Hitting the slopes with the kids is so much fun when you sign up for Ski School!
Where: Mt Buller, Victoria
Cost: Full day (9.30am – 3.30pm) starts at $140 in peak season
As a parent I can only gush on and on about how fabulous Ski School is… my advice: do not attempt to teach your own kids to ski unless you yourself happen to be a ski instructor with the patience of a saint. From my observation/experience constructive feedback is not well received by your offspring if they happen to be feeling any of the following: frustrated, out of their comfort zone and/or possibly a bit scared. However, when this information is delivered by an energised, enthused ski instructor (with a billion times more experience at teaching children to ski) and your kids are in the midst of their peers, all at the same level of experience, it is actually very possible that learning to ski can be fun… and then, after the hurdle of day one is behind them, addictive.
As a parent I have to say that there was a real thrill seeing my kids making it down the hill successfully, and witnessing the joy and triumph they felt as a result. I had a twinge of jealousy for a second that probably in a few years they will most likely be much better skiers than I am… but in the same breath I can’t wait to take them back to the snow and see them progress again – it would be so much fun to spend the day cruising up and down the mountain together… and at this rate of progress that could be as soon as our next trip!
When we arrived at Buller it was lunchtime and so we used the afternoon to mess about and settle in – we had gear to hire and our newly registered (online ticket) B-Tags to collect. Be sure (if travelling to Buller) to set up your B-Tag in advance and also check if there are any online deals – these special discounts are only available online. I should also mention that there are various on mountain ski hire options too – Buller Sports is located in the Ski School building (perfectly adequate gear and competitively priced, although you may be eligible for discounts with other operators via your lodge, so check first. And if you’re after high performance equipment you might want to try somewhere like Pension Grimus, located just near the Ski School).
And then there was Ski School to book into. There are a few different options depending on the age of your child and their ability. The creche is available for 3 month – 3 years, Bunyips Ski Program for ages 3 to 6 years and the Buller Kids Program for children aged 7 – 14. Save yourself time when it comes to the first time registration and print out and fill in the forms before you leave home – there is a different form for each program and you can access these via the links above.
After all that was sorted there was thankfully still time to fit in some snowman making before dinnertime.
We were blessed with glorious weather the whole time we were there (and it had just snowed all week before we arrived) so it really was skiing at its best for our first time grommets.
Immi (6) was signed up for Buller Kids and Charlie (4) was signed up for the Bunyips Program. The staff for both programs were great. All programs can be purchased in advance or on the day – I imagine in peak season you should speak to the ticketing staff and work out if you need to book in advance, otherwise it’s easy to purchase on the day (once your B-Tag is active) and that way you can see how the weather is and how the kids are feeling – tickets start at $140 for a full day, and while bulk buying does have discounts, they’re not massive if you’re talking about 2-3 days. You can’t buy lessons online, but you can buy the lift tickets – and depending on the specials this can work out cheaper than buying as a lift-pass plus lesson all in one ticket.. I never quite worked this out until our third day (doh) and the online system (in 2012) is quite confusing – so hopefully they improve this in the future. My advice – if you have internet access in the village then speak to the ticketing staff when you arrive and work out your best options. Even the ticketing staff I spoke with seemed unsure of the specials from day to day (I should mention we were there right on the cusp of the change over from peek to spring season and this could be the reason for confusion).
Buller Kids meet outside the ski school at the designated flags (numbers corresponding experience/skill) and are then matched with an instructor (and broken into smaller groups if there are lots of students). Immi was in a class of nine and she had two instructors. The class starts at 9.30am, but you can apparently drop off at 9am. They stop for a drink of water at about 10am and then break for lunch (at the ABOM) at 11.30am. According to my daughter there was a choice between nuggets and chips or pizza and chips – she seemed pretty pleased with that. After lunch they head back to the slopes for more skiing. At 1pm the morning session finishes and afternoon starts – and if you’re doing a full day/afternoon you finish at 3.30pm. By the end of her first morning (she did the morning class) she’d graduated from level 1 to level 2. And by the end of her second morning she’d completed level 2… which meant she could turn corners, stop and catch a chair-lift!
Bunyips Program is more like kindergarten. At the back of the Ski School (downhill side) or, if you’re inside, go downstairs (down three flights of stairs) and the entrance to Bunyips is right next to the entrance to the Creche. Drop off is inside. There is a sign in sheet and you personally hand your child over to the instructor who walks them into the Bunyips room (parents are not allowed past this point). Inside their room they have play areas (toys and activities all have a snow theme) and it is also the area where they have lunch and story time. The Bunyips lesson area is just outside the back of the Ski School in an area called the Magic Garden. There is a maximum of five students per instructor. In the morning they break for a hot chocolate and then at 11.30am they go back inside for lunch and a break. Charlie reported he had pizza for lunch one day and pasta the other – he also said it was yum. By the end of his first morning he’d learnt how to: go in a straight line, balance, recognise which skis were his and take his skis off. By the end of the second morning he could snow plough and was beginning to master turning.
So by the afternoon of day two Immi could make it down Bourke St all by herself and Charlie was hot on her heels with some occasional help from mum and dad… and they were both loving it!
I should mention that while many of our friends kids rave about how much they love ski school our two were luke warm on the whole idea.. I think they just wanted to ski with us. Either way they loved the end result and understood that in order to ski with mum and dad they need to go to school to learn.. and added to that mummy and daddy need time to go and do big skiing over the other side of the mountain.. far away as possible from Bourke St!!!
So after a nine year break from skiing, this snow bunny has well and truly caught the bug – do you think I can squeeze in one last ski this season???
Oh and final note – best place to stop for breakfast, lunch, coffee, hot chocolate, dinner, drinks is (if you’re not going to make it off Bourke St) the Snow Pony!