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Afton Alps' Children’s Learning Center opens, with improvements

Kids everywhere are out of school for holiday break, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. Just get them out to Afton Alps. They might learn lessons that last a lifetime.

Earlier this month, Afton Alps celebrated the grand reopening of its Children’s Learning Center in the Meadow’s Chalet. The learning center went through some structural renovation this year, which adds to the safety and security for Afton Alps’ younger visitors.

The project included the construction of a new check-in counter, where parents can register their kids for classes. The extra room separates the guest services counter – open to all visitors – from the classroom area where kids are learning the fundamentals of skiing or snowboarding.

Outside, the new Kids Adventure Zone has been added, as well, to give kids a place to practice some of their new-found skills.

Afton Alps offers several different lessons for kids, Ski and Snowboard School Director Chris Setchell said. Children, as young as 3 years old, can participate in the classes offered through the Ski and Ride School. Classes like the Cruisers program teach beginners the basics of skiing. More advanced youth skiers can learn all of the tricks they might do on boards or on skis through the Twin Tip program, or they can try recreational alpine racing through the Afton Racing Club. The most advanced youth skiers can join the All Mountain Team.

“The kids who are in that program come out as really quite good skiers, and are really quite passionate about skiing,” Setchell said.

Afton Alps provides the largest opportunities in the region for kids – and even adults – to learn how to ski or snowboard, Afton Alps Marketing and Public Relations Manager Pam Hoye said. About 70 percent of the instructors are certified through the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

The wife of a long-time skier, and mother to two youth skiers, Hoye likes being able to spend time with her whole family, outdoors, during the winter at Afton Alps.

“We love it,” she said. “I don’t think there’s another family activity around where you can spend that many hours together, outside.”

What they often hear, though, is that some adults who used to ski just don’t participate in the sport anymore. The excuse, Setchell said, is that a lot of adults – who used to love to ski as kids or teens – think they have simply outgrown the sport or are afraid of injuries. Advances in ski equipment, safety equipment, and even the clothing available nullify that argument in his book.

“We get that ‘too old’ excuse often,” he said. “That’s not an excuse. Skiing is way safer now than it has ever been. It’s such a different experience than it was 20 years ago.”

The renovation at the Children’s Learning Center is the latest in improvements to come to Afton Alps since the ski hill was purchased by Vail Resorts three years ago. One previous project included a $10 million investment in the property, most of which was spent on new snow making machines, which are coming in particularly handy this year.

Mother Nature hasn’t exactly held up her end of the deal so far this winter. In fact, Afton Alps had closed for a few days this year after the unseasonably warm temperatures melted much of the snow on the hills. But with cooler weather in the forecast, and a long holiday break coming up, those snow machines were put into action late last week. Hills reopened Dec. 18.

Hoye suggests that anyone interested in skiing – or learning how to ski – check out the Afton Alps website, www.aftonalps.com. Current conditions are found under the “On the Slopes” tab, and a full list of ski and snowboarding classes for kids and adults are listed under the “Lessons, Racing and Programs” tab.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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