Mountain resorts make skiing a family affair

Rebecca Klein’s kids were ski novices when they checked in at Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch resort for a weeklong stay recently. They didn’t stay that way for long.

“After just one day of lessons, my six-year-old son, Seth, was saying, ‘Come on, Mom, let’s get on the chairlift,” remembers Klein, who lives in Baltimore and grew up skiing in Vermont. “And Samara, my four-year-old, participated in a ski race.”

Ski school has come a long way since Klein took her first turns at Smuggler’s as a child. Young skiers used to be an afterthought at many winter resorts, banished to the bunny hill or daycare centers while adults enjoyed the mountain.

Not anymore.

The U.S. ski and snowboard industry has dubbed January “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” and is offering free or reduced-rate ski or snowboard lessons at resorts in 34 states. There’s a lot to choose from, including themed ski camps, one-on-one clinics and more exotic offerings, like teaching youngsters how to ride a snowmobile.

“Ski resorts have embraced kids,” said Len Saunders, author of the book “Keeping Kids Fit.” “They realize that this generation of parents grew up with skiing and welcome making it a family event. They run specials on kids’ lessons, have bunny slopes for the kids, and areas where they can progress at a steady pace, and stock ski rentals for the smaller children.”

Smugglers’ Notch is among the standouts, when it comes to teaching kids to ski. Its Snow Sport University accepts children as young as 2 1/2 for ski lessons, and its program includes lunch and an après-ski science show.

Klein’s favorite ski school amenity is the Flaik GPS units that allowed her to go online at the end of the day and track her kids’ runs, their vertical feet and see where their group skied. But she was most impressed with how effectively the instructors were able to teach her kids to ski in a short amount of time.

“They were very nurturing and empowering,” she said.

Fun, too. Ski resorts are pouring resources and creative energy into making the experience as engaging for children as it is for grown-ups.

“Kids ski and ride camps continue to evolve from the good old days of one ski instructor to a big bunch of kids, learning to snowplow and parallel turn,” said Heather Burke, who edits the website Family Ski Trips. “Now resorts offer soup-to-nuts programs, all-day camps with equipment and lunch included.”

One of the most effective ways to teach kids to ski is to make the trip financially worthwhile to their parents. For example, Ski Utah is offering a program this season called The Ski Utah Fifth and Sixth Grade Passports. For a $25 processing fee, participating fifth-graders can ski at each of Utah’s 14 ski resorts three times without paying.

Sixth graders can enjoy one free day at each resort. The program is open to anyone, even though it’s billed as a locals program.

At Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, adults who buy a three-day or more multiday ticket can get a free kids ticket (18 and under).

Northstar Resort in Northern California lets two adults share a ticket, so that parents with very young children don’t have to buy two tickets. Northstar also offers a free “Mommy, Daddy & Me” lessons for first-timers. The 45-minute clinic is aimed at kids between three and four, and is offered on a first-come, first-served basis Sunday through Friday.

At Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich., kids under 8 don’t pay for lift tickets. Other resorts in Michigan, including Big Powderhorn, Boyne Mountain and Marquette Mountain, have similar offers.
“It’s a way to make it less expensive on mom and dad,” said Brian Lawson, a Crystal Mountain spokesman.

The most innovative ski school programs treat instruction as a themed experience, like winter camp. Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Camp CB winter kids program bills itself as more than a place to learn how to ski and snowboard — it’s a place where, to quote the promotional brochure, “kids rule.” Participants get a secret trail map with paths that are just for kids (where adult skis won’t even fit, it promises).

There’s also a kids-only terrain park where youngsters can learn how to shred.

Although ski resorts are by their very nature rustic, that doesn’t necessarily mean kids have to rough it. At the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, near Beaver Creek, Colo., kids can participate in what’s called a “Ski Nanny” program, which shuttles them to nearby Beaver Creek Village, where they’re met by a nanny who takes them to ski school for lessons and then brings them back to the hotel for a snack and movie.

Saddleback, Maine, just overhauled its ski program to become more personalized. All beginners ages 3 to 6 learning to ski or snowboard at the group lesson will get an individual instructor until they can ski or ride on their own, at which time they join a group.

And at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., there’s more than skiing for students at the Bunny School Skiing Program. The resort also offers snowmobiling lessons where kids age six and up learn to ride on a Polaris 120 cc snowmobile.

The intent behind these and other programs may be to introduce a new generation of skiers — and potential customers — to America’s mountain resorts. “Once you’ve developed a love for skiing or riding, it’s hard to ignore it,” said Adriana Blake, administrative manager for Taos Ski Valley in Taos, NM. “And we’ve created a visitor for life.”

But the most innovative programs do more than that, says Blake, who helped create Taos’ KinderKare school, which she describes as a “slow movement” program for aspiring skiers that goes beyond teaching parallel turns and safe skiing. The most forward-looking programs teach young skiers to appreciate all that nature has to offer during the winter.

“It’s great to know that we are sharing our passion for the mountain with multiple generations of guests,” she said.

(Photo: Ma Tu/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.