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.
This picture perfectly sums up an awesome family weekend and the experience my oldest had at the Okemo Ski and Ride School. She whipped out a trail map during dinner at Okemo’s Coleman Brook Tavern to show us all of the trails she explored throughout her day as part of the the Mountain Explorer program. I think this is one of my favorite skiing photos because it stirs memories of the pure rush she had telling us about the glades she skied, which lifts she took, and the secret little trails she wanted to show us. I was smiling inside because we enrolled the kids in half day lessons the following day and I would soon see this enthusiasm in action.
Last season was the first time I skied after a long hiatus and the first season my husband and I introduced our kids to the slopes. This year, my family is all geared up and trying to embrace our new passion for skiing by visiting as many mountains as we can. We decided to drive from Albany to Okemo Mountain Resort after a Friday night event and ended up doing one of those late 11PM arrivals. It didn’t take long to settle us all in to our comfy one bedroom suite in the Adams House, get the kids to bed, and start planning out the next day. Saturday morning arrived and after layering up we walked about three minute to the main area in front of the Jackson Gore Inn to get the kids started in the Okemo Ski and Ride School. Here is where the divide and conquer parenting kicked in. My husband took our daughter over to the ski school area for kids in the Mountain Explorers (starting at age 7). This was the easy drop off. Our daughter happily waited with the instructor and we didn’t see her again until pick up at 3pm.
My 4 year old son was enrolled in the Snow Stars Program (geared for kids age 4-6) and they start their day indoors in the Jackson Gore base lodge in an area designated just for this program. Although the hand off seemed a little chaotic it ended up being completely organized and well supervised – organized chaos at its best! Regardless if you preregister there’s some additional paperwork to fill out for the Snow Stars program. Allow extra time for drop off, especially on the first day.
Once inside the waiting areas, kids were able to take off some layers and were given a bright yellow bib and a name tag. There were a lot of instructors there to greet the kids and coloring sheets were available at each table to help with the transition. I felt completely comfortable leaving my son at the Snow Stars and once he saw others kids his age he was comfortable, too.
Okemo really makes an effort to have smaller instructional groups be comprised of kids with similar abilities. My son was moved to a different group during the first day to better meet his needs. As a parent, I appreciated that kids were encouraged to take some responsibility such as holding their skis when moving from the base lodge to the learning area. Since I tend to carry multiple skis at once, I was really glad to see this when we met up with my son’s group. He was still complaining about having to carry his gear but, as customary for kids, not as much since it was someone besides mom and dad asking.
End result of a weekend in Okemo’s Ski and Ride School? Happy skiers with more confidence and skill. My daughter loved every minute of the Mountain Explorer program and really excelled this trip, not just in her ability on skis but on her overall enthusiasm and desire to improve. This season, and more specifically our time at Okemo, gave her an incredible level of confidence to go further and ski more on her own. The Snow Stars program helped my son continue to develop his ability to turn to the point where he now lets all around him know when he’s doing so: “I’m turning!” I also think diving into trail maps is becoming more of a regular scene in our house and the Okemo Ski and Ride School played a big role in making that happen.
Tips for the Okemo Ski and Ride School
- Lift tickets aren’t included and need to be purchased separately.
- For kids in the full day program lunch is included. If registering for a half day on Sunday, consider enrolling in the Sunday Solutions which provides a half day of lessons plus lunch. Pick up is at 1PM for this program.
- Label everything. As with any ski school program, there are a lot of kids and many of their parents are shopping at the same places you do so label all gloves, hats, neck warmers to make sure they make it home.
- Be timely when picking up your kids. Okemo does charge a fee if you’re late.
- Stay in the Jackson Gore Village for super easy access to lifts and lessons.
- Enjoy a lunch date with you spouse and eat at the deliciously sophisticated Epic restaurant located in Solitude Village.
- Start them young. Three year olds can take lessons at Okemo through the Little Dipper program that features small class sizes designed for the youngest future shredders.
Okemo Mountain Resort is large and comprised of two peaks. The mountain provides a lot of trails for all skill levels but for families who are still in the beginner to intermediate levels, you will not be at a loss for trails. There are fun features to explore all over the mountain including skiing above train tracks (on a bridge), next to a roller coaster, through tunnels, and you can glide through a neighborhood of stunning ski chalets. A big highlight, and one truly unique to Okemo, is the Sunburst Six. This orange gem is a six person heated bubble chair lift that gives you six minutes of warmth while taking you to the summit. Don’t let the long line scare you because it does go by quickly. Okemo Mountain Resort is a complete family mountain getaway with a ski and ride school that will teach your kids the skills needed to turn a fun family activity into a new passion.