Smaller is better when it comes to learning how to ski or snowboard, and not just the length of your skis or board, according to instructor Kevin Dement. He has helped teach more than 10,000 novices at Sundown Mountain near Dubuque, Iowa.

"People like learning on a smaller hill, at least most do. A place where they can see the bottom of the ski hill," Dement explained.  "When you're out west, you often can't see the bottom, and that puts fear into the heads of some people. In the Midwest, you don't have to worry about that. It makes it easier for them to concentrate on the lesson."

Technology advances in equipment and lifts also have made learning the sport more enjoyable for novices.

"The new shaped skis have really helped the learning curve," adds Sundown ski school director Tony LoBianco. "The shorter more stable length of skis makes it easier to turn. Skiers are jumping from beginner lessons to intermediate lessons more quickly than ever before."

Sundown offers an excellent learning area located on top of the ski hill where beginners can enjoy the view while learning.  Two carpet lifts make for easy loading and unloading in the beginner area. The beginner area even boasts a chairlift for those that are ready to make that jump, but, yet, not quite ready to tackle the longer, steeper main slopes.

Midweek the ski area offers a beginner special that includes a lift ticket, rental equipment, and an hour-and-a-half lesson for $35.  Group lessons, which are offered five times daily, are available for $20.

The Midwest offers an ideal place to learn snow sports. Ski areas are close to home, less intimidating, and most have excellent instructional programs at affordable rates.

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