January is National Learn a Snow Sport Month and more than 200 resorts are pulling out all the stops for families and offering free or discounted ski, snowboard and cross-country ski and snowshoe lessons for beginners.
At the same time, Liftopia (www.liftopia.com), the largest online marketplace for discounted lifts and mountain activities, has created a new deal engine app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
It's especially gratifying to see resorts aiming at girls and women, who typically drop out of snow sports before becoming accomplished skiers and riders. Vail Mountain (www.vail.com), the country's largest ski resort, has just announced Ski Girls Rock, a new program inspired and designed by Lindsey Vonn, Olympic gold medalist and world alpine ski champion. Exclusively for girls age 5 to 15, the small classes ($279 a day, including lifts and lunch) are led by female coaches.
At Park City Mountain Resort (www.parkcitymountain.com), where Snowmamas.com started and where no class has more than five students, there's a new two-hour Ladies Club that's just an hour shorter than a regular group lesson but half the price ($55 to $60, depending on season). There are a lot of multiday women's ski and snowboarding clinics out there, but nothing like this.
"This is giving women a couple of hours for themselves," explains Mary Flinn Ware, the director of the Park City Mountain Resort children's ski school. Taught by women coaches, the program is designed to show women, whatever their ability, places on the mountain they didn't know existed and where they can feel comfortable.
Women quit snow sports because they don't want to chase after hard-skiing spouses or kids. They quit because they don't have the energy after getting everyone else in their family situated. They quit because they'd rather vacation somewhere that requires less work on their part.
Now trips to the slopes can be more fun for mom and more affordable. Look for packages from major websites like www.ski.com. Look for kids-ski-free packages. Steamboat in northern Colorado has long been an innovator for families with Kids Ski Free, Kids Fly Free and Kids Rent Free programs.
If you are all beginners, maybe opt for a new-style girlfriends' trip. In Utah, Alta Ski Area's (www.alta.com) First-time Skiers package includes four two-hour lessons, four beginner lift tickets and four days of rental equipment, all for $179. (At many resorts, a lift ticket alone costs nearly $100.)
In Vermont, Ski Vermont (www.skivermont.com) is touting an unprecedented $29 package for first-time skiers and snowboarders at several resorts. The lessons will be available this month on nonholiday dates.
There are some deals after January. Go to Aspen/Snowmass (www.aspensnowmass.com) in March and April and kids ski and ride free, as long as an adult is buying a lift ticket. At Mount Bachelor in Bend, Ore., (www.mtbachelor.com), the largest ski resort in the Cascade Range, kids 18 and under can ski free if an adult in their family purchases a multiday ticket. And for $199, you or your kids get five lessons, five rental packages and five lift tickets. Students 18 and under get a free season pass; adults get a free 12-day pass.
At Park City's gargantuan Canyon's Resort (www.canyons.com), families who book at one of the official lodging properties of Canyons Resort get accommodations, lifts and a resort credit of up to $200 per night and access to off-slope adventures (zip-line anybody?) -- all starting at $311 per night for a family of four.
See you on the slopes.