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 mountain’s 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 early—although 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: it’s steps away from the lesson gathering place. All instructors are clad in impossible-to-miss green gear, and there’s ample staff to direct you to the proper drop of spot. This could be hectic, but at A-Basin it isn’t. 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 they’d wait to see other five-year-old rippers showed up. When none did, Henry ended up with a private lesson—at 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 don’t 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 Silas’s instructor, she told me that was normal. “I have taken hours of instruction on how to teach,” she said. “This is not a hobby. It’s my job.”
Pick-up and Lessons Learned
Coach Sue, Silas’s 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 mountain’s 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.
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 Henry—well, 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 Henry’s parallel turns.
When I picked him up, Tim enthusiastically told me he’d 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 haven’t even talked about the Kids Center. It’s amazing. They have their own chef (Henry ate homemade lasagna for lunch). It’s bright and clean. Kids ski and snowboard rentals are done right there. It’s 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 Silas’s instructor, Sue. “Small class sizes are where kids learn best, and A-Basin does everything possible to ensure they’re always small.”
That’s good for the kids and also the instructors, who do a better job when they’re not wrangling a bevy of children.
It’s also good for moms and dads who can drop their kids off worry-free and then hit the slopes.