|SKI SCHOOL: Sign the kids up for a lesson to help them get their snow legs (courtesy, Telluride Ski Resort/Gus Gusciorca)|
Many resorts offer free or greatly discounted first time skiing or boarding lessons that include gear rentals. In Vermont, the Okemo Mountain Resort (www.okemo.com) offers free first-time rentals, lift ticket, and lessons. Plus, they give you a card for discounts throughout the rest of the season. Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort (www.skicb.com) offers free lift tickets from November 25th to December 15th. Hawks Nest Resort in North Carolina (www.hawksnest-resort.com) has free ski nights and ten dollar lift tickets on Sundays for church groups. Many resorts have early season rates designed to attract people in November and December. Also, look for deals after spring break (mid-March). While Christmas Break, President’s Weekend, and spring break are generally the most crowded times, big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter often have fun activities for kids and fewer lines.
First off, help your child get comfortable with the equipment. Practice putting on and taking off skis and boards at home. If you have a nearby golf course or park that gets some snow, go out and practice. Learning to walk uphill is almost as important as gliding down. If children can walk confidently on skis in the snow, they’ll get more out of a class. At most resorts, you can find a small incline perfect for novices to walk up and fall down before committing to lift tickets or lessons.
If everyone in the family is beginning, sign up for a series of group lessons and learn together. If you already ski or board, consider taking the time to get your own toddler started. For small kids (five and under), lessons equate to expensive babysitting—by robust college students with strong backs. When teaching your child to ski or board, consider investing in a harness and leash system so you can minimize having to hold the kids between your legs—when they get stable, use the harness and leash to check their downhill speed and encourage turns (www.outdoorkids.com, www.kidsnsnow.com). The apparel company Spyder (www.spyder.com) makes a kid’s jacket with a built-in handle on the back—if your child falls or loses control, you pluck them up like a mother cat grabbing her kitten by the scruff of the neck.
When your child feels ready to go solo, find a gently-graded, wide open, uncrowded slope, as you don’t want faster skiers and riders swooping down from above. Last season it took my husband and me about 20 days to get our four-year-old twins to link together snowplow turns. Once they mastered zigzagging across the slope, they were set to leave the bunny slope and start exploring the mountain with us. Ideally, you’ll ski or board with your kids early in the process, then put them into a snowsport education program where they’ll continue to learn. Most resorts have youth racing programs, which surround children with friends who share the same love of the sport and teach lifetime habits of sportsmanship and discipline.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication