January Makes it Easy to Learn a Snow Sport

Glen Plake, a spokesman for January's national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM), is serious about getting new skiers to Southern slopes. Between special learn-to-ski programs, and even free events on January 9, Winter Trails Day, it's time to hit the snow! Photo by Randy Johnson

January special programs like Learn-to-Ski & Snowboard Month and Winter Trails Day make right now the perfect time to try skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or Nordic skiing.


Article by Randy Johnson


All across the country, and at many Southern slopes, January’s Learn-to-Ski & Snowboard Month (LSSM) makes it especially affordable for beginners to hit the slopes.  And Winter Trails Day events at Sugar Mountain and White Grass Ski Touring in Canaan Valley make it free!

See the subheads below for details, but the key to Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month‘s entire national program is getting beginners to take a professional lesson. World-renowned extreme skier Glen Plake is one of a number of national LSSM ambassadors for the sport and his message is simple—learn from a pro and skiing is fun and easy. Plake, who made a memorable visit to Ski Beech back in the 1990s, is such a proponent of taking a lesson that he recently became a fully certified professional  instructor himself. Plake tells anyone who will listen that you don’t need to be able to ski like him to just have fun on the snow.

Learn-to-Ski & Snowboard Month

LSSM director Mary Jo Tarallo urges skiers to log onto the program’s website and use the resort locator to find the slope closest to them. In truth, Southern resorts have been a little slow to “get with the program” and post their specials. No worries. Like this ski season—the month is just getting underway so Tarallo expects a flurry of great deals at the LSSM website. Also good, there are learn-to-ski specials out there “even if they’re not being offered specifically for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month,” she says.

One example is Beech Mountain’s free Monday through Thursday beginner ski lesson. It’s available on non-holidays only and requires skis and a lift ticket. Another is an LSSM special at Cataloochee. Beginning January 8, 2016 and only available online, Cataloochee offers a special $59 deal that includes an hour-and-three-quarter beginning lesson, lift ticket and rental skis for people age six and above. It’s offered any non-holiday Monday through Friday this month.

Winterplace will be posting some deals soon too. They offer a week day limited mountain access ticket, rental equipment, and a 90 minute group lesson for $36.95. They also offer a five week learn to ski program that promotes skiing once a week. This program is offered Monday – Thursday evening for $105.00 and includes an all-area lift ticket, rentals, and a 90 minute group lesson each time. Participants are encouraged to come the same day each week so they can have the same instructor. This is a very popular program for schools, youth groups, and families.

Tarallo is particularly praiseworthy of Cataloochee Ski Area. They signed up early and “they cater to beginners,” she says. “The beginner is not the same as an expert, and they’ve figured that out.” Another great Cataloochee beginner program is “Slide in 5.” The package for skiers twelve and over includes five lift tickets, five ski rentals and five almost two-hour lessons for only $299. When the skier  completes five lessons—they get a free pair of Elan skis with bindings!

Snowshoeing at Sugar Mountain Resort. The southernmost ski area to offer the sport makes it free on January 9th! Sugar Mountain Photo by Todd Bush
Snowshoeing at Sugar Mountain Resort. The southernmost ski area to offer the sport makes it free on January 9th! Sugar Mountain Photo by Todd Bush

Tarallo urges Southern slopes to fill out the website form she needs to help get this winter underway.

Winter Trails Day

Another great option—Winter Trails Day—is a downright free program around the country that lets people try snowshoeing and Nordic skiing at no cost. Sugar Mountain is the Southernmost eastern ski area that has a snowshoeing program, and on January 9th, all you have to do to try it is show up and register. The snowshoe rental and guided one-hour tour are free and available at 9am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm—just sign up at least 15 minutes prior to your tour time at the Ski/Snowboard School. Adult tours are for 12 years or older. Children’s tours are for 8-11 year olds.

Also on January 9th, White Grass Ski Touring Center in Canaan Valley, West Virginia is offering free lessons, area use, and clinics to all first time interested Nordic skiers or snowshoers. Cross country lessons are offered every hour. At 10 am and 2 pm, snowshoe clinics cover types of snowshoes, clothing, and basic techniques, then there’s a snowshoe tour of the National Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the immaculately maintained White Grass trail system, the South’s best Nordic ski resort.

Last month may have been “the most epically bad December” in Southern ski history, as one Banner Elk ski industry insider claimed—but January is coming to the rescue! Hook up with the best deal you can and get out there on the slopes! Think snow.

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Randy Johnson
Johnson has been chronicling skiing in the South since the 1980s as a columnist for the Charlotte Observer and author of the 1987 “cult classic” "Southern Snow: The Winter Guide to Dixie" (soon to be republished). Johnson is a Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel writer whose articles have appeared in many national newspapers and magazines, including the Miami Herald, National Geographic Traveler, Ski, and Skiing. His new University of North Carolina Press book "Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon," debuts next April. Visit him at www.randyjohnsonbooks.com.