Skiing for free and without parents’ help

If you’re not a skier, all the equipment and the whole concept can be a little intimidating, but if you want your kids to ski, even if you don’t, it’s not that hard. And it doesn’t have to be too expensive either. In fact, Pennsylvania has a special program where kids in 4th and 5th grades can ski for free at resorts all over the state.

Like just about anything you learn, skiing is easier to pick up when you’re young. Kids have less fear, learn quickly and don’t have very far to fall.

Even if their parents don’t ski, many resorts like Hidden Valley will take care of everything.  “We have a program set up just for those families,” says Brett Lesnick, director of the Snowsports School at Hidden Valley Resort in the Laurel Highlands. They have a program called the “Rippers Adventure Club” for kids ages 3 to 12.

“You come up from the parking lot, drop your child off right at the Rippers Adventure Club. We take care of the rest. We’ll see you at 3 o clock.  It doesn’t get better than that,” Lesnick says. “We get them fitted for skis, snowboard, boots; take care of lunch; get them on the snow throughout the day.”

And if your child is in 4th or 5th grade, they can get a free ski or snowboard lesson, equipment rental and lift ticket, and the accompanying adult can get half off the same thing. Plus, 4th and 5th graders can get 3 free lift tickets to come back.  “It is limited too,” says Alex Moser, director of marketing for Hidden Valley, Seven Springs and Laurel Mountain. “They sell out by the end of January, so go on ASAP to get the offer.”

If your child is already in middle or high school, many schools offer bus trips after school, taking advantage of night skiing. Lesnick says the majority of those students are first-time skiers and take an hour-long lesson when they arrive. “At least the first hour, they have a ski instructor show them around the resort a little bit so they know where different trails are and know where to check in at end of lesson,” he says.

Here’s the link to the Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association:, where you can apply for the free ski passes and a lesson for 4th and 5th graders. It’s actually $35 for the application, but that’s a great value for what you get.  The free passes are good for Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, the newly re-opened Laurel Mountain, Nemacolin and all other resorts that participate in Pennsylvania.