Frequently asked questions:
I have a 3-year old who would like to be in the Treasure Trails.The age cut-off for Treasure Trails is 4-years old. The majority of 3-year olds are simply not ready for a full day of ski lessons without mom or dad around. It's better to spend the season taking your child out skiing with you and do lots of snow play. Getting your child used to the snow and used to the cold is the perfect preparation for starting Treasure Trails at age 4. Now, some 3-year olds are ready to start if they have already been skiing a lot. 3-year olds who have older siblings in the Junior Nordic Program have usually been skiing since they can walk and will be fine with the physical aspects of lessons as long as mom or dad hangs around and helps out when they have emotional breakdowns (which 3-year olds are apt to do). If this sounds like your 3-year old, then contact Eli directly at juniornordicprogram(at)gmail.com.
What is taught at each level?
- Treasure Trails (TT)– Teaches our youngest skiers (age 4-6) basic ski skills: skiing in a directed manner in a track, straight run in the tracks, getting up, snowplow and turning with a snowplow.
- Little Nords (LN) – Focuses on children age 6-9. Little Nords is broken into 3 groups. Group 1 is for 6-9 year olds who have not gone through Treasure Trails. They will learn Treasure Trails skills with an older group of kids. Group 2 are Little Nords who have moved up from TT or who already have TT skills. Group 2 works on better striding skills and strong downhill skills. Group 2 will begin skiing in the upper area towards the end of the season. Group 3 have completed a year of LN or come in with Group 2 skills. Group 3 will begin learning to skate and work on advanced downhill skills.
- Freeheelers (FH) – Focuses on kids age 9-13 who intermediate to advanced skiers who are ready for a lot of skating work and longer distance tours. FHs need to be confident skiing down from the upper trails because that is where most of the classes take place. FHs do a lot of work on becoming strong skate and classic skiers. Telemark and nordic parallel is also taught. Kids normally spend 2-3 years in the FH program after which they are ready to join the junior racing program (if they wish) and some of our 16-year old will join the JNP as instructors.
- Trailblazers (TB)– Focuses on kids age 9 and up who are either new to nordic skiing or comfortable classic on the flats but haven't yet learned to skate or handle steep downhills (alpine runs). Year 1-2, they will work on classic skiing and developing strong downhill skills so that they can ski the lower and upper trail system. Usually by the end of year 1, our Trailblazers are able to ski up top. Year 2 or 3, they begin learning to skate ski. Some Trailblazers will transition to Freeheeler groups year 3-4.
What is a good age to start the JNP?The ideal time is by age 6 so they can start in Treasure Trailers. Kids who start the program at age 4-5 move through a TT-LN1-LN2->LN3->FH1->FH2 progression which is designed to produce expert skiers by age 10-12. The JNP is designed as a multi-year program and most kids are in the program from 4-12 seasons (yes, 12 seasons). That said, kids join the JNP at all ages from age 4 to 15. Our Trailblazer groups (see above) teaches kids who join program age 9 and up. They work in the lower area with their instructor and work towards learning the necessary ski skills to ski the whole Summit trail system.
Do you have shorter sessions? 8-weeks is a long time.Kids age 4-6 can sign up for just 4 weeks (session 1 or 2), although half our Treasure Trailers are full 8-week kids. After age 6, JNP is an 8-week program. The Summit's 3-week youth nordic group lessons are on Sundays. See the Summit Nordic website for information.
Do the skills kids learn translate to alpine skiing?Kids in LN3 (age 8, 3rd or 4th year in JNP) will learn to parallel ski on nordic skis and these skills transfer directly to alpine skis. By age 8-9, JNP kids are riding the lifts and coming down the alpine slopes on their nordic skis, so they have good downhills skills. JNP Freeheelers who have never alpine skied before usually find they can put on alpine skis and start parallel skiing after a run or two.
Is the JNP a racing development program?No. At age 4-10, we are focused on associating nordic skiing with adventure and fun and developing a high level of agility on skis. Kids learn to classic and skate by age 10 and will become very good nordic downhill skiers in the program, but we don't focus on racing at all. We focus on games and adventure so that we can keep kids with the program through the early teens. Starting age 10-11, we introduce more directed high-level technique work, and by age 12, they are good nordic skiers (skating and classic) and old enough to start race training if they so desire. Kids who want to race will be ready to join a race team at age 12-14 or our Intro to Racing program if they want to try out race training at a lower commitment level. Other teens may want to become assistant JNP coaches and begin training to become a ski instructor, and others transition to independent skiing with their friends when they finish the JNP.
My kid wants to skate (or I want them to). Why can't they be in a skate group?All our advanced "skate" groups ski up top. Skiing up top involves skiing an alpine blue run to get back down. We are one of the largest youth nordic ski programs on the West Coast and the only one that necessitates 7 and 8 year olds skiing alpine runs. Our size and nature of our ski hill means we need to teach your child and all their group-mates to be expert nordic downhill skiers at a very young age. That means kids in our advanced 7s groups need to work on their downhill skills. We introduce skating in our advanced 8s group in the 2nd 4 weeks generally. Then our advanced 9s start skating primarily, and our 10-14 year olds are all skating primarily. If they join the race training groups (age 13+), they will work on classic and skate technique 50/50. So, your child will start skating at a little older age (8 typically instead of say 7) than kids who are in youth nordic programs on golf courses, but no one will touch them on the downhills.
Why did my kid get moved 'down'? Or why can't they move up?This comes up mainly with age 9 and under groups---Little Nords---especially the 'down-low' Little Nords age 6-8. The instructors for these ages meet at lunch and after lessons in the first few weeks to review placements. We especially are concerned that groups are well-matched so that the group can work on skills together, especially downhill skills. This means if the group is working on doing slow snowplows, that all the kids can ski in control on the hill AND that they are willing to work on this. Sometimes a kid just wants to beeline down a hill (and crash at the bottom...over and over) or doesn't yet have the skills to work on the task at hand. In these situations, we have to move a child down. Sometimes a child wants to move up (or parent wants them to) but they don't have the skills and they aren't generally leading their current group. In this case, they wouldn't be moved up. Other times a kid *does* has the skills but they don't show them in class. Perhaps they are bored and lay on the snow during class. These kids need to be told that to 'move up' they need to show their instructor that they are ready by demonstrating their advanced skills and attentiveness IN CLASS. That might be obvious to an adult, but a 6 or 7-year old doesn't usually make that connection.
How are grouping decided?The youngest kids, age 4-5, are all together in the Treasure Trails group. Kids age 6 are sorted on day 1. We start with preliminary groups based on experience and then they ski in the morning and the instructors have a lunch meeting to decide how to move kids after lunch. Then at the end of day 1, the instructors talk again and decide if any other moves need to happen. Usually by lunch on week 2, we have the 6-year olds sorted out for the first 4-week session. At the end of 4-weeks, we move kids around again based on how they progressed. Kids age 7 and up are preliminarily sorted based on experience and then sorted by the age-group coaches on week 1. The age-group coaches take out their groups together in the morning on a ski and see how the kids naturally sort and where their skills are. If your child misses week 1, then they come in at the lowest skill group for their age/skill, e.g. there will usually be 2-3 advanced groups but at slightly different levels for each age. That gives a coach a chance to see their skills and decide if they should move into a different group. It is best not to miss week 1 if you can help it.
How can I prepare my child for the start of lessons?Go play in the snow. If you have a first time Treasure Trailer, then it is not so important to actually get them on skis but definitely take them out playing in the snow so they get used to all the clothing. Older kids need to work on fitness. During lessons, your child will ski for 3-4 hours. Fitness is key. A 1/2 hour of leg exercise a day in the fall will give your child a good foundation for the ski season. Soccer practice, running, biking, roller-blading, jump-roping, whatever your child likes. If your child is doing sports 3 hours a week (practices and games), that's enough fitness time. But if they are just running around during recess, that's not really enough -- so if you child is not doing sports during the week, you'll want to add some quality parent-child fitness time. Do you have an older child (middle school) who has never cross-country skiied? Then go for a short cross-country ski together before lessons. Older kids often find it mortifying to do something for the first time (like put on skis) in front of other kids. They'll find lessons much more fun if the first lesson is not their first time on skis.
My older child (i.e. 8-year old +) has a really hard time on the downhills. What can I do to help?Get them in 2-3 alpine lessons before the Junior Nordic Program starts. This really helps kids that have an unusually hard time with downhills. They learn how to snowplow on heavier, easier to control gear and these skills transfer right over to Nordic skiing. The other thing you can do is to work on the downhills on Nordic gear before the lessons start. Start on hills your child can confidently handle. Having some practice before the program starts will boost your child's confidence greatly.
My Little Nord has progressed much faster than the other kids in her/his group. Do kids stay with the same group all 8 weeks?After week 4, we reassess the kids and move kids around. Specifically, the Little Nord level 1 and 2 coaches assess which of their kids that are ready to start skiing up top. These kids will be formed into a new up-top group or join one of the existing up-top groups.
My kid is really advanced. Do they have to ski with their age?No...we form groups on skill (and on age) and young, good skiers do sometimes 'ski up'. But we also want to be careful that our advanced young skiers do not have the experience of going into an older (more advanced) group and then bring up the rear all season. This makes them feel like they are bad skiers, when in fact they are very good skiers for their age. If we have a kid 'ski up' for a year, we tend to move them closer to their age for the next year, so they get the chance to be the leader and the most advanced in their group and are not always the young kid struggling to keep up with kids 1-2 years older.
Does my child need a trail pass?If they are 7 years or older, yes they need a trail pass.
Where do I get a trail pass?For Little Nords and Freeheelers, the best option is to buy a youth nordic season pass ($99). If your child has an alpine season pass that is valid on the cross-country trails also so you don't need to get a pass. Buy your season passes on-line at the Summit website or at Guest Services at Summit West or Summit Central.
I didn't buy a season pass for the JNP lessons. Where do I get a trail pass for the day?Stand in line at the rental counter cash register and buy a day pass for your child.
My child is 6 or under. Do I need a trail pass? If so, where do I get it?Yes, but they are free. You should have gotten instructions on ordering a free 6-and-under nordic pass with your registration confirmation.
Should I get my child a season pass?The season pass is cheaper than buying a trail pass each week. Season passes can only be bought at Summit West Guest Services (or online).
I forgot my child's seaons pass. What should I do?Go to the ticket counter and talk with them to get a 'forgot my season pass' ticket. I attach my childs pass to their ski jacket so we (or they) don't forget it.
I need season ski rentals. How do I sign up?We'll have paperwork for signing up for ski rentals on day 1 of the JNP. $40 for 4 weeks or $80 for 8 weeks.
I got season rentals. How do I get them?Go straight to the rental counter (bypass the cash register). They will have a card on file for your child (assuming you filled one out at the registration desk week 1 or week 2). No card? You need to see Eli. After week 1, the rentals are put out in the lobby with your child's name on it.
It's pouring rain, and classes aren't cancelled (welcome to the PNW). Won't my child be miserable?No. Playing in the rain is fun if you take precautions. First, wear a rain coat and rain pants; put feet in plastic bags over socks. Have a full change of dry underclothes (including gloves and hat) to put on at lunch and a towel to dry off. Skip the cotton underwear for the day.
The weather is bad. Are classes cancelled?Check the www.summitatsnoqualmie.com website for up to date road and pass information. IF ALPINE CLASSSES ARE CANCELLED, SO ARE THE JNP CLASSES. But we don't need lifts for nordic(!)...but we need the ski patrol on duty to run class and they will be off duty if the lifts are closed.
What should we do if we are late and the classes have already left the Center?You may find the TTs next to the Nordic Center by the hoops if they are not there, they will return for lunch. For the LN, FH and TB, check with the Nordic Center manager. If they are not returning for lunch, you will probably not be able to find them.
What if we have to leave early and the class will be out for the whole time (10am-2pm)?Speak with your child’s coach before class. Sometimes parents meet the class at lunch and then leave early with their child.
How should I dress my TT, LN or FH?
- NO COTTON except underwear.
- Base layer: synthetic thin top and bottom
- Middle layer: fleece pants, fleece top (depending on temperature)
- Top layer - bottom: bibs (younger kids) or wind/rain resistant pants (older kids)
- Top layer – top: insulated wind/rain resistant jacket (younger kids) or lighter wind/rain resistant jacket (older kids)
- Feet: Good pair of ski socks. Not too thick.
- Head: Fleece hat
- Hands: Water-resistant mitts or gloves
My child complains of cold feet (or hands). What should I do?First get your child a couple pairs of high quality, properly fitting ski socks. Put your child in dry socks and gloves right before the start of lessons. Many kids like to romp in the snow before class and will get their shoes and socks wet. Prevention is often impossible so have a dry pair handy. Similarly put dry socks and gloves on at the lunch break. Yes, this means you need spares. Tuck a couple chemical heats packs in their pocket on cold days so they can put these in their gloves if needed. If your kid comes back regularly with soaking socks, get some gaitors for them. If your child is coming back with soaking gloves, you need to buy new gloves. Old gloves leak; good new gloves don't. Tie a leash to the gloves and safety pin them to their jackets, if losing gloves is an issue.
Are there restrooms up top?There is usually a porta-potty at Grand Junction by mid-season, otherwise no.
What kind of skis should my child have?
- TT: classic only. Wide skis to the top of child’s head. No strap-ons please.
- LN Group 1 & 2 (beginners and intermediates): classic only. Skis should be about 4 inches above child head. Poles should come to the armpit.
- LN Group 3 (advanced): classic and skate. Classic skis should be 4-5 inches above head. Skate skis are a little shorter. Poles should come between the armpit and top of shoulder. You can use the same poles for classic and skate. You can use either classic boots or a combi boot if you don’t want to get separate skate boots.
- Freeheelers: Classic and skate skis. Classic skis should be 4-5 inches above head. Skate skis are a little shorter. You’ll need different poles for skate versus classic. Classic poles should come between the armpit and top of shoulder. Skate poles come to the lips. A combi boot or skate boot is needed for skating.
- Trailblazers (teen beginners and intermediates): classic only. Skis should be about 4-5 inches above child head. Poles should come to just above the armpit.
- Racers: At this level, skis need to be carefully sized for weight and height. Please discuss proper ski, pole and boot selection with your coach.
I have another issue to talk about. Who should I contact?
- Is it about your child’s experience in class? You should talk with their coach.
- Is it about a coach or something your child’s coach can’t address? Talk with Eli Holmes, the Junior Program technical coordinator.
- Is it about registration, tickets, or rentals? Talk with the Nordic Center and ski school manager.
Lastly, any tips for dealing with a kid complains* about ski lessons?Although we do our best to make lessons fun, the fact is that getting out of bed early on a Saturday when there are more appealing alternatives (like, you know, tv, computer games, sleeping in, etc) is asking a lot of a kid -- especially if you ask them to do it without complaining. And in my experience, even kids who have a great time at lessons each week can still whine horribly while getting ready for lessons in the morning. Many of the JNP instructors also have kids, and we also face this challenge, sometimes even more because our kids spend so much time on the slopes. Every instructor I know has heard the dreaded "I hate skiing" complaint and yet as these same kids get a little older (9,10,11), they love skiing and love skiing with their middle-school friends. Just watch the Freeheelers sometime as they zoom around the tracks. Every one of those kids whined about getting up early, about not being able to stay home, about having to get dressed, etc., etc., when they were younger and now they can go out with their parents and friends and enjoy the thrill of nordic skiing and being an expert skier. And as a bonus, any other sport that requires dynamic balance---alpine skiing, snowboarding , ice-skating, inline skating, etc---comes easily to them.
So here are some of our common strategies with our own kids. First, maintain good pre-lesson prep. No sleepovers or late nights on Fridays before lessons and have a hearty breakfast Sat AM. Second, help them associate skiing with something positive (non-skiing). For example, a visit to a restaurant after lessons each week. Then there's bribery. Bribery variant 1) "If you do lessons without complaint on Sat., you can take xyz lessons (karate, dancing, downhill, snowboard)" or "..., we'll go downhill skiing on Sunday" or "..., you can play on the xyz (wii, computer)." Bribery variant 2) many ski parents outlaw or severely limit sweets outside of lessons but then allow sweets during (and *only* during) skiing. Don't worry this doesn't go on forever. After about 4-6 years of ski lessons: kids get to be really good skiers and they have friends who are good skiers. At that point, a whole new world of skiing with your pre-teen and teenaged child opens up. It takes dedication to get there but the pay-off is a lifetime of ski adventures together.
* This isn't to suggest that you force skiing on your kid if they don't like it, but that a certain amount of whining will necessarily accompany getting up at 7am to drive to the mountains, leave the electronic gadgets, and go play in the cold.