Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Best Places for Kids to Learn to Ski in Pittsburgh

Beautiful day at Seven Springs
Skiing has been a great thing for my family. It gets us outside, keeps us active in winter and we do it together. But while my husband came to this party with some serious skiing skills, the rest of us are having to learn. We’ve found plenty of ways to get a family started skiing in Western Pennsylvania, where we live. Here’s a rundown.

Hidden Valley Resort is my family’s favorite place, and I’ve heard a lot of families of young children say the same. It has a variety of beginner and intermediate slopes that are nice for those of us in the greenish-blue zone --- ready to move past the easy trails but still getting butterflies at the top of steep terrain. Even when busy, the slopes rarely feel jam packed and you’ll see a lot of other kids with their parents.
Along with sister resort Seven Springs, Hidden Valley offers “Fun-Based Learning.” The beginner area is shaped into banked turns and rises that allow a new skier or snowboarder to get a non-scary feel for slowing and turning.  Lift tickets are $63 on weekend days for adults, $51 for kids 6 and up. At Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, kids under 6 are free!  Click here for information on group and private lessons as well as ski school for kids ages 3 to 12. 

Seven Springs is a close second for us. It offers a variety of trails and slopes for all abilities, especially when the challenging North Face slopes are open. My kids love the Arctic Blast terrain park with zany features that even early skiers can handle. We spent a lot of time the first few years of skiing in the sculpted FBL zones and beginner areas and had a blast, without worrying about my sons losing control and getting hurt (we don’t use harnesses).  
You pay more for the 33 slopes and trails, at $81 for adults on weekend days, $63 for kids 6 and up. The big downer for us is the resort can get crowded on a busy weekend, and a party crowd starts to appear around 3 p.m.  We’ve never had any problems and the resort staff works to keep things clean – I observed an employee dressing down a young man for his rough language. But we often spot fresh beer cans dropped beneath the lifts on Sunday morning. I’m not sure which bugs me more, drunk skiing or littering. Not everyone avoids the evenings – I met a father and son on the lift who Go hear for information about getting around the mountain, here for more about lessons and ski school for ages 4 and up. 
were excited to ski after dark under the lights. We prefer to ski early in the day. 

We’ve never tried it, but Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is another popular ski spot for families.  It’s quite a bit smaller with just seven slopes, but our friends who ski it say it’s just right for young children. The price is nice: $43 for an adult lift ticket, $35 for kids 6 to 11, $25 for 5 and under. Getting a season pass before Dec. 15 makes it even more affordable if you plan to visit more than three times. Go here for details on lessons, ski school and special deals. 

Boyce Park in Monroeville can be the best place to learn to ski, or the absolute worst, depending completely on the weather. It doesn’t get the heavier snows or colder temperatures of the Laurel Highlands, so you just never know what you are going to get. You can’t beat the $22 weekend lift ticket for adults, $16 for kids 6 and up, $8 for 5 and under. Those prices, coupled with avoiding a trek on the PA turnpike, might make up for lousy conditions, or a day on the slopes that just doesn’t go well, as is apt to happen at times with young kiddos. The trouble is that ice, slush or mud spots are harder to ski. Before heading out, call the park first, at 724-733-4665. 

More to know:

1.       Renting equipment from the resorts is convenient, but you might deal with higher prices and crowded rental centers. Lower prices can be found at independent rental shops outside the ski areas.
2.       Check out first experience packages, which include equipment rental, lift ticket and lesson.
3.       Keep an eye out for discounts as the winter progresses. If you can ski mid-week, you’ll find lower prices and smaller crowds.
4.       A good lesson is worth the splurge.

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