Skiing and snowboarding can be intimidating to newcomers for many reasons, including the skill aspect of the sports, not to mention the cost of getting started.
Utah ski resorts recognize both obstacles can prevent would-be participants from hitting the slopes and have responded with programs to make learning the winter sports softer on the backside and the wallet.
Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, took advantage of such a program while growing up in the Salt Lake Valley and understands the value of helping get people into the sport, especially at a young age.
"I'm kind of the poster child on how important the entry programs are," Rafferty said. "My parents were not skiers and I never would have gotten started if it hadn't been for a local ski shop offering a special deal for kids."
Youth discount programs are the most popular, but there are plenty of opportunities for older people who have an interest in strapping a plank or planks on their feet.
"I can't overstate the importance of having people learn when they are young," Rafferty said. "It develops a lifestyle which benefits the industry, but also helps the person maintain a healthy lifestyle."
Ski Utah offers one of the best deals through its Fifth and Sixth Grade Passport program. All Utah residents in fifth grade can pay a $25 processing fee and receive a pass that allows them to ski or snowboard (except where they are banned) at all 14 resorts three times. Sixth-graders can use the pass once at each of the state's 14 resorts.
New this year is an adult version called the Yeti Pass. For $499, a Yeti Pass holder can ski once at all 14 Utah resorts. There are a limited number of Yeti passes available.
Park City Mountain Resort offers one of the best deals when it comes to learning the necessary skills to take full advantage of the passes with its popular StartNow program. Utah residents of any age who have held off on learning how to ski or snowboard can sign up for five sessions, which includes ski or snowboard rental, lift access and an afternoon lesson.
The resort also is making the transition for new skiers and boarders a little easier with a dedicated learning zone with two conveyor lifts.
Deer Valley, another Park City resort, also has made an effort to better serve beginners by redesigning the Wide West run and installing three conveyor lifts.
"We were trying to make it a little less intimidating for first-time and beginner skiers," said Deer Valley spokeswoman Emily Summers. "Ski schoolers can come right out of the lodge and get on a conveyor right there."
The first conveyor provides a minimal slope. Once skiers are comfortable with that one, they can ride the next conveyor for a little more speed. The third conveyor provides even more opportunity to learn. After that, there are two lifts available to beginners.
The conveyors and lifts are all available to ski schoolers and the general public for a $22 day pass.
Snowbasin Resort has a unique program that rewards beginners through the Learn and Earn lesson format.
Participants, 7 and older, start with a $39 lesson followed by two others at a slightly higher cost. After completing the lessons, the skier or snowboarder takes part in a Snowsport Recreation Program starting in early January for $150 or $200. Upon completion of the program, participants will get a season pass to Snowbasin, effective Feb. 1.
Riders looking for snowboard-specific beginner lessons may want to check out Burton's national Learn to Ride program. Canyons, Brighton, Park City Mountain and Powder Mountain resorts all offer the LTR lessons. The Utah lessons usually are reserved for adults and typically run $99 for a day of lessons, lifts and rental.
Details are still being sorted out, but all 14 Utah resorts participate in National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in January by offering special deals.
Programs and special deals for beginner skiers/snowboarders
O Visit the following links for information on good deals for beginner skiers and snowboarders at Utah resorts and for events as part of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in January.
> www.skiandsnow boardmonth.org