandinavia and then to Russia as a means of transportation across snow, but eventually evolved into a sport similar to what is now cross-country skiing. (“Skiing 101”, 2015)

Early Downhill Racing

During the 1860s, however, downhill racing skis were called snowshoes and ranged from 10 feet to 25 feet in length. In 1879, the first recorded downhill skiing race in Europe took place in Sweden (Brent, 2015)


In 1965, chemical engineer Sherman Poppen came up with the idea to strap two downhill skis together as a toy for his daughter. He dubbed his invention "the Snurfer," and attached a rope at the nose so the rider could hold it and keep the Snurfer stable while skiing downhill. After several requests for Snurfers from his friends, Poppen licensed his new idea to a manufacturer as a children's toy, and more than a half-million Snurfers were sold in 1966. (Brent, 2015)

Benefits for Children

Participating in alpine sports can be an enriching experience for young children. Although it is generally not a sport that requires teamwork, there are plenty of opportunities for children to develop social skills through ski and snowboard programs. Most, if not all, ski resorts offer ski and snowboard programs for children as young as the age of three. A full day of participating in alpine sports can easily meet the 90 minutes of physical activity as recommended by the Canadian physical activity guidelines for children and youth (Janssen, 2007). Moreover, alpine sports can be classified as an intermittent activity (Krautgasser, Scheiber, von Duvillard, & Muller, 2011) which is more characteristic of the spontaneous physical activity patterns children seem to enjoy (Ratel et al., 2004). Physical activity not only benefits physical health, but the benefits have been shown to extend to mental health as well (Eime, Young, Harvey, Charity, & Payne, 2013). Adaptive alpine sports have also been shown to provide enriching experiences for children with physical disabilities through the similar approaches mentioned above (Laskowski, 1991).

Alpine Sports

Consist of:

  • Heli-skiing
  • Snowboard (Most Common)
  • Snurfers
  • Sledding
  • Skiing (Most Common)
  • Snowmobiling

Fundamental Movement Skills

Learning alpine sports require a number of movement skills. Before learning to participate in alpine sports, a child should have the prerequisite fundamental motor skills.

Locomotor Skills


Some pre-walking movements in alpine snowboarding sometimes involve crawling when there is an absence of a downhill slope. Alpine sport participants may also have to walk towards the lift mechanism in order to get to a higher elevation. Once a child is a proficient walker, the child should have the minimal leg strength to participate in alpine sports.


Due to the large ground reaction forces involved in alpine sports, children should be able to absorb the landing from a jumping motion in order to progress to higher levels. At the Olympic level, ground reaction forces from skiing can reach up to 81% of an elite athlete's maximal leg strength (Wantanabe, 1981).


Dodging is crucial to avoid obstacles such as trees, poles, moguls, and other alpine sport participants.


In alpine snowboarding, downhill motion is sideways. This is difficult for many children because a child must face forwards while moving sideways. Thus, being able to slide is an important fundamental skill for alpine snowboarding enthusiasts. Sliding may not be as important for alpine skiers. Sliding on a board or apparatus is different than sliding as a fundamental movement skill, which involves motion between two objects causing friction, which can happen between feet and some sort of slippery surface.

Non-locomotor skills


Progressing from a wide base of support to a narrower base of support is crucial to progress to a higher level of alpine skiing. Dynamic balance is required for all alpine sports.


Twisting of the torso is required for turn initiation in alpine sports.


Bending at the torso, knees, and ankle are all required to absorb the ground reaction force associated with alpine sports.

Child Readiness

Snowboard vs. Skiing

Choosing between snowboarding and skiing is very child specific. If the child skateboards, snowboarding is most alike and will be easier to learn than skiing. If the child skates or does an activity that involves balance like gymnastics or ballet, something that helps with their coordination, they can get snowboarding easier because it involves a lot of balance. (Luthy, 2009)

Some say to start alpine sports like snowboarding and skiing between the ages of 6 and 8, but others say as long as the child can stand, they can participate, with supervision that is. The only problem with younger children is that they do not have as fine of motor control which makes it difficult to control skis. (Luthy, 2009)

Child Participation

Parent's Influence

With parents being involved in their children’s sports, both emotionally and financially, they have a tremendous influence on their child’s decisions. In alpine sports specifically, parent's influence rubs off on their children when they go out on the mountain together. There was a survey done to look at the percentage of parent involvement and child participation rates.

According to the 2005 General Social Survey, (Clark, 2014)

  • 7% of parents of aged 5-14 year olds are involved in some form of sport with their children.
  • 26% of those same parents are involved regularly in their own sport
  • 24% of children participated without their parents not being involved in their own sport
  • 62% of children participated when their parents were involved in their own sport

This finding shows that parents can support their children's sports activity simply by watching and encouraging them. It also shows that generally, sporty parents have sporty kids. When parents participate in sport themselves, their children will 62% more likely to participate as well. (Clark, 2014)

Common Injuries

Unfortunately, due to the dangerous nature of the sport, injuries are common among children. The incidence of alpine sport injury has increased due to increasing popularity over the last several decades (Langran, & Selvaraj, 2002). The true number of injuries may even be underestimated due to the tendency for injuries to go unreported.

There are several mechanisms that contribute to injury while participating in alpine sports. Equipment failure, skill level, collisions and falls, excessive speed, slope conditions, and behavioral factors all contribute to injury. There are also differences in injury trends between alpine skiers and alpine snowboarders. Alpine skiers primarily injure the lower extremity while alpine snowboarders primarily injure the upper extremity (Dohin & Kohler, 2008).Compared with alpine skiers, alpine snowboarders are three times more likely to get injured from jumping (Davidson & Laliotis, 1996).

A study by Skokan, Junkins, and Kadish (2002) show that ground level falls predominated, causing 50% of all injuries, followed by crashes into trees causing 18%. Thirteen percent of injuries resulted from falls from ski lifts.The mean age was 10.7 years old. The leading diagnoses were femoral fracture (18%), concussion (11%), facial injury (11%), tibial fracture (9%), upper extremity fracture (7%), abdominal contusion (6%), and intracranial injury (6%). (Skokan et al., 2002)

Head and Neck Injuries

Children experience more head and cervical injuries than any other age group (Hagel, Goulet, Platt, & Pless, 2004). Children may have an increased risk of spinal injury due to their greater head to body mass ratio (Hagel, Pless, Goulet, Ptatt, & Robitaile, 2005). The type of head trauma indicate a high incidence of severe injury involving skull fractures, intracranial lesions, oral and facial damage, soft tissue damage, and concussion (Meyers et al., 2007). Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding may reduce the risk of head injury by 29-56% (Hagel et al., 2005).

Upper Extremity Injuries

Alpine Snowboarding

In snowboarding, one study found that upper extremity injuries account for roughly 37% of injuries in children, with wrist fractures accounting for the majority (Dohin & Kohler, 2008). Thankfully, wrist guards used have shown to be effective in decreasing the risk of wrist related injuries (Kim & Lee, 2011). A large percentage of upper extremity injuries occur on the left side as a result of the more common, regular style of snowboard riding with the left foot in front (Meyers et al., 2007).

Alpine Skiing

Upper extremity injuries account for roughly 23-37% of the total number of ski injuries reported in children (Meyers et al., 2007). A large portion of that is attributed to thumb impairment, namely dislocations and fractures (Meyers et al., 2007). Left and right side upper extremity injury incidence show no significant difference in alpine skiing (Meyers et al., 2007).

Lower Extremity Injuries

Alpine Snowboarding

Compared with alpine skiing, lower extremity injuries are far less common than in alpine snowboarding. Knee sprains account for 5.2% while leg and ankle fractures only account for 1.2% of all snowboarding related injuries (Dohin & Kohler, 2008).

Alpine Skiing

Children are three times more likely to suffer lower extremity injuries alpine skiing than adults (Meyers et al., 2007). Femoral fractures, and knee complications, such as ACL and MCL sprains, were common due to the tendency for the twisting leg to apply an excessive valgus stress and rotational force (Meyers et al., 2007). Inadequate release of ski bindings have been demonstrated to cause lower leg related injuries (Finch & Kelsall, 1998). Tibial fractures are common due to stiffer ski boot designs (Finch & Kelsall, 1998).

Reducing Osteoporosis Fractures

With alpine sports taking a toll on your body, sometimes it does not hold up as well as it should. Osteoporosis is something that causes bones to become weak and brittle, which can cause injuries like bone fractures. It has been suggested that physical activity during childhood is advocated as one strategy for enhancing peak bone mass (bone mineral content [BMC]) as a means to reduce osteoporosis-related fractures (Fuchs, Bauer, & Snow, 2001).

Environmental Risks

  • Sun Damage

The combination of higher altitude and UV rays reflected by the snow puts skiers and snowboarders at an increased risk of sun damage, and ultimately skin cancer. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with sun exposure. o(“Essential Outdoor Sun Safety Tips for Winter”, n.d.).

  • Avalanche

Safety Equipment & Equipment Safety

Over the last several decades, technology has increased the level of performance and security of alpine equipment (Colonna, Nicotra, & Moncalero, 2013; Bladin, McCrory, Pogorzelski, 2004). Several recommendations are made for children wishing to participate in alpine sport in order to reduce the incidence of injury in children:

(1) Since helmets are so effective in reducing the incidence of head related injury, children are highly recommended to wear a properly fitted helmet.

(2) If children are learning to snowboard, wrist guards are recommended as they have shown to be effective in preventing wrist related injuries (Kim & Lee, 2011).

(3) Children learning to ski should adjust their ski bindings so that they release more easily in order to prevent leg injuries.

(4) Children should be fitted with equipment that match their height, weight, level of experience, boot size, an slope conditions in order to improve comfort and enjoyment.

(5) Equip children with a GPS or a location device to ensure the child is being properly supervised. For example, Whistler Blackcomb Snow School includes the Flaik GPS system in all kids, teens, and private lessons (Whistler Blackcomb, 2014).

What to wear

  • Gloves: Waterproof gloves or mittens work the best. Avoid cotton or wool.
  • Goggles / Sunglasses: Keep UV rays and wind out of your eyes.
  • Jacket: Wear a waterproof and windproof jacket to ensure that you stay dry and comfortable.
  • Helmet: Protect your head and keep it warm.
  • Layers: The key to staying warm. Fleece and polypropylene work the best because they don’t absorb much water.
  • Pants: Waterproof pants that cover your boots are the best. They keep you dry and eliminate snow from going down your boot. Avoid wearing jeans and any other absorbent material.
  • Socks: Only wear one pair of thick, long, and stretchy socks. This will keep your feet warm and prevent blisters and bunching.

(“What to Wear”, n.d.)

Pole Sizing

Skier Height Pole Length (Inches) Pole Length (Centimeters)
6'7+ 56 140
6'4"-6'6" 54 135
6'1"-6'3" 52 130
5'10"-6'0" 49 125
5'7"-5'9" 48 120
5'4"-5'6" 46 115
5'1"-5'3" 44 110
4'9"-5'0" 42 105
4'5"-4'8" 40 100
4'1"-4'4" 38 95
3'9"-4'0" 36 90
3'5"-3'8" 34 85
<3'4" 32 80

(“Ski Pole Sizing Chart”, n.d.)

Helmet Rules

Here is a list of different Resort Helmet Rules from around the world. Italy

  • It is required for all children under the age of 14 to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding in Italian resorts. Failure to adhere to the rules will result in a fine. Parents are responsible for ensuring their child is wearing a helmet. Adults remain free to choose whether they wear a helmet or not.


  • Austrian authorities are set to make helmet wearing by children under 15 years old required this winter. Children up to the age of 15 are affected with parents responsible for complying with the rule. Adults continue to be able to make their own decision about wearing a helmet and safety on the mountain.


  • In French resorts it is not required for anyone to wear a helmet but some ski schools advise or require them. Outside of ski school it is not required for children to wear ski helmets and adults remain free to make their own choice about safety on the mountain.


  • Helmets are not mandatory. However, some resorts are introducing other safety measures. For the past 3 years, a two-kilometer stretch above the resort of Grindelwald has been subject to a 30km/h speed limit. However, this stretch represents about 1% of the total runs on the mountain. Swiss resorts are currently focusing on making skiers and snowboarders across all Swiss resorts aware of the rules of conduct skiers and snowboarders are expected to follow, but which many are unaware of.

(“Ski and Snowboard Helmets”, n.d.)

Tips for Wearing a Helmet

  1. Ski and snowboard as if you weren’t wearing a helmet
  2. Use a helmet designed specifically for skiing or snowboarding
  3. Take time to ensure the helmet fits properly
  4. Buy a helmet that meets industry standards.
  5. Adults should serve as role models for children
  6. Bring your child’s goggles in when you buy the helmet
  7. Keep goggles and helmets attached together
  8. Provide incentives for good helmet behavior.

(“Why Wear a Helmet”, n.d.)


Average Price:

  • Average pricing for:
  • 0-5 year olds: $30~
  • 6-12 year olds: $375~
  • Family passes are usually available
  • Average prices from Grouse Mountain, Seymour Mountain, Cypress Mountain and Whistler Blackcomb Mountain (2015)


Lesson Levels

Many mountains offer ski and snowboard lessons with each mountain varying on the requirement for each level. Here is one example of what children will learn in different lessons. In the beginning, they will learn how to stop, make turns, gaining confidence on the mountain and use a chairlift. They will continue to work on their fundamental movement skills, increasing speed and slopes, using poles, and refining balance and stops. Once that has been learned, they may move onto trying moguls, increasing their runs from green, to blue and then once they have refined their efficiency and technique on the slopes as well as have built enough strength, they can try out black diamond runs, the hardest on the mountain. ("Skiing & Snowboading Lessons", 2015)

Snow Activities


If a child isn’t comfortable participating in (strap-in) sports on the mountain:


This game is to practice throwing. Start off by having everyone make a big pile of snowballs. Once that's done, make your baseball diamond by making four snow mounds for home plate, first, second, and third base, with a mound in the middle for the "pitcher" to stand on. Place a bottle or can on top of the four mounds in the diamond. Taking turns, have each player stand on the pitcher's mound and try to knock the bottle off each mound by throwing snowballs at each one. The player who uses the fewest snowballs to knock each bottle over wins. (“Snow Baseball”, n.d.)


Another throwing game. Paint a bull's-eye target on a piece of cardboard, giving each colored ring a point value. Attach it to a tree, and keep score as the kids try to hit the target with snowballs. (“20+ Fun Activities to Do in the Snow”, n.d.)


Split into teams and compete in a snow-carving competition. Out of a mound of snow, create a work of art. The team with the most creative snow sculpture (as judged by the unbiased adult leaders) wins the competition. (“Fun Games to Play in the Snow”, n.d.)


Have a snowball-throwing contest! Make a target by creating a bright circle in the snow with colored water in a squirt bottle. (“20+ Fun Activities to Do in the Snow”, n.d.)


Beach toys aren't just for sand. Have your kids sit in inner tubes and then race to the finish line using just their feet. (“20+ Fun Activities to Do in the Snow”, n.d.)

Instructor Programs

Places that offer Instructor Training Programs:

  • British Association of Snowsport Instructors [1]
  • CSIA Leaders in Ski Teaching [2]
  • Snow Skool [3]
  • Whistler Blackcomb [4]


Skiing and Snowboarding depend solely on having enough snow. In Canada, there is a high level of artificial snowmaking. Under climate change scenarios and current snowmaking technology, the average ski season at the case study ski area in Canada (Lakelands tourism region) was projected to reduce by 0-16% in the 2020s, 7-32% in the 2050s and 11-50% in the 2080s. Without snowmaking the season would decline substantially by 37 – 57% in the 2050s. Simultaneous with the projected ski season losses, the estimated amount of snowmaking required increased by 36-144% in the scenarios for the 2020s. Required snowmaking amounts increased by 48-187% in the scenarios for the 2050s. The ability of individual ski areas to absorb additional snowmaking costs may be the crucial factor in remaining economically viable. With this being said, climate change is affecting ski hills, making it harder for them to stay open. (Burki, Elasser, & Abegg, 2003)



Children should be encouraged to attend ski and snowboard programs to encourage skill development. Improving skill level has been shown to be the most effective means in preventing alpine sport related injury (Ogawa, Sumi, Sumi, & Shimizu, 2010; Dohin & Kohler, 2008; Meyers et al. 2007; Urabe, Ochi, Onari, & Ikuta, 2002). Ski and snowboard schools may also teach children to acquire proper safety habits and courtesy towards others on the slopes.


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