"Of course we have a special program for children," said Dick Whitley, director of the ski school at Ski Liberty in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. "Kids get the adults here to ski. They bug their parents to bring them back if they've had a good lesson." For some parents this may seem to be a pernicious version of the television pitchman's "Kids, tell your folks to come to the television set. I have something important to tell them." But for skiing parents, it's music. There are few things less conducive to skiing than having children who do not ski. A ski weekend is no longer a getaway, it's a campaign more complicated than the raid at Entebbe. If the children don't ski, they have to be placed with assorted relatives, friends and babysitters or taken to a ski area that has a program for non-skiing children -- the kind of program only found thousands of miles away and costing hundreds of dollars. If you ski and have children, you want your children to ski. You're unlikely to want to take your child skiing until his or her time on the slopes justifies the investment in a day's lift ticket and ski rentals. This rarely happens before the age of four, and sometimes not until a child is six or seven. When it does happen, introduce your children to skiing yourself -- no matter how alluring a children's ski school. It needn't take more than a day, but it's your best insurance that your kids will like skiing. The ski school comes later. The important thing to remember is that you're not going to teach your child to ski. That will be the job of the instructor. You're only going to show the child that skiing is fun. By the end of the first session your child should learn how to fall down and get up, how to walk on skis, and perhaps how to schuss down a gentle incline. Leave your poles behind: They only get in the way when you help your child get up, and they cause him to nag because he doesn't have any. Then start walking on your skis. You can first slide your feet forward one at a time, or you can lift your feet and put them down. Let your child experiment with various kinds of walking. If your child is strong enough, he may want to try skating on skis. This combines many of the skills he'll need later: weight- change, edging, balance. But not all children are able to skate their first day on skis. If your child can't skate, go on to something else. If you can, be the first one to fall -- on purpose, of course, as you never fall when skiing. Falling is actually fun, as your child will soon show you. The purpose of falling is learning how to get up. Try rolling over from back to stomach while lying on the ground, keeping the skis off the snow. The skis will feel much less ungainly after that maneuver. Your child will enjoy watching the struggle and will probably do it faster and better than you. Walking should include walking up a gentle incline. Show your child the sidestep, but don't be surprised if he prefers the herringbone. Most children do. By this time the child should be in position for straight running, or schussing down the hill. You should also be prepared to play some games. Alfred Marozzi's book for children on learning to ski, Skiing Basics, (Prentice-Hall, 48 pp., $8.95) has many good games, such as schussing side by side while throwing a mitten or a hat back and forth. Marozzi also asks "Can you move very lightly down a slope? Make believe you're floating?" Such imagery helps a child experiment with the most comfortable and efficient way to ski. If there's a gentle slope with few skiers -- possibly the areas just above the lifts but o the child until he is tired or until he asks to ski on a more difficult slope. If he wants to go in, take him. No use pushing it. If he wants to try a more difficult slope, take him to the easiest beginner's slope. If your child is small, you'll have to take him up the lift with you. A chairlift is easy with a child; the rope tow is the most difficult. On T-bars and J-bars you ride the lift with the child between your legs, or both of you hold on with your hands to the same horizontal crosspiece. On chairs and rope tows ask the lift operator to help with the child. Bigger children should be taught to use the lifts themselves. Here, too, lift operators can be a great help. If you're riding a J-bar, poma or rope tow with a child, ride behind so that you can get off if h falls off. On a chair or T-bar, ride with the child. On the beginner's slope, expand on what you've been doing on the flat. Marozzi's book suggests games such as a slalom race. He thinks children learn to turn by turning. He may be right: Watch any small child on the slopes and you'll see that there is a skier who doesn't worry about upper-body positioning, unweighting or edging. He just turns. If your child seems to have some trouble with turning, you might show him a hop turn. Children do this a lot more easily than adults. After a day or two on the slopes with you, your child will be ready for professional instruction. You could continue to be the instructor, but family life will be happier if you turn your kid over to the ski school. Two things are instant warnings at ski school: when the newest, least-experienced instructors are assigned to children's classes, or when children and adults are mixed in classes. Mixed classes (unless they are people who have asked to be in the same group) mean the kids get too much talking to really learn, and the adults may be too embarrassed by the possibility of being shown up by the pint-sized skiers to really learn. These classes are a waste of money. If the ski school puts such low priority on children that the least-experienced teachers teach them, then the instruction will reflect that attitude. Ski Liberty's Whitley said that all his instructors rotate through children's classes, and that his best instructors look at it almost as a day off: they play games and ski with enthusiastic skiers; no one asks them to explain what they're doing. For an instructor, this is a real change. For the children, this is good instruction. Children don't intellectualize their skiing, they just do it. If their model is a good skier, they will learn good skiing. A good instructor will play those games that emphasize the skills the children need to learn, which is why children gain from ski school classes. If your child considers himself beyond ski school, but you think he needs to learn to ski better, enroll him in a racing clinic. Clinics aren't limited to expert skiers, and the skills taught aren't limited to the race course. In fact, racing clinics emphasize control, not speed. Control is much more important: it's easy to increase speed if a racer is in control. Whitley suggests that parents get good equipment for their children, whether they buy or rent. Bargain skis may not be as good as used skis purchased at a ski swap. Younger children hardly scratch the bottoms on their skis because of their weight, and small skis and boots often seem new even when they have had several owners. It's worth the investment in good equipment. The child who cannot make the old wooden skis with the cracked edges turn will not want to ski again. That would mean hiring a babysitter -- or staying home with the kids yourself.