Quite clearly, the future of the ski and snowboard industry will rely upon a younger generation that wants to get onto the slopes and trails at a winter resort.
In Colorado, where more people come to ski and ride than any other state, some two dozen resorts understand this reality and fashion their ski schools, learning areas and facilities to make get youngsters hooked on winter sports.
“As older generations stop skiing and snowboarding, resorts are welcoming new blood and want to make it as easy and effortless as possible for families to introduce their kids to skiing and snowboarding,” Jenn Rudolf of Colorado Ski Country USA told SnoCountry.com.
Discounted lessons, first-timer packages and incentives to complete lessons are among the enticements that Colorado resorts present to families with young skiers and ‘boarders. Other important features include areas dedicated to youngsters, diversions during downtime, child care and instruction geared to this age group.
One such area is Winter Park, a longtime family, day-trip mountain as well as a major destination resort. All kids get free rides on the Galloping Goose lift, which serves the bunny hill at Mary Jane. Adults can do the same for only $10. The resort also has the "Family Easy Start" program that allows families to learn together for one price, and the multi-week "fish" programs where kids learn from a single instructor over a period of weeks.
Here’s a look at how some other Colorado resorts set up for young participants:
Sunlight. About three-quarters of the mountain is beginner or intermediate terrain. The three-day Learn-to-Shine program focuses on getting youngsters off on the right foot, and the Western Slope mountain also has customized lessons for children with special needs.
Keystone. The learning area spreads out wide and gently, with four magic carpet lifts and a short chairlift. The Summit Country resort touts its Kidtopia, arts-and-crafts lodge and mountain top ice castle to supplement a day on the slopes. Kids also ski free when staying two nights and there is a 50 percent discount on some packages right now.
Monarch. The easiest slopes slide right into the lodge of the southern Colorado mountain. Kids under six years old don’t have to pay for a ticket, and it’s $25 for under 12. Bottom terrain transitions into mellow green runs off Tumbelina lift. The mountain has a renowned blind skiers program.
Copper Mountain. Anyone five or under gets on the lift for free. Learning area sets apart to avoid having to dodge other skiers or riders. Kids progress from magic carpet lifts to the green-serving Kokomo and Lumberjack lifts.
Photos:Top -- Winter Park is one of many Colorado ski areas making it easy for kids to enjoy the sport (Winter Park/Facebook); Bottom -- Keystone offers its Kidtopia program plus free skiing for kids with two-night lodging packages. (Keystone/Facebook)