I remember when I learned to ski on a small, icy East Coast slope with the world’s slowest rope tow—uphill both ways! Times were much tougher…

These days, kids have it easy—especially at Aspen Snowmass—from being Cubs or Pandas, to hanging out at The Hideout or The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center, to chilling on the magic carpet or high-speed cruising to the newly constructed Fort Frog. Learning to ski has never been so fun.

Skiing with kids at Aspen Snowmass takes a thrilling, cold-weather outdoor sport to a whole new level. Great for family-bonding, confidence-building and all-around fun. Since kids ages 6 years old and under ski for free at Aspen Snowmass, there are unlimited days on the slopes for them. This seems like a steal when compared to a cruise, a safari or even Disney World (which is only free for children three and younger.) Bonus points for ski school on vacations—parents get to ski on their own and maybe even enjoy wine or beer on a sunny deck before they pick up their worn-out, little ones from ski school. There’s nothing like having your children come back from a vacation with wonderful stories to share and memories logged, but also new skills and a sense of accomplishment too.

When on the slopes with the littles, multitask parenting is put to the test: keeping runny noses dry and pairs of mittens intact. According to Andy Docken, general manager, Aspen Mountain Ski School, the old adage goes, “No need to try and teach your spouse to ski, a lesson is much cheaper than couples’ therapy.” Swap "couples' therapy" for "family counseling," because the same goes for teaching your kids to ski. If you want to keep positive familial relations, leave the instructing to the ski instructors! These skilled pros have the patience to make teaching someone to ski look like a walk in the park. There’s a reason Aspen Snowmass is named SKI Magazine's "Resort of the Year – Best of the West."

Leave it to the experts.

Ages 2 and 3

Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass

The age of the first-timers! Kids can learn to ski as early as age 2 1/2 to 3 (as long as they are potty trained). Their diminutive stature and resilience makes the sport approachable at a young age. That is because a child’s center of gravity is in their head, so balancing on skis creates an equilibrium and pointing downwards is easier for a child than trying to position sideways to the downward slope (as they would with learning to snowboard).

One run down the gentle bunny hill deserves a hot chocolate. A one-run-to-hot-cocoa ratio keeps toddlers motivated, warm and endeared to this challenging new sport. Cubs on Skis program holds a one-hour ski experience each morning—sing "props" to learn how to turn will get them confident and ready for that ski run with mom and dad.

Ages 3 and 4

Ages 3 to 4 are in the Powder Pandas program. And they are absolutely adorable. Just saying the name ‘powder panda’ brings a smile, as does watching these wee little ones bumble around bundled-up in as many layers as their parents can wrap around their tiny bodies.

The sled ride on the snowmobile might be all they talk about—but it still counts as “skiing” and wears them down by the time après ski rolls around. Powder Pandas is a safe, fun and nurturing program staffed with experienced professionals specializing in early childhood education as well as ski instruction.
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass

Children will learn in their own private area right outside of the Treehouse at Snowmass or The Hideout at Buttermilk. Parents might be tempted to sneak peeks from secret lookouts watching as their kids progress from “pizza” to “french fry” (that’s ski school lingo for snowplowing to parallel skiing). Snowmass Bears and Buttermilk Powder Pandas are children ages 3 and 4 who are potty-trained and ready to spend most of their day outside. The specially trained instructors love working with younger kids while using games to encourage learning. A favorite mascot, Max the Moose makes a special appearance most days to cheer the kids on in their ski progress.

Ages 4 and 5

Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass

Ages 4 to 5 is when your little one is apt to be more adventurous and go off and explore the mountain. A trip to the new Fort Frog is a must. If I were a kid, I’d crown Buttermilk my ‘home mountain’ and enthusiastically request the Mongolian Stir Fry (or chicken fingers, or french fries, or pizza) at the Cliffhouse every day out on the slopes.

Then I would beeline straight to Fort Frog for after-lunch fun. A new, wooden, frontier-style fort was recently reconstructed in the woods off of No Problem trail on Buttermilk. This fantastically entertaining kid’s play structure includes lookout towers, a jail, a swinging bridge, a snowball launcher, and a turbo twister slide.

Age 5

Children around age 5 join the Grizzlies group-lessons program which is designed for little rippers that are on skis or a snowboard for the first time, as well as for those who have been shredding it up their entire short lives.

Fun and safety are the goals on the slopes for this energetic group. The Aspen Snowmass Instructors are specially trained and love working with kids to make the learning process fun. Parents take note—they also have special tricks up their sleeves when meltdowns occur.

And actually, better yet—parents clear out and let the kids fall into place with their ski school comrades and fearless instructor leaders.
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass
Ski School for kids at Aspen Snowmass

The Grizzlies ski school program builds confidence, courage and independence you can’t teach at home or from a book. Sit back and smile as you watch your offspring whiz by you. Before you know it, you will be hard-pressed to keep up with these little speedsters.

Age 6

At age 6—the kids are still skiing for free. Life with kids goes by so fast, so take advantage while the kids are little and ski free. Ski School for kids six and under—where the hot chocolate flows like wine! Where chair lift rides offer thrills and laughter. Bring down the bar, please, and keep those tissues coming. Where a successful day is marked by making it home with matching gloves, skis and boots.

At the end of the day, their cheeks are rosy from the excitement of new accomplishments as much as being outside. Their spirits are high because they skied a new and harder trail, and their stories are grand with new ski buddies and experiences. To top it off, they fall fast asleep from the sheer exhaustion—without being told (just make sure to get them out of their ski gear before they doze off). You can smile knowing what a memorable and productive vacation and tradition you’ve created for your family. And did I mention, for the six and under crowd, the skiing is free? Ahhh. I’d do anything to be a kid again, but Aspen Snowmass makes it pretty great for the parents too!

About the Author

Lea Tucker
Lea Tucker

LEA TUCKER

Prior to launching her own creative firm, Lea Tucker earned her chops managing international public relations for the Aspen Skiing Company for 9 years. When she’s not building creative communication campaigns for her clients, Lea can be found playing in the great outdoors: skiing, hiking, camping and en plein air watercolor painting. Lea also dabbles as a wildflower identifier, gourmet-backpacking chef, beachcomber, reader and writer.

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