National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month: Why Lessons Are the Best Bet for Teaching Your Child to Love the Sport
Teaching my five-year-old son to ski has been arguably the most difficult challenge in my close to 40 years in the sport.
Don't get me wrong, teacher and pupil are both enthusiastic and open to the process. The problem is, without any formal training in ski instruction, my approach has largely been one of "just do what I do." Jackson is a compliant kid by nature and an exceedingly good sport, but my lack of instructional know-how has too often led to struggles and frustration for both of us.
That all changed last weekend at Smugglers' Notch Resort, thanks to Ski Vermont's Take 3 Beginner Package and Jackson's first bonafide ski lesson. Offered at a special discounted rate thanks to the Vermont Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, the package consists of three lessons, three equipment rentals and three lift tickets for $49 - an absolute steal. (Even outside the parameters of the Council deal and LSSM, the package is still available at a bargain price of $129.)
Meeting up with the lesson class at Sir Henry's Learning & Fun Park, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I saw the makeup of the Level I class: six raw beginners, all under the age of 10, and a single instructor. I had struggled mightily in teaching one kid how to ski; how was this person going to be successful with a half-dozen?
Ella Bergin, the instructor, was a total pro. The kids spent much of the first 15 minutes of the lesson standing in a circle, playing games to get them accustomed to moving their skis and bodies. "Bowties" in the snow helped with ease of pivot; "smoothies" taught forward and lateral tilt. I watched in amazement, and a light bulb went off: It had never occured to me to ease Jackson into the very feeling of being on skis. We had just stepped into our bindings and went straight into gliding and turning.
Another big benefit of a group lesson from a professional versus a parent is how a child responds. Getting barked at by Dad while trying to learn a challenging new activity brings an added level of pressure, and it's difficult for a parent - who has had his or her own experience and success skiing - to temper expectations and not take it personally when things don't go smoothly. It's not a reflection on you, as a skier or parent - it's about lack of training as an instructor.
Kids also tend to do better among peers than when they're the sole focus of a teacher's attention. They can follow the example of those around them and see that's it's normal - and perfectly alright - to struggle.
That was another area in which Ella was amazing. She gave the kids nothing but positive feedback, even when things went south. "Good fall," were words I never thought to tell my son, but they made getting up that much easier for him.
By the time the two-hour lesson ended, Jackson was exhausted - and quite proud of himself. He couldn't wait to tell his Mom how well he did in his first "real" lesson, and he is looking forward with renewed excitement to the start of his school's upcoming ski program at Cochran's Ski Area. We've got two more Take 3 Beginner Package lessons before then, however - and at this rate it's going to be a race to see who learns more, him or me.
National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month
January is National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. In the spirit of spreading the love of winter to new enthusiasts, the majority of Ski Vermont's member resorts will be offering $49 beginner lesson during the month of January, excluding Holiday periods. The beginner package includes equipment rental as well as a lesson with a professional instructor (lesson duration varies by resort) and access to the beginner terrain. Due to the deeply discounted price, only one beginner package per person is offered.
These packages are for BEGINNERS ONLY and for the 2018/2019 season. See participating resorts with details and instructions for reserving your lesson below. Most reservations must be made 48 hours in advance of the desired lesson start time.