Daycare for little sliders isn’t what it use to be

I visit several ski resorts every season and, without fail, I find someone with a connection to Mount Southington.

At Killington recently, I discovered a delightful young lady who taught at the local snow sport school before she moved to Vermont.

Katherine Michelson grew up in Farmington and started skiing when she was six. She remembers being frightened and cold that first day, but also eager to learn.

Now, just over a dozen years later, Michelson is the head coach for the First Tracks children’s program at Killington, Vermont. She supervises and trains all the coaches working at the First Tracks School, organizes all the lessons, and makes sure the needs of the children, parents and instructors are met.

After graduating from CCSU and working in child care, Michelson decided she would like to combine her love of skiing with her education. So, three winters ago, she went to an instructor’s clinic at Mount Southington and was hired.

Steve Positano, snow sports director at the local resort, describes Michelson as outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic about skiing and teaching. “Katie wanted to learn to be a better instructor,” Positano said. “She was always willing, eager in fact, to attend Professional Ski Instructor classes and clinics”.

Michelson says she loves what she does. She finds it rewarding to be able to work with children and pass on her love of the mountains in winter.

Michelson understands that it can be frustrating for parents to ski with small children. “The little ones get cold and tired and require several hot chocolate stops,” she said. “The adults lose valuable slope time taking care of them, but at First Tracks, that’s our only job.”

“The kids are adventurous and eager,” Michelson said, “and we, the teachers, have to form a connection to give them a beginning in the sport. Above all, the experience has to be fun for the child.”

Speaking of Michelson, Dave Beckwith, snow sports director at Killington, said “She is a very talented and driven individual. Katie conveys a true passion for snow sports and working with children.”

Daycare for little sliders isn’t what it use to be at ski areas, both large and small. My youngest is now over 40, so I didn’t see the changes taking place.

The time I spent with Michelson was an eye-opener. In the old days, nursery school was often three grandmoms down the road from the mountain who babysat the little ones. Now, daycare is a planned, regulated, safe and controlled environment run by child care professionals.

Back when dinosaurs roamed ski trails, they kept the kids inside, warm and, hopefully, happy. Now, with a planned program, they teach the little ones to ski and have fun on the mountain. The classes I observed at Killington had no more than three pre-schoolers with each instructor.

The system seems to work. My youngest grandson, now nine-years-old, has been in child care programs at several different resorts around the Northeast. He is now capable of going off for the day, skiing or snowboarding where he wants. The rules are simple: Spend some time with your bigger brothers and meet the family in the base lodge for lunch, and again at 3:30 to take a run together.

That independence is the direct result of good professional child care and lessons at today’s ski resorts.



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