Ski school is one of the biggest differentiators for the best family-friendly ski resorts. For our new 2013 Ski School Spotlight series, I interviewed Ski School Directors from top family resorts to highlight need-to-know program details. I’ve covered Park City Mountain Resort and Keystone Resort so far; today’s featured ski area, Sun Valley Resort in Idaho, will be our last spotlight of the season.
See my comprehensive review of our Sun Valley family ski trip for details, but I love this destination ski resort for kids of all ages. Our son Devon, now 10, learned to ski in Sun Valley and even after trying many different programs over the years in both the US and Europe, Sun Valley remains a steadfast favorite.
I met with Tony Parkhill, Sun Valley’s SnowSports School Director, this season and learned more about why their program is so exceptional. Sun Valley aspires for excellence in every part of the ski experience and their lesson program for kids and adults alike is thoughtfully put together to optimize skill development and fun.
Unbelievable Terrain for Skill Development
The slope pitch at Sun Valley is unbelievable. There are very few flat places on Bald Mountain, Sun Valley’s intermediate/expert mountain, and insane terrain differentiation. Thigh burn may be the downside, but the upside is consistent challenging slopes for all levels of skiing, which ultimately leads to rapid skill development.
I got a first hand view of the diligent preparation that goes into ensuring Bald Mountain’s terrain is in top notch shape in all conditions when I rode on a snowcat for an evening shift. Not a trivial adventure as Sun Valley employs some of the best groomers in the ski industry and pairs them with state-of-the-art equipment. Read the review of my ‘Ride The Beast’ snowcat experience on Liftopia by travel writer Kara Williams for details.
Dedicated Learn-to-Ski Mountain
Dollar Mountain is a short drive from Bald Mountain and much of it is dedicated to children who are learning to ski. It’s one thing to have a dedicated area for early ski instruction within a larger resort, it’s another thing entirely to have a whole mountain where much of it is crafted with little kids in mind. This provides huge peace of mind for parents.
Dollar has its own gorgeous lodge with pint-sized everything for kids including a cafeteria serving the same high quality, fresh food as the rest of Sun Valley resort.
The ski school is run with a professional approach. Even the ski school check-in desks at both mountains are more like a luxury hotel front desk than a traditional ski school desk; they are staffed throughout the day with people who are ready to help ensure everyone’s needs are met and questions are answered.
Sun Valley’s instructors are ski enthusiasts who constantly undergo extensive in-house training. Most of their instructors have also completed the Professional Ski Instructors of America-American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) certification program. The ski school philosophy has European roots but the radical changes in equipment are driving modifications as required.
All kids get report cards at the end of their lessons outlining achievements and things to work on going forward.
Safety awareness is a core part of the Sun Valley ski school programming. Non-negotiable elements include lids on kids, following the skier’s code, and ski lift awareness. All resorts talk a good safety game, but Sun Valley follows up both in terms of rule communication and managing skier behavior on the mountain.
Ski School Program
The ski school program covers both skiing for ages 4 and up and snowboarding for ages 6 and up. Sun Valley recently launched a miniCubs program for children under 4 who are just learning to ski. Dollar Mountain also features a new, world-class terrain park that is attracting all kinds of international attention.
Need to Know Sun Valley SnowSports School Facts
>> Sun Valley SnowSports School offers children’s all day group lessons for skiers’ ages 4-12 and for snowboarders ages 6-12
>> Camp-style lessons go from 9:45a to 3p, including supervised breaks and lunch
>> Lesson pricing is about $160 per day for the lesson, $28 for the lift ticket and $22 for equipment. Consecutive day discounted pricing is available.
>> MiniCubs is new for children under 4 years ond. A 1.5 hour lesson is offered mornings and afternoons and lessons are limited to 3 kids.
>> Private lessons are available for individuals, young kids, and families. A two-hour lesson for 1-5 people starts at $360. All day lessons run $680 and Tiny Tracks for ages 2-4 is $155.
>> Reservations are strongly recommended. Book online or by calling 888-490-5950.
Snowcat Adventures: Ride the Beast at Sun Valley on Liftopia
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