Don’t waste time feeling bad that the pools have closed. Here’s your chance to change gears and introduce your family to the winter sport of skiing. Skiing happens to be an excellent family sport, and living in Westchester County puts you within easy driving distance of a host of fantastic ski mountains the whole family can enjoy.
If you or your children are newcomers to the sport, you’ll want to start off on a smaller mountain with lots of flat, wide bunny trails and a good reputation for introducing kids to skiing. Thunder Ridge, located in Patterson, N.Y., is an ideal starter-mountain.
This very popular ski destination for local families offers 30 trails, three chairlifts, and four magic carpets. Located 35 minutes from White Plains and 20 minutes from Danbury, Conn., Thunder Ridge is close enough for families to enroll their child in ski lessons, which are offered for all ages. Snowboarding is also a popular sport here.
Of course, most ski mountains you visit these days offer lessons for beginning skiers. Ski areas typically offer a very low-priced, all-day, beginner package that can get kids up and able to cruise the mountain by themselves in almost one day. Most lessons for children begin at age 4 or 5 and group lessons can be especially helpful in learning the basics. By age 7 most children are more than ready to start skiing.
Once every member of the family has conquered the bunny slopes, you’ll want to progress to a mountain that offers varying terrain. Located in the Catskills, Hunter Mountain is comprised of three separate mountains with a wide variety of terrain that offers something for beginners, intermediates, advanced, and expert skiers. There’s a vertical drop of 1,600 feet and 10 chair lifts to 58 trails just waiting to be explored. At the summit, be sure to locate the Rip Van Winkle stone sculpture just a few hundred yards from Upper K-27.
As you move up to larger mountains, it’s still a good idea for beginners to take some lessons. After getting on the mountain a few times and getting the feel of skiing, a private, one-on-one lesson can vault the beginning skier to the next level.
Catamount Mountain in Hillsdale, N.Y., Windham Mountain located Windham, N.Y., and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Highmount, N.Y. are also good options once everyone has mastered the bunny slope.
If you’d like to really experience skiing with your 3- or 4-year-old try the Parent-Tot classes at Mohawk Mountain Ski Area. Here professional ski instructors instruct parents in tips and techniques for introducing youngsters to the sport of skiing. Experience the joy of sharing your child’s first bunny hill, ski turn, and chair lift ride. Parents must be an all-terrain mountain skier to participate. Mohawk also offers Snowhawks, a specially designed children’s ski and snowboarding program for kids ages 5-13.
Located in Cornwall, Conn., Mohawk is about a 90-minute drive from Westchester County and is set on 350 scenic acres of state forest, with 25 trails and seven lifts.
It’s interesting to note that Mohawk was opened in the late 1940s by Walt Schoenknecht who later developed Mount Snow in Vermont.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to immerse your family in the ski experience by going to a ski resort. Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont is geared to families with children that have all levels of skiing experience. It’s easy to sign the kids up for ski lessons and there’s time to enjoy other activities as well including ice skating, tube sliding, and snowmobile touring.
If you’d like a break from the outdoors there’s the FunZone Family Entertainment & Recreation Center that has an arcade, bouncy house, table games, giant slide and indoor pool, and an arts & crafts workshop.
Families also appreciate the condominium-style lodging with fully-appointed kitchens and a homey atmosphere. It’s only a short walk or shuttle ride to the trails and the Village Center where you’ll find dining, kids programs, shopping, and other activities.
Once your family is comfortable on the slopes you may want to entertain a skiing weekend or vacation. A drive away in Massachusetts you can visit Butternut in Great Barrington or Jiminy Peak in Hancock. A bit further afield in Vermont consider the family-friendly Stratton or Okemo Mountain Resorts.
Remember to gear up
Before you head out to the mountain you need to make sure your family is properly equipped. It’s imperative for everyone to wear a helmet. After the helmet, each member of your skiing family needs snow pants, a good snow jacket, some thermal layers, ski socks, gloves, hat, and goggles. The mountain will take care of the rest.
Skiing is a great family activity, and we are lucky here in Westchester County to live within a drive of a number of great mountains offering various levels of difficulty. So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s no reason not to hit the snow!
Jean Sheff is editor of Westchester Family.
The Benefits of Leasing Kid Ski Equipment
Purchasing ski equipment for your children can be an expensive proposition, yet the cost of renting equipment at the ski area can add up too. Many parents today are taking advantage of the leasing programs offered at ski shops such as Pedigree Ski Shop, Inc. that has locations in Bedford Hills, White Plains, and Stamford, Conn.
“Economics tops the list when you consider the benefits of leasing ski equipment for kids,” says Pedigree Ski Shop CEO Micheal Fuerst. Pedigree offers a Junior Ski Equipment rental package that starts at $119. “The package includes a pair of skis, boots and poles,” he says. Here’s even better news — should your child grow out of the equipment mid-season, no problem, Pedigree will replace them with a larger size. Plus, each Junior Leasing package comes with discount lift tickets at a variety of ski areas, which when used can pay for the cost of leasing. Leasing new or used ski equipment is available for all levels of skiers from junior to intermediate to high performance and snowboard leasing is also available.
Another advantage is fit and safety. “Pedigree’s team of experts will properly fit your child’s equipment,” says Fuerst. A good fit means a safer experience on the mountain. Leasing also saves time. “You don’t want to be standing on line at the ski rental area wasting time you could be on the mountain — especially on weekends and holidays,” says Fuerst.
As for helmets, Fuerst recommends buying each child their own helmet. “Using rental helmets is not a good choice because of hygiene concerns,” says Fuerst. And any prior collision or crash will take a toll on the helmet’s integrity, which impacts safety. “Parents can expect to get two to three years of use from an new adjustable helmet, and that is well worth the investment,” he says.
For more information on leasing programs and ski gear see pedig
Where to Ski
Hit the slopes this winter at these family-friendly ski areas.
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center
181 Galli Curci Road, Highmount, N.Y.
380 State Road, Rte. 23
Great Barrington, Mass.
State Rte. 23 East
64 Klein Ave., Hunter, N.Y.
37 Corey Road,
Mohawk Mountain Ski Area
46 Great Hollow Road, Cornwall, Conn.
Okemo Mountain Resort
77 Okemo Ridge Road
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
4323 Vermont Rte. 108 South,
5 Village Lodge Road
Stratton Mountain, Vt.
Thunder Ridge Ski Area
Rte. 22, Patterson, N.Y.
19 Resort Dr., Windham, N.Y.