School on the Slopes: A Guide to Ski Lessons for Kids

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The skies have opened up, and while that means wet days at home, it means perfect powder for skiing up in the mountains. There are plenty of places in Tahoe and beyond that are perfect for getting your littles onto skis and snowboards for the first time, or for your more experienced bunnies to practice their skills. So whether you’re looking for the most tricked-out resort or else something more low-key (and low-pressure), these family favorites have lessons for all levels of little learners.

squawalpinePhoto credit:  Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Badger Pass at Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is a spectacular setting to learn how to ski with lots of learning options here for the 4–6 set through the Badger Pups Downhill Ski/Snowboard Program; packages include rental equipment, helmet and beginner lift tickets. The All Day Kids Camp is available on weekends and holidays for all your skiers and snowboarders in training (just make sure to book early!). Buses leave hourly from Yosemite Valley to Badger Pass.

7082 Glacier Point Rd.
Yosemite National Park, Ca
Cost: Single lesson, $67; two-lesson package, $87

Northstar California
When you think of ultimate ski resorts, this is one of them; it has everything for the adventuring family: an ice skating rink, tubing, a bungee trampoline, and plenty of luxury accommodations from condos to The Ritz. To get your kids onto skis, The Ski + Snowboard School features their Northstar Teaching System with coaches who are consistent in their guiding styles, plus a fun beginner area for newbies. Lessons start for kids as young as 3 years old.

5001 Northstar Dr.
Truckee, Ca
Cost: 1-full-day session, $198; 2-day session, $356; 3-day session, $534 (prices when booked online)

Boreal Mountain Playground
This mid-size, ultra family-friendly mountain is one of the smaller and more affordable resorts, making it a great learning playground for kids ages 4–12. Their Children’s Snowports lessons include the Micro Explorers (ages 4–6; skiing) and Mountain Explorers (ages 7–12; skiing + snowboarding), both groups are designed for developing skills and confidence.

19749 Boreal Ridge Rd.
Soda Springs, Ca
Cost: Half-day sessions, $94-114

Diamond Peak
From breathtaking views to un-crowded runs, this resort nestled in the Incline Village has an award-winning ski school. Their Child Ski Center is geared toward kids ages 3–7 with a separate learning area and low instructor to child ratio of 1:5. There are group and private lessons, plus an all day ski school called March of the Penguins. They also have a 100% guarantee—if your personal needs are not addressed in a lesson, you’ll receive another lesson at no charge. The Ski & Snowboard School is designed for kids ages 7+.

1210 Ski Way
Incline Village, Nv
Cost: Full-day session, $165-200; 2-day session, $320-375

Photo: Northstar California

Dodge Ridge
For something outside of the normal Tahoe crowds, head to Tuolumne County for the perfect low-pressure, family-friendly setting with an easy-to-navigate mountain. The kids’ program includes Intro to Snow (starting as young as age 2!), a beginners Kinder Ski + Ride (ages 4-5), and the Kid’s Club class (ages 4-12). There’s also instruction for kids with special physical or cognitive needs taught by certified Snowsports Adaptive instructors. Make sure to reserve any special adaptive ski equipment in advance.

1 Dodge Ridge Rd.
Pinecrest, Ca
Cost: 2-hour program, $124

Donner Ski Ranch
Donner Ski Ranch is a great alternative to some of the higher priced resorts, it’s smaller and offers a more relaxed and low-pressure learning environment for the whole family, especially your youngest members. Snowflakes Ski School (ages 3–6) has its own kids’ room and a low student-to-instructor ratio while Snow Shredders (ages 5–6) is designed for the youngest of snowboarders. Both programs have morning, afternoon, and full day options.

19320 Donner Pass Rd.
Norden, Ca
Cost: 2-hour program, $124

This resort located on the California Nevada border has it all: an amazing gondola ride, varied terrain, tubing, a village with boutiques and restaurants plus (of course) a fun ski school for all levels of skiers, which includes an Adapative Ski Program taught by specially trained instructors. Ultimate bonus—it’s one of the few resorts with a state-licensed daycare, nursery and preschool for your littlest ones (6 weeks to 6 years).

3860 Saddle Rd.
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
Cost: Full-day session, $83–193; 2-day session, $326–346; 3-day session, $489–519

Homewood Mountain Resort
Located right between North and South Tahoe with beautiful views, their daily kids’ program includes ski and snowboard lessons, as well as ski teams designed to help kids develop technical skills in a non-intimidating environment. The teams include Super Sliders (ages 4 to 12), Development Team (ages 5–15), and Ski Race Team (ages 7–15). This popular resort also has complimentary shuttles, rentals, and five on-mountain restaurants.

5145 West Lake Blvd.
Homewood, Ca
Cost: Full-day session, $149–179; 3-day session, $348

kirkwood_skiPhoto: Kirkwood

This mountain village getaway is perfect for any high-intensity, adventure-loving family, where  young skiers get deep powder and some of the best terrain in the region to learn on; the ski school offers group and private lessons broken down by age and equipment (mini groms, snowboarders 3–4 yrs.; groms, snowboarders 5–12 yrs.; mini rippers, skiers 3-4 yrs. ; Mt Explorers, skiers 5-12 yrs.). After the end of a long ski and snowboarding day, the whole family can enjoy different options with lots of dining choices, spectacular views atop the Sierra Crest, and even a zip-line excursion.

1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr.
Kirkwood, Ca
Cost: Half-day session, $90; Full-day, $135 ; 2-day, $230; 3-day, $345

Mt. Rose
Here you’ll find Tahoe’s highest base resort as well as a fun and easy place for the first-time bunnies in your family. The focus of their ski school is on helping beginners ages 4–10 gain technical skills in gliding, stopping, and turning while in a non-intimidating setting; lessons include rental gear and a lift ticket.

22222 Mt. Rose Hwy.
Reno, Nv
Cost: 2-hr session, $115

Sierra at Tahoe
Combine your kids’ love of snow and Star Wars at The Burton Star Wars Experience where 3-to-6 year olds get a themed package complete with R2-D2 vests, Star Wars helmets, and plenty of Yoda references. Yoda’s Riglet Park is for “Younglings” (ages 3 – 6) while Echo Base is for “Padawans” (ages 7 – 12). There are also non-themed ski and snowboard school options for kiddos ages 3 – 12, plus plenty of fun sledding and tubing on Blizzard Mountain.

1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Rd.
Twin Bridges, Ca
Cost: Full-day session, $169–199

squaw_skiPhoto: Squaw

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
This home to the 1960 Winter Olympics can also teach your Olympians-in-training. Kids as young as 3 learn on the flats in their Snow Cubs program (about a 3-to-1 student to teacher ratio). They also have a  Teaching Tykes program, that arms parents with tips, skills, and techniques on how to make skiing and snowboarding safe and fun for their kids. And don’t forget about all of the off-hill fun including a family zone with an easy beginner lift, two moving carpets, mini snowmobiles, and the ever-important day lodge to snack up.

1960 Squaw Valley Rd.
Olympic Valley, Ca
Cost: Half-day session, $139-184; full-day session,  $184-229

Sugar Bowl
This is North America’s largest cross country resort, which for parents (and more advanced kiddos) means 200km of varied terrain and groomed trails across four great peaks (they also boast the shortest lift lines and least crowded slopes). At The Den, kids can hone their skiing skills, starting at the level of “Never-Ever” all the way up through “Advanced” (the school takes kids as young as 4 and is open on weekends and holidays).

629 Sugar Bowl Rd.
Norden, Ca
Cost: Half-day session, $79–195; full-day session,  $175-295

Photo credit: Marcus Hansson

Did we miss any of your favorite resorts for kids’ ski and snowboard lessons? Chime in below!

—Mae Respicio Koerner, Erin Feher

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