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Best Ski School/Resorts for New Skiers - Page 2

post #31 of 59
NSAA and PSIA are doing a project at Hunter Mountian to measure the effectiveness of beginner lessons, and Windham Mountain (NY) has started an all day beginner program that's designed to be a lot more user friendly than the typical begeinner lesson. You might talk to them.

And just because Nolo mentioned small mountains:
Maple Ski Ridge in Schenectady, NY (250' vertical) is the home of Freddie Anderson, the longest serving ski school director in North America. They've probably taught more beginners than most big resorts, and probably there are more of them still skiing.
Bousquet (Pittsfield, MA) does a lot of beginner lessons, and they had 4 kids on the US Ski Team team at one time.

Regards, John
post #32 of 59
Originally Posted by denyadog
Killington Perfect Turn Adult and Perfect Kids is spectacular and always improving. Send me pm if you'd like more info.
Turn on your PM so I can PM you.
post #33 of 59
I think Nolo's response really captures the essence of beginner skiing. The places that should be listed as 'Champions' of the beginner skier are those that expend significant portions of their time and revenue generation to the furtherance of the sport.

One place that immediately comes to mind is Sipapu, New Mexico. A trip there will leave you wondering how they survive as a ski area in the west. Everything is below the expectations of today's skier(acreage, facilities, equipment, and personnel levels), but they have a found a niche that keeps the doors open and many people happily entering the sport. Large ski areas cater to 'vacationers', while Sipapu finds fulfillment in keeping costs VERY low and introducing many people to the sport that financial concerns would otherwise preclude. ..I found it very fulfilling to ski a small mountain where the teaching area was filled with young people dressed in normal attire on old equipment, yet getting that first experience of sliding around on the white stuff. ...I left feeling their unassuming staff was in fact the true champions of the ski industry!

I am convinced that the path to higher skier retention is an advertising campaign that recognizes and highlights the smaller, skier friendly areas that will draw and retain family business; rather than the current corporate 'ad wars' that target a small segment of the population willing and able to participate at levels requiring considerable financial and physical abilities.
post #34 of 59
New skier program: Vail, Beaver Creek, Deer Valley, Okemo
post #35 of 59
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by nolo
Okay, Lisa, I now understand the assignment, but how will you objectively rate ski areas on their care of new skiers? I will share a direct quote from Michael Berry of NSAA, "Twenty per cent of ski areas in the U.S. are teaching 80% of the new skiers." These areas are not high-bling, destination resorts, but small, no-name, family-run ski areas in the hinterlands of the ski business, using uncertified personnel to teach them on old, battered rental gear. The big destination resorts have made gargantuan efforts to fill the gap, and have succeeded, but again, 80% of new skiers will have their first 1-3 days on snow at places like Nubs Nob or Lookout Pass or Big Bear.
Good point, which is why I'm throwing this out "to the people," instead of simply researching it on the web. The article is meant for people who have no nothing whatsoever about skiing, and may not be web savy enough to know where to look for info. This may also be the type of person who would be embarassed to post on epicski. I intend to cover stuff that I don't see in other articles , such as how to read a trail map, etc.

BTW, I've chosen, Nolo, and 2 other friends/ski pros to "fact check" this before it gets submitted, as well as 2 spelling and grammar nazis to catch any errors I miss, and 2 members of the anti-redundancy squad to launch attacks on 2 synonyms used in the same sentance, such as "free comps."
post #36 of 59
I took my first skiing lessons at Loveland last year. It was a great deal -- $65 per lesson (includes full-day rental + lift ticket). And the best part was, after three lessons, you got a FREE season pass. So I figured, it would take at least three lessons to find out if I liked it (or if I am any good at it). At the end, if I didn't continue, no harm done (other than the cost of the lessons). And if I did like it, then I would get a free season pass and not worry about lift tickets everytime.

And believe me, the free season pass was great for a beginner. Being able to go to the mountain frequently really stoked the interest and appreciation. I got in about 40 ski-days. It was a delightful circle: the more I skied, the more I liked it, and the more I liked it, the more I skied. I think this is often an overlooked part in beginner lessons -- a way to make it easy, attractive, and affordable for beginners to ski more. Sure, the individual lessons may be cheap, but there should be a way to make at least the first season a relatively cheap endeavor for beginners. Because skiing, in my opinion, is about personal exploration. I could take all the lessons I wanted and learn all the techincal nuances, but if I didn't find my own...rhythm, my own reason for enjoyment, my own way around the mountain, I doubt I would be salivating for Nov 7th (projected opening day at Copper!) this year.

The other thing about Loveland was the low-stress learning environment. The beginner area is separate from the main runs, so none of the hassles of parking, high-speed experts around, long lines, etc. And it definitely helped since it wasn't a destination resort, resulting in low-crowd situations.

I thought the instructors were great (but since I was a beginner, what did I know, right?). Patient and fun, and able to clearly explain/articulate what to do.

While I got the Rocky Mtn Super Pass at Copper/WP this year, I'll definitely take some boarding lessons at Loveland again just to try it out, and also to get the season pass.
post #37 of 59
Interesting thread, should be an interesting article.

Obviously there's no "best" learning situation because different learners have different needs. But FWIW, there's a lot to be said for the no-name regional places for kids and/or parents of kids learning to ski. As to terrain, even if the big resorts have dedicated beginner areas they leave everyone wanting to bite off more than they can chew. But beyond the terrain, the confusion of rental lines, ticket lines, finding the school, parking the car, etc., is easier to manage at the smaller places. Last but not least - the expense of a big-mountain resort discourages first-timers. Once you've mastered the little place, then the family can either make it the home-base or move on - depending on interest / ability / time / money factors.

In my case, I started a few years ago around age 40 with 3 kids ages 7 - 10 with a day trip late in the season to Butternut in Great Barrington MA, and then the following season we spent a weekend at an even smaller place nearby, Otis Ridge. It was even more manageable than Butternut. The instructors were great with kids in group lessons, and I got a very effective private lesson. By the end of that weekend, two of us were skiing the "black diamonds" and the other two (the ones with common sense) were comfortable everywhere else and had good fundamentals. An added advantage to the small setting was the ease of keeping track of one another, and after lessons were over we'd run into teachers who continued to give tips and encouragement. The 400 feet of drop was plenty, there were no lift lines and no hassles at all. We've now skied a lot of other local areas with "beginner" reps -- Butternut, Belleayre, Catamount, Jiminy Peak -- and I remain convinced Otis Ridge was the best startup spot. We're now us hooked and have returned many times to other Berkshires, Vermont, and upstate NY areas.

(My only caution is if it were close enough to a large city to be overwhelmed, I'd really avoid a tiny place like Otis Ridge. My reference point here is a smaller place about an hour north of NYC. After driving by it whenever we go to the Berkshires I tried it with one of the kids one Sunday afternoon when we were in the area anyway. It was really a frustrating experience due to the crowds. I doubt Otis Ridge ever gets the kind of congestion.)
post #38 of 59

Another thought for your article that you are likely already aware of- privates with adult(s) and their kids are a recipe for disaster. It starts becuase mom/dad thinks this would be a swell time for "togetherness" and the cost of a 3/4 person private isn't much different from group lessons.

-- it is a time for Dad/Mom to feel intimidated in front of little sally and billy

-- it is a time for dad to say to little billy "oh stop being a baby and try it" when he would really rather 10 more runs on the pony lift

-- what better way to horrify a teenager

this list could go on and on.

Perhaps it can work with some families, but not many.
post #39 of 59
Here's a senario about a "family" lesson that actually had a good ending because it happened at a small area that was able to accomodate their needs:

Mom, who really already knows how to ski signs up for a semi-private lesson for 0herself and her 2 children ages 6 and 9. At the time she signed up she did not tell anyone she knew how to ski (She was not great, but skied well enough to ski all the trails at this area in control). Sounds like a horror story, doesn't it. In addition to not telling anyone that she could ski, she also did not tell anyone that they 9 year old was deaf and mildly autistic. (Now it sounds even worse.) As the lesson starts mom begins to sign the instructor's directions to the 9 year old.

The instructor seems quite frazzled and the ski school director sees this. He calls me over and asks me to go with him. We go to the small group. He asks the mother if the child is deaf. The mother admits it and also tells him that she is mildly autistic. He suggests that I take over the lesson for the autistic child giving the mother my background (I was a new instructor at the time.) Mother tells us that she knows how to ski, but only signed up for the lesson to help the instructor with her daughter. The ski school director tells her that he is confident in my ability to work with her daughter with or without her assistance. I suggest that we give it a try without the mother present.

Both children ended up with private lessons...mom went of skiing alone until the lessons ended. At the end of the lesson the mother was so thrilled that both were able to ride the rope tow and ski in control that she scheduled a second private for each the next week and gave each of us (the instructors) a good tip. She also went in and tried to pay for making the semi-private into 2 privates but the area decided that since she scheduled another session for each of them they would not charge her the additional.
post #40 of 59

best ski school thoughts/more about the Snow Time program

Hi LM - this is a great topic for an article, especially because it is not easy. My nomination would be a mythical ski resort that has all of the best elements from many resorts. Here is some more info about the Snow Time program, followed by some thoughts to consider for your article.

The Snow Time program used to be called Bounce Back. This program is offered at Liberty Mountain Resort, Whitetail and Roundtop (all in south central Pennsylvania). This year we are calling it the Mountain Passport Club. Every level 1 student gets a coupon during the lesson. This coupon can be redeemed for a discounted return visit lift/lesson/rental package (costs $39 if you buy it on the day of your first visit or $49 later). On the second visit, the skier gets a free discount card good for 40% off of future visits (lift and rental) during the season, free lessons for the rest of the season and a coupon booklet.

Instructors write their name on the coupons and can earn prizes for the most redeeemed coupons. This gives the resort really good (but not perfect) information about how successful individual instructors are and the possibility to generate statistics over time about the influence of weather, snow and crowd conditions.

Another Snow Time "program" is an early season discount for "Learn to Ski". From opening until December 24 (provided we open before XMAS), the learn to ski package is $19. Combine that with the Mountain Passport Club and you've got a great deal for beginners.

But a good deal/low cost of entry is just the beginning for the best resort for new skiers. The people (both guests and employees) have to be friendly. The entire experience has to be comfortable and hassle free. We're talking short&safe drive from home, good weather, easy parking, good food, easy rentals, an enthusiastic lesson, convenient and successful child care, no (or at least speedy) lines, easy clothing fixes and a secure place for your stuff. The beginner slopes have to be wide, gentle, exceptionally groomed and not crowded. the progression from bunny trails to intermediate needs to be gradual, yet the place needs to be small enough to not get lost. The lifts need to be easy to get on and off. How about a high speed lift for beginners that gives you twice as much time to get on? (remember I said mythical!) There's a place in Logan, Utah called Beaver. Their beginner lift has an exit ramp where you just stand up. It's so flat and long you don't get the sense that you're moving. Yet you don't get clocked or pushed by the chair. And there's plenty of room to (ah) "gather your thoughts before starting out" without becoming part of a crowd or looking like a chicken. The perfect resort also has plenty of non-skiing options for "non-skiers". I've heard that this takes some of the pressure off beginners: you don't have to be good - you can quit at any time and still have fun things to do. Too much pressure is also an argument against never evers "travelling" for their first time experience if they don't have to.

NSAA's model for growth has recognized that improving the beginner experience is a key success factor for our industry. They've highlighted a lot of things that resorts are doing right and wrong. One of the hits is the "dedicated" beginners facilities. One of the misses is reaching out to minorities. LM -> it's hard to get hold of the details of the model for growth, but it's worth it. It's a really really eye opening view into the working guts of the ski industry. For example, how do small areas justify large investments in beginners when only 15% return for a second visit and when a lot of the payoff (in the form of increased skier visits) goes to the larger resorts? NSAA has nailed it when they say there are no magic bullets. It's going to take everyone in the industry working together to improve all aspects of the experience in order to just keep the sport healthy.

Hope this helps. Glad you're doing your part. The days are getting shorter ....

P.S. Did Michael Berry actually use the word "bling" in a speech?
post #41 of 59
[quote=Scalce]I learned at Mt Sunapee in NH and was happy with their program but I'm sure it is not that great compared to other areas.

I thought the lesson at Sunapee was very good. Sunapee's beginner area is truely a beginner area so there is very minimal intimidation from better skiers whizzing past you. Scalce and I also got an instructor all to ourselves so that was key since we were adult learners. In high school, I took a lesson at Mt. Abraham in ME and it stunk in comparison to the Sunapee lesson. I will admit though way, way easier to learn on 130 shaped skis then 170 straight skis
post #42 of 59
I would just like to echo a point made by someone else in here. The key to having a good learning experience is lots of soft snow. When I started, I fell at least 50 times a day for the first four days. Fortunately, I was skiing at Whitewater, in Nelson, B.C., where the powder is plentiful and soft. Had my initial experience with skiing been on hard snow -- ice, in particular -- I would have had no fun, and probably would have called it quits after the first day.
post #43 of 59
At Whistler, the halfway point at Olympic Station is an entire area (including Olympic lift) set up for beginners. This area is relatively flat at mid-mountain, and thus is good for learning.

The Children's area is adjacent, but separate from the Adult learning center. Add this to the fact that WB has over 1,000 instructors, so there is someone for every type of skier, including beginners. I think it is a great place to learn, although the private lessons can be pricey.

They also have good beginner classes.
post #44 of 59
One of the qualities a ski area should have to do a good job of teaching novice skiers is a true novice slope: one which has a runout at the bottom which is flat or slopes up, so that if you start at the top going straight down the runout will stop you. Since the first question the novice asks is "how do I stop?", the answer is "don't worry: the slope will do it". Good luck in finding an area which has one. Areas will spend millions on high speed lifts, hundreds of thousands on grooming equipment, but won't spend a few thousand on some fill at the bottom of the hill to build a runout. So only 15% of the people who try skiing return and they can't understand why.
post #45 of 59
Originally Posted by crudmeister
One of the qualities a ski area should have to do a good job of teaching novice skiers is a true novice slope: one which has a runout at the bottom which is flat or slopes up, so that if you start at the top going straight down the runout will stop you. Since the first question the novice asks is "how do I stop?", the answer is "don't worry: the slope will do it". Good luck in finding an area which has one. Areas will spend millions on high speed lifts, hundreds of thousands on grooming equipment, but won't spend a few thousand on some fill at the bottom of the hill to build a runout. So only 15% of the people who try skiing return and they can't understand why.
I know most Summit Cty skiers believe Colorado skiing starts West of the tunnel, but, try Winter Park - both of our magic carpet areas (Sorensen Park and Mt. Maury) are contoured to provide an uphill component; additionally, the beginner poma (Spirit lift and run) also have an uphill component.

Additionally, there is the Discovery Park area at the top of the Gemini lift - I believe it to be the best beginner/novice area in Colorado - a major part of the reason I came to Winter Park to teach this year.

[Disclaimer: this statement is entirely my own opinion.]
post #46 of 59
I have not been to Winter Park in many years. If they indeed have runouts on their novice slopes, my complements fo them. Perhaps you can spread the word west of the Tunnel?
post #47 of 59
I will copy this in a PM but your research is not complete until you check out the "1st Class program" at www.WindhamMountain.com .
This is a phenom program that won us a NSAA award. Sign up online, we meet you at the curb, walk you through rentals, a couple hours instruction, lunch at elevation, a couple more hours instruction, cocoa and review, 5x7 photo, and a return visit discount card.
post #48 of 59
Hey LM,
I'm not an instructor and I knew better than trying to teach my beginner kids. I guess my perspective is that of a satisfied customer that didn't look so much at the process, but the end result. When we finally had enough money to start the family skiing, we were living in North Carolina, but I knew the crowds and the limited terrain at the Smoky Mtn resorts would not be a great intro. Instead, we looked for a destination resort in the Western US that was big enough to spread out the crowds and would generally have great snow. On a recommendation, we chose Keystone for our first family ski vacation (March 1998). I would never have chosen Keystone myself, but this trip was all about the kids and the ski school...turns out Keystone has a lot of terrain that suited me, my wife (who skis very, very fast) and my dad (who was quite the racer in his day).

We put the kids into the ski school program as never-evers and let the program take control. We didn't do anything to try to influence the program. Here's what we saw as the week went by...

At the end of every day (3 pm) we met with each child's instructor and the instructor went over each child's accomplishments for the day and what they proposed for the next day. We didn't try to push them any faster than the experts wanted to progress them. Our gauge for the success of the program was two-fold: the kids couldn't wait to get back to ski school in the morning despite being notorious late-risers, and after 5 days, they could and wanted to ski any blue trail on the mountain. 8 years later, all 4 kids still ski (or board) and we have a great family activity that binds the generations (my dad, wife & I, our 4 kids + cousins, aunts & uncles) and is far easier to organize family vacations when we all have a common goal. I attrribute alot of the credit for this great situation to the ski school at Keystone. They ingrained a true love of the sport in my kids!
post #49 of 59
Lisa, come on out to Aspen and see the beginner magic program for yourself. I think you will see why it is considered the best, at any price.
post #50 of 59
It seems to me that there are two ways to learn to ski using a ski school. The first is to dip your toes in the water with a day trip to a local resort, like the Sno-time resorts, and the second is to jump in with a multi-day trip to a destination resort. These are different markets. I think the overwhelming majority get there start at the local resorts. Among these, I think Liberty is an excellent example, with a great beginner slope, which is about as wide as a football field, about four times as long as a football field, gently sloping to the point where children have difficulty moving on windy days, a magic carpet for the general public, a magic carpet in a separate section of the beginner slope which is reserved for children's lessons, and an easy to ride quad chairlift. Liberty has the Sno-Time programs alluded to in previous posts, and a large staff of instructors, mostly part-timers who hold full-time professional jobs elsewhere. The rental equipment is modern, having been replaced last season, and roughly once every season or two for the past ten years. It would be hard to think of a local resort with a better set-up.

I have been to a few destination resorts, and I have not seen a beginner slope with the features of Liberty Mtn., but there is definitely an advantage in learning with a series of all-day or half day lessons over several days. That approach is more expensive, and it is hard to see how the average newcomer would want to make that financial commitment to an unknown sport up-front. For reference, consider any forays you may have made into snowboarding if you are a skier.
post #51 of 59
A whole bunch depends on what someone wants in terms of the total package. If their focus is learning to ski without lots of fancy resort/town frills. And without overpaying. Then Grand Targhee has to be near the top of the list.

Their ski school is small, but has some great instructors. Several, including George Mosher (I think he's still there), have been on the "top 100" list in recent years. They seem to keep all their instructors up to date. I've never sen an instructor (even a junior or kid school one) there wiperblading down a slope - unlike a fair number of other places. Compared to any other resort I'm familiar with, lesson prices are a bargain. Look them up compared to other top ski schools & see for yourself. The school operates out of a little shed (with a hot chocolate & warmup room perched above for the kids). Hang around for even a few days and the people who run the school will know you by name. As will many of the instructors. And they've always gone out of their way to try to accomodate any requests I've had.

The beginner terrain is excellent. An entire section of the mountain is managed for kids/beginners. And in general, it is uncrowded. Enough so that 4 out of 5 runs in the beginner area you can study your own tracks from the lift. Minimal congestion & fear factor. And as I've mentioned before, how can you not have fun in the Eyeball Forest, the Humpback Forest, etc.

The resort is a bargain. Lodging is mighty pedestrian (to be kind), but where else can you roll out of bed and onto a lift a hundred fifty feet away (from your bed) for the kinds of prices Targhee offers? Look 'em up.

Snow...well, if lots of soft snow is the ticket - Targhee should make people happy more often than not.

Not much to do on the mountain but ski & sleep. So if you are looking for "nightlife", GT will not be for you. However, if the name of the game is learning to ski, you could do a lot worse while spending a lot more dough. It is a winner for both kids and adults.
post #52 of 59
Voting for my local hill, I think the best learning experience in Eastern/Central MA is Wachusett Mt. by far.

Compared to Nashoba Valley (which another poster mentioned), it's got much better terrain progression for beginning skiers. There's a completely separate beginner area serviced by a "magic carpet" lift (much, much better than a rope tow for newbies!!). A separate, chair serviced area with a couple of nice long, green trails. Off the intermediate lift, there's a great "easy blue" trail (Ralph's Run) which makes a great transition for skiers looking to move up to intermediate terrain. There's also nearly 1,000' of vertical making for some really nice longer cruisers off the top.

The ski school is fabulous and I've had the pleasure of introducing a couple of newbies to skiing through their program.

They offer both day and night skiing and are 1/2 hour to 45 minutes west of the Boston high tech area (495/128 belts) making the mountain very accessible to a large potential skier population. They also host quite a few school programs as well as a NASTAR course and adult racing leagues.

Overall, it's an area that provides a great mountain experience a really short distance from a major urban center. Simply can't be beat in the east
post #53 of 59
I cannot speak for Copper's LTS program, but I can say that the layout of the mountain is wonderfully conducive to learning and progressions.

I taught at Waterville Valley when they rolled out the Passport program -- and, we were all amazed at how innovative it was at the time (six years ago). Waterville Valley -- as a part of Booth Creek -- was one of the early resorts to create an inexpensive daily lift and season pass products. These were created in a direct effor to combat the dismal skier visit trends that were were seeing at that time (across the industry as a whole). http://www.waterville.com/info/winter/passport.asp
post #54 of 59
Thread Starter 
OMG! How on earth did you find this?? I feel like my life is passing in front of me.

Anyways, that story was supposed to be for an application for the about.com ski guide position. I enlisted the help of Nolo,Weems, AC, Mike_M, Bonni and my beloved husband. I had one week to put together an entire site. I worked on it day in and day out, got very little help from my so-called trainer, and never got the job.

In a way, it's a good thing. I have come to hate writing jobs where your income depends on how many people you can send to your site. It's no wonder that their turnover rate is so high!

With your inspiration, I have revamped the original content and just submitted it elsewhere. I will let you know if it gets accepted. Thank you all for your input.
post #55 of 59
I will go on the record and recommend Pico for a beginer.

1. relative to Killington, there are no crowds. Nice greens and blues without the carnage.

2. affordability. Again cheap lifts and you have a great chance of signing up for a group lesson that actually turns into a private.

Getting beyond the blues, I don't know how great it is, but I always take friends and relatives that are starting out to pico and have had great experiences.
post #56 of 59
Thread Starter 
Thanks for everyone's help! Article was accepted for a very low price, but it was accepted. Hopefully it will bring traffic to some of your schools!
post #57 of 59
Here in Michigan the best place imo is Crystal Mountain. They do a great job. As far as skiing out west goes, my kids still talk about Steamboat. They loved it. So much so that they do not want to take lessons anywhere else.
post #58 of 59
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for everyone's help. This is not exactly high journalism, but hopefully it will get some schools the recognition they deserve.

post #59 of 59
Nice work LM
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