Aloha snow-people, it’s me again – back for another round of Top Cinco. It looks like my first blog got over 10 gazillion reads, which is some kind of new internet world record so they green-lighted me to write another Top 5 list (well, my math might be a little off on that read total, but being the avid fisherman that I am, it was somewhere in that range, believe it)… Anyway, North American resorts are home to some pretty sweet ski and snowboarding schools. Whether you are seeking youth ski instruction for the younglings, hoping to improve some of your own skills, or wanting to switch over to a board; finding the right ski school can make your life a lot easier.
Coming in at Number 5: Smugglers’ Notch
The Smug folks are confident in their teaching passion and stand tall in saying they have the best program you will ever experience. As a matter of fact, they guarantee you’ll have fun learning to ski or snowboard or improving your technique, no matter what your current level of ability – novice to expert! They are known to have very passionate, friendly, and talented instructors, many of whom are standards at the school year after year. They specialize in “turning learning into an engaging, fun, adventure” and they have a variety of terrain to hone your skills.
Smugglers’ Notch is located in Jeffersonville, Vermont and they offer 312 acres of skiable terrain, with 20% easy terrain, 50% medium terrain, and 30% difficult, so you’ll find a good mix of growth potential terrain to sharpen those skills.
Number 4: Buttermilk
Some would argue that Buttermilk is best known for being home to the Winter X Games, The Crazy T’rain Park and X Games superpipe, but with a solid mix of beginner terrain, you will also find it an excellent learning mountain for new skiers and snowboarders alike.
Buttermilk’s Ski & Snowboard School offers lessons to anyone ages 3 years and up. Lessons include alpine, telemark, snowboarding, children’s, women’s clinics, and mountain explorers. Of note (per their website): Beginners Magic pampers guests with custom-fit boots, high-quality skis, and a teaching method that promotes comfort and confidence.
Buttermilk is located in Aspen, Colorado and the mountain sees an average of 200 inches of snow annually. Buttermilk offers 470 acres of skiable terrain, with 35% easy terrain, 39% medium terrain, and 26% difficult, so you’re guaranteed to get a fair share of the terrain to practice your turns.
Number 3: Alta
Alta’s Ski Adventure staff is ready to share their passion for the lifelong sport of skiing with the family. Have you ever been on a cruise with the kids and they kick and scream when you port because they don’t want to leave the boat? Alta is known to have that same effect. It’s a family-oriented program, and year after year, children will want to come back to create and renew friendships with other students and instructors. According to the school, all day programs let you drop your children off early and pick them up when the lifts close, or you can meet them at the end of their lesson to enjoy the last run of the day together. Alta strives to help the youngest and newest skiers feel comfortable both on and off the snow.
At the end of the lesson they provide you with a written progress report and the opportunity to chat with your child’s instructor. Their goal is to give your children a great skiing experience and your family lifelong memories of skiing together at Alta.
Alta is located in Alta, Utah and the mountain sees an average of 560 inches of fluffy stuff annually. Alta offers 2,200 acres of skiable terrain, with 25% beginner terrain, 40% medium terrain, and 35% advanced terrain, so as your skill level grows, so does your terrain.
Number 2: Aspen/Snowmass
You’re probably seeing a little trend here, but the Aspen folks have four amazing mountains with a wide range of terrain to explore, and they really want you to have the confidence to go out and try them all!
The Ski & Snowboard Schools of Snowmass are a collection of talented and inspired pros that are committed to helping you build confidence and understand the terrain, and also to guiding you to the next place in your skiing or riding. The staff goes above and beyond just teaching – they share knowledge of the resort and community that can help shape an unforgettable learning experience. They have programs to suit every age and ability, and it’s a fun-filled adventure that children will not forget.
Snowmass is located in Aspen, Colorado and the mountain sees an average of 200 inches of snow annually. Snowmass offers a whopping 3,132 acres of skiable terrain, with easiest: 6%, more difficult: 50%, most difficult: 12%, and expert: 32%, but don’t fear the low percentage of easy terrain – it has a run that is over 5-miles long so there is plenty of path for you to bomb down.
And number 1 goes to: Good ole’ Mom and Dad
Now, there are some mighty fine ski schools out there and professional lessons are definitely recommended, but there is no better way to spend some true quality time with the family than teaching your own kids how it’s done! From those long parallel turns, to the bumps, bruises, tears, smiles, and falls that turn into snow angels…these are the super priceless memories that can’t be replicated, so pick one of those resorts above (or your own favorite) and get the family out on the mountain. One last thing — be patient with your kids and don’t take them on any terrain that’s too difficult for them to handle; they’ll grow up too fast anyways, so take it slow with them. I promise, every minute is a memory.
That’s all I got, I look forward to hearing your feedback – let me know what you think; it was a challenge to interview a bunch of 10-year-olds for this blog without the conversation constantly turning into something about Angry Birds, and so I’d love some of your recommendations for other great ski and snowboard schools.
More about Greg: I’m still the newbie here at Liftopia; I joined the team in June 2012 and so-far-so-good… Just kidding, I love it! I grew up skiing NC, but now I’m a Tahoe guy. In the summer, you can find me paddling out at Ocean and Rockaway Beach, or coaching the SF Special Olympics swim team — go Sea Lions! You can follow me on Twitter at @decentsea.
As an instructor and parent, I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more with the #1 choice. We decided early on to put our kids in ski school – they got age-appropriate instruction, were able to go into the special kids-only areas reserved for ski school, didn’t feel like they were being lectured once again by their parents, and for many more reasons. As an instructor, I constantly see kids out on the slopes who are having a miserable time because their parents, who undoubtedly love them very much, don’t know the first thing about how to teach kids, let alone how to teach snow sports. It’s painful. Once they learn the basics, I agree with you entirely – there’s nothing we like better than spending time on the slopes with our kids.
Yikes! Number one is a scary prospect that usually ends in tears at least on the part of the child if not the parent as well. Lessons are the best investment out there. Sometimes private instruction can be beneficial if a child is having trouble with a technique but for the most part group lessons can be the best, not to mention more affordable! Added moral support and children (and adults for that matter) learning from their peers can be great! If all else fails (read: financially), do yourself a favor and at least have a friend of the family teach your child.
Hey my whole family just graduated from an amazing program at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, OR. We traveled from S.F. to get in to this program it was worth every penny. For $199 you get 5 lessons, 5 rentals for your lessons, and lift tickets for the day of your lesson. How do they even make any money? The rental shop people treat you like family and take care of everything. My wife was fairly terrified, but those shop people were incredible the way they handled her anxiety, taught her how to handle boots and skis, even gave her a high five when she graduated. She told me she now feels ready to take on the whole mountain, lol. By the second or third time through they were calling us by our first names. I love those guys. The instructors were patient and un-believeable. Totally recommend this for anyone who wants to learn, skier or snowboarder.
[…] animated shops, bustling bistros, and an amazing water park – La Source. Your kids will learn to ski or board, and be outfitted with a GPS tracker, at Ecole sur Neige. Most everyone speaks English, but you […]