One of my parenting goals has always been to give my kids the chance to try out as many sports and activities as possible. I also truly believe that some things are best learned young - and on the top of that list is skiing. So our family set off on a learning to ski adventure to The Mountain Top at Lake Geneva, Wis., determined to conquer the slopes, or at least the bunny hill.
Located less than two hours from Chicago, Lake Geneva is a favorite summer escape for many Chicago families. But even in the winter, there is so much to see and do. The Mountain Top, located at the Grand Geneva Resort, is the area's premier skiing destination. With over 30 acres and 18 runs, three chairlifts and two wonder carpets, this mini-ski resort proved to be the perfect spot to hone our family's developing ski skills.
Even the youngest skiers are welcomed with open arms at The Mountain Top and my four-year-old daughter really put her sassy and sporty attitude to the test. She was overjoyed to try on a pair of ski's, learn some basic skills at the base, hop on a magic carpet for a ride up the bunny hill, and finally, take her first few runs downhill in ski's. Her professional ski instructor, Emily, remarked that she too learned at age four.
"Our resort is great for families because the Snowsports area has terrain for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, yet is small enough that families can easily get together to meet for lunch or dinner," explained Hans Hauschild, the Snowsports Area Director of Grand Geneva.
"Additionally the Snowsports school is very kid friendly and has instructors that have specialized training for teaching children. Our Snowsports school can accommodate children from age four and up in our teaching programs."
We opted for private ski lessons for my daughter but The Mountain Top also offers a Snow Cubs program designed to introduce children ages four to six to skiing in a group setting, too. Snow Cubs classes are available Sat-Sun at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., lasting an hour and a half. Reservations can be made two weeks in advance and single sessions are available.
Indeed the no-fear attitude of many preschoolers seems to make the learning process easier. At age 40, I've got the fear of falling and breaking a leg, literally, in my bones. I tried skiing at age 15 and failed miserably. I had a terrible fall and injured myself on my first attempt. I have been to some of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world but I was always stuck watching everyone else have fun on the slopes. Hence my vow to teach my kids to ski early. That said, I promised myself that I'd give it one more go too.
My ski instructor, Keith, was amazingly patient and explained the skills in an easy-to-understand manner. Before I knew it, in less than one hour, I was making my "pizza slice" to stop, effectively turning left and right down the bunny hill, and making my way down the hill . . . without falling flat on my behind.
My 12-year-old son enjoyed a ski lesson with Keith, too. Again the one-on-one lesson was worthwhile in that my son was able to focus and progress quickly and confidently. He graduated from the beginner bunny hill and was able to ski down the more advanced bunny hill without a hitch by the end of his lesson. Two or three more lessons and he'll be ready to hop on a chair lift and ski bigger slopes.
We spent the night at the Grand Geneva Resort and appreciated coming back to our comfortable room with it's lovely view of the snow-covered landscape. Of course the kids were thrilled to dip into the indoor swimming pool while I relaxed in the hot tub.
The resort's fun, seasonal activities don't stop with skiing and snowboarding. Sleds are available for rental and with so many rolling hills on the property to choose from you'll find the perfect sledding hill for your family. There is a skating rink, too, with rental ice skates available and complimentary hot cocoa. We also enjoyed taking an evening drive on the resort property to see more than two million lights that illuminate cute holiday scenes, including a jumping Gingerbread Man and a golfing Santa, which were all a part of the Christmas in the Country celebration.
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.