Teaching young skiers: Keep the focus on fun

By Fritz Faerber

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Alex spent two days in the Little Pioneers morning ski school. Each day, he spent about four hours riding the carpet, and learning the difference between pizza (making a V shape with skis, or what we called snowplow when I was a kid) and French fry (keeping your skis parallel). The 20-something ski instructors held the kids' tips together while skiing backward in front of them - something this 40-something Dad can't pull off any more.

He was out in time for lunch, a visit with Woolly - the plushy mascot of Mammoth mountain - and a nap.

At a little over $100 per day, it wasn't cheap. But it turned out to be worth every penny when I used frequent flier points for tickets to Salt Lake City and got a cheap hotel on the bus route up to the ski areas in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

Our first and second days were at Brighton - a very family-friendly place. I liked the free lift tickets for kids 7 and younger. Alex was all grins for the nice, easy, groomed run away from the "big kids" Alex eyed with a bit of concern tinged with envy.

The second day's weather and spill at the lift made for a short day.

But our third day at Snowbird was glorious. A slalom course on Chickadee (the bunny slope) featured a different oversize bug mascot on each gate. Alex really enjoyed rounding the bee and heading straight for the butterfly.

We ended up skiing our last day at Snowbird, which along with the attached Alta ski area is my favorite place to ski.

Alex and I rode the bigger lifts to mid-mountain and cruised most of the greens on the mountain. He savored the experience of always "winning" our races, since I hung back, ready to swoop down and grab him in the event of a turn toward the woods or other obstacles.

In the depths of the long, cruel, snowless summer earlier this year, Alex looked at me and said, "Can we go skiing tomorrow?"

"It's too hot, there's no snow," I replied. "But maybe next summer we can go to South America."

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