Will scoring new skis after completing a lesson package entice first-timers to the slopes? Killington in Killington, Vt., (www.killington.com) hopes so.
The mega ski resort has introduced a four-day adult Learn to Ski package with Elan Skis for $249 that covers rentals, lift ticket, and two-hour group lessons limited to five people.
The first 400 finishers — the lessons don’t have to be consecutive and are valid for the 2013-14 season — get a $499 pair of skis and bindings plus discounts on new poles and boots.
Upon completion, all adults get half-off lift tickets this season and for 2014-15.
“We think putting gear in their hands and offering discounts after the fact will keep them engaged in the sport and increase our retention rate,” says marketing manager Kelly O’Brien.
The innovative program shows how ski areas are developing novel lesson opportunities for snow sports beginners including discounts on lift tickets and season passes, free introductory lessons, and terrain-based learning — a fresh approach teaching newcomers on differing landscapes versus the standard bunny hill flats.
New England is loaded with incentives. Complete the third lesson in the $255 First Timer to Life Timer program at Sugarbush (www.sugarbush.com) in Warren, Vt., and receive a season pass. Beginners finishing the two-day learn-to-ski program at southern Vermont’s Stratton Mountain Resort (www.stratton.com) get a free X2 Card, normally $89, good for up to $30 off lift tickets.
In Rangeley, Maine, Saddleback (www.saddlebackmaine.com) throws in a free third group Learn to Ski & Ride lesson for adults — age 13 and up — turning the three-day package (needn’t be consecutive) into a $150 deal.
For under $350, children and adults completing the four-day beginner Passport Program at Pats Peak (www.patspeak.com) in Henniker, N.H., get a season pass and free daily use of rental gear. Cap off the Mountain Magic three-day learning program at Gunstock (www.gunstock.com) in Gilford, N.H., with benefits like discounted tickets, retail products, rentals, and upgrading to a season pass.
In Newbury, N.H., Mount Sunapee’s (www.mtsunapee.com) guided Start Here program begins with an instructor taking you through the rental shop process. Finish the second day and receive a Flex Card good for discounted lift tickets, lessons, and more. In Lincoln, N.H., Loon’s (www.loonmtn
.com) Learner’s Club Card, offering free rentals and ticket discounts, is awarded to skiers finishing their second Adult Group Intro Package lesson.
Free or discounted introductory group lessons, tickets, and rentals make January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (www.skiandsnowboardmonth.org) popular. Last season more than 153,000 children and adults took part in the national program at more than 300 ski areas in 33 states. Lessons fill quickly, so check ski area websites for updates and be flexible if your first mountain or day of choice isn’t available.
Many New England resorts take part and have a variety of minimum-age requirements, with participating Vermont ski areas (www.skivermont.com) offering $29 packages throughout January (excluding holiday periods) while New Hampshire areas (www.skinh.com) have marked Jan. 11-17 as their free week.
“New Hampshire ski areas are all very experienced in getting people comfortable on skis and snowboards,” said Ski New Hampshire’s Karl Stone. “There isn’t a bad choice of a mountain.”
Can’t wait? Great Barrington’s Ski Butternut (www.skibutternut.com) offers $25 learn-to-ski or ride packages — normally $75 — from opening day through Dec. 20.
What better way to get someone to the slopes than by bringing a friend? At Princeton’s Wachusett (www.wachusett.com) , the $100 BFF (Bring a Friend for Fun) package, only available online, includes an adult lift ticket for the skier and a one-day learn-to-ski package with lift ticket, rentals, and lesson for the newbie both on the same day.
Through Sunday River’s Introduce a Friend program (www.sundayriver.com), season passholders of the Newry, Maine, resort can invite a friend or family member for a free half-day beginner clinic with rentals and lift ticket.
The size and shape of skis has changed in recent years, and so has snow surface with the explosion of terrain parks. Resorts such as Cranmore (www.cranmore.com) in North Conway, N.H.; Bromley (www.bromley.com) in Peru, Vt.; Jiminy Peak (www
.jiminypeak.com) in Hancock; Bretton Woods (www.brettonwoods.com) in New Hampshire, and Gunstock (www.gunstock.com) in Gilford, N.H., are embracing the new concept of terrain-based learning and putting novices on specially constructed rollers, berms, and mini-halfpipes. They’re designed to help newcomers get a feel for the hill and use their natural movements to shift skis or snowboards from edge to edge.
The goal is to create a fun-loaded, low-impact lesson that hopefully keeps new skiers and riders coming back.
Marty Basch can be reached at onetankaway.com.