Parents listen up: all you have to do is walk through the sliding doors to the new Kids Center at Arapahoe Basin. They take care of the rest.
Such was my experience this month when I brought my two sons, ages three and five, up to check out this brand new $2.3 million building at the mountains base. With Henry signed up for a full day, Silas for a half-day, and a blizzard pummeling the mountain with fresh powder, I was eager to drop the boys off and head out for a few hours of hard-skiing freedom.
My plan was to arrive earlyalthough lessons do not start until 9:55, parents can drop grommets off as early as 8, where they can play (supervised), snack, and get ready for their day in the building.Unfortunately the roads were slick and crowded, and our normally 1.5-hour drive from Boulder turned into a 2.5-hour epic.
We rushed into the Kids Center with five minutes to go before the lessons started, and the exceedingly friendly front desk staff helped check me in and shuttle the boys ski bags back to the storage area while I helped the kiddos into their gear.
On the Snow
One of the best aspects of the Kids Center: its steps away from the lesson gathering place. All instructors are clad in impossible-to-miss green gear, and theres ample staff to direct you to the proper drop of spot. This could be hectic, but at A-Basin it isnt. I easily found the preschool area for Silas, my three-year-old, and then took Henry to the older kids area.
My sons have both been skiing since they were two. Henry, my five-year-old, is already confident on a variety of terrain and learning how to master parallel turns. Silas, the younger one, is more of a hazard. He loves speed and wants to ski the same runs as his brother.
At first, the instructors wanted to put Henry in with a younger crowd (the other kids in his lesson had poles), but I explained his experience and asked that he be in a more advanced group. They listened and agreed. As it turned out, they put Henry with an instructor named Tim and said theyd wait to see other five-year-old rippers showed up. When none did, Henry ended up with a private lessonat a group lesson rate!
Ski Lessons are Important
Contrary to the multitudes of parents out on the bunny hill looking as though they enjoy teaching their little kids, I am perhaps the most unqualified teacher around. Put simply: I dont like trying to teach my kids. I lose patience, get frustrated, and too easily call it quits.
At pick-up, when I admitted as much to Silass instructor, she told me that was normal. I have taken hours of instruction on how to teach, she said. This is not a hobby. Its my job.
Pick-up and Lessons Learned
Coach Sue, Silass instructor, is very good at her job. She and her assistant took Silas and his lesson buddy on the magic carpet and also on the beginner chair at the mountains base. Notice what I said: she and her assistant. Which means that Silas and the other kid had an instructor working with them the entire two and a half hours on the snow.
I cannot overstate how rare this is. Ive seen many a beginner ski lesson where the little kids just lap the magic carpet while an instructor barks out pizza pie! Pizza pie! Not at A-Basin.
Somehow Sue broke through to Silas how to maneuver his skis and actually turn. This is a huge advance for him. After pick-up he and I rode the Black Mountain Express and skied all the way to the base without him in a harness or needing my help. It was sublime.
As for Henrywell, the kid skied almost all the same terrain I did!
While I was ducking into the double blacks off the Pallavicini Chair, he and Coach Tim were working their way down the moguls. They skied the entire mountain. They stopped in at ski patrol and got an introduction to the new avalanche puppy-in-training.
They looked for animal tracks and shredded the powder and worked on Henrys parallel turns.
When I picked him up, Tim enthusiastically told me hed love to ski with Henry any day. His demeanor was so friendly and authentic that for a split moment, I envied the two their day. Then I recalled the empty powder stashes I found and remembered the thrill of simply skiing without being responsible for anyone else, and I was grateful to Tim for all he did.
I havent even talked about the Kids Center. Its amazing. They have their own chef (Henry ate homemade lasagna for lunch). Its bright and clean. Kids ski and snowboard rentals are done right there. Its two-story with plenty of room, bathrooms, and water fountains.
And the advantage the A-Basin ski and snowboard school has over other resorts? Class size, according to Silass instructor, Sue. Small class sizes are where kids learn best, and A-Basin does everything possible to ensure theyre always small.
Thats good for the kids and also the instructors, who do a better job when theyre not wrangling a bevy of children.
Its also good for moms and dads who can drop their kids off worry-free and then hit the slopes.