You asked, and I'm not one for short answers, so be warned....(blame Roger)

>Hey let's not pass up this opportunity to talk skiing.
>What made you change your opinion?
Well, let me start with background.  I learned with my dad as an instructor
at Bolton, night skiing (mid early 80's).  We pretty much skied Bolton
exclusively until I was in middle school.   My early opinion of Smuggs was
formed around the same time, and influenced a little later (high school)
from infrequent trips there.   My opinion as an adult, based on experience
as a kid, was that Smuggs was a good place to ski when the natural snow was
good, but less so otherwise (admittedly my opinion might have more to do
with my ability as a kid when said opinion was formed, but who knows).  I
also didn't appreciate why the lift lines always seemed so long.  Once I was
in high school (and could get myself to the mountain) I generally chose to
drive up to Jay having formed an opinion that it was a better place to ski
and was more affordable with VT'er discounts (I also played hockey, so never
skied enough to make a pass worthwhile).  Personally, I still don't ever
remember being at Jay with notably long lift lines (Tram not withstanding).
 Maybe I've just been lucky.

I've been back to Smuggs more often in the past ~5 years.  Notably the first
winter after my son was born, and given my wife is not a skier, I bought a
bash badge to make 1/2 day tickets affordable.  That has done a lot to erase
what may have been a prejudice against Smuggs, or maybe the snowmaking is
better combined with newer terrain.

I'd be hard pressed to say what my current favorite ski area in (Northern)
VT is now.  I certainly would have at least 2 different lists, one for best
mountain (money no object) and best value.  I'd also rank very differently
if I include crowds as a factor (i.e. weekend vs weekday).  I'd hazard a
guess this has been debated on this list before, but I'd be interested in
hearing opinions (uh-oh, did I just hear the flood gates open?)

>Tell us about your experience with your son and the Smuggs instructional
>programs.  Thumbs up or down?
So, I was a bit apprehensive about starting skiing with my 4 year old last
winter.  Before I committed to a program, I wanted to see what he thought
about it, so I brought him to Bolton for morning lessons on 2 consecutive
Saturdays.  Week 1 he seemed to like it.  Week 2 he didn't want me to leave
him there.  I still wanted him to learn and more importantly, like going. 
At this point I was debating the Smuggs Dad & me program and the Cochran's
Ski-tots programs.  Both are programs where an instructor helps you teach
your kid how to ski.

We ended up at Smuggs for 2 reasons.  1)We found out that our neighbors
signed up their daughter (his then best friend) at Smuggs, which was a great
motivator for my son.  2) The Cochran's program was full for the weekend

I thought the instructors at Smuggs were good.  We had one great day when my
son didn't want to go down the "main" hill and wanted to stay on the
learning slope with the tow-rope and magic carpet.  One of the two
instructors from our group stayed with us (essentially a private lesson) for
the 2nd 1/2 of the morning.  

While I did buy equipment for my son last year, the Smuggs program does
include rentals (for your son/daughter).  They also gave us the lift tickets
(Morse only) for the 5 weeks all on the first day.  Since they canceled one
week (later rescheduled) we were able to use the ticket for that day even
though there was no class.  Based on my experience, it was a great way to
get a pre-schooler started.

>Why are you switching over to cochran's?
I'm still at a point where I don't want to "force" my son to go skiing and
he is still expressing that he wants to ski with me.  The Smuggs program
they say should be for true first timers (although it was clear that not
everyone was), and last year wouldn't even let me sign up for the 2nd
session since we had participated in the first session, so Cochran's seems
the better fit for this year (plus tons of good word of mouth about the

I will comment, that given I know he does more on his own for his teachers
at pre-school and kindergarten than he will for my wife and I at home, I
have been a little torn if I should just put him in a class (so then I can
go out on my own) or look at it (as I have decided to do) as a way to spend
time with him as he learns.

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