Cataloochee Ski Area offers a ski school program for children ages 4-12 where they teach kids the ins and outs of skiing and snowboarding with safety always at the forefront. Children’s Ski School programs are divided into three categories: Catt Trackers provides ski instruction for ages 4-7. Catt Explorers teaches all levels of skiing or snowboarding for ages 8-12. Half day and full day programs offered. Full day program includes lunch.
There are several options for learning to ski, snowboard or to improve your skills at Cataloochee. Private lessons are available for all ages and skill levels. Group lessons are available for skiers ages 4 and up, snowboarders ages 8 and up. Kids 4-12 can also participate in half or full day programs which include lessons, snacks/lunch, and indoor play time.
Cataloochee is the place for families to learn to ski. The staff is exceptional, the facilities foster success, and the programs are well developed.
The first thing that stands out about the ski school at Cataloochee Ski Area is that the staff really enjoys their jobs. In all areas of Cataloochee, you’ll find employees smiling, interacting with guests, and keeping a lively dialog going with students. In one-on-one and group lessons, instructors exhibit a passion for their craft. Their coaching styles are encouraging and consistent throughout the resort. You’ll hear “French fries” and “pizza” called to kids and adults alike.
Both learning areas at Cataloochee have magic carpet lifts instead of tow ropes. These conveyor belts are so cool! They are easy to master, encouraging self-confidence for even the most nervous newbie. Adults taking lessons get preference on the open area magic carpet, which is fancy talk for “they get to cut in line.” The dedicated children’s learning area keeps the youngest students safe from bigger and faster skiers and guarantees quick access to the top for maximizing practice.
In addition to having a wide variety of lessons available for all ages and skill levels, it is clear that careful consideration has gone into developing each course. Whether you require one-on-one attention or casual reacquaintance with the slopes, there’s a lesson for you.
The kids’ group lessons last an hour and a half. Have your gear ready and meet 10 minutes early at the designated post to make sure you get all your directions for picking up the kids. Parents do not accompany children in the group lesson, so the group establishes a meeting place before parents are dismissed.
The first hour of a level one lesson is all instructional. Kids learn what their equipment is called, how to put it on, and how to use it. They practice walking in skis and the different stances needed to master the basic skills: starting, slowing, turning, stopping.
The last half hour consists of practice, practice, practice. Instructors stage themselves down the hill to catch the kids as they come down. Students ski to one instructor, stop, and begin again to the bottom of the hill. Then they come up the magic carpet alone and line up for another run. By the end of the lesson I observed, all 11 children ages 4-10 could make it down the hill alone. A few were even ready to graduate to the chairlift hill!
Private lessons for kids consisted of the same type of instruction but with one-on-one attention. I watched a 3 year old come down the hill by himself during a private lesson.
The Cat Trackers and Cat Explorers program is half- and full- day group lessons for kids plus snack or lunch break and indoor activities. This group is more like camp than daycare because kids must be 4 to enter, but it does free up time for parents to hit the bigger slopes on their own.
Adult lessons are also an hour and a half but are not as focused on learning about equipment. Instructors give the basic concepts to students at the top of the open bunny hill, which also has a magic carpet lift. Then students begin skiing with instructors observing and coaching. Adult students are the only people to get lift preference. When a class has all made it to the bottom, the instructor stops the line for the lift just long enough to get students back on. This causes only minor delays since class sizes are fairly small (around 10 students).
I chatted with a couple taking private snowboarding lessons and they were thrilled with the experience. After a couple of hours, they were ready to venture out onto the bigger hills alone. Their coach was also enthusiastic and encouraging.
Two things to note: lessons do not include a safety discussion, so make sure to look over the signs or flyers which are posted clearly around the area. Also, if you send your child(ren) to the Catt Trackers/Explorers and you don’t want them to play inside, let the instructors know. I did overhear a woman who was upset that her child was not on the slopes all day long.
Private lessons begin at $50 for one hour up to $200 for a six hour day. Family discounts are available. Group lessons are $20 and last an hour and a half. Cat Trackers and Explorers are $60 for a half day, $80 for all day and include lift ticket, equipment rental and beverage or lunch making them an exceptional value. Add $10 for snowboarding.
Overall, we were impressed with the ski schools at Cataloochee. They pride themselves in having outstanding instruction and it is easy to see why. Everything from the teachers to the little details in the layout encourages confidence and skill mastery. Our nephew has a learning disability and he left Cataloochee ready to do a den presentation to earn his skiing belt loop in Cub Scouts. Next time we go, I’m going to learn to snowboard.
This review is based on a complimentary lift tickets and ski school. I received no other compensation and the business owner did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view.