Get them started young! Kids are clicking into their bindings or strapping into their boards almost as soon as they can walk and there are many benefits to starting at an early age.
I was fortunate enough to have a mother who was willing to make sacrifices to get me started at the age of three. In the late sixties, leather boots, wood skis and cubco bindings were still visible on rope tows, t-bars and primitive looking chair lifts and snowboards had not even made the scene yet. It was painful then, for both the child and the parent. The rope tow alone was enough to send everyone off the hill screaming for mercy. Good thing you could ride it all day for five dollars, although five minutes was about all anyone could handle. Somehow though, we managed to conquer the hill and return weekend after cold weekend. When I think back now, the pain and frustration have all but faded, while the smiles and warm memories have prevailed.
We live in a much kinder and gentler world now, at least for beginning skiers and snowboarders. The equipment is much better now, the lifts are friendlier and patient instructors are lined up to take your kids out and get them started. Unfortunately, though, five bucks won't get you a lift ticket at too many places anymore. In fact, you'll be lucky if it gets you anything. Nonetheless, getting your kids started is an investment in family togetherness that is likely to last a lifetime and will probably cross multiple generations. Skiing and snowboarding are rare outdoor activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family at the same time.
We enjoyed teaching our kids to ski. Sure, there were snotty noses, temper tantrums and wipe-outs, but hey, we were on the snow together. Our little "Sicilian Ski Team" each started before they reached three years of age. My wife, Karen, actually skied while pregnant with all three of them and they all descended the mountain on my back as infants.