With a reservation for ski school in hand, NJ kids can begin to develop a lifelong love of skiing, snowboarding, tubing and all other snowy sports. Here are some quality ski schools in the NJ area and some safety tips for skiing and snowboarding from respected professionals so you can load up the SUV and head out to the slopes with confidence! And for more wintry fun, check out our Ski & Snow Guide.
Mountain Creek Ski Resort (Vernon)
Mountain Creek offers 43 trails, 7 lifts and a huge network of terrain parks. The resort is popular with teens and tweens, but there is plenty for young skiers as well. The Twist terrain park on Vernon peak offers small, beginner-friendly features. Two “magic carpets” transport young learners up a beginner slope. Please check the website for current pricing.
The Kids Kamp, a 9am-3pm drop-off program, includes a lift ticket (valid for the entire day,) lesson and lunch for skiers age 4-6 yrs., and snowboarders age 5-6 yrs. For ages 7-12, there are learn-to-ski or ride programs, from private to group.
A note about Mountain Creek: if you’re bringing small children or beginner skiers, try to avoid night and weekend skiing, as the resort becomes very crowded. On the flip side, the lifts are incredibly efficient, and if you’re ready for a break from the slopes, Mountain Creek offers a great retail shopping area. Two food courts, four bars with sandwiches and 7 restaurants at the sister resort Crystal Springs offer plenty of dining options. A word to the wise: it’s worth the extra money to pay for preferred parking; if you’re carrying your own equipment, it is a long walk to the slopes. (973) 827-2000
Campgaw Mountain (Mahwah)
Located in Bergen County, Campgaw Mountain is the ski area closest to northern New Jersey. Campgaw appeals to the beginner skier interested in no-frills learning and short lift lines. Campgaw offers five beginner/intermediate trails, a terrain park, two double chair lifts and two “magic carpet” lifts. Campgaw offers a “Children’s Academy” for skiers 4-6 years old (“Cruisers”). Children’s Academy runs for 3 weeks, with lessons that are 1 ½ hour long and are geared to ability level. Group and private lessons are also offered; check the website for current pricing. (973) 327-7800
Blue Mountain (Palmerton, PA)
Yes, Blue Mountain has a Pennsylvania address, but it's worth your drive: Blue has the highest vertical drop in PA, and is convenient to anyone traveling route 80. Blue’s teaching program is progressive. Their “Explorers” program serves skiers from ages 4-12 and boarders from 5-12. The “Pioneer” program offers a 4 or 8 week block of lessons where kids can have consistency as far as having the same teacher and mates for the whole term. Tina Buckley, Director of the Blue Mountain Learning Center, recommends Blue Mountain’s approach to teaching new skiers/boarders. Blue offers “station teaching”, which enables students to utilize a variety of teaching stations each of which focuses on different skills. The one-price, all-day pass allows students to use the available lessons as needed. Check the website for current pricing of all skiing programs. (610) 826-7700
SAFEY TIPS FOR SKIING from Bob Zega
Chair, Public Relations NJ Ski & Snowboard Council
Age: Kids have to be able to walk well and have a sense of balance so anything below age 2 is unreasonable. Even on their level they should be able to listen and follow instruction to some degree. I've spoken to a lot of parents on the slopes on this subject and find very few who start kids skiing at age two. When my own children were young, I started my daughter at age three and have seen a number of 3-5 year olds in ski-school. Age 3-5 should be the earliest starting point for a child to ski because a) they can walk, b) usually don't mind being away from Mom and Dad and by this time have an idea of knowing right from wrong.
2) Safety Tips:
-Children must be taught to follow the Skiers Safety Code while on the slopes
-Children must use properly fitted equipment suited to their ability level
-NO POLES until they have been skiing for 3-4 years and are proficient enough to handle them.
-Children must be taught to understand and obey trails signs: Beginner (green) and Expert (black) trails.
-The danger of skiing on too advanced a slope before they are ready must be fully understood.
-If you plan to self-teach a young; the child should be tethered to the parent for the first season or two.
-Safety vests with a handle on the back are now available for children making it easier for parents or instructors or anyone riding a lift with young kids to 'grab' them if needed.
3) Clothing: Make sure the child is properly dressed for a day in cold weather. This includes, long underwear, GOOD gloves/socks and clothing suitable for mountain conditions vs. going to school. Turtle neck shirts are mandatory or a child will get cold (scarves don't do a good job). Kids fall and eventually gloves and socks (snow gets in their boots) get wet so a parent should bring extra gloves, socks and pants in case a child needs a change by lunchtime to stay warm. GOGGLES: If spending a day on the snow, ski goggles are a MUST.
4. Ski Instruction: Ski Instructors are Certified professionals knowledgeable of the latest ski instruction techniques and have to take annual training to retain their certification. A parent may know how to ski but a professional ski instructor is trained to teach children on THEIR level. It may cost more, but children will have a better time in a class of their own ski peers then trying to keep up with Mom and Dad on the slopes. Mom and Dad will have a better time and children are likely to progress faster when taught by a professional.
SAFETY TIPS FOR SNOWBOARDERS from Kayla Dowd
Snowboard instructor at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain
The best age for a child to learn snowboarding would be around seven or eight, says Dowd. “Snowboarding requires significant muscle memory that can be difficult for children under seven or eight to master.” According to Dowd, it is important that “when your child is learning to snowboard, they come prepared with a helmet, googles, face mask, and appropriate under garments such as thermals.” Additionally, if your child is renting boots and a board, Dowd says “you want to make sure all the equipment works, and is the right size prior to the lesson.”
As for safety, make sure your children wear helmets. This is very important, “especially when kids are learning to snowboard, they are more prone to head injuries,” explains Dowd. Another important safety tip is mountain awareness. This is teaching your kids safe and appropriate places to stop on a trail that does not put them or other skiers in danger. Says Dowd, “this also includes teaching them how to merge onto trails, appropriate speeds for different trails, and maintaining a safe distance from other riders.” Don’t hesitate to go over a trail map with your child before hitting the slopes--they have them available throughout the mountain resort of your choosing.
Image: Mountain Creek
Originally published on January 4, 2012