I'm strongly considering putting my son in the Squaw Mighty Mites program next winter, when he'll be five. From both a time and money perspective, that's a pretty significant commitment, so I'm looking for advice from folks who have had little ones in ski team programs before.
I've been taking my son skiing since he was two. At age two he got about eight days on snow, with each "day" being about 30 minutes. At three we were up at Squaw a total of 12 days. The first couple of days he lasted 45 minutes, and he was up to an hour and a half by the end of the season.
This year has been a breakthrough in just the four days we've spent at Squaw. Its like everything from the last two years clicked all at once. He's gone from super-scared and super-clingy to completely independant and incredibly excited about skiing. I've woken up the past few days to him screaming "Squaw!" when he first wakes up and realises its morning and we're going to go skiing. I have to stop him when I see his legs giving out because he doesn't want to stop skiing.
He's skiing greens in a mix of wedge and parallel and managing to keep under control as conditions shift from groomed to icy to slush. His speed is a bit dependant on how recently he's fallen, but he's moving well and not just inching along. Based on every "level guide" I've seen he's a solid level 4. We've gone down short sections of blue to get to places we wanted to go and he held it together well, but fell back to a wedge on the steeper terrain.
He'll get about 18-20 days on snow this year and he's able to ski for 2-3 hours a day right now. I'm a good skier, but not a technical skier and its been a long time since I took lessons. So far I've taught him by physically putting him in the right position, moving his body through carved turns, and skiing backwards telling him what to do. It's worked great, but I know that I'm fast approaching the point where I'll be doing him a disservice teaching him.
He hates the idea of lessons. He did Squaw Kids (ski school) for two days at three because he saw all of the kids and wanted to ski with them. It turned out to be a disaster. At the time I don't think he was ready to be away from me and the ski school paddock at the base of the mountain was just not fun for him. He wanted to be up at the top of the tram riding chairlifts and skiing trails. It was such a bad experience that he react pretty strongly to the idea of trying it again.
He likes the idea of the ski team. He's seen the ski team kids ripping up the mountain in packs while riding the lifts and asked about it over and over again. He's met and played with some of the ski team kids while staying in the Village at Squaw. As long as he sometimes gets to ski with me, he's interested in doing ski team in the future. He's an incredibly social kid and the idea of skiing with the same kids every weekend and having friends to ski with is really appealing.
So... how do you know when kids are ready for programs like the Mighty Mites? At age five he could do Mighty Mites or Shooting Stars and the difference isn't super-clear to me. How do you evaluate which program is right for a given kid?
I also have a one year old girl who will be two next year. I'd like to start her skiing next year also, and if my son were in a ski team program it would make it easier to take her up on those days and then meet my son after his program is done. Extra days (Mondays / Fridays) I could just ski with my son.
Anyway... any relevant experiences or opinions would be appreciated.