Monday, March 16, 2015

Fun for Everyone: Family Ski Weekend at Bretton Woods

It wasn’t that long ago that I was toting a baby and a toddler to Bretton Woods, taking turns with my
husband in the lodge with the baby and negotiating to see who got to go out for the first powder run. In what seems like a miracle to me now, all four of us are now choosing from just about any run on the mountain and racing each other down.

Outdoor Dad’s brother, Brian, and his family came for a visit from upstate New York last weekend, and I observed with interest the new stage of life they are entering into with a sweet 11 year-old daughter. They confided that there was some question as to how enthusiastic their daughter would be in doing anything with her parents, let alone skiing. But if Anya was reluctant to spend time on the slopes with her parents, I never saw it. She was often one of the first ones to don her ski gear in the morning and was game for any trail we suggested.

Although we always have fun together as a family, this year’s ski trip visit seemed to fall into place so much more easily than other years, and I think it is because of the new stages in life the kids are at. Our young ones now have the ability and stamina to spend an entire day at the resort, without the need for naps or short attention spans. We did take some runs on the bunny hill to warm up, but everyone was eager to explore new terrain on the upper mountain this year.

We giggled as we explored Granny’s Grit while heavy wet snow covered our tracks behind us. We cheered each other on as we rolled over the soft bumps for their first-ever glade run on Black Forest. We glided down Two Miles Home to the Telegraph T-Bar and enjoyed the fire at the Stickney Cabin.

Anya’s mother was genuinely grateful when she told me, “It was so great to have all of us out on the slopes together.”

With a five and seven year-old, I can see that we’re entering a golden age now where the kids love to spend time with Mom and Dad, and although there are certainly squabbles about which trail we choose or who gets to sit next to whom on the chairlift, the kids are happy to be together and haven’t gotten to the stage where it’s not cool to hang with the parents. It was reassuring this weekend to see that something like skiing could bring together different ages and abilities.

Skiing can certainly be a solitary sport, but friends and family make it a communal experience. Depending on the stage of life a family is experiencing, that communal experience can morph – from those baby cave days, to mom and dad are my super hero days, to not wanting anything to do with parents, and back hopefully, full-circle, to cherishing those moments riding a chairlift together or stopping at the bottom of a run to recap our falls and foibles, our cheers and triumphs.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Preparing for Success: 
A Parent’s Guide to Hobbits Ski and Snowboard School at Bretton Woods

With school vacation weeks in full swing, lots of kids will be taking to the slopes for lessons. Here are a few tips to make playing in the snow all about FUN.

Keys to a fabulous experience:
Make a reservation. The Hobbits Ski & Snowboard School was at full capacity for February 13-20th. Walk in space may be available on a first come, first serve basis, but to avoid disappointment, call ahead.
Select the right program. The programs are designed for the comfort of each developmental stage. Enrolling your child in the correct age-specific program will enhance their experience.
Eat breakfast. Kids lose energy quickly in the cold and in new environments.
Plan extra time the first day. It always takes more time than you think it will!
Prepare for small challenges when leaving your child. Separation anxiety is common for young children (especially three-year-olds). The staff is very skilled at working with children. Please follow their lead and ask them for assistance in helping your child quickly acclimate to the Hobbits environment.
Let staff know if your child has allergies, needs medications, or has any learning needs.
Dress appropriately and label clothing. More on dressing for cold weather here.
Call ahead with questions: This will help you to be more prepared and relaxed. 

The Babes in the Woods Nursery serves kids ages 2 months to 5 years. Enjoy a worry-free stay on the slopes while caring staff entertains your child indoors with games, storytelling and crafts.
The Ski & Snowplay Program, for kids 3-5, is a great way to show your kids how much fun the snow can be! The full-day program includes nursery supervision, a one-hour group lesson and lunch. Children must be properly attired and potty-trained to participate.
The Hobbit Ski & Snowboard Programs at Bretton Woods are designed to introduce your kiddos to the fun of snow sports. Kids can take ski lessons as early as age four. Kids interested in snowboarding lessons need to be at least six years old.
Private Instruction is a good option for any child or family with special needs or time requirements that do not fit into the regular programming or children who would like a one on one experience. Private lessons are also a good option for groups of different age children of similar abilities to ski or ride together.
What can I expect my child to learn during the lesson?
Three to six year-olds often take longer to “get their wings” and be able to ski on their own. The preparedness of the child, strength, willingness, ability to balance, and equipment are the keys to success. Each child is an individual, so success is measured by their willingness to want to come back.
Older children will often learn to turn and stop on the beginner slope by the end of the first day. Snowboarding may take a bit longer. Be supportive at the end of the lesson, and encourage your child to be happy with small successes. Just balancing while gliding on skis or a board is quite an accomplishment. Once the basic sensations have been repeated enough times, there is often an “aha” moment when a child can glide and turn.
Instructors often use an activities-based approach, in which children are often familiar with the games they play, and the variable is the skis or snowboard. This will often appear that they are “just playing games” but basic skills are being absorbed by the children as they play, making the next steps come much more quickly... not to mention that the process is fun.
For children who already know the basics, the groups are split by age first and then ability. This provides common ground for the children so they will make friends and have fun while learning. The groups often explore the mountain together, and find challenges through social activities that will build skills and help them learn resort safety and etiquette.
What can I do to prepare my child for Hobbits?
    Talk about winter activities and what your child can expect. View the web site together, and look at photos of the places they will be visiting. Experience other winter oriented activities together if possible with your child. The idea is to eliminate the unknown variables in the sport to make the transition from the unknown to the known easier. 

    For very small children, rent, borrow, or buy gear ahead of time and let your child walk around on carpets or on the lawn fully geared up. This will give some confidence and familiarity... be prepared to allow short exposures often! 

    Kids should know their full name, age, parent’s full names, and phone numbers. If staying at the resort, put your business card with the room number and/or cell phone number where they can access it. 

What equipment does my child need?
    Be sure to have your child’s gear checked by a reputable shop. Be sure the bindings are set to the boots properly. Children grow very quickly, so double check... it can mean their safety. 

    Water and wind resistant, breathable insulated pants and parka. 

    Water proof gloves or mittens (mittens preferred for younger children). 
Remember they will be in contact with lots of snow all day long! 

    Helmets are recommended, and are available for rent. For 
information on purchase and fit, visit . 

    Neck gaiters are a must; especially when it’s cold or snowing .
    Eye wear is critical; if you can’t see, you can’t ski or ride! Please be sure your 
child has appropriately sized goggles.
    SOCKS are critical. Be sure to provide one pair of socks that fit well, are NOT cotton (this will make for cold feet!). 

    When you return home or to your hotel room, be sure to get clothing and gear dried out. This 
is often forgotten, and can make the next experience very soggy. 

    Try to plan for a good night’s rest, adequate time to eat well the day before and 
a nutritious breakfast.
    Rentals can be added to the Ski & Snowplay and Hobbits programs, so there is no need to acquire them elsewhere.
Arriving at the Kids’ Alpine Club
Parking: if you are driving to Bretton Woods, you can drive right to Kids’ Alpine Club to drop off your equipment. The Mountain Hosts will be happy to assist you. You will need to return to park, but it will be worth the fewer steps with your child.
If you are staying at one of the Omni Mount Washington Resort lodging properties, you can take the complimentary shuttle to the ski area. 

What level should my child participate in?
Red: First time on skis. Learning to stop in a wedge.
Green (Learning Center Quad): Can control speed and stop on the Learning Center Quad.
Green (Mountain): Can easily control speed, stop and make direction changes on easy to moderate terrain.
Blue: Turn and stop in a wedge; end some turns with skis parallel.
Black: Skis parallel all the time, exploring all terrain.
Red: First time on a snowboard. Can slip around on a board.
Green: Can make heel- and toe-side turns, control speed and stop.
Blue: Can link heel- and toe-side turns and control speed through good turn shape.
Black: Can ride all types of terrain and trying freestyle tricks and/or carving.
For safety reasons, upper level groups may be required to take 1-2 runs on the Learning Center Quad at the beginning of lessons.
Remember that first and foremost the goal is to have FUN and enjoy the company of the children that they are with. Be sure to speak with his or her instructor so you can find out what actually happened in the class if you feel your child is not challenged enough. Kids will have more fun and progress more quickly on appropriate terrain. 

Can I observe my child in the lesson?
Children often listen better, and learn more, when parents are not present. It is best to observe the lesson from a spot where your child can’t see you. For beginners, the upper deck on the Slopeside Level of the base lodge is a great spot to watch from afar. If your kid will be on the upper trails, you can ask the instructor where the class will be during the day.

If your child has trouble separating from you, try to break away anyway. Leave a cell phone number, or a room number where you can be reached, or check in at the desk (unobtrusively) after about a half- hour. You may be surprised at how quickly your new skier will adjust when focused on the mountain environment and the great activities presented. Be sure to arrive at pick-up on time to share the stories of the day with your child and his or her instructor. 

Security at Pick-Up
    When registering your child in the Hobbits Program, you will receive a numbered card that must be returned at the time your child is picked up at the Kids' Alpine Club. Children will NOT be released to an adult without this child check card. This policy ensures the utmost safety and security for your child.
    Please plan to arrive on time to see your child and discuss their day with the instructors. You may arrive to a very sad child if they are the last one to leave.
What kinds of questions should I ask the instructor after the lesson?
    Ask about the best part of the day, or the favorite activity 
    Ask what slopes and trails they experienced together. 

    Ask where you might be able to ski or ride together safely. 

    Ask if they made new friends, and what they are looking forward to next time.