Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
When you grow up in Vermont it is pretty much a given that you will put your kids in a weekend ski program by the time they are in Kindergarten, if not before. Both my kids learned to ski at Bolton Valley in their Ridge Runners Program. Along the way, each of them expressed an interest in following in their father’s footsteps and crossing over into snowboarding. My son spent a year in the snowboard program at Bolton and now my daughter is eager to shred as well.
On a recent trip to Stratton Mountain Resort we had the opportunity to enroll her in a half day Learn-to-Ride Lesson. She normally skis so we needed to get her fitted with a rental package first. The morning of her lesson we stopped into the Experience Snowboard Center which is located near the gondola at the base of the mountain. Save yourself some time by booking your rental online before you arrive. Junior 1/2 day weekend packages begin at $20 and include Burton snowboards, boots, and a helmet, plus overnight storage. In hindsight, I wish we had rented her equipment the night before. We didn’t realize it until after her lesson that they set her up as “regular” but she really rides “goofy”. Something we think the guys in the shop should have taken the time to notice.
Check-in for ski school begins at 8:45am. There are a lot of parents and kids checking in for various programs in the morning so it is best to know where your child’s lesson meets ahead of time. If you are unsure, check with the Ski School the night before or in this helpful guide. The 1/2-day Big Cub Program meets out on the hill by the Ski School. Look for the flags and the Stratton Staff in red jackets that are there to check you in. Your child will be placed into a group by age/skill level and then will begin her lesson at 9:30am.
There are several learning hills for all ages and abilities. Our daughter’s group learned to snowboard on the hill with the Cub Lift which has an enclosed magic carpet. Although it wasn’t a particularly cold or windy day when we were there, I can see how this would make learning for young kids a whole lot better! This hill also has a few mini (and I mean mini) terrain features for beginner learners as well.
In the 1/2 day learn-to-ride program your child will spend 2 hours on the snow learning the basics of snowboarding. Our daughter’s group had approximately 8 children in it, and at 12 she was probably the oldest and most advanced. Regardless her two coaches were able to tailor their instruction to help her get the most out of her lesson. She spent a great morning taking laps up and down the Cub Carpet carving out some turns. I picked her up promptly at 11:30 back at the same spot I where I had dropped her off. She was happy with her progress and glad she had tried snowboarding.
Half-day weekend lessons begin at $79 and require the purchase a junior lift ticket and/or rentals as well. Stratton recommends booking your lesson in advance. When you do, have your child’s height, weight, shoe size and birth date handy.