When you live in Minnesota, you just have to make the most of winter weather. Through Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School, students can board a bus in Eden Prairie, Chaska or Chanhassen and head out for action-packed, age-appropriate, professionally taught weekly lessons.
Blizzard has been in business in Minnesota since 1958 and owned locally by Jeff and Jennifer Lewin since the 2004-2005 season. Jeff began skiing with Blizzard at age 10. After competing at the collegiate level, teaching around the world, getting married and starting a family back in the Twin Cities, he and Jennifer approached the owner about buying Blizzard someday. Six weeks later he decided to sell, and the Lewins took over with three kids—Max, Simon and Devra—under 6 at the time.
“Whatever grade, whatever level—from ‘never ever’ to expert—we can meet you where you’re at and help you grow,” says Jennifer. Within their age groups, kids learn the skills necessary to advance through color-coded levels. Leaders tailor instruction to the kids in each age group and within each level. “Blizzard is individually paced and skill mastery-focused. It’s really about building friendships, having fun on the slopes and building skills.”
Instead of teaching in one spot each week, the group visits seven ski areas—from Afton Alps to Spirit Mountain—in its 12-week traveling season. “You get exposed to all the ski and snowboard areas that Minnesota has to offer,” Jennifer says.
While many families tend to head out to the area closest to home, Blizzard allows kids to experience areas that are farther away and have different features, says Jennifer. “And the ski areas love us because it exposes families to them.”
This year, Blizzard is expanding its racing and freestyle options with a “sport-neutral” program for both ski and snowboard. It’s one of several approaches that Blizzard has taken to offer high-quality instruction with a little less stress. “We have extraordinarily high-caliber staff from across the Twin Cities, but there’s less pressure,” Jennifer says. “We aren’t highly competitive—some teams demand a huge time and money commitment. This is a launching pad to racing, without the big investment.”
Baird and Terri O. Johnson moved to Eden Prairie with their three daughters in 2007. “I think I enrolled the girls with Blizzard before finding a family doctor. I told the girls, ‘Learning to ski is not optional,’” says Terri. “You can’t live in Minnesota without embracing winter.”
When they’re not staying on top of a jam-packed schedule at home—with a color-coded family calendar and Sunday evening planning meetings—they’re jumping in the car for a road trip to their timeshare in Colorado.
The family has made Blizzard a core part of its busy cold-weather routine—and its social life, too. “I wouldn’t be at the ski level I am without Blizzard,” says daughter Rachelle, 16. “And, I’ve met people and maintained great friendships.”
“It’s the best thing my parents ever made me do,” says Charlotte, 14. “While other kids are sleeping in on Saturday, we’re out getting fresh air. Nature centers me and I’m in my element. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a winter day.”
Nicolette, 11, loves that she can ski weekly—right here in Minnesota—and get ready for even bigger slopes. “I’m building skills that I can apply out West.”
Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School offers programs for kindergarten through 12th grade (and parents, too) with Saturday or Sunday options. Check online for details and rates.