Learning to ski or snowboard can be one of the most rewarding, independence-granting activities of a lifetime, or, particularly for older kids and adults – one of the most frustrating. I was introduced to skis during early elementary school, but in an era of cost-cutting and parental instruction, didn’t take a lesson until college. Somehow, I managed not to break anything or give up the sport entirely, but when my own sons reached skiable age (i.e., preschool), I promptly popped their little snowsuit-clad bodies in ski school.
While many families view skiing or riding as a family-friendly activity that provides both cohesiveness and time to shred with friends, others see roadblocks. It’s expensive, far away, or, as is the case with many beginners, not a sport they’ve explored before, and the choices are simply overwhelming.
When Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month came on the snow scene in 2009 as a grassroots effort to encourage first-time skiers or snowboarders, I did a little happy dance. Not only would kids and parents be offered the chance to discover a sport in a non-threatening, hopefully frustration-free environment, but families for whom cost had been a barrier would be offered discounts, packages, and other incentives for this inherently expensive activity.
Packing an arsenal of sponsors eager to introduce their sport, LSSM now boasts participation by more than 300 resorts in 34 states, including my favorite Alaska ski area, Eaglecrest in Juneau. Some resorts, like Eaglecrest, go all the way with free days and lesson packages, folding in events already secured by the skiing community. Smaller towns often view skiing as a valuable skill set, and an extension of physical education, thus encouraging daily exercise by families.
AND – it’s not just alpine skiing. Recognizing the overwhelming enthusiasm for Nordic skiing in Alaska, Eaglecrest is also offering Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month specials for those interested in cross-country skiing, a win for families like ours who have varied interest levels and speeds.
Eaglecrest has daily packages, triple-packs of three lessons, rental deals, and opportunities for adults and kids. Juneau 3rd and 4th graders – check out Learn to Ski Weekend, coming up January 24-25; FREE skiing for 40 kids who submit an application at their public school between now and Friday, January 16.
Why do we love Eaglecrest?
Community. This place loves Juneau/Douglas, and it shows. Families are welcome to spread out and bring a picnic lunch, books, friends, family; anybody who wants to experience this little nook of winter in the Tongass National Forest. In fact, AKontheGO and Eaglecrest are planning the first-ever Meet-Up on Sunday, March 15 in the Porcupine Day Lodge. The Nest and I will be hanging out with goodies, beverages, and smiles for all who come by, just because.
Terrain. Families with skiers and riders of different abilities often fret at larger resorts. I do – how can I go off and ski without knowing where my kid and his pals are located? Eaglecrest offers kids a wide variety of beginner terrain that spans the little Porcupine lift and nearby trails that are fun for schussing with buddies. I trust the Eaglecrest staff, too. They know their stuff, they are kind, and give a lot of high-fives to passing skiers. I like it.
Access. Eaglecrest is located just a few miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska’s capital city. We visited for a weekend in 2014 and had so much fun we’re headed back for spring break, 2015. Mountains to salt water in 20 minutes? I do like that, and I also like the fact we can explore this historic community that intrigues, yet eludes, so many Alaska families. Alaska Airlines has great deals, and we push cost-cutting even further with their Mileage Plan and Club 49 membership, which offers two free checked bags per passenger (better to haul gear with us).
Skiing is more than vertical drop, sweet snow, and epic runs. It’s about finding your family’s niche in a sport some view as alienating. Eaglecrest meets that challenge with hospitality and a willingness to particpate in events like Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month by going the extra mile for visitors. And that is reason enough for our support.
For more Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month info, visit the LSSM website, HERE.