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.
Mount Snow Resort, Vermont’s most southern ski destination, is unique in that it’s one of few ski destinations with an entire mountain face dedicated to features and terrain based skiing and riding, Carinthia Parks. Carinthia is a mountain of it’s own with 9 distinct parks and over 100 features for varying skill and ability levels. To the novice it sounds more intimidating than it actual is – especially with parks named the Junkyard, Inferno and Superpipe. I will fully admit I was a little nervous about entering the park and finding myself in Carinthia with only one way to get out – downhill on skis. However, there was no need to worry, for myself or the kids! Mount Snow has it dialed in when it comes to introducing freeskiing to newbies with their Grommet Jam events, which are easily accessible for parents and spectators.
What is a Grommet Jam?
Mount Snow’s Grommet Jams combine a morning instructional time with a family-friendly features competition in the afternoon for skiers and riders ages 5 to 12. For a registration fee of $40, kids take part in a 90 minute coaching session from skilled members of the Mount Snow training team on a very entry level run. The morning sessions aren’t formal lessons but more of an open format with coaches present to provide tips on how to use the features and help each Grom (definition: a young participant in extreme sports) to build confidence and progress on the trail. If you think the open format style instructional time isn’t a good fit for your kids, the Mount Snow ski school also offers private, individualizes lessons with highly qualified ski and snowboard instructors.
The Grommet Trail includes an array of features on a short, relatively flat hill specially designed as a terrain based learning center. Anyone with a lift ticket can ski and ride the trail but it’s closed for registered kids only during the Grommet Jam.
In the afternoon, the kids participate in an inviting and encouraging competition on the Grommet Trail that feels more like a big freestyle competition. The kids are each given a bib number and the race is broken down by age. The Jams come complete with an announcer for each run and fun gear for the winner. Mount Snow’s three Grommet Jams are held annually at the end of December, Martin Luther King Day (January) and President’s Day (February) and regularly sell out. Each Grommet Jam can accommodate up to 70 kids from novice and experienced.
The event is in it’s 11th year and began as a joint effort by Doug Daniels, current Director of the Mount Snow ski school and Greg Fisher, also associated with the ski school. Their goal was to encourage kids of all abilities and ages to learn how to use the features in a fun, safe environment. They were working together on a national program aimed at identifying up and coming freeskiing kids. Greg and Doug had such an amazing time skiing with these talented kids that they teamed up to create the Grommet Jam. The Grommet Jams have always been more about the camaraderie and participation then the actual competition.
According to Doug Daniels, the heart of the event is sportsmanship and cheering on your grom-mates. “For many of the kids participating it’s their first taste of on-snow competition in a venue and sport that is unlike anything else they do. Mount Snow strives to build a culture and celebrate the kids who come out and participate.”
Mount Snow puts a lot of effort into the Grommet Jams and works hard to secure serious prizes from its many sponsors. Every jibber gets to leave with a little swag and the feeling that they tried something new. Every parent gets to leave with a wealth of photos to share.
How to be a spectator at Mount Snow’s Grommet Jam
To be completely honest my kids were interested in watching other kids ski on pipes and boxes, but they didn’t have any interest in actually participating in the Grommet Jam themselves. However, they did want to see what it was all about from a spectator’s perspective. I was totally fine with that. The great thing about Carinthia Park is that you can get there by car and park at the Carinthia base lodge or ski over on easy cruisers from Mount Snow’s main face. We opted to ski and were met by parents wielding coffees and cameras and trying to stay warm along the sidelines of the Grommet Trail.
Even if your kids aren’t competing, Mount Snow’s Grommet Jam is a fun event to attend for aspirational purposes and to see the reaction from your own kids. There are two runs on the Grommet Trail with one for skiers and one for riders. Some of these kids truly amazed me. It wasn’t just in their ability but in the determination of some of the youngest, more novice skiers and riders. My son Rowan was more enthusiastic about the event then my daughter which surprised me a little, since Naima is usually more of a risk taker on skis. I enjoyed pointing out all of the pink helmets among the competitors to both of them to show them that anyone can participate.
We were spectators this year but I think the seed has now been planted and next season they may become little Groms themselves.