Program rolls out the white carpet for newcomers

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VT-BromleySkiExperts in the winter sports industry know that the first hurdle in recruiting new ski and snowboard enthusiasts is that all-important initial visit.

If newbies have a good time, they will likely be hooked for life. If they don't -- and we have all heard horror stories about friends taking first-timers to the summit and saying, "it's easy, just follow me" -- it will be nearly impossible to get them back.

With that in mind, many resorts offer inexpensive learn-to-ski packages that typically include instruction, equipment rental and lift tickets at rock-bottom prices.

More importantly, the new generation of instructional techniques and curved skis are designed to get visitors off the bunny slope and onto the chairlift in a weekend or even a day.

Last year, the industry took the effort a step further and launched Learn a Snow Sport Month, a public-awareness campaign aimed at encouraging people to learn to downhill or cross-country ski or take up snowboarding or snowshoeing.

In 2009, 200 resorts in 22 states participated, drawing 20,000 children and adults to learning programs through the annual Winter Trails program.

Some learning programs are free, and others are available at a discounted fee. This year's promotion is set for January.

And because the programs are offered at so many resorts, established skiers and riders can travel with their novice friends or family members while they, hopefully, become hooked on a winter sport.

For more about this program, visit www.LearnASnowSport.org.

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