Parents, children, beginners, racers, freestylers, cruisers and everyone in between can enjoy the benefits and fun of a season-long program at resorts throughout New England.
Perhaps you’ve just rented a home in ski country for the winter, or maybe you live near a local hill or large resort, or you just want an incentive to get your family out on the slopes more often. One answer is to join a seasonal program at your favorite, or most convenient, mountain.
Most areas have season-long programs for both children and adults. These can range from a progressive series of lessons starting with beginners, to lessons for more accomplished skiers and riders just wishing to hone their skills, to racing programs for youngsters or teens just starting out or for more advanced competitors. Other options include cruising and exploring the mountain with an instructor and joining a group just for skiing companionship. These programs are staffed by knowledgeable instructors who offer valuable skiing and riding tips as well as insights into the area’s terrain, history and lore. The common thread running through all of these programs is improvement, companionship, education and just plain fun. Here are just a few examples of what’s offered around New England.
In New Hampshire, Cannon Mountain offers an extensive junior development program for kids ages 3 to 15 designed to teach new skills and enhance the proficiency of those who are already confident skiers or riders. Participants will maximize their recreational experience while being supervised by instructors dedicated to improving the skills of their students. All this is done in a safe and fun learning environment with an opportunity for companionship and social interaction with peers.
Cannon’s Junior Development program this season runs from Dec. 14 to March 15 and includes Saturdays, Sundays and the Christmas and Presidents vacation weeks, totaling 38 sessions. The program runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and afternoon ala carte sessions may be added. From beginners to all-mountain cruisers, skiers and snowboarders will find a group that will challenge and teach them while providing the opportunity to make new friends and skiing companions. There’s also an option to add afternoon sessions covering specific topics and skills. These might include terrain park safety, basic freestyle, bumps, glade and tree skiing, and racing.
For adults, Cannon offers men’s and women’s clinics running from early January to early March. For the women there are two sessions, Saturday mornings for intermediate skiers looking to take their skiing to the next level on blue terrain, and afternoons for more accomplished skiers who wish to hone their skills exploring the entire mountain including bumps, powder and trees. The men’s group meets on Saturday mornings with the same instructor each week, and drop-ins are welcome. It’s a great way for parents to get in adult time (and instruction) while the kids are in their own program.
At Sunday River in Maine, you’ll find seasonal programs for adults and kids running from mid-December through late March on weekends and holidays. Mini Runners is a half-day program for ages 3-5. From first-timers to intrepid young explorers, it’s a great introduction to season-long programs for the youngest set. For 5- to 12-year-olds, River Runners places them in groups of like ability so they may use varied terrain to improve their skills and develop friendships in a fun, safe and supportive atmosphere. Teens ages 13-17 who are advanced skiers and want to experience it all — bumps, glades, steeps — mountain wide will love the 8 Peaks Program. Do you have a teen who may want to teach skiing someday? The Junior Professionals program for 14- and 15-year olds will introduce them to teaching and coaching skills and help them prepare to become a professional instructor. In addition, they’ll have the opportunity for some serious all-mountain skiing to enhance their own skill level.
Adults 18 and older may participate in the Peak Performance Club. For both skiers and telemarkers, this program concentrates not only on traditional coaching but also specialties such as women’s groups, race training, bumps and glades. For the seniors in your family (50 and older) there’s the Prime Time Club. This group meets every Monday through Friday at North Peak Lodge and breaks up into smaller groups based on skills, desired terrain and friendships, to ski the mountain and have fun.
While many programs are similar from one resort to another, there also are some unique programs. One such program is Jay Peak’s Chickadee Girls Camp. As the brochure states, “Chickadees are small but fierce creatures with an innate love of winter. They stick around, no matter the weather. They tend to hang out in flocks and are known to be curious, agile and tough creatures.” This 11-week camp is for young women ages 7-12, both skiers and snowboarders, who are of intermediate to advanced ability, and focuses on improving skills, developing and attaining personal and group goals, learning responsibility, communication and cooperation while having fun with their peers. It’s a non-threatening environment led by experienced women instructors.
Adults living near Jiminy Peak can take advantage of the Adult After Work Program. Whether you’re a skier, boarder or telemarker, you can spend Thursday evenings for six weeks on the mountain from 6 to 10 p.m., with a one-hour lesson included. Plus there’s a seventh bonus week included. Jiminy’s 21 lighted trails offer plenty of variety to get you out there after work and before the weekend. All of these Jiminy programs offer more than just instruction on technique and development of camaraderie. Participants are introduced to, or have reinforced, the concepts of slope etiquette and skier responsibility as well as the basics of safety.
Skiers and riders ages 5 and 6 who can ride the chairlift at Okemo can take advantage of the Little Amp program and explore the entire mountain with the same group all season long. Led by experienced coaches, the kids will improve their skills and learn the rules of the road as they pertain to the mountain, while developing many friendships.
The Amplitude program for advanced skiers and riders ages 7-14 takes the students, grouped by skill level and interests, on an exploration of the mountain from bumps and trees, to terrain parks and the Superpipe. By skiing and riding with the same group all season long, strong bonds and friendships develop that can last a lifetime.
Okemo Ski+Ride School manager Keri Reid offers a wonderful explanation of the advantages of seasonal programs: “The amount of time on snow with coaches during season-long programs like Okemo’s Amplitude Programs for kids allows for new concepts to be introduced with plenty of time for guided practice. This gives coaches the space to provide individual attention and participants the opportunity to own their learning experience.
Season-long programs offer not only good follow-through on skills development, but also a sense of belonging. Participants get to build relationships with their coaches and peers, which helps to foster a fun, nurturing learning environment. Season-long programs provide regular skiers and riders with a chance to build on concepts over a longer period of time. This provides more in-depth learning that is likely to stick for future seasons. If the mountain environment is your home every weekend, this is the best possible experience. This is an opportunity to make friends and build a lifelong relationship with snowsports.”