There comes a point in every ski parent’s life when it’s time to turn the next generation of skiers over to the professionals.
For some, this point is as soon as the tykes strap on skis. For others, it’s when they’re ready to tackle tougher terrain, but no longer want to listen to Ski Mom or Ski Dad.
I have a distinct childhood memory of standing at the bottom of the pony slope while my ski instructor dad told me we had reached that point, that it was time for me to progress in my skiing skill under the guidance of someone not related to me. I also remember, not that many years ago, the first taste of skiing freedom as a parent, when I signed my kids up for a seasonal program and regained my weekend mornings for skiing, once again, off the pony slope.
Whether your little rippers are just stepping into their first ski boots or are ready for the next step in the progression of skiing or snowboarding like a pro, ski areas offer an array of season-long programs that will have the kids stepping up their slope-side game, while you get out for some adult time on the slopes — or sip cocoa in the lodge.
There are myriad benefits to a seasonal program. Young skiers spend their slope time with the same instructors — and the same group of similarly aged and skilled kids — throughout the season. It’s about learning, yes, and progressing from green circle trails to blue squares and black diamonds. But there’s a huge, and crucial, element of fun and camaraderie involved, too. As someone who grew up on skis, I will never underestimate the power of the bonds of friendship formed on a chairlift.
For families ready to make a full-weekend, full-season commitment to learning, Cannon, Waterville Valley, Loon Mountain, Cranmore, Attitash, Wildcat, and Pats Peak all offer season-long programs for kids of various ages with instruction on Saturdays, Sundays, and many days of school vacation weeks.
Bretton Woods, Sunapee, Ragged, Crotched, Gunstock, and King Pine offer programs running through the season on only one weekend day.
Granite Gorge, McIntyre, Dartmouth Skiway and Whaleback mix it up with weekend or weekday options for multi-week instruction.
Cannon has more than a dozen junior development groups, ranging from the Polar Bears for the youngest snow-sliders (ages 3-4) up through the Mogul Masters (ages 10-15), as well as a non-competitive racing program and snowboarding groups. Waterville Valley mixes things up by allowing youngsters to opt for alpine, telemark, or snowboard instruction as they explore groomers, bumps and glades. The Teen group (ages 13-16) mixes older kids from all three disciplines in the same group to explore and have fun together.
Cranmore organizes its Rattlesnakes groups (ages 4-14) by age and ability to teach the fundamentals before moving on to basic race instruction, moguls, glades and the terrain park. Cranmore’s Switch Snakes (ages 8-14) allows kids to ski Saturdays and snowboard Sundays.
Attitash offers seasonal programs for skiers 5 and up, from fundamentals to an introduction to racing or freestyle competitions, to snowboarding and a Teen Mountain Training option.
At Loon, instructors mix indoor and on-snow activities to get kids as young as 3 comfortable sliding around on skis. Once they’re older and ready to get off bunny hill and out of the little park, young rippers may join the Loon Development Team to hone new skills and foster friendships.
In Bretton Woods’ Saturdays-only programs, skiers and riders may choose between the basic Development Program, the Freestyle Program, or — for slightly older kids (ages 14-15) — a Junior Instructor Program that introduces the basics for making the move from student to instructor.
From after-school programs and learning the basics to perfecting jibs in the park and moves through the moguls, the seasonal program options seem limitless in the ways they’ll guide kids to the next level, while their parents regain a bit of skiing freedom.
Winter Notes is published on Fridays during ski season. Contact Meghan McCarthy McPhaul at email@example.com.