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Ski Camps and Ski Schools

When the time comes to teach your kids to ski, stepping away may be the best step you make. The same is often said about teaching your spouse or significant other. There is even a phrase, teaching a loved one can send your relationship downhill. Resorts are ready to rescue frazzled fiancées and fried families. Everywhere you turn, family oriented ski areas are offering teaching programs to meet your ski needs.

Here’s a look at some New England family ski resorts going beyond the basics in instruction from teaching toddlers to make their first turns, to teaching your teen proper park tricks, to weeklong camps geared toward racing gates.

Baby StepsWhen your child is just starting on snow, it’s normal to be apprehensive about that first ski school experience. I empathize with the motherly urge to spy on your child after dropping them off at ski camp, but as a former ski instructor (back when ski pants were tight and boards were straight), I remember the disruption when the well-intentioned parent “dropped by.” Their little angel was just fine till seeing that familiar face – then tears and trauma ensue. Waterville Valley in New Hampshire has dialed in on that melodrama by adding a private parent viewing station this season. Parents can qualm their fears and peak in on their kids unnoticed.

The kids in Waterville’s camp are having a blast meanwhile collecting Venture Zone pins, awarded for each element from bumps to glades that they master in class.
You can’t talk about kids’ ski programs without mentioning 50-year-old Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont, the granddaddy of lesson programs. Smuggs’ impressive “Snowsports University” has invented a program for every age and ability. They start toddlers on snow as early as 2 ½-years-old in their “Little Rascals” program.

Smuggs’ Adventure Rangers, for ages 6-10, is unique because this day camp cleverly combines science and nature games on the snow with the actual lesson, and ends with indoor entertainment that is very educational (shh, don’t tell the kids).

Kids don’t tend to gravitate toward skinny skiing – most would pick the pull of gravity and the excitement of downhill over Nordic. To entice kids to try cross-country, Smuggs’ has developed “Nordic Quest.” This cross-country treasure hunt has kids scavenging for clues through the snowy forest on Nordic skis or snowshoes. While playing this exciting game, they’re learning this healthy self-powered sport.

Learning to launch
Would a “Sick Trick Camp” appeal to your teen or tween? The name will surely grab your young freerider or twin tipped skier. Gunstock offers this Base Camp for ages 8 and up to learn how to launch and land safely with talented instructors in the Blundersmoke Terrain Park. You can choose from an hour lesson focusing on learning one park element or a day’s camp covering an assortment of tricks.

Committing to Camp
For those in search of season-long programs, Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine both offer exceptional ski and snowboard camps. Sugarloaf’s Bubblecuffers meets every weekend and holiday weeks, so kids ages 3 -16 bond with their coaches and teammates while their skills improve - whether their focus is on gates, freestyle, or all mountain skiing.

Sunday River has a season long recreational ski and snowboard program called River Rats, for ages 3 -16, with similar every-weekend commitment and camaraderie of the same kids and coach.

For kids pursuing a competitive edge, Sunday River’s nearby private prep school, Gould Academy, provides a more intense freestyle and race program that meets every weekend, called their GSR program for ages 8 -19.

If you want to send your preteen to a week of ski or snowboard camp, Sugarloaf’s CVA Winter Camps (offered seven times throughout the season) give kids grades 5 - 8 everything from dry-land training and on-snow video analysis, to campus housing. Kids will like attending the same school as Bode Miller and Seth Wescott did. Parents will like that their child is receiving the private school caliber coaching of Carrabassett Valley Academy without the boarding school bill or yearlong separation. These seasonal programs need to be signed up for in advance next fall.

Whether you want your kids to learn just the basics, or to master a downhill discipline on the hill, these are a few innovative programs available. Either way, letting your kids hone their own ski or snowboard skills independently will only strengthen their love of the sport…so your family can ski together long into the future.

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All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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