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).