If your family is anything like mine, you’re what could charitably be called “very into” the Olympics (also known as “obsessed”). I’ve always considered myself a Winter Olympics kind of girl, probably due to my love for figure skating and the fact that my birthday always falls somewhere in the festivities. But this year, the international competition had a different effect on my not-so-athletic self: The Olympics motivated me to try skiing for the first time.
For our family’s adventure, we opted for Wilmot Mountain, which is juuuuust over the border in Wisconsin. (Our drive was a delightfully brief hour.) Wilmot says it’s “where Epic begins,” and our motley crew of wannabe skiers and snowboarders agreed that it’s a great place to get your feet – er… skis – wet. The resort has 23 trails, including four in the designated “beginner’s area,” and an additional four green circle trails, making it ideal for those of us who aren’t quite ready to take on a black diamond quite yet (don’t worry, there are six of those, too). And the distinctly family-friendly vibe – we’re talking kids everywhere! – means it’s welcoming to all ages and abilities.
But between ski novices, I will admit that there are a few things you should know before you hit Wilmot’s snow-covered slopes. Here are six tips from someone who’s been there and done that (and has the bruises to show for it).
1) Check the conditions. Wilmot has long been at the cutting edge of snowmaking, but that doesn’t mean there’s always snow on the ground. Be sure to check Wilmot’s website to see what’s happening on the slopes. In theory, the resort stays open late into March, but that always depends on Mother Nature’s mood. And the temperatures have to be 28 degrees or below for the resort to make its own snow, so on milder days or in rain/fog, you might be out of luck.
2) Get there early. We made the questionable decision to do our skiing adventure over a holiday weekend – and so did approximately one million other families. Wilmot opens at 10 a.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. on weekends and holidays, and the key is to get there as early as possible. There’s no greater frustration (especially for littles) than waiting in a long line when you’d rather be whooshing down a slope. Getting up extra early to make the trip might seem like an annoyance but, believe me, it’s worth it.
3) Know what to do. I’ve never so much as set foot in a ski resort, so the whole system was completely new to me. If you didn’t purchase lift tickets online (strongly recommended), you’ll need to do that first. Then head to equipment rental, where you should have at least one member of your party hang in the line while the rest of you find ski boots, then switch off. You’ll also have to fill out the rental forms while you wait, so bring a pen along if you can. Be aware that if you have snowboarders in your group, they have a separate (usually shorter) line, so send them ahead with the rental forms. Also, if you’ve opted for ski school, you’ll get to pick up your equipment at a different spot.
4) Try ski school. A shorter line is just one reason to check out Wilmot’s Ski & Snowboard School. The program offers kid and adult group lessons, as well as private lessons for beginners or the rustier among us. We were impressed with all three of our instructors (shouts out to Andrea, Erich and Tony!), who capably taught us skills and built our confidence on appropriate developmental levels. Kids will be able to grasp the concepts of “French fries” and “pizza,” while adults can concentrate on bending their knees or turning parallel to the mountain. And as someone who has never strapped skis on before, it helped to take baby steps before venturing on to the bunny hill.
5) Make it a weekend. Once you’ve started learning a new skill, you don’t want it to stagnate for another year! That’s why we took advantage of The Abbey Resort & Spa’s “Ski and Stay” Overnight Package, which let us get a good night’s sleep in a ridiculously comfortable bed and then do it all over again the next day! If you’re in a winter sports mindset, check out the outdoor ice rink (what’s another fall after a day of skiing?). Or warm up in the hotel’s indoor pool or hot tub – just be sure to include bathing suits when you’re packing all of that cold weather gear.
6) Branch out. If you’re already almost at Mikaela Shiffrin-esque levels when it comes to skiing, isn’t it time to try something new? Wilmot also has snowboarding – our eight-year-old’s new “favorite sport” – and a terrain park to practice some tricks, as well as 22 lanes of snow tubing, in case you’re looking to do something a little less physically exerting. And who knows – by 2028, tubing just might be an Olympic sport of its own!