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.
Another ski season has finally arrived, albeit a bit late this year. My family took advantage of the ski school at Okemo Mountain Resort and we booked lessons for both kids so they could get their ski legs back. Okemo’s snowmaking ability allowed them to open more trails earlier in the season than most, even when the snow wasn’t quite cooperating.
My daughter Naima, being the older and more confident skier, was adamant she didn’t need (or want) lessons. “I know how to ski” she would say in protest the week leading up to our trip. My constant response was that EVERYONE can benefit from a lesson. Plus, since she is still fairly new to skiing (3rd season) we encouraged her to use a lesson to improve her increasingly mad skills. She reluctantly agreed to go to ski school at Okemo and we agreed to have some one-on-one time with her during the trip.
This was the second season my kids took weekend lessons at Okemo so they knew the drill and felt comfortable with the drop off routine on the Jackson Gore side of the mountain. For those new to Okemo, the main base lodge is in a separate area from the larger Jackson Gore lodging area of the resort. Lessons are offered in both locations. My family’s experience was on the Jackson Gore side. Be sure to check your lesson confirmation letter to make sure you’re registered for the right location.
One of the many things I love about ski school at Okemo is the staggered time frames of the lessons.
The younger kids (ages 4 to 6) are part of the Snow Stars program with full and half day lessons starting at 9:30. You can drop kids off as early as 8:30 a.m. where instructors are there playing puzzles, coloring, and getting them acquainted with the other kids in the program. The older kids (ages 7 to 12) are part of the Mountain Explorer program and meet at a designated spot near the Coleman lift at Jackson Gore at 10:00 a.m.
The ability to focus on getting one child off to a lesson at a time at Okemo is a huge plus for parents.
This schedule also allows one parent time to get some runs in with the older kids while the other parent gets the younger kids settled into their lesson. The same staggered schedule works at the end of the day with the younger kids ending around 3:00 while the older ones finish at 3:30. I loved this rare one-on-one ski time with each of my kids.
Okemo’s ski school class sizes are small and the instructors truly paid close attention to the kids’ abilities. I was pleasantly surprised by how spot-on my daughter’s Mountain Explorer instructor pinned her strengths and weaknesses. She gets easily distracted, especially by furry four legged animals. After her lesson he pointed out that while the class was cruising down a trail she said “oh there’s a squirrel” and skied away from the group to find out where it was headed. Spot on for my eight year old.
The instructors in the Snow Stars program are true gems and have more patience than I will ever possess. With a class of five young kids, these instructors kept the kids going, learning in a fun environment and entertained. Every time I found my way over to the magic carpet to watch my son Rowan’s class he was beaming. He boasted that they made him the “caboose” because in his words “I know how to stop by myself”.
If you’re unsure of which level your newbie skier might need, the color coded charts at the Snow Stars check-in area are broken into 6 categories with three of them being below the typical green for beginners. The instructors will gauge your child’s ability and place them in an appropriate class and move them into a slower or more advanced class depending on their skills.
Rowan was very proud when he moved up from Rocket Dipper I to Rocket Dipper II and told us he used “the force” (queue light saber animation) to help him be a better skier.
If you’re curious what happens to lessons when it’s raining, we got to experience that first hand. It rained all day on day two of our visit when Rowan was scheduled for a half day lesson. Many parents were cancelling and unfortunately the resort started to clear out. I thought the couple of hours would thicken his skin a little and plus due to cancellations, his lesson was more of a semi-private lesson instead of a group. The instructors put plastic ponchos on the kids and brought them out to the magic carpet. No need to worry about 5-year-olds on a rainy ski day. My son still loved it and was smiling, though soaked, while he stomped his ski boots in the puddles at the end of his lesson. Typical kids.
Everyone can benefit from a ski lesson. After our weekend at Okemo my kids were turning more, getting creative about skiing in the trees and overall were just more confident. The goal is to have fun and that’s just what we found at Okemo’s ski school!