I don’t know about you, but I try to stick to our family vacation budget. I’ve seen and read about people going on ski vacations and thought, “Wow, those ski lessons seem expensive, are they really worth it? I mean really, how much can young children learn in one day on skis to make the lessons worth the price tag?” During a recent visit to the Winter Park Ski Resort’s Ski School during spring break I got to find out with my kids.
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Signing in for your Winter Park ski lessons
Initially I was a little nervous about dropping my kids off at a new place, to try a new activity, with people we didn’t know. What if my 3 year old decided to lay in the snow and not participate? What if my 6 year old got hurt? What if they have to go to the bathroom at an inopportune time? As soon as we filled out the registration information my mind was put at ease. They take down all the emergency contact, allergy, and medical information when your child is signed up for lessons. All that critical information is printed onto their lesson ticket and zip tied to their coat. I also found their instructor to student ratio impressive. My daughter’s class (3’s & 4’s) was a ratio of one instructor to four children. My son’s class (4-6 year olds) was a ratio of one instructor to six children. Each child also has a GPS strapped onto their leg (more on the GPS later). Each age group is also broken down even further into skill level. For example, my children were both in “Learn to Ski” in their respective age group, while other children were in “Learn to Stop”, “Control by Turning”, etc.
What your kids can expect
Winter Park Resort seems to have thought of everything when planning out the Ski School. The day starts at 9:15 and ends at 3pm. The children eat lunch together and have a few kid-friendly options to choose from. The beginner slopes are adjacent to the Ski School building. The building has the children’s rentals, a play room, and restrooms. My son’s classes was taken up the chair lift to a very flat green hill (Marmot Flats) for part of the afternoon. That green is also located right next to a restroom building. His class also had a snowmobile shuttle the class down the mountain, as they were not advanced enough to ski all the way back to the bottom.
The Ski School instructors are young adults who are amazing with the children. They are enthusiastic when they see the kids in the morning and are great at getting their students excited for a day of skiing. The class for 3 and 4 year olds meets in a fun play room indoors. My daughter was a little hesitant at drop off. The instructors immediately engaged her and offered her the last Olaf sheet to color. Older students meet at the Ski School slopes right next to the Ski School building. My son was instantly excited about the “magic carpet” that takes the kids to the top of the little learning slope.
The instructors are also great skiers who have the skills to patiently teach the children the basics of skiing in a way they understand. My husband skis about once a year. He doesn’t have the ability to ski backwards or know how to teach the kids based on their own skill level. We saw a few parents skiing with straps on their young children, guiding them down the slopes as they both skied gracefully together. My husband admittedly was not ready to do that with our kids.
First day lesson results
At the end of the day, my children who had never put on skis, were both confidently riding up the “magic carpet” and skiing down the small slopes. They both had huge smiles on their faces and were so proud to show us their skills. I expected them to be puddles at pick up time. They were tired, but they were so proud of their accomplishments, they wanted to keep their skis on a little longer.
The instructors were very comfortable talking with parents about each child’s progress. We got a card with comments about how each child did and what level they are recommended to take if they continue with lessons. The card also includes a coupon for $20 off another lesson and their GPS tracker number. You enter their GPS tracker information into a website and it shows on a map where your child skied. This is great information so you can see exactly what they did during the day, especially if you plan to take them out yourself. You will know what runs they are comfortable skiing.
Post lesson reality
The day after my kids’ lessons was interesting. My daughter became unable to even stand up confidently on skis in my presence. My son wanted to learn more but it was difficult between my husband and I to help each child. I tried to take my son up one of the lifts to the flats. He fell getting off the lift, largely due to me trying to help him. We got off the lift, he skied for about 3 minutes and then asked to ride the lift down. FYI, you can do that. The people who run the lift are used to kids needing to ride the lift down and are more than happy to help. My son wanted to do skiing more advanced than the little slopes but we weren’t sure what exactly to do to help him build on what he already learned. I had just learned how to ski the day before, so I was useless.
After lunch that day I went on short run by myself. My husband stuck around the beginner slopes with the children. I came back 30 minutes later to my daughter zooming down the slopes. Funny how independent she can be when I am not around. She was going fast and loving it. The problem was, she couldn’t stop. We have a great video of my husband running after her as she is screaming with joy.
It was apparent that our children loved skiing but we were not equipped to help them grow as skiers. We asked them if they would like to go to Ski School again the next day and they both said yes. I quickly went over to the Ski School building and gladly handed over my card to pay for them both to attend another day in a higher lever. After the second day of lessons my son confidently lead my husband up the lift, he got off the lift gracefully, and skied all the way back down the mountain (via the easiest green route). It was a complete 180 from the experience of the prior day.
Is Winter Park Ski School with kids worth it?
I am going to be completely honest with you here. I never expected to be the type of person who shells out money for ski lessons. Ski School isn’t cheap, but it is well worth it. There are a few reasons, and here is why:
- First, Ski School offers a package deal that includes rentals. The kids also receive lunch and a lift ticket with their lesson. They can go up the lifts again after their lesson. If you are already budgeting to rent equipment and buy a lift ticket, adding on lessons isn’t that much more expensive.
- Secondly, the growth and confidence in skiing that is gained in Ski School in one day is miles above anything my husband or I could have done in multiple days.
- Third, our children being in ski school gave my husband and I a chance to ski together. There is nothing wrong with Mom and Dad having some alone time during a family vacation.
My son has already asked if we can go back to Winter Park for Spring Break next year. We hope to be able to, and if we do, I guarantee you I’ll be budgeting for at least one day of lessons at the Winter Park Ski School.
Many thanks to Winter Park Resort for hosting our first day of ski lessons for the purpose of review. We gladly paid for the children’s second day of lessons ourselves. As always my opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.