Family learning to snowboard?


My family is moving across the country to northern California from the Florida panhandle. We are all southerners and have really only seen snow about 5 times in our lives when we we're stationed in England, and that only stuck around for a few days.

There are 4 of us: 2 adults, a 7 y/o girl, and a 5 y/o boy. We can rent gear at a great price from the air base, but what is the best way to learn? I thought about taking the family on a winter vacation to Lake Tahoe for a family lesson, but that may be out of our price range. Any ideas on a ballpark figure on the price of a family lesson? How about finding a small sledding hill in one of the nearby state/national parks and trying it out there?

We'll be at Beale AFB to give you an idea of where we'll be.

Thanks for helping a snow sports newbie out!


Expedition Leader
teaching yourself snow boarding is going to hurt !

I had years of waterskiing, windurfing and kite surfing experience , I thought it was isn't

take a 2 -3 day course and save the pain !

Many ski centers offer reasonable prices for lessons as they know you'll be back !

Powerhorn in western CO ---for example take 4 days of lessons and you get a free season pass...well worth it !

So investigate well, there are bargains out there


Sounds like fun. Your idea of going to a sledding hill isn't bad, but it'd be better to go where you can take a lesson. Don't take the family to learn at a big-name resort. You'll only use 1% of the terrain as a novice so it'd be a complete waste. When I lived in Tahoe, Mt. Rose and Homewood were among the least expensive places to ski. Try to go during the week, if possible, and not on the weekend. You'll have much more room to yourselves on the slope and won't have to wait in line at the lifts. You're also likely to get a private family lesson for the cost of a group lesson.

I'm partial to skiing over snowboarding, but snowboarding is a lot of fun, too. The new curved skis make it a lot easier for beginners than it used to be. Cross-country is fantastic, too.


If you are ready for some pain some fun and dedication then snowboarding is for you.. anyone can go skiing only some have the tolerance for the learning curve that boarding requires... I work in a high end ski rental shop and have been an avid shredder/skier/ back country traveler since mid 90's..I live at a ski area and ride 4-5 days a week...go rent setups, only demos not the ****ty BURTON LTR's that everyone try to stick a newbie on... demos are retail boards which u could go purchase.. these will provide a great learning start for you and family.. boards keep them shorter chin and below, softer flex is better for the newbie b/c it is easier to transition from edge to edge and forgive a bit more when u eat it and yard sale... crash pads, helmets, and wrist guards are the next step.. they will prevent u from the inevitable broken wrists...(always by newbies again b/c u will fall plenty on them..butt and tail bones also get sore in the learning curve and will hinder u from riding the next day and sleeping on your back) some youtube videos for some beginner advice and tutorials.. learn about your board...the core materials..the edge the bindings work and mount and adjust. how binding angles and widths work so u can get a proper stance..(mine are 15 degrees front and back and stance is wide as i can get it b/c i like quick transitions in the steeps and trees.. go to a local ski shop with a case of beer and go talk to the ski techs and pick their brain on gear(this is where the beer will help get a tech to treat u like family and help). IF u plan on buying new setups then stick to these main brands !!! RIDE<SALOMON<UNION<JERMEY JONES<LIB TECH<ARBOR<NEVER SUMMER.. trust me most others are junk china crap.. u don't need to spend a ton to get a quality set up... boots should be #1 priority...try a bunch on and get the most comfortable ones... don't get it b/c it is cute!!!..bindings #2 spend a couple of bucks extra and get a nice ones suck and the most expensive have to many parts to deal with most the time..boards are way easier to buy... get one from last year or in summer when the deals are on... any of the mtn. ski shops around tahoe should have huge gear sales and swaps so go check them out...then finally find a local and pay him to take you and your family out on the hill and provide pointers... skip ski school they are a joke!!!!!!!!!!! any questions PM ME!!

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
I spent much of my 20s working at ski areas. I was a ski patroller at Vail in college and a level II PSIA instructor at Copper Mountain.

Here's my take. If the cost of learning to snowboard or ski is intimidating, the sport as a whole is going to be a real financial crusher. It's one of the most expensive sports in the world. When I started skiing a lift ticket at vail was $47. It's now $129. That's one of the more expensive ski areas, but not for long.

Back to learning: You do not want to wing it and teach yourselves or your kids on your own. You have to have professional instruction. I look at it as an improved value proposition. You can save the money on instruction, and burn a thousand bucks worth of lift tickets (per person) with everyone barely learning to ride, and picking up bad habits along the way, or you can pay for instruction, learn properly, and within a day or two be out HAVING FUN, and not struggling and maybe not even figuring it out at all.

This is a touchy subject, but you might want to look closely at the ski or board proposition. Boarding is a tad harder to learn and often comes with more physical punishment during that learning process. Skiing is often easier to learn. There's an old claim that skiing is easier to learn, harder to master. Boarding is harder to learn, but once you do, you can be damn good in short order WITH LOTS OF DAYS on the hill.

With a family, you have a very important challenge ahead. You have to insure everyone likes it. They can't like it, if they can't do it. I'll tell you this, your five year old is already an expert. Young kids in the hands of a fun instructor pick it up almost instantly. Your 7-year old is right behind.

Take the lessons. Even after 29 years of skiing, and making paychecks doing it, I continued to take lessons into my late 30s. Money very well spent.

Just be aware, not managing the family learning curve means ten years from now, if you do end up on a ski vacation, one or two of your family members may be on the hill while the others pout in the lodge eating $20 hamburgers. :)
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Supporting Sponsor, Overland Certified OC0018
Taught skiing and snowboarding for 25 years mainly in Tahoe. Ran the ski and snowboard school at Boreal for years. Take a lesson, buy a Beginner's Package that includes the Lift, lesson and Rental, it's the least expensive way to go even if you have your own equipment. Boreal, Soda Springs, or Donner Ski Ranch offer the least expensive packages.


SE Expedition Society
I got to say go for lessons. Even if you got to save I think it is worth it. I live in the south to and went to CO a few weeks ago. I have never been in enough snow to do either snowboarding or skiing and the closest I ever got was skateboarding in middle school. My wife and I took 2 days of lessons and then went out on our own. The start of day 1 was rough, start of day 2 was easier, end of the day was good!

The problem you might have is the learning curve could be a lot longer doing it self taught and you run the risk of discouraging yourself and other family members to the point where you/they don't want to try anymore

Sent from S3

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
You will quickly learn that skiing is often an all-in or all-out enterprise as the cost is severe. Getting four people geared up, tickets, accommodations for just a week's getaway can set you back thousands. As such, doing it once in a while gets prohibitively expensive. Living near and area, popping for a season pass, that starts to balance to money to fun factor.

When I was teaching private lessons years ago, I'd often see families drop $5000 on a weeklong trip filled with frustrations before they decided to come to the ski school. Many of those families probably went on cruise vacations instead of skiing again. Bummer.

As a ski PATROLER, it was even more interesting. You can't imagine how many people I delivered to the bottom who should have never been on the mountain in the first place.


Whelp, being an E-5 in the military with 3 dependents I am far from rich. I guess we'll just have to pick a poor man's sport.


I will agree with every sentiment echoed so far. I currently am a volunteer ski patroller (since 2001 at various resorts), I have lived and worked in ski towns, and I grew up in California and learned to ski in Lake Tahoe. It is expensive. However, my wife and I now backcountry ski quite a bit and I ski patrol which gets us free season passes. I would encourage you and your family to explore the snow, and then determine if you want to start skiing or snowboarding.

For a cheap introduction, look into nordic skiing and/or snowshoeing. ANYONE can showshoe. It is glorified hiking on snow. However, you can explore areas in the winter and see some beautiful sights. Rent snowshoes (~$10 for the day) and try it out with the family. Maybe even splurge for a guided snowshoe trip? Introduce your family to the snow slowly. Also, with kids, do it when the weather is nice. If it is going to be a blizzard and cold, most kids won't want to learn in those conditions. Go out this spring if you are there and explore while it is sunny. Then, if the family likes being in the snow, consider nordic skiing or going to a ski resort. Nordic skiing is a ton of fun. My wife and I picked up setups (skis w/ bindings, poles, boots) while living in Michigan for less than $100 for each of us....we still use them 6 years later. We don't really go to nordic ski areas, we just go out and explore our local National Forests and public land, which is FREE! There is an amazing amount of public access around Lake Tahoe. If you have nordic skis (or snowshoes), common sense, outdoorsy skills (map reading, compass, etc.), and your family likes to explore, nordic skiing can be a great way to get out. And, if you have a dog, they can usually come along for some exercise. If you go this route, look for traditional nordic ski setups (not skate skiing) and look for packages or ski setups labelled as "touring" or "backcountry". These are nordic skis that usually have a little wider ski and possible metal edges for more cross country travel. You should be able to hit up ski swaps and get your entire family skis with bindings, poles, and boots for <$100 each. After that, no lift tickets, no extra expenses, just fun in the outdoors in winter.

Okay, so now maybe your family likes snow and wants to try downhill skiing. Bite the bullet and pay for lessons. I learned to ski at Alpine Meadows ski area in Lake Tahoe when I was 8. Cub Scout trips once a year. Like others have said, look for package deals of rentals, lessons, lift tickets. Try it a few times. If your kids (and you and your spouse) like it, consider buying gear at a ski swap or look for sales in the spring and summer when shops are selling their demo gear from the previous year. Also, look for shops that do season long rentals or demos for the kids (because as your kids grow they will need new gear). Our family in Michigan has a local shop that does a one time, up front payment of $400 for skis, boots, and poles for each child. But, after that, they only pay $100 for each year and the children get new demo equipment in the proper size as they grow. They get to keep the gear for the entire season and they turn it in at the end and the shop sells it off as they replace their demo fleet. There is also an option to buy the equipment at the end of the season.

Then, if your kids and you really start to enjoy skiing and/or snowboarding, then you will be hooked and you will sell other parts of your life to get season passes, you might want to volunteer as a ski patroller to get free passes, you will join websites focused on vehicle travel to modify your vehicle and buy a camper for said vehicle where you, your wife, and family can travel to ski areas and sleep in their parking lots and ski as much as possible (oh wait, I digress). In all honesty, introduce winter activity slowly and then build from there -- it is a lifetime activity.


I am brand new to the sport. I've snow shoed for a decade, and it is a lot of fun. Mostly because you can go where nobody else does. I look at snow shoeing more of a training skill, I keep a pair in the car for the winter, in case I get stuck, I can still hike out somewhere.

I started XC sking this year, and I like it a lot. Its very different- took me a good few days to get the hang of things.

I also tried downhill sking; also a lot of fun. there are a few things that are transferrable, but for the most part, they are not.


A3MON, first off when are you planning on doing this trip? If your looking at this season, I regret to say that are snow fall for the year is extremely poor. Sorry for the bad news bit true. That being said its still more than you have in Florida. I honestly think a family lesson package is your best bet, it's economical, hassle free and the intructors do know what they are doing. The ski areas aren't going to employ just anyone to teach their future repeat customers. As of now all ski areas open, Donner Ski Ranch and Homewood are talking of closing. If your coming from Beal and want the closest place Boreal, Soda Springs, Sugar Bowl, or Donner are your choices. Great views of Castle peak can be had from all four or awesome view of Donner lake from Domner Ski Ranch. If you do go to the up their stop at the Donner Summit Historical Society museum, Norm Sayler is almost always there and is a wealth of knowledge on our history here. The other option is the resorts at the "big blue lake" all but two can be expensive, Homewood and Diamond Peak being the lesser of the six. If I were a family of four and was going out for my first day and was on a budget, I would go for a lesson at one the "smaller" areas and learn the basics (because that's your initial goal) and check out Tahoe and maybe even our little town Truckee. I'm starting to ramble so if you have any questions feel free to PM me. Just remember have fun and thank you for your service.


I have been having the same internal debate for years. It takes me a while to make decisions, but I really want to start snowboarding because it looks like a blast. I picked up skiing relatively easy with just picking a hill and going for it. I now have all the time in the world, but I'm trying to maintain a certain budget. In the end I think I'm just going to go for some lessons so I don't end up like my friend who dislocated his shoulder trying to wing it his first time out. All my research has found that you should just buy the lessons. Now my issue is do I rent the gear or just buy it from the get go knowing I'm going to love the sport.


Thanks for the replies! We're shooting for next winter (2014), still trying to come up with an affordable dollar amount to save up. The ones closer to Beale are closing for good or for the season?


a cheap way to learn is to go to a slope..and watch the class. You can watch and pretty much learn what they are doing. THen do it yourself. But its really not an expensive class, I took one myself.

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