There's probably a ski area near you just waiting to get you started, if you've been thinking about learning how to ski or snowboard. Think close to home. Many of the smaller ski areas scattered across the Heartland are perfect for the experience. They feel more intimate, less intimidating, and the instructors are used to working with new snow sports enthusiasts. It's the perfect place to start.

Rollie Westman has been teaching people to ski at Wisconsin's Trollhaugen Ski Area for over a half-century. "It's best to take a lesson to begin with and not develop bad habits that are hard to get rid of," says the 75-year-old Director of Skiing Services. "If you learn from a friend you get his bad habits, and than people come to us to get rid of the bad habits." Tens-of-thousands of ski lessons and 51 years later he's still having fun. His name tag, Director of Fun, says it all.

The Ski School Director at Apple Mountain, located just minutes from I-75 near Saginaw, Mich., agrees. "Learn how to ski or snowboard the right way, and you will enjoy it so much more with a good foundation. We're a hometown hill with a nice, controlled learning environment," said Kathy Scholfield.

Sometimes smaller is better when it comes to learning how to ski or snowboard and that doesn't mean the length of your skis or board.

"People feel more comfortable. They like learning on a small hill where they can see the bottom," adds Sundown Mountain instructor Kevin Derment. "In the Midwest you don't have to worry about that. They learn here at home, and they can ski or ride out West with confidence."

Derment has taught over 10,000 novice snow sports enthusiasts the enjoyment of skiing and riding at Sundown. The ski area is located in the highlands above Dubuque, Iowa.

Pick a ski area near you and take a lesson. It will be liberating, and you might even start enjoying winter. Over eight million snowsports enthusiasts took to Heartland slopes and trails last winter, and the vast majority took their first lesson right here at home.