Mid-Atlantic Ski Schools for Children
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The Colonel - DCSki Supporter 
November 15, 2008
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,110 posts
Earlier tonight I posted a note to Scott about additional emphasis on skiing with children here in the mid-Atlantic. There is a vast difference in quality, efficiency, ease, and costs between the various resorts in this region.
Tonight I'll concentrate on what I consider to be the most efficient and inefficient approaches that our local hills employ.
Getting your kids to enjoy skiing and riding is more than just going to a local mountain and dropping them off at the ski school. Sometimes the situation can be downright humorous were you not paying big bucks for the experience. I digress, but I am reminded of an experience my family had at Canaan Valley Ski Area over thirty years ago (hopefully the tale I tell is no longer the case at this area). Anyway, I had dropped my youngsters off at the appointed meeting place and found the two of them to be in a class of two, a good beginning. The instructor took the kids over to the beginner lift area and was skiing down with the kids when I happened upon them. I stopped, watched, and listened to what he had to tell them. I heard instructions such as "keep skis at right angle to the slope", "ski across the fall line", "go parallel to..." etc.; my kids acted like they knew of what he spoke, hardly likely for kids under the age of seven!. He obviously was lacking in skills to reach children.
It would have been nice to have known that the CV kids program was sorely lacking in age appropriate instruction before I went there for that weekend many years ago.
Hopefully other DCSkiers will begin to use the Forum for posting about kids ski schools and other activities related to children at a resort. And methods that they have successfully and not so successfully used when first starting their kids future love for the snow sports. But I digress...
The way a children's ski program is organized and run can greatly influence the quality of instruction and the fun your kids will have...and their desire to return to the slopes. Remember, the key here is FUN! My experience is that the more organized a kids ski program is, the better the results.
Consider the optimum kids program: a school with instructors that enjoy working with kids, sometimes retired or still teaching elementary school teachers (especially on the weekend when additional instructors are needed due to crowds). Reasonable size classes. A program that also takes the kids indoors for treats, some warm off-snow activities, maybe even lunch...all for a reasonable fee, whether for a half day or a full day. You really want them to have FUN and learn, or you would not have put them into ski school...you do not want a "day care" situation just so you can ski. Most resorts offer a baby-sitting operation if this is your intention. You want a school that makes you and the child feel good about what is happening and the whole experience. Much preferred is a school that takes care of all the hassle...provides the equipment and fits it to your child at the schoolhouse or rooms, and includes the lift ticket as a part of the daily or half-daily fee. Such programs exist at Seven Springs, Wintergreen, Bryce, and most other local resorts. A notable exception to this is the methodology employed by the children's ski program at our largest resort: Snowshoe Mountain. Here the kids are expected to have their own equipment (you the parent or grandparent must go to the resort's rental outlets and try to outfit your child...often a trying experience, especially if overcrowded with hordes of adults also seeking equipment. And remember, for a brand new little skier (under the age of 5) this can be a very intimidating experience, not a great way to encourage a lifetime passion for the sport. A child at this age has no real feel whether a boot is too large or not!
At Snowshoe you also have to obtain the child's lift ticket (even if free) before they go to the ski school. Once at the school the experience is hopefully similar to that at other resorts,
Since the kids that learn to ski and eventually board are the future of the industry, one would think that Snowshoe would offer programs and rates comparable to the other resort kids ski school programs. Whoa, not so fast. At most resorts the cost of a full days kids ski school is between $90-$110 , and this includes lift ticket, equipment, snacks, maybe lunch, and two on-snow lessons, sometimes the lift ticket is free even if the child is 7 or over and enrolled in a full day program. At Snowshoe the children's ski school is broken into two half day sessions, each $80 (or $160 for the full day). To that you have to add the rental equipment you reserved and acquired yourself, another $30 per day, and a self purchased lift ticket if the child is over the age of 5 (not sure, but about $45/day).
What this means is that Snowshoe charges near or over $200 per child per day for a full day program that involves a lot more hassle than at the other big mid-Atlantic ski resorts which charge approximately $100 for a better experience for the parents and hopefully the children.
DCSkiers should contact the folks at Intrawest and Snowshoe to bring their children's ski program up to the standards provided at nearly all other resorts, whether in the mid-Atlantic or elsewhere. The issue is not just cost, but the structuring of a fun experience for the child and also their parents.
Keep this topic alive by writing about your experiences putting you children and grandchildren on the slopes. Where has the experience been good, and where not so good (here explain the why since it might not be the fault of the ski school itself).
The Colonel smile
November 16, 2008
Member since 02/15/2006 🔗
160 posts

I can't speak to the experience for kids that young. Mine didn't start till around 12 and 10 respectively. I think each one has had exactly one lesson. After that they were off with their friends. Course I didn't ski then, so I had no idea what danger they could have gotten into.

For myself, I've probably had 15 lessons over the last three years. I've had some great instructors and a few duds. However, 12 year-olds are made out of rubber and they bounce when they fall down. 50 year-olds don't. So without fear, they learn much faster.

Most instructors are nice folks with a passion for skiing that they want to share. Some are just better equipped to relate to their students, be they 7 or 57. I'm not sure that you can judge a ski school through one experience. Some days you get the dud.

November 17, 2008
Member since 10/18/2005 🔗
29 posts
Wow. We're a family of six on a single income. We ski every single chance we get--which isn't nearly as often as we'd want. Every year for the past 5 years we've gone to Snowshoe for a week long family vacation. There are two things enabling that vacation: #1 Earned Income Tax Credit and #2 The Snowshoe Kroger promotion-helped along some years by VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) We take my parents along with us (not just for the free babysitting--but the excellent cooking as well!) grin

Living in the Charleston area-Winterplace is of course the closest place to us-and where we've taken all our kids first. We basically couldn't afford for our kids to learn how to ski in ski school anyway. I hate to admit it, but we HAVE used ski school as daycare--meaning that we didn't necessarily have high expectations of our kids learning a whole lot--both because we couldn't afford to send them for more than one or two sessions at the most, and because they were older. Our youngest participated in her first session last season, and frankly, she taught several of the other kids by example...her class was absolutely full though, and all we've ever expected was that they get to watch someone--and have the opportunity to experience a different teaching technique than either their Dad, or I could provide--sometimes that helps a LOT...oh, and that they'd get hot chocolate and a snack....while we got some badly needed cuddle time on the lift ALONE. That didn't work this last time, as we had a guest, so I spent the day with the teenagers, while my hubby filmed our youngest in her class--which is why we know about her fine leading example. cool

My experience has been that it's all about patience, and a good sense of humor, and stick-to-it-ivness. lol. I taught my hubby how to ski...though I've encouraged him to take lessons as often as we can afford them--I'm ALWAYS up for a lesson, I'm eager to improve. I introduced my Dad to skiing--and let me tell you--he blossomed under an instructor at Snowshoe...I've got the video to prove it! and it's been me who took each one of our kids to Winterplace for their first time on skis...it can't be said enough--it's about fun! The second it's a chore, is the moment we head inside...I've been extremely fortunate that my family members are every bit as stubborn and mule headed as I was though! Plus, we're all able to laugh at ourselves...that helps loads.

We're also fortunate in that we're spread out age and ability wise...we have four kids, the eldest went skiing her first time at 11, her sister at 10, their brother at 6 and the youngest at 3. (They're 17, 15, 10 and 5 now) My brother flew in from Colorado (HE'S an expert skier) to vacation with us 4 out of the five years we've done this...so, the eldest two could go off on the black diamonds with him as my hubby and I stayed with either my Dad, or our youngest when out on the slopes. Last year, he wasn't there and was sorely missed! My Dad didn't come either, but we did bring a cousin from Texas who learned while on vacation with us--by the end of the week, he was doing Cascade at Silvercreek!

My Mom coming along really provides the heart of our vacations...she cooks while we're out-plus she brings literally boxes of craft supplies for our youngest. The only time anyone's out on the slopes is when they really want to be...since we've got the whole week, and we're using coupons that have been long paid for--we really feel much less pressure, plus, having a responsible adult back at 'home base' is more wonderful than I can say.

My Dad is a serious e-bay aficionado...so, it was just natural for me to check out e-bay when it came time to equip our kids...basically, I bought on e-bay equipment similar to what they would have been renting and we used that for the first two seasons. I paid less to own used rental skis, than we would have spent to rent them. This let me shop for a couple of seasons online waiting both for the experience, and the right deals to trade up. My kids have equipment LOADS better than any rentals, and as nice as many who have a whole lot more to work with $$ wise--thanks to e-bay. I got them new boots each year (they just wouldn't quit growing!) but have for the most part managed to stay well below what we would have spent renting every year--so that's what I recommend...our local ski shop closed...so we're down to one place to shop for bindings etc. (Sportmart) but they'll waive the 50$ fee to put bindings on, if you buy them there. lol--we bought my cousin a brand new pair of skis (the same kind I had skied on and loved!) and got his bindings there-so we spent less than half what I paid for my skis--having bought them at our local shop before they retired...it's great, if you know what you want....really scary learning though! I lurk here hoping to pick up as much information as I can--plus I like reading about you guys...sorry if I've rambled on entirely too long...hope this isn't TL/DR!
December 10, 2008
Member since 12/6/2008 🔗
69 posts
My 5-year old son participated in the Slope Sliders program at Massanutten last year (he was 4 then). I think he went a total of three times. He loved it, and progressed each time. The price included equipment, snack, and a lunch, and I think the whoe program lasted for 3-4 hours.

The instructors were great from the moment we showed up, to getting fitted for equipment, to the instruction in the training area and on the slopes.

He was recognized, addressed by name, and even got hugs from the Supervisor (Lecia?) on subsequent visits. Her husband and daughter were also instructors.

Anyway, I couldn't have been happier with his first experience on the slopes. And more importantly, I don't think he could be either.
marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
December 10, 2008
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
3,272 posts
My daughter fully enjoyed Slope Sliders at Massanutten from age 4 to 7. She was riding the chairlift with the instructor the first afternoon. They keep the first timer class (Red) to no more than 4 kids. I think she did 2 days of ski school each winter after that, mixed with skiing with me on the easy blue runs. Last winter was her fourth ski season, she was skiing Diamond Jim (black) at age 7 with confidence and control. Had just as much fun on the blues and easy black at Wintergreen a few weeks later. Then had a ball at Alta in April on any blue run, including short treks in the trees.

Sometimes I would ski at a distance behind her class to observe or watch from the chairlift. There was only one instructor over the years who wasn't stellar.

Slope Sliders starts at 9:30 and ends at 2:00. The kids essentially get 3 classes, with a mid-morning snack break and a lunch break. I like the fact that there is time left in the afternoon to ski afterwards. Even at 4, she was usually good for a couple runs. It's a really good idea to check in the night before if possible.

At age 7, you can put kids into the regular clinic. Great at slow times because it can end up a private lesson for group rates.
marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
December 15, 2008
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
3,272 posts
Went to check out the NC ski areas last weekend. Looking at the ski school area at Beech reminded me of the best feature of Massanutten Slope Sliders . . . the magic carpet for first-timers and little kids. No matter how good the instructors are, if a kid has to manage a J-bar or climb up just to ski down 20 feet, they aren't going to have much fun while they learn enough to ride a bunny lift to experience some real skiing.
marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
January 29, 2009
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
3,272 posts
Some shots of a clinic on Jan. 20 at Massanutten. Kids age 7 and up can do the 90-min clinics offered at 10:30, 1:30, and 5:30. $30 for clinic only. Essentially free if you get the package with liftie and rentals. Not surprisingly, 10:30 and 5:30 clinics tend to have fewer people so the chance of a private or semi-private lesson is higher.

My 8yo and her friend, also 8, joined a new 7yo friend for the 1:30 clinic, together with a woman (yellow). Since all the girls were skiing blue runs, the instructor took them to Lift 5 and Rebel Yell. He started teaching them how to use their poles on turns.

February 2, 2009
Member since 05/18/2007 🔗
68 posts
Children's Ski School Supervisors and Snowsports School Directors need to bring them self to an eye level with their guests. Children don't know anything about expectations and tech talk. We at Seven Springs use the term "we are talking the kids on a tour". With the goal the kids will go through our learning park with a tunnel, rollers, banks, and two quarter pipes to learn the skills in a fun environment.

The cost of such full day program can be around $90 to a $120. This price includes at Seven Springs Tiny-Tot Ski School a ticket, 3hours lesson, lunch, equipment, and a picture. We also offer new this year a "Mini Star @ NASTAR" for the 4-7 year olds.

All in all this means if you see the director and kids school director working with the guest you know you have a wonderful sliding experience for your child. We have about 220 instructors and we still teach everyday......because we love to teach the future skiers of tomorrow.
February 5, 2009
Member since 03/5/2008 🔗
44 posts
A couple more data points on ski instruction for kids:

1. My daughter's first exposure to skiing was Prez Day weekend 2007 at Wisp. She was six years old at the time. I enrolled her in the kids program. Wisp was swamped that weekend, but you'd think they could have anticipated it. The classes were way too big; my daughter (and the rest of her class) spent probably half her time inside the building. I think the only thing she learned was how to put on and take off skis. Half way through the weekend I pulled her from the class and spent the rest of the time with her myself on the bunny slopes. I didn't try to instruct her, but just let her have fun (e.g., I'd set her up at the top of the slope, give her a gentle push and let her cruise down). My objective was simply that she would have a happy memory of her first skiing experience.

2. For the last two Xmas breaks, we've gone to Smugglers Notch in Vermont. My daughter, teen-age son, and I all took morning lessons. My and my son's lessons were fine, although probably comparable to what we could get at many places. My daughter's lessons, by contrast, were amazing. Smuggs has a cadre of instructors that have been there for years and love kids -- and know how to teach them. My daughter is now carving down blues and even doing jumps (Jib Junction at Whitetail). A couple times since this year's trip, she's mentioned the name of her instructor and how much she liked that person. While we probably won't go back to SN next Xmas break -- we're all ready to try a new place -- it was a great place to get my daughter (and me) into skiing.

3. Not really a full data point, but I've been a few times to Whitetail the past couple months. On MLK weekend with my son, we were on the experts lift (to Far Side) and were on the same timing "cycle" as a team of what must have been 8/9 yr-old advanced kids with a woman instructor. We saw them on several runs and overheard the discussion in the lift line. She was doing a very impressive job with those kids. Had I been with my daughter that weekend I would have tried to get her in with that instructor.

That's my $.03.
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