It’s less effective for a child to learn skiing by taking an occasional lesson on a busy weekend than by spending a week in a ski school. Even eager adults can pick up only a smidgen of skiing techniques in an hour-and-a - half lesson with a harried instructor trying to give 10, or even more, rank beginners an idea of the skills required to cruise down a high mountain on powder snow.

Whatever a child learns taking weekend lessons - while remarkably helpful - can also be half forgotten in the dry spell until the family heads again for the slopes and another lesson or two.

The situation is quite different, however, when it comes to a one - week stay in a ski school.

For five days there are lessons every morning and every afternoon. The same instructor stays with the same ebullient youngsters for the entire week. He or she is quick to spot the child that needs special help. The skills the new skiers learn in the morning are rehearsed in the afternoon.

The progress from this day-after-day series of lessons is remarkable. Never-evers are, by the end of the week, following an instructor skiing down an easy blue mountain run. Those who pick up skills quickly may even be chasing after a fast-moving instructor leading them down the challenge of the advanced blue trails.

If you choose the ski school route, familiarize yourself with the school of your choice before hauling out the credit cards to pay for putting your youngster in one: Is there a well-equipped play area where the younger children, the five - to seven-year-olds, can rest when they’re not out skiing, with its own kitchen, lunch room, and bathrooms, or do the kids need to tromp through the bewildering noise and confusion of a crowded base lodge to eat or use the toilet?

Is the ski learning center in close proximity to the indoor play area? Is it protected by location or fencing from older skiers whizzing through? What type of “lift” is there for the children to get to the top of the learning hill? Many areas use a slow-moving rope tow, though increasingly
popular is the “endless belt” developed at Vail. The belt is about 3 feet wide and a couple hundred feet long. Youngsters simply stand on it in their skis at the bottom of the slope and ride to the top. It’s sort of like moving stairs.

Once the children are ready to head out of the learning center and onto the mountain, is there a handy novice area - with green trails and a slow-traveling chairlift or detachable quad - for all beginners, from youngsters to seniors?

Ask about the qualifications of the instructors. For the most part instructors at top-quality ski schools - whether in a small gem or a major destination resort - have had special training in working with children. Many also are certified.

Finally, know what the cost of the ski school covers. Are rental boots and skis, as well as lunch with the instructor, included, or is there an additional charge for them?

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