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.
Twenty alpine ski resorts, one mom and two kids, and roughly 100 days between now and spring. With one Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passport in hand, our goal now strikes me as almost comically ambitious: to ski every one of the resorts in the passport. From Jay Peak near the Canadian border to Mount Snow down near Massachusetts, Vermont skiing is distributed across the state. It’s going to take some serious planning for our homeschooling family of three to make this happen, but we love to ski! Our Ski Vermont Passport Challenge is underway.
The Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passport provides current fifth graders with a booklet containing coupons for free alpine lift tickets or cross-country trail passes at resorts all over Vermont. I can’t think of a better way to experience Vermont in the winter than to explore all these resorts with my kids. As a life-long Vermont skier, I’ve had limited exposure to skiing around the state. For the most part, we stick to our mountain: Mad River Glen. It’s where my parents started skiing in the nineteen-sixties, where I grew up skiing, and where my two kids, Ollie (age 10) and Minna (age 8), learned to ski. But it wasn’t until last winter, when my son began participating in freeskiing competitions, that I visited other resorts in Vermont. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole experience and I realized I wanted to see more ski areas in the state we now call home.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been planning our attack. We’ve located all the resorts and identified them with pins on a map on our living room wall. We’ve established a rough calendar of days we’d like to make our trips, starting from the north in the early season and moving south as the snow and cold temps really set in after the new year. As homeschoolers, this challenge will be more than just skiing. We’ll integrate map reading and route finding, geography of Vermont, weather and ecology, and writing and photography into our days. What’s the best way to get to Burke from our home in the Mad River Valley? What’s the forecast look like, do we need to reschedule a trip? How do we visit all the southern Vermont resorts (Mount Snow, Bromley, Stratton, Magic, etc.) efficiently, without driving four hours round-trip each time? And most importantly, who’s got the best hot chocolate in Vermont? Minna will be keeping a cocoa passport and sharing her evaluations as we go.
As a family, we’ve talked about what we hope to accomplish during this challenge (aside from hitting all twenty resorts!) For me, it’s simple: I want to have more time outside in the snow with my kids doing something we all love. Expanding my knowledge of Vermont, seeing different towns, and finding new trails and woods stashes with locals will make all the driving worthwhile. Ollie is excited to try more terrain park features and to ride the six-person heated bubble chair at Okemo. Minna is looking forward to spotting signs of animals as we drive, especially beaver dams and lodges. And not only testing hot chocolates, but also seeing who offers the best toppings. Whipped cream? Sprinkles? Chocolate shavings? We’ll have to wait and see.
As I write, the snow is falling and the Vermont ski season is off to a strong start with plenty of natural snow enhancing early snowmaking efforts. We’re itching to hit the road and start our adventure. We’ll be posting our days on Instagram, so follow along to see how we’re doing as we ski it. Be sure to check back here in midwinter for an update on our progress. With good luck and good weather, hopefully we’ll be well on our way to meeting the Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passport Challenge!