Lake Tahoe skiing: Plenty of deals on tap for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe skiing: Plenty of deals on tap for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — According to the National Ski Area Association, the number of active skier and snowboarders in the United States during the 2014-15 season — 9.5 million — ranked as the sixth-lowest since the NSAA first started tracking participation 19 years ago.

Moreover, according to the California Ski Industry Association, the dropout rate among new skiers and snowboarders is roughly 85 percent.

Notwithstanding recent poor snow years across the West, these figures epitomize why many ski resorts feel one of the most important months of the season is January: Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.

"Ski resorts and ski operators around the country have been working on trying to get people back out on the hill and converting them into skiers," said Mike Bandelin, interim general manager at Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village. "So the ski and ride month can be part of that. To be able to get people on the hill, get them some instruction, as opposed to them coming up and not having a lesson, and make sure they have a good experience their first time so they come back."

Bandelin feels the primary reason the dropout rate for new skiers and riders is so high is because the majority of newbies aren't getting proper instruction.

Meaning, many first-timers are spending more time falling down than gliding down the slopes — and subsequently decide snowsports aren't their cup of tea.

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"It's really important that ski operators engage people into the sport and help grow the sport so our numbers don't decline over the years," Bandelin said. "The best way to do that is to provide lessons to those who haven't taken lessons before and show them a good experience."

Dee Byrne, director of Snowsports at Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, said Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is an opportunity for ski resorts to properly introduce skiing and snowboarding to those who may be intimidated by the idea of carving down a mountainside.

"Because it's a challenging sport, the learning curve is steep for snowboarding and skiing," Byrne said. However, "while it's a complex sport, it's not difficult if you learn the right way through the proper technique and skills.

"I think its incumbent in our responsibility to help generating new skiers and riders and lifelong enthusiasts of our sports," she added.

Brinn Talbot, director of marketing at Tahoe Donner in Truckee, agreed with Byrne's assessment of what the initiative is all about.

"It's a chance for us to showcase why snowsports are a must-do every winter," Talbot said. "We want to give newcomers the chance to experience skiing and snowboarding at affordable rates so they can see for themselves why these are lifetime sports to invest in."

Indeed, molding first-timers into future rippers and shredders is the chief reason for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, but it's far from the only one.

"Skiing and snowboarding is not only fun, but it's also a great form of exercise and a way to experience the great outdoors and the scenic beauty nature has to offer," Talbot said.

"It's physically demanding," Byrne added. "A day on the slopes, you feel like you get a good workout without having to go to the gym."

Not to mention, there's the rush one gets when they first conquer a ski run.

"The thrill of sliding down a mountain, where you are getting the g-forces of the turn, is just a blast," Byrne said. "And you can share that experience with your buddy or your family."

Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month deals at Tahoe-Truckee

Catering to those hitting the slopes for the first time, Tahoe-Truckee ski resorts are rolling out packages at reduced rates throughout January. Here’s a look at five of the best deals going on for first-timers throughout January:

Tahoe Donner: During the weeks of Jan. 4-8 and 11-15, new skiers and snowboarders ages 7 and up can sign up for packages for $39. The package includes an all-day lift ticket, rental equipment and a lesson that lasts one hour and 45 minutes. Visit tahoedonner.com for more.

Diamond Peak: For $39, first-timers ages 4 and up can sign up for Diamond Peak’s Learn to Ski & Ride package, which includes a beginner lift ticket, rental equipment and a lesson (one hour and 45 minutes for ages 7-adult; two hours for ages 4-7). The program runs Jan. 11-15. Visit diamondpeak.com for more.

Alpine Meadows: For $59, first time skiers and riders age 13 and up can sign up for beginner packages that feature a lift ticket, rentals and a lesson lasting two and a half hours. Visit squawalpine.com for more.

Sugar Bowl: All month, Sugar Bowl is offering its Guests Learn to Ski and Ride program for all ages. For $99, it includes a two-hour lesson, all day rentals, and a lift ticket valid on beginner lifts. Visit sugarbowl.com for more.

Northstar: A two and a half hour morning lesson for first-timers ages 13 and up is being offered for $159. The package includes all-day equipment rental and a lift ticket. Visit northstarcalifornia.com for more.