Over the years, we've been so lucky to try ski and snowboard lessons at many resorts. I'm going to admit, I've been "afraid" of Snowbird. Not because it isn't a terrific resort, but because I'm not a good skier and Snowbird is challenging. So what better way to face your fears than jumping in and going forward. For those of you reading this, you're saying "are you kidding me? Snowbird has great powder and is one of the premier destination resorts". I know! So, Emily and Brennan enrolled in the weekly program.
Let's sort through this lesson thing:
All resorts offer lessons of some sort. You can do private or group lessons and daily vs weekly. I've often been asked "what is the best age?" Well, depends on the child. In order for kids to go into group lessons, they must be potty trained. Some resorts offer a parent/tot program where you go with the child for an hour just to get them on skis. In answer to the question..."the earlier the better." My experience has been that 2 year olds will put on skis/boots and walk around. If they are a young 2, that may be as far as you get. At 3, you can start some really good programs. At Snowbird, you can enroll them in the Chickadee Adventure Team. It is an all day class with one hour of ski instruction in the a.m. and one hour in the p.m. In between times, there is indoor play time with other kids. These lessons are completet with one-on-one instruction. As your kids get older, they move to the Kinderbird Adventure Team. This program accomodates 4-6 year olds where Em and Bren fit in. Ideally, the 5 week session is the way to go. We signed up for a 5 week program and show up every Saturday and meet with the same instructor and are paired with the same kids for 5 weeks. If you are local or here on an extened stay, I would highly recommend this. Part of the challenge with kids is trying to explain to the instructor the ability of the child to get them paired with kids of equal ability. It is so important they are at very close abilities so everyone has a good time. I'll come back to this.
What if you're here for only 3-5 days? Well, for first timers, I'd recommend a private lesson. At 3 years old, you can get your kids into the daily Chickadee program. It is one-on-one instruction. For a program just for you, check out the private coaching. It is a little more pricey, but you can get more time. My advice with instructors, if you find someone you like, get their name. You can always request a certain instructor and if they are available, you can be paired again. I have found that the trust between kids and instructors is key. If they don't really like who they're with, they won't respond well. On the reservation form, you can request an instructor.
I've never tried it, but I've talked to families who have several kids and want to get them into a lesson for the day. The family is here for days and want the kids to stick together for several days. Talk to the ski school and arrange to have a program made for your family. That way, the kids have consistancy and you end up into a program where from day to day, your kid's ability is already known.
Which leads me to ability....don't lie! There is nothing worse for an instructor or your kids in inflating their ski/board ability. In talking with the guys at Snowbird, they agree. Parents oftentimes think that if your child isn't doing blues and blacks, something is wrong. Be honest when looking at the ability page. If your child is going down hard slopes in a wedge or pizza pie, it is not beneficial. In fact, you will hurt them in the long run by developing that stance on pretty much every slope. It is best to keep them on an easy/green slope until they can parallel ski, then move them up. It is very uncomfortable for an instructor to say "excuse me Mr Smith, but little Susie is not a blue skier, she can barely make it down a bunny hill". Susie is scared and it wastes time for the instructors to try to place Susie in a different group.
Now, let's talk group lessons. If you can't quite afford the private lessons, all resorts do offer group lessons. Kids are paired with others of their ability (another reason not to lie) and most resorts do 1/2 or full days. Great advantages to group lessons of course is the friends that are made and the friendly competition that develops. Don't worry if your child has never skied, there is a group for them as well. Just talk to the ski school of the resort you are visiting and they will find the right fit. Check with different resorts, but most offer lunch with all day lessons and even include rentals in the price. One bit of advice...register online! It will save your spot in a lesson and save time the day of. Nothing is worse than wiggly kids in lots of gear sweating waiting for you to fill out forms.
Back to our Adventure team experience! New this year, we got a special drop off pass to park close to Snowbird base and walk the kids up. They also "valeted" our skis. Brought them up the meeting spot. Parents, you know what I'm talking about, 2 kids+your gear+their gear=chaos. Teach them to carry their own skis and put all their clothes on (I'm still working on this). Any first day of school kind of reminds you of organized chaos. There are 60 kids ages 3-6 years old running around.
After we sign the kids in, the instructor comes to meet us. After sorting things out, Brennan is with Shauna and Emily is with Jon. Since Em is doing so well, ALL boys and a boy instructor. Oh oh, we'll see how that goes. With little girls it's all about bonding...may have to search out a buddy for her. Even though some kids are well advanced, all kids are taken out to the Chickadee lift. It is the beginner lift where the instructors can evaluate the kids' abilities. In talking with Jon, he said he can tell by the way the kids turn and the stance of their skiing as to the level they are at. The first day sometimes has some shuffling before the right group is sorted out. It only takes one run and Em is headed to the big slopes. (no surprise there). Bren is on the magic carpet with his group and I can tell, ready to go a little faster. Shauna keeps his group there until after lunch. The kids break for an hour for lunch which is provided for them back where we started in the Snowbird center. I join in to catch up.
Some things I learned. This is for ages 4-6. What if you have awesome 6 year old skiers, can they go to the next program? No.. This age group is set apart by the yellow bibs they wear. It indicates they are not to ride the lift alone and you can find them on the mountain. The difference in the maturity between 5, 6 and 7 is incredible. There are some mighty 6 year old skiers and they will be paired with the right kids. As I learn observing Emily the second 1/2 of the day.
She's already on Mid-Gad lift with Jon teaching her safety and turning techniques. Very important...no wedges. In order to help with this, the kids do some bunny hops...check out the attached video above. It teaches them balance and when they land..it's parallel, not the pizza wedge. Hmmm, lets try this. Nope, I'm hopeless. I'm skiing on new skis much longer than I'm used to. I think I might have to return to Chickadee with Bren. So, off I go to find Bren. He's just fine, wizzing down the hill, but getting tired.
As I check both kids out back at the Center, they are exhausted. A quote from Jon "If I return them to you and they sleep on their way home, I've done my job". Thanks, mission accomplished. We'll be back next Saturday for round 2!
Couple of tips:
1. bring a backpack with a few snacks...no nuts (Jodi didn't listen to this one) and a water bottle
2. Add in an extra shirt/pants layer if need be. If it is a cold day, when they break for lunch, they can add a layer
3. Backpack can be used to clip on helmets, keep mits/hats/gaters in
4. Always use the drop off zone. When going back to your car, Snowbird has a shuttle bus back to the parking lot. Don't even attempt to walk. My kids were crying by the time we got to the bus. It's called tired! The lovely bus driver dropped us right at the car.
If you're still looking for some deals for Christmas, check out this months coupon from Ski' N See. Deals on kids Rossi packages or rentals!!