Try to think back to the first time you ever discovered the ability to ski or snowboard. What was special? Was it the snow? Was it that unsettling feeling of sliding around the first time? Or is it finally being able to grasp the technique that stands out most?The Kids' Mountains of Discovery program, in its third season, assisted local youngsters in experiencing their first go-about on the snow Saturday.The program, with a second day-long lesson slated Dec. 15, is hosted by Breckenridge Ski & Ride School. The program is completely free and provides careful training from professional ski and snowboarding instructors."We have the best terrain and instructors for learning how to ski or snowboard," said Nina Michel, pod-training manager for Breck's Ski & Ride School. "We focus on getting kids used to the snow and the feeling of having the equipment, it's fun for everyone. The program is a win-win all around."The program is intended for local children with the desire to grasp the winter sport of their choosing. Skiers kindergarten through fifth grade and snowboarders first through fifth grade are paired with professional instructors for an intensive day-long lesson.Teaching children how to ski or snowboard is a delicate process, Michel said."You have to be really patient with them," she said. "Sometimes there's tears and at times it's hard to even get them up, but once you see a smile, it's all worth it. It's really special being that first step in a life-long sport for many people."An even representation of 16 snowboarders and skiers were signed up for the free beginner lesson at Breck's Peak 8 school Saturday.Each instructor, professionally trained in early-childhood development, was assigned to groups of six children for the lesson.Molly Manweiler, an age 3-6 ski instructor, said teaching little kids how to ski brings the appreciation of the sport back to her as well."My favorite part is seeing small achievements," she said. "They're really proud of themselves and kids say the best things - it's really fun for me. I started skiing when I was 2, so this totally makes skiing exciting for me again, too."Local elementary school children gathered at the Peak 8 Kids' Kastle, beginning their day-long lessons at 9 a.m."I like skiing," said 4-year-old Casen, who participated in Manweiler's class.Though simply said, more is communicated from the smiling faces of the children on the slopes for the first time."I really try to keep things fun for the kids out there," Manweiler said. "I focus on one skill at a time and celebrate each accomplishment."Saturday was the first day of the program. Another lesson, slated for Dec. 15, is currently open for registration for children who want to get into the sport.The program is free and includes all rental equipment needed with lunch provided in the middle of the lesson. Families are encouraged to register children early, Michel said.The lesson will be held at Beaver Run Kids' Ski School. Parents should park at the gondola or free lots and take the red bus route to Beaver Run.Check-in begins 8 a.m. Dec. 15 and the lesson concludes at 3:30 p.m."It's all about the next generation of skiers," Michel said. "This is such a great sport and we love giving back to the community in this way. It's the best part of my job, seeing kids out there learning for the first time."
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