Learning to ski and snowboard can be a daunting prospect. Between finding the right gear, finding the right time, and finding the right price, it’s easy to forget that the key to keeping our favorite beginner skier or boarder in the game is finding the right learning program.
Luckily, resorts across North America are stepping up their game in that department, offering top-notch teachers, smaller class sizes, and innovative technology to help any skier or boarder get the most out of their skiing and boarding for years to come.
To make the most out of your next family ski vacation, we rounded up the best learn to ski and snowboard programs in North America. There are many to choose from, but here are a few of our favorites.
An easy 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport, Deer Valley has always prided itself on providing a personalized customer experience, an experience that more than trickles down into its learning programs.
For starters, the Utah resort customizes its ski school and private lesson experiences, offering “Max 4” lessons, which never exceed four people to give learners more attention when they need it most.
In addition, Deer Valley caps the amount of lift tickets it sells in a day, limiting the number of people on the slope and keeping its beginner terrain uncrowded.
Unfortunately, families of skiers and snowboarders might be out of luck, as Deer Valley is one of the only resorts in North America that doesn’t allow snowboarders.
Four hours from Boston, this Northern Vermont resort is the ultimate getaway for a beginner ski or snowboard getaway. While the mountain features 78 trails and over 1,000 acres of terrain, it dedicates one of its three peaks just to beginner skiers and boarders, breaking up its beginner programs by age group (using small, one to two-year age increments).
Once voted as one of the top 10 most family-friendly resorts in the world, Smuggs keeps all of its rentals, lessons, amenities, and childcare in a single base area, and offers a free shuttle to get families to and from the slope without trudging around in ski boots.
Better yet, while the beginners in your group enjoy their day on the slopes, more advanced skiers and riders can shred some of the best gladed terrain in New England.
When it comes to learning to ski and ride, Colorado’s Beaver Creek has turned techy. In addition to a slopeside children's learning facility with its own dedicated gondola, the ski school uses a video analysis program to help patrons see and adjust their technique from a totally new perspective.
The resort has also won the National Ski Area Association's Best Overall Safety Award, an achievement that should help sooth any frayed nerves.
As far as amenities, Beaver Creek is home to world-class dining, including Zach’s Cabin (the mountainside restaurant that’s been awarded the Wine Spectator Best Of Award for Excellence for 10 years running).
With easy access to the Greater Los Angeles area, Big Bear Mountain Resort is making it easier than ever for Southern California to start taking turns. Its Snow Summit area is home to the Adventure Academy, a learn to ski and board program catered to kids ages 3-12, with multiple levels of experience and ability level.
Snow Summit also offers an adaptive ski school, sponsoring the United States Adaptive Recreation Center (USARC) for ski and snowboard adaptive athletes. This program provides one-on-one training for adaptive athletes of all ages and ability levels, and is an excellent way to learn the basics of adaptive skiing or boarding.
Not to be outdone, Big Bear is opening up an academy of its own this season, complete with a 6,000-square-foot academy lodge.
While Copper offers a designated beginner area complete with magic carpet and beginner lift, the real draw is not for those learning the basics, but for the skiers and boarders in your crew that are looking to take the next step in their freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
Copper Woodward, is the Colorado resort's snow-specific training center, featuring indoor ramps, foam pits, and trampolines for dialing in your next trick in a safe, controlled environment. Add to that instructors that are former Olympic and X Games athletes, and you have a recipe for progression that few, if any, resorts in the world can claim.
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