Mountain Resorts Make Skiing a Family Affair
"After just one day of lessons, my 6-year-old son, Seth, was saying, 'Come on, Mom, let's get on the chairlift," remembers Klein, who lives in
Ski school has come a long way since Klein took her first turns at Smuggler's as a child. Young skiers used to be an afterthought at many winter resorts, banished to the bunny hill or daycare centers while adults enjoyed the mountain.
The U.S. ski and snowboard industry has dubbed
"Ski resorts have embraced kids," said
Smugglers' Notch is among the standouts, when it comes to teaching kids to ski.
Klein's favorite ski school amenity is the Flaik GPS units that allowed her to go online at the end of the day and track her kids' runs, their vertical feet and see where their group skied. But she was most impressed with how effectively the instructors were able to teach her kids to ski in a short amount of time.
"They were very nurturing and empowering," she said.
Fun, too. Ski resorts are pouring resources and creative energy into making the experience as engaging for children as it is for grown-ups.
"Kids ski and ride camps continue to evolve from the good old days of one ski instructor to a big bunch of kids, learning to snowplow and parallel turn," said
One of the most effective ways to teach kids to ski is to make the trip financially worthwhile to their parents. For example, Ski Utah is offering a program this season called The Ski Utah Fifth and Sixth Grade Passports. For a
Sixth graders can enjoy one free day at each resort. The program is open to anyone, even though it's billed as a locals program.
"It's a way to make it less expensive on mom and dad," said
The most innovative ski school programs treat instruction as a themed experience, like winter camp.
There's also a kids-only terrain park where youngsters can learn how to shred.
Although ski resorts are by their very nature rustic, that doesn't necessarily mean kids have to rough it. At the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, near
And at the Homestead resort in
The intent behind these and other programs may be to introduce a new generation of skiers -- and potential customers -- to America's mountain resorts. "Once you've developed a love for skiing or riding, it's hard to ignore it," said
But the most innovative programs do more than that, says Blake, who helped create
"It's great to know that we are sharing our passion for the mountain with multiple generations of guests," she said.
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