Holiday in the country: Skiing, particularly during the holiday season, is an activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Kids (and parents) can relinquish their electronic devices and spend time reconnecting. Here, a family enjoys Mount Snow during ski season. — Mount Snow photo

Mount Snow, a ski area located in West Dover, Vt., draws visitors from all over for its skiing and other attractions. — Mount Snow photo

Whether you’re seven or 70, skiing can turn virtually any day into a special day and may transform a holiday into a day in which to make family memories. With ski schools, clubs, stores, and skiing areas in such close proximity, more and more area families are discovering this winter wonderland sport is the perfect way to shut down cell phones without hearing complaints as parents and children come closer together in an invigorating and exciting day on mountain slopes and trails.

Living in Fairfield and New Haven counties puts residents at an advantage when it comes to skiing. Not only are there plenty of opportunities to ski right here in Connecticut with Mount Southington, Mohawk Mountain, and Powder Ridge, but also Catamount in New York, and Mount Snow in Vermont. It’s not surprising, then, that ski clubs abound in our local towns and even at our area schools, where coaches bring students together and create a different kind of fun loving family. The bottom line is that skiing allows Connecticut residents the opportunity to breathe in the beauty of our snowy landscapes.

How popular is this winter sport? Trumbull High School’s Ski Club packs 40 to 50 students into their ski outings. Alex Kovachi, a guidance counselor at Trumbull High School, is also the head of the ski club and arranges the ski trips. “We have meetings before each trip and then come together for the first trip to Okemo Mountain,” he says. “Our second trip is either to Mt. Snow or Stratton. We have skiers and snowboarders as well. The kids are always plugged into their cell phones on the way to the slopes, but once there it’s all about the skiing. We even have a ski club at the middle school.”  

Members of the Wilton-based Outdoor Sports Center staff, from left to right, including Shane McCabe, Greg Newkirk, Chris Bertram, Heidi Smith, Mike Oravez, and store owner/general manager Scott Maxwell, visited Stratton Mountain in Vermont last February, during the store’s annual on-snow demo during which they test equipment from top industry brands to decide what skis and snowboards to bring into the shop the following season.

Kovachi is apparently the right man to head the school’s ski club because he and his wife and three children all ski as a family. “We usually head to Killington for family ski outings,” he explains. “I actually became interested in skiing when I was in high school. That’s when I really got into it.” He also says that experiencing skiing at a young age is a definite advantage. Almost all ski resorts offer lessons for beginners, as well as advanced skiers, and some of the resorts start teaching children as young as two years old how to ski.

Scott Maxwell, owner and general manager for the Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton, observes that many families come to the shop to refresh their ski equipment. “As with virtually every sport, technology keeps making equipment better. Now skis are lighter than ever. There are 80 different types of skis, so there are a lot of options. Skis for powdery slopes are different from skis for heavy snow. Skis have definitely changed for the better,” he says. “If you’re going to ski Mohawk, where the runs are shorter, you’ll want skis for that type of mountain. If you want to ski fast, then you’ll want a different type of ski.”

Ski and Sport has three stores located in Ridgefield, New Canaan, and Westport. Gio Alberino, one of the owners of the family-owned business, says that many families like to rent skis for their children: “Folks in Fairfield County are fortunate to be able to ski as a family. Instead of buying skis, they rent for the kids who grow each year. Skiing is terrific for families because it challenges us to confront our fears. We’re proud when we make it down a mountain. It’s a good skill for life.”

Ski and Sport, with stores in Ridgefield, New Canaan, and Westport, carries the latest skiing fashions, which are designed to combine form and functionality.

Gio admits that he was a ski bum and defines the term as living a lifestyle in which you are surrounded by the mountains and ski as much as you can. “I would work all night, so that I could ski all day,” he recalls. Gio also made deals with Berkshire East and Catamount Ski Area. “We’re the only shop that offers children ages 12 and under who buy a season pass to ski free at either mountain.” Check with Gio for details. “It really is a sweet deal,” he says.

Jamie Storrs, the media contact for Mount Snow, which is located in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont, also considers himself a ski bum. Right out of college, he spent the next two years skiing as much as possible. This meant getting jobs as a waiter at night, so he could ski all day long. “At Mount Snow, we cater to skiers from Connecticut and Long Island because we’re the closest big mountain resort they reach in Vermont. We also have kids that ski every day.”

Mount Snow Academy, a high school located near the mountain, allows students to ski in the morning and attend classes in the afternoon. “This is where skiers who want to ski on the world stage become professional skiers and Olympians,” Storrs says, adding that many Connecticut families take advantage of Mount Snow’s four mountain faces of downhill skiing.

Tubing fun at Mount Snow in Vermont. — Mount Snow photo

Kierstin Robertson, a New Canaan High School parent and volunteer, helps organize the school’s ski club. “My daughter, Katelyn, a senior, started skiing as a sophomore and is now captain of the New Canaan High School Ski Club,” Robertson says, noting that the club is strictly for skiers and does not include snowboarders. “Lots of kids like to ski,” she adds.

The team races at Mount Southington in Plantsville, Conn., where races are held each week from January through March. The club practices there once a week and then returns to race once a week. In between, the team works out at New Canaan High School to get physically fit for the racing. “Chandler Brill is the coach for the club. He’s a racing coach with a great deal of experience,” Robertson says, adding that on a recent club day, when students get to see all the various clubs offered at the school, the ski club had a big response with 30 interested students signing up. Robertson’s own family attended last year’s Winter Olympics.

Winter wonderland, at Mount Snow in Vermont. — Mount Snow photo

After talking to these dedicated skiers, it’s not surprising that come the first snow, more and more car stickers will proclaim, “The family that skis together stays together.”