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Smugglers' snowboarding programs offer instruction for all ages on three-mountain playground

With three mountains to play on, Smugglers' snowboarding programs have terrain for all abilities from novice to expert. At the base of Morse Mountain a father and daughter are taking a beginning snowboarding lesson on Sir Henry's Learning Hill. Their instructor goes over the dynamics of the board and snowboarding vocabulary, explaining what the leash is for and what the terms toe side, heel side, and carving mean. Then they each strap one of their boots into their bindings and begin to get a feel for the weight of the board. Their instructor has them start out with a few J turns and work on stopping techniques before trying the conveyor lift and strapping both feet in.

On Sterling and Madonna Mountains young riders gather for intermediate and advanced lessons, excited to get on the slopes. The youngsters meet up with their coaches and take the lift to the top of Sterling. After a warm-up run they stop briefly for their coach to go over some pointers on technique for riding in the woods. Then they're off, speeding towards the glades and loads of fresh powder, following his call of "Let's go get some pow pow!"

At one of Smugglers' four upper mountain terrain parks, two riders who became good friends in camp the previous year begin having a friendly competition to see who can get more air off the jumps and who can "50/50" the entire box - ride straight all the way across it without falling off one side or the other.

"Attendance numbers in instructional programs usually get smaller as the levels get higher," comments snowboard program supervisor Jeff Silver, observing, "People think that once they know how to ride they should just go out on their own." However, by going out on their own, they are missing out on meeting new people to ride with, getting pointers on technique, and receiving encouragement to develop new skills from friends and coaches in camp.

All-day snowboard camps at Smugglers' are generally grouped by age as well as skill level, encouraging camaraderie. All-day snowboarding camp is available to children as young as three years old, and runs right up through age 15. Young children will enjoy the Burton Riglet Park on Sir Henry's Learning Hill at Smugglers'. The park's focal point is a "treehouse," an elevated platform with ramps that children can ride down, a balance area inside the treehouse and a lift chair that swings to help kids practice getting on and off the lift. Playing in the park on small rolling hills, miniature box-style rails, pyramids and a mini-halfpipe allows children to gain the necessary balance and muscle memory to begin sliding and making turns on sloped terrain.

In Smugglers' instructional programs, coaches don't have riders sit and listen as they talk at them; instead, they ride beside them offering pointers and challenging them to try new skills. Halfway through a camp day kids enjoy a delicious camp lunch at a site convenient to the trails the group is riding. During lunch the kids joke around and the coaches often let them choose which trails they want to ride after lunch.

There are multi-age lesson opportunities so that families can all learn snowboarding skills together. With such groupings, instructors adapt to diverse learning styles. "Younger children might not understand what 'put your board perpendicular to the mountain' means, so that is something you as an instructor need to take into consideration when teaching them how to ride. Multi-age groups are good for the instructor because we have to find many different ways to teach the same thing," says instructor Drew Tolbert.

One of the best times for family lessons is at Smugglers' Notch Resort's Night School for Snowboarding on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm. Burton Learn-to-Ride equipment rentals are included in the price of Night School. It's a fun under-the-lights experience and often less busy than daytime instruction hours.

The snowboarding coaches at Smugglers' are very experienced and enthusiastic about the sport and willing to work with aspiring riders at any pace they feel comfortable, as well as with experienced riders seeking to fine tune their skills. Group lessons are 1.5 hours or 2.5 hours for ages 6 and up. Private lessons are also available. For more information on instruction, please visit the Snow Sport University section on smuggs.com

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