Simply put, teaching kids to ski is a job better left to the professionals. That's something that many parents can attest to. Putting your kids in ski school ensures that they learn proper technique, while improving skills at a much faster rate. Plus, it avoids the parent-child struggles that inevitably happen when parents try to play teacher. The point being that it's almost always money well spent.
And that couldn't be truer than at North Lake Tahoe's Northstar California ski resort, where our family has utilized their ski school offerings numerous times. Families who visit Northstar California often choose the resort because it has such a great ski school (and the only Burton Snowboard Academy in the world!). Even as experienced as we are, we learn something new every visit that helps improve upon our ski vacation experience the next time.
Below you'll find what our many visits have taught us about ski school at Northstar so that other families can also make the most of their offerings and avoid common mistakes.
Book ski school early
While Northstar has tons of instructors, the ski school classes can (and do) fill up, particularly on holidays or other popular ski weekends. Don’t just expect to walk up the morning of your intended lesson and secure space for your child. Therefore, call in advance or book a spot through Northstar’s online reservation system.
Know what gear your children need
Standard ski school lesson packages at Northstar come with skis or a snowboard, boot rentals, and lift tickets for the day. If it's a group lesson, then a helmet, also. Many families don’t want to invest in expensive gear purchases when kids outgrow items so quickly, so this is a nice benefit. If you have your own equipment or a season pass, a discount is even available. As for the essential ski gear for your child, I recommend a waterproof jacket, pants or ski bib, gloves or mittens, goggles, and long, moisture-wicking socks.
Allot extra time on the day of your child's ski lesson
Do as I say, and not as I do, since I've certainly cut it very close to make ski school on time. Skiing with kids involves a lot of extra logistics, and you will need the extra time to handle contingencies, such as inclement weather or traffic on weekend mornings. And then there are contingencies once you arrive to the resort, such as the time getting fitted for skis and boots, and of course the required bathroom break(s). Therefore, make sure to give yourself more than enough time on the morning of your child's ski lesson. Additionally, plan accordingly if you have a younger child you plan to enroll in Minors Camp, Northstar’s daycare program, which is located at another place on the mountain.
Pick the right program
One of the many perks of Northstar’s kids ski and board school is that it has a number of different options to meet a variety of preferences, skill levels, and budgets. Standard group lessons are widely available, while Northstar also offers smaller group lessons (Ultimate 4), private lessons, and family lessons. Ultimate 4 lessons are a unique offering at Northstar that my family has used multiple times, in which lessons guarantee no more than a 1:4 instructor-to-student ratio. This means that children get more individualized instruction without the cost of private lesson rates.
Northstar is also one of the few Lake Tahoe ski resorts that accepts children as young as three years old into ski school. The program is just a half-day, and kids must be toilet-trained, but it’s a huge benefit for families with adventurous little ones ready to ski, and for parents who want some time to ski together.
Enjoy instructors who go above and beyond
After putting my daughter in ski school on several different occasions over the course of multiple seasons at Northstar, I can truly say we haven’t found a bad instructor yet. In fact, we have had only amazing ones who have made skiing fun, demonstrating a patience, energy, enthusiasm, and love of the sport that is inspiring.
Every time it's been a case of expecting the unexpected. For example, on our last visit, our daughter's instructor scheduled a special meet-up on the mountain, where my husband was able to watch the class. The instructor then skied with the parents and kids, giving the parents tips about how to teach their kids for future trips. While my husband is an expert skier, he felt so much better equipped to ski with our kids successfully after this special session.
Furthermore, if you loved an instructor, at the end of the day, ask for a card and contact information. If your children really bonded with a particular instructor, you can often request that person again the next day or even on a future visit in many cases. This helps built rapport and continuity with your child's instruction.
Know that school is more than just skiing
When I enrolled my daughter in her very first ski school day at Northstar more than three years ago, I worried that a full-day program of seven hours on the slopes would be too exhausting for a four-year-old. But I soon found that the ski school program at Northstar is totally built around the attention span and physical endurance of the children. Kids take hot cocoa and cookie breaks, engage in snow play (and the occasional snowball fight, naturally), and have lunch options included. If the weather is particularly troublesome, instructors adjust the schedule and demands accordingly. We learned this first-hand earlier this season when my daughter was in ski school during a rare rainy day. In short, the program is flexible and more about making sure your children has a great day while learning to ski at the same time.