19 Aug 2014
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Snow Business: Bunny Hops are Covering a Lot More Terrain at Jiminy

A new teaching method has been introduced that is aimed at increasing the fun factor.

Snow Business: Bunny Hops are Covering a Lot More Terrain at Jiminy
By Patch Editor Chris Dehnel. This column, "Snow Business," looks at skiing and snowboarding in Connecticut and is a weekly feature during the winter months.

Remember that old adage of not throwing too many twists and turns into those beginner lessons — keep it flat and slow? 

Well, bury that beneath some curves and some undulations on top of a lot of snow on the bunny hill.

Yes, over at Jiminy Peak last weekend, it was quite clear that the bunny's ears have grown and it hears a lot more now. 

And sees a lot more. 

And does a lot more. 

Last weekend, even the rain did not prevent young snow-sports enthusiasts from taking part in a new terrain-based learning program at the resort — and smiling about it. 

Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, along with its sister resorts — Bromley in Vermont and Cranmore in New Hampshire — have partnered with Snow Operating LLC, a snow-sports-instruction consulting company based in Vail, CO, to initiate "Terrain-Based Learning" practices this season. 

They defined Terrain-Based Learning as a new learn-to-ski-and-snowboard practice that incorporates entry-level terrain-park features with progressive teaching principles.

Jiminy instructors said it is basically learning to ski on what you will actually ski on. That means a first-time skier or snowboarder is introduced to features such as rollers, mini-pipes and bank turns in a bottom-of-the-hill environment that is a lot less intimidating. 

Terrain-Based Learning is designed to let the beginner control his or her speed, gain balance and confidence, reduce falls, minimize fear and encourage fun.
“It’s all about having fun in a fear-free zone,” said Sherrie Bradway, Jiminy's snow-sports director. “When you challenge guests with specific tasks in the TBL features, learning to ski or snowboard can become intuitive for guests of all ages. Less fear definitely equals more fun.”

Jiminy's learning area has always had a comfortable feel to it. Though isolated from the main mountain, the layout — from side-stepping up a small incline to the magic carpet to the chairlift — gives the inexperienced skier or snowboarder a true sense of what it is like to progress up the hill. 

Now add the subtle terrain changes and the encouraging signage, and it all gets taken to a different level. 

Again, even in the rain last weekend, there were a lot of smiles. 

Results from the teaching approach have shown learn-to-ski-and-snowboard conversion rates grow from 15 percent to up to 45 percent at trial resorts, according to Snow Operating. Jiminy's instructors backed that up by repeatedly saying that students are getting on the main-mountain chairlifts faster.

Even experienced skiers and snowboarders were commenting on how "cool" the learning area has become. One 8-year-old, already skiing some black diamonds, even went in there to practice her turns last weekend. 

Terrain-Based Learning was first tested at Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey in 2012. Joe Hession, the president of Snow Operating, was acting general manager there during the launch. 

He said it resulted in a 200 percent increase in skier and snowboarder retention. After that success, Hession took the program industrywide.

In addition to Jiminy, Bromley, Cranmore and Mountain Creek, Hession’s teaching method has been implemented at Jay Peak in Vermont, Camelback in Pennsylvania and Whistler/Blackcomb ion British Columbia. 

“Terrain-Based Learning allows first-time skiers and riders to have a low-impact day focused on fun and creating memories,” Hession said.

Chris Dehnel is a local editor for Patch covering Vernon and Tolland. His Snow Business column runs weekly during the season. He has been writing about snow sports for about a dozen years and is a past president of the Eastern Ski Writers Association.

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