Top Tips for Families Considering Ski School This Winter

There are many things to consider when planning a ski trip and, for most families, the question of whether to enroll your children in lessons merits major consideration. Here are some tips if you’re planning a winter vacation to Mammoth Lakes and want to get your kids out on the slopes.

Benefits of Ski Lessons for Children

Teaching your kids to ski is not for the faint of heart, no matter how skilled a skier you may be. Even experienced instructors find teaching their own children to be not always the best dynamic. But trained professional instructors at ski schools have all kinds of tactics to teach your child in a manner that’s developmentally appropriate, safe and FUN! Children as young as three years old can benefit from ski lessons—it’s all about playing and familiarizing them with the mountain environment. Plus investing in ski school pays huge dividends later on. Soon you’ll be struggling to keep up with them!

Mammoth Mountain or June Mountain?

Mammoth Mountain

Unless you’re staying in the village at June Lake, Mammoth Mountain will be closer to your lodging with lessons offered at Eagle, Canyon and Main Lodges during the regular season. There are also more transit options to get you from your lodging to the slopes and a wider array of gear from which to choose.

June Mountain

Just a 20-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes, June Mountain boasts an incomparable family atmosphere, fewer crowds, unbelievable views and ideal learning terrain. It’s smaller and can be less overwhelming. Best of all, kids ages 12 and under ski for free at June Mountain. 
Tip: You’ll need to ride the J1 chair to the Chalet for rentals and lessons. It’s an older, double-seat chairlift so allow plenty of time (at least 90 minutes before your lesson) to board and ride the chair and be fitted for rental equipment. You may also have to download (ride the chair downhill) depending on snow conditions and your child’s ability. 

Best Ski Programs for Children Ages 3-13

Mammoth Mountain Ski & Snowboard School (Age 3-13)

At Mammoth Mountain, kids are separated into three age groups for lessons, then grouped according to ability: Pioneers are 3-4 years old, Explorers are 5-7 and Adventurers are 8-13. Half-day and full-day lessons are available. Full days often include lunch. Lessons and childcare combination options are also offered for Pioneers and Explorers. If you’ll be here often, the 10-week Mountain Rangers program is a great choice. Kids ski on Saturday afternoons, Sunday mornings or Sunday afternoons with the same instructor and group.

Ski Lessons for Children with Disabilities

Mammoth is also home to a premier adaptive sport program, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. DSES is a nonprofit organization whose winter program teaches skiing and snowboarding to kids and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities. 

June Mountain Kids Ski & Snowboard Lessons  (Age 3-12)

Group lessons at June Lake include: Pioneers (3-4 years old) ski-only lessons from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Explorers (5-12 years old) ski or snowboard lessons available from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with lunch included, or from 2-4 p.m.

Tip: Lessons at both resorts are packaged with lift tickets and rental equipment packages are available as well. Private lessons are also available and can be a particularly good choice for kids under age six or during busy holiday periods.

Essential Ski Gear for Kids

Children are required to wear a helmet, goggles (or sunglasses on clearer warmer days) and waterproof gloves or mittens. They should have on sunscreen, water resistant outer layers like a warm jacket and snow pants with lightweight base layers, and a single pair of lightweight ski socks. A neck gaiter is strongly recommended for cooler, stormy days.  
Tip:  Label jackets and gloves with names to avoid mix-ups. 

More Helpful Tips

•    Reserve both lessons and rentals as early as possible. They can sell out quickly.

•    Try to pick up rentals the afternoon before the lesson (usually possible after 3 p.m.), or plan to arrive early—a minimum of an hour prior, longer during holiday periods. Be prepared to spend that time waiting in line.

•    Don’t push your child to ski with you immediately after their lesson if they aren’t up for it. Take the time to grab a snack and refuel.

•    Make sure kids arrive at ski school fed, hydrated and ready to go on time. If your child has allergies, or is very particular, put some snacks in their pockets to help keep their energy up.

•    Tip your instructor—they will really appreciate it. 

Betsy Temple-Truax

Betsy loves living and playing in Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra with her active family and friends. A passionate advocate for community recreation, Betsy never turns down an opportunity to swim, ski, paddle, travel or let someone else cook.

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