One of life’s lessons is that you probably shouldn’t try to teach your spouse or child an active sport. It produces impatience, frustration and not infrequently, tears and arguments. Leave it to the professionals—in this case, certified ski instructors. Our region is endowed with first class ski schools that have even sent Pennsylvania youngsters to America’s Olympic ski team. Here are just some of the nearby ski and snowboard schools, chosen for proximity and special programs for kids. – Jay Lloyd
The Spring Mountain Ski School has sent generations of Delaware Valley youngsters to the lofty heights of New England and Colorado. Because of Spring’s convenient location in central Montgomery County, it’s a snap for parents to enroll their kids in after school, multi-lesson programs. “Kids After School” offers four to eight week sessions that put youngsters in the same class with the same instructor, week after week, providing continuity in a setting that progressively raises skill levels.
For the youngest, Spring Mountain offers the “Mole Hill,” which gives tots a sense of balance on a magic carpet lift and prepares them for the next step in learning the sport.
That next step is “Ski Bees.” It’s specially designed for 4 and 5 year olds who have never been on skis and teaches them the basics.
Spring also offers a wide range of group and private lessons. Fourth and fifth graders are eligible for free season lift tickets until January 31st. After that, the price is $50 for the rest of the season.
For prices, dates and times of programs, click here.
One of the elements that I really like about the Bear Creek Ski School program is the learners’ slope. It’s a slope that essentially discourages through traffic from advanced skiers. Kids can progress at their own pace without the intimidation that often comes when faster skiers use a beginners trail as a shortcut. A look at the mountain trail map tells the story.
Bear Creek offers a wide variety of programs for kids that range from single or weekend group and private lessons to racing instruction and competitive downhill runs through the gates. For youngsters, “Kodiak Kids” is a great starting point. It combines rental equipment, lessons and lift tickets in one package under the guidance of instructors who have been trained to work with youngsters.
For adventurous kids with skiing experience in the 6 to 8 year old range, an eight week racing development program will sharpen competitive skills for the regular racing events at Bear Creek. Youngsters 8 to 14 can enroll in an advanced racing program.
For prices and information, click here or call the ski school at: 610-641-1319.
Ages ago, Camelback Mountain in the Poconos launched a succession of innovative children’s programs. They combined learning with play and emphasized all-day programs and continuity. Today’s Camelback Ski School is built on that experience. Day-long programs that combine indoor and on-the-mountain action form a base for developing a high level of skiing and snowboarding skills. The classes are broken up by age groups, so the kids are working and playing at their peer level.
A great way to get a toe in the snow is the “Explorer Card” plan. It costs $99 and gives youngsters aged 4-13 lessons along with lift tickets and rental equipment. It’s an ideal plan for long weekends, consecutive weekends or 3 days spread throughout the season. At the conclusion, kids receive their “Explorer Card,” which provides deep discounts on lift tickets and rentals.
Camelback also offers a full range of kids private and group lessons. For all the prices and info, visit the website.
Shawnee Mountain was an early adapter of Skiwee, a specialty children’s teaching program that goes back nearly four decades. It’s national in scope and standardized, so that kids can go anywhere in the country on ski vacations and receive the same training via the same methods. It utilizes comprehensive report cards to let instructors know the youngster’s strengths, weaknesses and skill level.
The Skiwee lessons for kids from 4 to 6 are three hour sessions. A newer version is called Skibaby. It’s structured for 3 year olds and lasts one hour per session.
Shawnee also offers a pair of programs designed for kids from 7 to 15. “Mountain Cruisers” is for skiers, while “Young Riders” takes on the snowboard challenge.
For prices, click here.
Blue Mountain is close to home and boasts terrain variety that allows for teaching kids at all skill levels. Part of the learning approach here revolves around “Station Teaching.” Stations are set up on different types of terrain and related to specific skills. Once a student has mastered the skill–like stopping and turning–he or she moves on to the next station.
The Blue Mountain Ski School separates kids by age and offers a range of options from single private or group lessons to half-day and all-day sessions. The four week after school program, involving two hour sessions, is a popular option if you live close enough to make the 4:30 p.m. start.
For prices and information, click here.
Skiers think of Jack Frost, while young snowboarders usually gravitate to Big Boulder. But ski schools at the sister resorts a few miles apart attract a day and night crowd with a wide range of lesson plans and packages.
The heart of the kids program is the national “Snow Monsters” take on skiing and riding. It groups youngsters by ability level and age, and it’s standardized across the country. Go to any Snow Monsters mountain, and you’ll find familiar and consistent teaching methods.
Jack Frost is also known for its highly-regarded Junior Racing Clinics. Youngsters can go from the basics of racing to competitive action throughout the season. The clinics are geared for skiers from ages 4 to 15 and riders from 8 to 15. Details and prices are here.
Just a few tips: Weekend ski school classes and private instruction are in demand, so it’s always a good idea to call ahead for reservations.
If your child needs rental equipment on a weekend, show up early.
Make sure the kids are dressed for taking more than a few spills in the snow. Have waterproof pants and parkas–not jeans or clothing that soaks up water. A good ski hat that covers the ears is a must. Be prepared with gloves for temperatures above freezing, mittens for when the mercury takes a dive. Helmets are usually available for rent.
And finally, don’t hover. Let the instructors do it for you. That’s what they’re trained for.