Most ski areas provide nurseries simply because people often demand a place to dump the kids. Nurseries are one of the sad parts of skiing.
Not so at Camelback, where Al Marozzi, the director of elementary school physical education for the Bangor, Pa., school system, has set up an imaginative ski school for children from 2 1/2 to nine.
The childrens' program uses four areas. Area I, called "Camelland," is designed for children under six and has playground equipment modified to help introduce them to skiing.
Area II, "Fantasyland," has several wooden cutouts. The children ski in a crouch between the legs of a wooden cowboy. Donald Duck pivots with poles that children can hold onto while walking around on skis. A rocketship has three big holes that children are encouraged to throw snowballs at while skiing past.
Without much formal instruction, the skills of weighting and unweighting skis, bending at the knees, keeping the body weight forward and rotating the upper body are all taught. The kids are skiing and they usually don't care much about what has happened to Mom and Dad.
Area III is the regular beginner's area. The small fry ride their first lift and easy-going J-bar. Games and races are used to begin refining technique without using technical ski terminology.
In are IV the kids transfer to the whole mountain. Where they go depends on the level of their sill, but instruction remains individualized and in groups of two to four children.
The instruciton at Camelback Ski School for children is also different. The tough commands of "bend forward" or "put your skis like this" are dropped in favor of progressive lessons on four topics, which Marozzi - who did his master's thesis on children's skiing - calls space, force, time and flow. The children aren't burdened with theory, but here's how it works.
Space is directed at exploring, moving around, under and through. Force concentrates on body movement, with questions like "Can you jump with your skis on?" "Can you bounce like a ball?" "How hard can you bounce?" The teacher demonstrates, the kids follow, and there is little or no criticism. Time concentrates on acceleration, speed and going downhill and uphill. Flow combines body movement with moving down the slope. "Can you curve?" the instructor asks, "Can you zigzag?"
Camelback school teaches 60 to 70 children per weekend day. THe instructors are trained to teach children to ski, and several teach or have taught fulltime in elementary school. "The key to teaching kids to ski," says Marozzi, "is making fun out of it. It takes a positive, not commanding approach." Marozzi says that the cold is the biggest problem, so kids are allowed to warm up anytime in the ski school shack.