There’s a hot spot for hip, young kids and they can’t seem to get enough of it.
You’ll see them lined up, sparkling eyes surrounded by lashes with frozen snow and a smile a mile wide. These little faces are heading out for their first experience with the Big White Ski and Board School.
The Ski School at Big White offers a host of programs to suit any age and level of young skier and boarder. It is not unusual to look back at pictures of children about a dozen years ago and somehow recognize those faces. That’s because many of them have gone through a series of ski school programs and are now teaching the little ones in the next generation.
I spoke with many moms for this article, and without exception they extol the values of having their children participate in Big White’s ski school programs. Aside from the obvious benefit of learning a life-long sport, they talk about confidence, friendships, discipline, being active and a host of other benefits. Some had their kids involved as young as two or three years old!
The success of Big White’s ski school is due in large to two components – the vast array of programs for kids of all ages, and the great work done by ski school instructors.
A typical story from the ski school goes something like this: A little girl named Jaxon Slaney started skiing when she was just two years old. She started her skiing career in the Kid’s Centre then moved on to the Big White Blazer’s program. Jaxon started racing around seven or eight years of age. Her dad, Bill, had always been an ardent skier and she figures she got her love of the sport from him. In the last year, Jaxon got her level one and two teaching certificates and is now teaching within the Kids’ Centre and doing the Blazer program for skiers under age ten.
Jaxon enthuses about her own experience as a participant in the Big White Ski School.
“Skiing only takes place for a short time in the winter, so you certainly don’t get bored with it. Most people are super excited to constantly develop their skills. Now that I don’t do it competitively I just simply enjoy it. I still set new goals for myself,” she says.
“I really encourage parents to let their children give it a try. Just do it! If they like it – and most kids love to ski – it can eventually open doors for career options and you make many friends you wouldn’t otherwise,” she says. “It’s a great family outing that you can do well into the future. You can grow as a family. Life skills, organizational skills, relationship building, and being responsible…it’s all part of skiing. I can balance five or six things with ease, including my job at Sport Check, and skiing has taught me all that.”
Andrew Ramsay and his Mom, Jazmin Tomichich, speak excitedly about their experience with skiing and boarding.
“I started to ski when I was three,” says nine-year-old Andrew. “My favorite part of being on the mountain is going fast and the Park!”
At age four he was involved in the Kid’s Club and by seven he was taking on the freestyle program. He loves the tricks and bumps best.
“I’ll wake up in the morning and Mom will say ‘Come on, let’s go skiing!’ Those are my favorite days,” he recalls.
Andrew’s Mom was a ski instructor herself, both at Silver Star and Big White.
“I tried to teach my own kids but it’s like teaching them how to drive…far better if it isn’t their parent!”
This is an active family, who are engaged in biking, running, hiking and back country camping. Jasmin says skiing with the family is important to all of them.
“The ski instructors are amazing. They have so much energy and the kids love them. They hardly know they’re learning!”
Big White has always recognized the importance of the Ski and Snowboard School. One of the mountain’s longest-term employees, Jim Loyd, has worked on the mountain for 42 years, of which he spent 20 teaching kids and adults alike to develop and improve their skills. When he first started out with the ski school there were about a dozen full and part-time employees. Now there are hundreds.
“Anybody of any age who is interested in skiing should start with the ski school. It introduces you to the sport in the most positive way, and provides you with good fundamentals. That builds confidence, which is a fast track to higher level skills. It’s also a very social sport,” Jim says.
Jim recommends you check out the Masters’ Mondays through the ski school, and the ever-popular Ladies’ Day program.
Blaise D’Albertanson has been involved with ski school program since age 7 and his favorite is the freestyle program. Now, at 15, he’s ready to teach freestyle this year to the younger demographic at Big White’s Ski School.
“It’s definitely been worth it,” says Blaise.
“It’s fun and you learn a lot faster.”
Blaise’s Mom, Lynn, wanted him to follow in her footsteps, getting involved with skiing.
“One of my favorite memories of when the boys were young was making the decision to take them out of hockey and become a skiing family,” she recalls, “Skiing in general has meant more family time. It’s a lifelong sport. Downhill skiing is the great equalizer…spend time with your family on the chair lift, and ski down at your own pace.”
IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT MAKING A FAMILY COMMITMENT TO A LIFETIME SPORT THAT WILL INSTILL FIRM VALUES, A TOUCH OF COMPETITION AND A WHOLE LOT OF FUN, LOOK NO FARTHER THAN BIG WHITE SKI RESORT NEAR KELOWNA, BC.
Seven year old Theo Dessaulles, has been taking ski lessons for three years. His Mom, Val, enrolled the kids in the daycare program when they were three, then the Kids’ Centre when they turned four. By the end of last year, the Dessaulles children were very confident skiing on their own.
Val and her husband, Connor, both taught in the ski school. She highly recommends that children are enrolled in the ski school as young as possible.
“Younger kids have far less fear and they tend to learn more right away. One of my favorite things is having the entire family sitting on the lift together after they acquired enough skills to ski as a group,” she says, “The cost may be a little intimidating but it’s very well worth it. They come out of it very good skiers with a sport for life. Big White’s is amongst the best Ski Schools anywhere. The safety aspect is amazing. They all have trackers on them and bar codes for identification.”
Remember early in this article meeting Jaxon Slaney, who is now working for the ski school? Jaxon got her love of the mountain from her dad, Bill Slaney, who just happens to be the Assistant Director of the Big White Ski and Board School for 20 years.
“Every day, we cater to kids from all over the world in our ski school, "says Bill. The staff are also very international, with about 1/3 coming from Canada; 1/3 from Australia and 1/3 coming from Europe.”
The flexibility is amazing…
Check WWW.BIGWHITE.COM for a complete list of Big White’s Ski and Board School’s vast array of programs for kids and adults of all ages. There is even an after school program that includes a fully chaperoned set of three evenings on the mountain including lift passes, lessons, meals and all transfers.