If you’ve been to a ski area on a weekend, you’ve seen them: groups of little skiers being shepherded around the mountain by their instructors. Sometimes they’re in the bumps, sometimes in the mini-park, sometimes cruising around race gates. Always improving their skiing, because they’re out there every weekend.
Well, grown-ups, it’s time to step up your ski game. Seasonal programs are not just for kids. In fact, several ski areas around New Hampshire offer multi-week programs for adults, with weekend and weekday options. And just like the kids’ programs, these are part instruction, part social, and all about making more — and better — turns this season.
“When you enroll in a multi-week program, you experience different kinds of snow, different weather conditions, and each of these gives you a challenge,” said Penni Stuart, who runs the seasonal WOW (that’s Women Only Wednesday) program at Pats Peak. “Your skills improve. You get more practice, more mileage. You learn better technique, and you work on that technique.”
Chances are, you’ll also find a group of ski buddies to spend time with outside of the program.
“The reason I joined was for the lessons,” said Misty Partello, who has enrolled in her fifth season of WOW. “However, I continue to attend each year because I enjoy spending time with the women in the program and the women who lead the program.”
Having peers to ski with seems to be one of the draws for adult programs elsewhere, too, said Peter Weber, snowsports director at Waterville Valley.
“There is always socializing, and plenty of it,” he said.
Weber agrees with Stuart’s claim that being part of a season-long program encourages skiers to go out when the weather and conditions are not ideal. That consistency, paired with focused instruction, can help improve someone’s skiing drastically — whether it’s a relative beginner, an intermediate, or a more advanced skier.
“Ongoing lessons give the opportunity to work on skills on different terrain, different snow conditions, and combinations of each,” he said. “This time and practice enables people to change their movement patterns and allows them to keep the changes through muscle memory.”
Seasonal program participants sign up for a variety of reasons. Some may want to make that push from skiing mostly blue trails to being more comfortable on black-diamond terrain. Others may be preparing for a late-season ski trip out West or abroad. For many, like Partello, the incentive is building the skills and confidence to keep up with friends — or the kids.
“I was trying to take up skiing with my family. My kids, of course, picked it up quickly, but I needed some help,” she said. “I wanted to be able to keep up with them on the slopes and have confidence when encountering challenging terrain or conditions.”
For many adult skiers, it takes confidence just to join a seasonal program.
“Adults are more hesitant to take lessons,” Weber said, noting improvements in equipment, snowmaking, and grooming have made skiing less difficult in recent years. “But anyone who goes through the effort of improving is always able to have more fun by expanding where they can ski or ride or what kind of conditions they can now enjoy.”
Another bonus of participating in a seasonal program is making a connection with a snow-loving community, which is what inspired Marsha Ward to join WOW.
“I enjoy skiing but wasn’t able to find friends to ski with at the times I was available,” said Ward, who is thankful her work schedule has allowed the flexibility to stick with WOW for several years. “I really enjoy the camaraderie with the other women. We encourage each other to do our best.”
The WOW program at Pats Peak incorporates food and off-slope fun into the morning. Skiers participate in a warm-up exercise session and enjoy a continental breakfast during the “Tech Talk” (with subjects ranging from ski tuning to skiing fundamentals) before hitting the slopes from 9:30 until noon. After the on-hill time, the program includes lunch, complete with a different speaker, each week.
“The idea is, we’re coming together,” said Stuart. “We’re going to ski. We’re going to play. We’re going to laugh a little bit. When we take time for ourselves, we build ourselves up.”
What better place to do that than on the slopes?