If your children, or perhaps your entire family, are brand new to the world of alpine winter sports, then this article is especially for you. Local resort learn-to-ski programs and ski schools can help you reach your goal of becoming a ski or snowboard family who has fun together on the mountain after one season.
Ski & Snowboard Lessons
According to Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park’s Mountain Sports Director Garry Zimmerman, choosing a lesson program depends on what a family can afford, “but the most effective lesson to a complete novice would be a two-hour private one,” he says. This applies to parents and teenagers as well as young children. A private lesson is the best and quickest way for a beginner to begin skiing or snowboarding independently. Zimmerman says 2-hour group lessons are also effective, though students don’t receive as much personalized instruction or one-on-one attention.
For parents seeking to improve their skills, Zimmerman says “Private lessons are the best option for tune-ups and overall building of basic fundamentals, and [at Mt. Spokane] we can arrange a two-person private lesson or a family lesson where we can teach a parent how to school the young ones while getting some personal attention at the same time.”
Zimmerman recommends contacting a local ski school to discuss your family’s needs and goals. Most local ski schools offer a series of multi-week lessons for small children, even for children as young as 3-years-old. A common instructional program that many parents find useful is a group class for kids that includes six to eight lessons on consecutive weekends, with a choice of meeting on either Saturdays or Sundays. “Kids are assigned a coach who will stay with them for the duration of the series, which is a wonderful opportunity to build a great learning partnership with each person,” says Zimmerman. This program is also offered as an adults-only version.
Each ski mountain’s website has detailed information on the lesson programs available. Often it comes down to choosing which mountain your family wants to commit to based on proximity to home or where other friends and family have season passes.
Learn to Ski or Snowboard Programs
There are many different programs for kids and beginner parents to learn to ski or snowboard at local Inland Northwest resorts. Here are a few of the most popular programs, but be sure to check with your favorite mountain to see what other unique offerings they might have.
EZ Ski/Ride 1-2-3: The four Spokane-area Ski the Northwest Rockies association affiliated resorts (49 Degrees North, Lookout Pass, Mt. Spokane, and Silver Mountain) have a very affordable 3-visit “learn to” ski or snowboard package called EZ Ski/Ride 1-2-3. Each mountain’s specific package differs slightly in terms of specific details (e.g., times, amenities, age requirements), fees ($99-$149), and name (Lookout calls its program Learn to Ski or Ride in 3). But all of the programs include the essentials: 3 days of lessons, gear rentals, and chairlift tickets. To enroll, new skiers or snowboarders must be at least 7-years-old, except for at 49° North, which offers this package for skiers as young as 5. Each mountain also provides bonus perks for participants, such as reduced-price or free season passes for the 2018-19 season. Skinwrockies.com.
5th Graders Ski or Snowboard for Free: The Ski the Northwest Rockies association also offers a “5th Grade Ski or Ride Free Passport” at the four affiliated resorts (49 Degrees North, Lookout Pass, Mt. Spokane, and Silver Mountain) that allows 5th graders to ski or snowboard three days free at each participating ski area. Details at skinwrockies.com.
Lookout Pass Free Ski School: For 77 seasons, Lookout Pass has been offering an annual Free Ski School program, with ski instruction for children age 6-17 and snowboarding lessons for ages 7-17. Equipment and lift tickets are not provided. Details at Skilookout.com.
Build Skiing and Racing Skills: The Spokane Ski Racing Association is a non-profit ski team operating out of Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park with programs for kids (ages 5 and up) and adults who want to become expert, all-mountain skiers and learn to compete in the Olympic disciplines of alpine ski racing. Learn more about getting into ski racing and the association’s programs and camps at Gossra.org.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort: If you live in Sandpoint or Schweitzer is your home mountain, the mountain offers many different learn-to-ski programs for all ages, including a beginner package called “Ski 4 Free in 3” that includes three days of instruction, equipment rentals, and lift tickets for $165 per child. Visit Schweitzer.com for more info. //
[Sponsored by Ski the NW Rockies.]