January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and I recently decided that since we live in Utah, it was time that my children learned to ski. I skied nearly every winter through my teen years, and though I am not an avid skier, I felt that it was important that my kids experience the favorite local sport.
I chose Snowbird, one of Utah's premier winter resorts, for my kids' first day on skis. Snowbird is conveniently located just six miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City. Snowbird offers comfortable lodging, restaurants, a spa and all the other amenities you will need to make your ski vacation a success.
Snowbird's Mountain School offers a variety of lesson options for all ages.
Mountain Adventure is the group lesson for kids ages 7-15. Kids are grouped by age and ability, and may move from one group to another as needed. Both my kids joined the same first-time skier class at the beginning of the day. By lunch time, here is what my 10-year-old daughter (in the pink jacket) had accomplished:
She and most of the older kids graduated from the training hill to the Chickadee lift after lunch, while my 7-year-old son and some of the other beginners stayed on the training hill for more practice. By the end of the day, both my children were skiing Chickadee reasonably well. Their instructors filled me in on each child's progress and made recommendations for the future.
One instructor mentioned that Chickadee is challenging for a beginner hill. Since my kids had a handle on it by the end of the day, I was glad we chose Snowbird because it meant that they would be readier to take on beginner slopes at other resorts on their own.
Lunch is included in the full day lessons at Snowbird Mountain School. My children were offered a choice of favorites like pepperoni pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.
A nice side benefit of the group lessons at the Snowbird Mountain School is that my children met kids their age from around the country. They learned a little about other families and cultures as well as how to ski.
Tips for a successful day
My family had a great day at Snowbird. Here are my recommendations for making the most of your first ski lesson at Snowbird Mountain School.
- Weather – You can't control the weather, but blizzards and cold spells rarely last long in Salt Lake City. Choose a day with the best possible weather for your first ski lesson.
- Clothing – You won't have fun if you're cold. Wear warm, waterproof layers that wick. Avoid cotton because it doesn't insulate. We purchased new ski helmets and goggles for warmth and safety.
- Gear – Rent, buy or borrow up-to-date, well-maintained gear. Consider renting your gear on the night before your lesson, so you'll have one less thing to slow you down in the morning.
- Transportation – If roads are snow-covered, you'll need 4-wheel drive or chains to get to Snowbird. If you don't have either, consider riding the UTA Ski Bus.
- Leave home early – I allowed twice as much time as I thought I needed in the morning and we still arrived late to our lesson at Snowbird. I didn't plan for bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic in the canyon, which is another reason to consider the UTA Ski Bus. It also takes time to get a family fastened into their gear.
- Tip the ski instructor – I asked about this in advance and was told that as with most services, tips for ski instructors are not expected, but are appreciated. The instructors accepted my tips graciously.
- Quit while you're ahead – A day of skiing will wear you out. Don't wait until someone melts down before you call it a day. Head for the car or your room while you still have energy to enjoy your evening. Pack some yummy snacks for the road or enjoy an apres ski treat at the resort.
Like riding a bike
While my children were at Snowbird's Mountain School, I strapped on skis for the first time since my early 20's and made my way to the Chickadee lift. I was thrilled to find that like riding a bike, skiing is a skill that stays with you for life. It convinced me that a ski lesson is a good investment – especially for kids.
At the end of the day, my kids were excited to show me what they could do. They could start, stop, turn, ride the chair lift and ski under control. They would certainly improve with more lessons, but they had a marvelous time and now have the basic skills and confidence they need to enjoy a day on the slopes with me, or with extended family and friends.
Disclosure: Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort provided my family with complimentary lift tickets and lessons so that we could share our ski experience with other families. All opinions are my own.