There will come a day when you’ll chase your kids down the mountain because they’re little shredders, not because they got loose from your ski leash. But until then, let the professionals give your kiddos an on-slope education. January is both Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and National Safety Month at ski resorts, so we asked Jenn Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA for her top tips to enrolling kids in ski school and making it an enjoyable experience for all.

Is my kid ready for ski school?
Rudolph says there’s no hard-and-fast rule about what age your kid has to be to hit the slopes. It’s more about his or her individual personality. Most ski schools require students to be three years old, potty-trained, and able to ski without a nap. Other gauges are if your kids are able to follow directions and are comfortable leaving mom and dad to hang out with an instructor and other kids. Most importantly, are they excited to go? Even if you want your kids on the slopes, pushing them too early may lead to you dealing with tears in the lodge.

Should my child ski or snowboard?
It depends on what they’re interested in. Some experts recommend skiing over snowboarding for kids under age five, as it’s harder for young ones to keep their balance going sideways on a board. However, mini snowboard equipment is available just like the tiny skis, and there are instructors at many resorts in Colorado who can teach both sports to kids of all ages.

Can I schedule a lesson on the day we get to a resort?
When it comes to dealing with children, the adult-to-child ratio matters. If you’re headed to a resort during peak times, lessons fill up faster as there are only so many instructors. Check out the different ski school options on the resort website early and make reservations.

Should we do a half-day or full-day lesson? 
Rudolph believes a full day is the way to go. “A full-day lesson provides a much better pace for children to learn. It allows them to develop a relationship with the instructor and the other kids in class. Having lunch as a group is often the most fun part of the day. Instructors are great at telling jokes and stories and doing different activities that help kids relax and enjoy the day. Typically, skills are introduced in the morning and the afternoon gives them time to practice and explore.”

How far ahead should I get rental equipment for a lesson?
Rent everything the day before so you don’t have to deal with the morning crowds in a rental shop. Remember to lay out all the other gear the night before so nothing gets forgotten. “Every resort is different but most resorts require kids to wear a helmet and almost all ski shops have them for rent,” Rudolph says. “Skis, boots, ski clothing, goggles, good gloves or mittens, and sunscreen are essential for all skiers. Make sure the child is dressed appropriately in layers for the weather and everything is clearly labeled with their name.”

Should I stay and make sure my child is happy in his/her lesson?
No. Don’t linger. Rudolph recommends that if you want to watch the lesson, be out of sight. “Kids sometimes act differently when their parents are nearby. This makes it hard for the instructor to teach your child when he or she is distracted by mom and dad. Resorts typically have instructors who are trained on physical and mental developmental stages for children and who enjoy kids. Let the instructor teach your child without your child seeing you. It will help establish trust between your child and the instructor, will help your child focus on the instructor and will allow the instructor to teach your child the new skills in a more conducive learning environment.”

How do resorts keep my child safe in ski school?
Ask. Rudolph says to ask about a specific resort’s safety policies, but she notes that safety is the number one concern at all ski schools. “Most resorts have special bibs for kids in preschool. They are brightly colored and easily identifiable to area employees. Lifts are slowed for them to get on and off and they will typically ride with an adult. They ski on appropriate terrain. Many areas have tracking devices for all kids in ski school. Also, instructors have extensive training in safety. The kids will be hydrated, wear sunscreen, be kept warm, and fed when hungry. Kids that come out of ski schools usually have the best etiquette and safety awareness of all those on the mountain.”

Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter @LindseyRMcK.