My 11 year old daughter and I, who live in Boston and usually ski in NH, will be visiting family in Bowie, MD this Christmas. We'd like to introduce 2 MD cousins, ages 9 and 11, to snowboarding/skiing on a day trip from Bowie. What ski area would you recommend within a few hours driving distance that has reasonable learn-to-snowboard/ski and rental packages? Massanutten looks good--how does that compare to Wisp? Thanks.
Hi Sharon. I wouldn't recommend Wisp as a place to take beginners. My boyfriend and I were beginners last year and had a very bad experience at Wisp. I have also talked to a number of other people who had similarly bad first-time experiences there. I haven't been to Massanutten, so I can't compare it to any of the other resorts, but I would personally recommend Liberty as a great place to learn. The instructors are patient and knowledgeable. The whole atmosphere at Liberty is much more family-oriented. I also think their "First Class" ski area is one of the best in the region with a very gentle slope and a nice quad lift. Their "First Class" learn-to-ski package is $50 mid-week and $65 on weekends and that includes lift ticket, either ski or snowboard rental, and lesson. And if you don't mind going after dark, the "First Class" package is only $44 from 5pm-10pm any night. I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for Liberty, but I had a very good experience there last year and would recommend it highly. The only uncertainty is Mother Nature and how much snow the local resorts will be able to produce before Christmas. Good Luck! I'm sure your cousins will have a great time!
Most of the major resorts in the Mid- Atlantic have first rate ski schools. A lot of beginners learn to ski on these slopes so the programs have to be good!
I'm in the process of interviewing the director of the Wisp Ski School about their
direct parallel beginner program. This new, highly innovative program utilizes ultra short shapes (120-140 centimeters), and guarantees that a beginner will be parallel skiing after two days of intense lessons ($99). I should have the article finished by mid December so stay tuned.
PS Most experts recommend that children learn to ski before they learn to snowboard. I'll try to get some more information as to why when I talk to the Wisp Director.
FYI - Ski Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail have utilized the Elan short ski program for at least the last year (maybe 2). There are height restrictions on these skis with kids, so you may want to check that out before you plan that program at Wisp. Ski and Snowboard Schools have not really determined that it is necessary for a child to learn to ski before boarding. For example, a child who skateboards will snowboard very easily and there are many children (and adults) that find snowboarding easier to begin with.
Good luck with your trip!
I can't resist chiming in here.
Massanuten is a nice mountain but farther away from Bowie than Liberty or Roundtop.
As a member of the staff, I think that Liberty has a fabulous ski school and a beginner area that is pretty close to ideal. I am also heavily involved in the program that uses short shaped skis for teaching and Liberty has, with the exception of smaller kids or frighteningly busy days when the shapes run out, gone over exclusively to teaching beginners on these skis. The goal is to have a beginner's first turn be a parallel turn and to teach wedge turns only as a fallback in those limited instances where they are better employed.
The 11 year old would certainly be sent out on the short shapes and the 9 year old probably would be, unless he/she is small.
You might also consider Whitetail. It is farther but it also has a really nice beginner area with lots of space and a good runout at the bottom. Sad to say, but I have never seen Roundtop's beginner area even though I have skied there a bunch of times.
Good luck and hope for cold weather. Here in the tropics if we don't have a cold snap in December we don't have skiing Christmas week. The beginner area does, however, get the first snow that is laid down.
I'm not that up on how the local ski area ski schools compare. I think they are all at least respectable. All our mtns make Gunstock look big. From Bowie the closest might be Ski Roundtop, PA, maybe about 80-90 miles and near York. The least crowded, and it can be crowded here if conditions are decent during Xmas week, would likely be Bryce Mtn, Va, about 100-110 miles west on I66 from Bowie/DC. If crowds weren't a factor, I might concur that Liberty Mtn would be good choice. It's one of the closest to Bowie too. All the areas have websites you can access from this site. By the way, Massanutten is 45 min further from Bowie than the others I discussed. It's not a bad place for advanced boarders, but is crowded and has lots of flat runout that would be tough for beginner boarders. It doesn't ski as big as it's VD might imply.
If you go to skipa.com you can get a learn to ski package for any PA ski resort for only $20
Definetly go to Whitetail or Liberty if you are just starting out, I've been to just about every resort in the area and have found those are most accomadating for beginners.
make them snowboard they'll have more fun! don't go to massanutten on the weekends it gets way too crowded
Just thought I would throw my two cents in about good slopes for those just starting out or for people who just want to get away for the weekend and ski some easier hills and not deal with tons of people. Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, PA is a great place to learn to ski. The hills aren't to big and the crowds don't get to large. Rates range from $20-$30 for lift passes and $15-$25 for ski and board rentals. There is also a world class spa for those who want to relax a little.