Bode Miller credits his ski success to his formative years at
"When I was five-years-old my parents would drop me off at the
mountain at 7:30 and pick me up at 4," said U.S. Ski Team Champion
and Olympian Bode Miller. "There aren't many places in the world you can do that as a
Sure enough, Bode is right about life in the Whites. Yet some parents are not going to be comfortable with dropping their kids off at a ski area for the day. If you are looking for supervised, instructional ski or snowboard programs, the Granite State has dozens of them. Whether your little skiers will one day bring home the gold like Bode Miller, remains to be seen, but here are some excellent ski programs to teach them the basics and beyond.
Ragged Mountain Resort in central New Hampshire has one of the most ideal learning hills I have seen. Their Juniper Meadows Learning Center is well located by the rental shop and childcare, but tucked away from skier traffic. Tots just love Ragged's ski carousel and ski-through Barn. As a parent, I love that the beginner slopes are not only segregated but perfectly pitched with a designated triple chair.
For the rest of the ski family, Ragged has two ski mountains, Ragged and Spear, with 50 trails worth of variety and a major-league terrain park. Ragged Mountain is the peak serviced by the six-seater chair lift. This oversized flying couch, the only six-pack in NH, can seat your entire family so lift lines are no worry. Our family discovered Ragged last season, but many people still have not - hint, hint.
If you are interested in season-long skiing or riding camps, Ragged offers 10-week programs for kids ages four to 17, meeting on weekends with a focus on safety, fun and learning.
Attitash, NH's second largest ski area, has a state-of-the-art learn to ski facility. Their Adventure Center was custom built to accommodate rentals and a retail shop, kids programs and daycare, even the Frostbites snack bar, making ski-life considerably saner for parents. I remember when we were first getting our kids into skiing, it was such a haul from the parking lot to the ticket window, then the ski school desk to the rental shop, on to the daycare and eventually the ski school line up - here it is all conveniently located under one roof.
Attitash is a well-run resort, and the kids' camps are no exception. They start 'em as early as three years old in Buddy Bears, and you can choose from full or half day programs.
While the kids are at ski camp, Mom and Dad have two peaks to explore - Attitash and Bear Peak. After retrieving your kids from their lessons, a run through the Family Fun Zone is a perfect way to end everyone's ski day, allowing the kids to show you all they learned on this dedicated family ski terrain.
Bretton Woods NH's s largest ski area, has dozens of scenic well-groomed trails, high speed lifts, and really fun friendly glades. But the Hobbit Ski and Snowboard School is the same reliable program it has been for years, with an extremely caring staff. The Family Learning Center, next to the base lodge, is kid-central for all-day lesson programs for ages four and up including equipment and lunch, daycare for wee-ones is available here as well.
One of the things I like about Bretton Woods is that in very little time, every member of the family can be skiing from the scenic summit, thanks to plenty of gentle green trails all over the mountain. You can even ski Bode Miller's own trail called Bode's Run, on the Rosebrook summit accessed by the new quad.
Cranmore continues to have some of the most affordable and user-friendly packages for learning families. Parents can choose from full day or half, and can fill out the necessary release forms in advance on-line, because ski mornings are hectic enough with kids in tow.
And if your kids hate to leave the slopes at 4 p.m. (even though your knees are noodles), Cranmore is stretching out the ski day fun. Their penguin mascot "C-more" invites kids to partake in themed activities from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays called Cranapalooza. These twilight Block Parties are for those who didn't get enough turns or twists in the Darkside terrain park. For parents, Zip's Pub will have live entertainment during these "happy hours."
Waterville Valley has an award-winning Snowsports School, and their Kids Kamps offer excellent supervised daily instruction for three-year-old Mogul Mites on up to 12-year-old Scouts. Waterville is also the stuff of legends when it comes to seasonal programs, if you want your child to join the ranks of the True Grit or Hard Core teams, and eventually race for the Black and Blue Trail Smashers (WVBBTS) who have their own private race academy.
Gunstock is synonymous with learning families, or at least I think so since I learned to snowplow there myself. They have everything from one-time intro lessons, to a three-day (you pick your days) Mountain Magic all-inclusive learn to ski or ride package, or a 6-pack of lessons (buy five get the sixth free).
I like the sounds of Mountain Magic because at the end of day three at Gunstock, not only should your kids be linking turns, they will receive a Magic Card good for discounts on equipment and lift tickets for the rest of the season, plus a deal on next season's pass.
Gunstock's high-speed quad to the panoramic summit is fantastic and the Pistol area is perfect for park riders.
Mount Sunapee, in southern New Hampshire, continues to invest in its youngest customers. Sunapee's beautiful 5,315 square foot Learning Center accommodates four to seven year old kids in their popular Snow Stars Program and over 30 toddlers in childcare.
Sunapee's South Peak offers a private "beginners only" mini-mountain area with 13 super-tame trails and five specially designed novice lifts including a quad. For kids new to sliding, this is an excellent learning environment where they can get comfortable before heading to Sunapee's other exciting terrain.
All of these NH ski resorts can take the pressure off of you as a skiing parent, and put the fun in learning for your young skier or boarder. Be sure to call the resorts in advance, or go online, to find out about lesson hours, costs and what's included. Then reserve a spot in the program that sounds best for your mogul munchkin, and look forward to developing a wonderful family sport on New Hampshire's mountains.
Who knows? You could be grooming the next Alpine World Champion and Olympic medalist in Giant Slalom. Stranger things have happened in these parts.