January is Learn to Ski & Ride Month, an annual project of Colorado Ski Country USA in association with the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, Professional Ski Instructors of America, and Go With a Pro. By coincidence, this month is also the beginning of a very personal project: I'm getting my 5 year-old daughter and 7 year-old son up to the mountains on snowboards for the first time, starting on Monday.
Since you're already here reading Westword's On The Edge blog, I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say that skiing and snowboarding are among the very best aspects of life in Colorado. Still, in the spirit of Learn to Ski & Ride Month, take this month as an opportunity to brush up your skills with some lessons or - better yet - get someone you love up on the slopes.
ColoradoSki.com has a nice rundown of package deals for beginners (lessons, lift tickets, etc), but I'd like to suggest something unorthodox: If you're an experienced skier or snowboarder yourself, try teaching somebody this month. Against the better advice of just about everybody, I spent last season teaching my girlfriend how to snowboard, and we had the time of our lives together. It was a worthwhile investment of time and energy, too: Now I have a live-in snowboarding buddy who is as addicted to riding as I am. I'm going to try the same tact - again, against the better advice of just about everybody - with my kids. Stay tuned: I'll post my first blog about the experience next week.
Teaching somebody else to do something you love isn't easy. It takes patience, for one thing, and more of it than you might think. But trust me, it will be worth it: As my kid unwrapped his new snowboard on Christmas morning, visions of a lifetime of family snowboard vacations danced in my head like sugar plum fairies.
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Start small, break everything down into small steps, and carefully explain - and demonstrate - what all those steps will add up to. Help them get dressed appropriately so they don't freeze their ass off and quit on you, and don't rush them to the steeper slopes or even to the chairlift: Spend some time on the magic carpet ride bunny slopes first, even though it will kill you to be going so slow. Or, you know, just sign them up for lessons and say "sayonara." Either way, you'll have some new ski/snowboard buddies in no time.
Other cool ways to celebrate Learn to Ski & Ride Month while you still have New Year's resolutions on the brain:
Volunteer with the National Sports Center for the Disabled to help teach skiing or snowboarding lessons at Winter Park, help set up competition courses, and help students learn to use adaptive equipment that will open up whole new worlds of adventure to them
Sign up as an on-snow volunteer at Echo Mountain with Chill, a six-week learn-to-snowboard program for under-served inner-city youth (click here to download a volunteer application) that requires 10 volunteers a day to help introduce Denver teens to mountain adventure.