- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

VAIL, Colo. (AP) — Theresa Leonhart doesn’t ski.

That sounds a little strange for someone who vacations in a ski town on a regular basis, but Ms. Leonhart, who lives in Maryland, said she comes to Vail a couple times a year to visit her son, who lives in the valley, and she’s never gone skiing.

During these trips, her sons and other members of the family head out for the hill, but she’ll usually stay in and cook dinner, or go shopping in the village. She says it is part intimidation and part lack of know-how that’s keeping her from trying the sport out.

“We used to go to ski towns even before my son moved to Vail for vacation,” she said. “My husband and sons would ski and I wouldn’t. I think that I was a little afraid, and I always felt like there wasn’t anything for adults who didn’t know how to ski. For children there are programs and kiddie hills. I feel like children are expected to be beginners, but adults are expected to know how to ski.”

Ms. Leonhart is exactly the kind of visitor that Vail Resorts is targeting with their new women’s programs that aim to break down some of those barriers.

“There is clearly an opportunity to understand what our women guests need to increase their participation in snow sports,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “We want to make the ski experience more accessible to all women, and then empower them to make time for themselves to have the ski experience they desire.”

New programs that will start this ski season include “Mommy & Me,” four-hour lessons for women are scheduled to provide ample time for the drop-off and pick-up times of their kids’ lessons. There are also “Mommy & Me” lessons, where instructors spend time with the mother and the child, reviewing the child’s progress and giving tips on further development, and lessons specifically tailored for women.

Vail Resorts said the offerings were crafted based on research with female guests during the 2013-14 ski season, aimed at understanding the barriers to the ski experience for women. Common themes included being overwhelmed by the process and having their hands full managing the experience for the other members of their group.

So would all those new lessons get Ms. Leonhart out on the slopes? Maybe, she says, adding that she thinks the resort is on the mark with their efforts.

“I think there is a segment of the population that is just afraid of trying,” she said. “I am not sure I’d ski, but I’d love to do some kind of physical activity while I’m there. It’s just so beautiful out there and I love being outside to enjoy that,” she said.

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