January is Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month, and hundreds of areas across North America are offering free or reduced-price beginner packages.

The packages include rental equipment, lift ticket, and group lesson.

Some resorts have set aside a number of free lessons on certain days in January. Others are honoring reduced-price coupons all month long.

Simply put, this program is a good deal for people who have wanted to try skiing or snowboarding, and it's crucial for the future of the snowsports industry.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, a principal sponsor of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, said the snowsports industry faces a dire demographics problem and the program is an important way to solve it.

Demographics studies show the baby boomers, a key part of the snowsports economy, are starting to reach the end of their active lives, and are thinking more in terms of a warm beach in winter than snow-covered slopes.

That creates a replacement challenge, Berry has said repeatedly over the last few years, where resorts must recruit and retain new skiers and snowboarders.

"We need to find those 2 million or so people who will be replacements for those who exit, and I mean permanent replacements," Berry told OnTheSnow. He said the industry needs a second group of 2 million in five more years, and a third group of 2 million in the five years after that.

"Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month gives that effort focus, it really keeps it as a priority, and that's why we're happy to support it," Berry said.

He credited Mary Jo Tarallo and state and regional resort associations as the ones who are really driving the program and making it fly.

"They have done a fantastic job," Berry said.

"My job is to make sure the issues we talk about in the growth model don't leave the top of the minds of the resort operators. We purposely kept it grassroots, not a top-down program, but a bottom-up program," he said.

We have looked at the offerings, and have tried our best to compile a complete list with links, but the offerings are evolving and new ones are being added daily.

NSAA, Professional Ski Instructors of America, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, the National Ski Patrol, Ski Industries America, Head, Dalbello, Elan, New England Winter Sports Reps Association, Eastern Winter Sports Reps Association, Western Winter Sports Reps Association,  SMC,  Southeastern Winter Sports Reps Association, SnoCountry Ski Areas Association, 38 ski resorts, and nine media outlets including OnTheSnow.com have joined to sponsor the month-long promotion.

As we said, many more resorts are participating. Instruction is delivered at the resort level, by ski and snowboard schools staffed by trained teachers, and without widespread support from resorts it would not happen.

Check back often, and if you see we've missed one, please let us know.

Visit the Web site for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month for more information and updates.

ALASKA: Eaglecrest in Juneau is the only area in the state participating in the national Learn to Ski and Snowboard program. The resort is offering several packages:

Sunday Morning Learners Special costs $19 and is for 1st timers only. It includes a two-hour lesson. Loer mountain lift ticket, and rental gear. Lessons are 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays. Particpants receive a $10 coupon toward a Triple Play pacage.

Triple Play Learners Package costs $99 and includes three days of lessons, lift ticket, and rental gear. It is for first and second-timers. Lessons are 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. daily.

Learn to Nordic Series costs $69 and is for first- and second-time skiers. Lessons are 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 8, 15 and 22.

 More information. Or call 907-790-2000 ext. 211.

MAINE:  Maine ski areas will be offering free first-timers learn to ski or snowboard lessons, which will include lift ticket, ski or snowboard gear, and a first-time lessons. Program details will be forthcoming.

MIDWEST: As of this writing, 79 ski areas across the Midwest, which belong to the Midwest Ski Areas Association, are participating in the national Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month during January, 2011.  Click on each state name for a list of resorts and what they offer. The areas are in: Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan (North) | Michigan (South) | Michigan (U.P.) | Minnesota (North) | Minnesota (South) | Missouri | North Dakota | Ohio | South Dakota | Wisconsin (North) | Wisconsin (South)

NEVADA: Diamond Peak at Incline Village will be offering a beginner package Jan. 10-14 and again March 7-11. The package costs $29, which includes lesson, gear, and lift ticket. Lessons start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. More information.  Or call 775-832-1177.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Ski NH is coordinating New Hampshire's Learn to Ski and Ride Free Week, Jan. 3-9. First-time skiers and snowboarders receive a free learn to ski or snowboard lesson, free equipment rentals and a free beginner terrain lift ticket. Participants must register with Ski NH to download a Learn to Ski & Ride Free coupon, then make a reservation with one of our participating resorts. Registration will open by the middle of December.

Bretton Woods (age 13+)
Cannon Mountain (age 13+)
Cranmore Mountain (age 13+)
Gunstock Mountain Resort (age 6+)
King Pine (age 8+)
Loon Mountain (age 7+)
Pats Peak (age 6+)
Ragged Mountain
Waterville Valley (age 7+)
Wildcat Mountain (age 13+)

Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center (age 6+)
Great Glen Trails (age 6+)
Purity Spring Resort XC (age 13+)
Sunset Hill Nordic Center

NEW JERSEY: Campgaw and Mountain Creek are participating, with details to come.

NEW YORK: Ski Areas of New York is coordinating the Learn to Ski and Ride Program in New York State. The 26 participating New York State ski areas will honor a 20 percent off coupon for lessons Jan. 3 to 31, except during MLK weekend Jan. 15-17.

PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania ski areas are honoring a $5 off coupon for introductory midweek ski and snowboard lessons, lift tickets, and gear. Click here for the $5 Off Coupon

UTAH: Thirteen resorts in Utah are participating in Utah's Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month. They are:

Alta: package for Utah residents who are first-timers, age 4 and up: four two-hour lessons, four beginner lift passes, four days ski rental, cost $179. This package is available through the season, excluding holildays. For more information call 801-799-2271.

Beaver Mountain. Rent a high-performance package and get a free Beaver Mountain T-shirt and $13 off an all-area day pass, Jan. 13-26, excluding Jan. 18.

Brian Head Ski Resort: $13 lesson, $13 lift ticket, $13 equipment rental for first-time skiers and snowboarders 13 and older, Jan. 22-24. For more information call 866 930-1010.

Brighton: $13 off any ski school package during January for any adult intro to ski or ride package.

The Canyons: Utah residents get a package deal of $13 lift ticket, $13 rental, $13 first-time lesson, Jan. 4-31, excluding Jan. 16-18. For more information call 435-615-3449.

Deer Valley Resort:  Jan. 30-31, Utah residents get a first-time package for $39. For more information call 888-754-8477.

Park City Mountain Resort: Utah residents can learn to ski or snowboard for $25. More information.

Powder Mountain: Utah residents can get $13 off any lesson in the month of January.

Snowbasin: Utah residents can get a first-timer package for $39 Jan. 18-30. For more information call 801-620-1016.

Snowbird: First-time packages cost $39 Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays Jan. 8-31. Take the package and return in January and get $30 off the regular $70 price of a lesson package.

Solitude Mountain Resort: Utah residents pay $39 for a first-time package Jan. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28. For more information call 801-536-5730.

Sundance: Night skiing Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in January, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., for $13.

Wolf Creek Utah: Buy an introductory package any day in January excluding Saturdays and holidays for $39. Must be age 8 or older.

VERMONT: Some Vermont resorts have set aside the week after New Year's, jan. 3-9, to offer free packages for people of various ages. To sign up for a free beginner package, which includes a free learn to ski or snowboard lesson, rental equipment (skis or snowboard, boots and poles, as appropriate), and a beginner lift ticket, select the Vermont alpine or Nordic resort where you'd like to get started and then choose the date and time (morning or afternoon session in most   instances) based upon program availability. It's important to fully complete the registration; if you are registering a child for a beginner package, please note that each resort has specific age range criteria for their children's program. Your child must meet the minimum age requirement of the program and not exceed the maximum age.

Participating Ski Vermont Alpine Resorts from which to choose:
Bolton Valley Resort (children's package ages 6-12 years)
Burke Mountain (children's package for ages 4-12 years)
Jay Peak Resort (children's package for ages 6-18 years)
Okemo Mountain Resort (children's package for ages 7-14 years)
Smugglers' Notch Resort (children's package for ages 6-17 years)
Stowe Mountain Resort (children's package for ages 5-12 years)
Suicide Six Ski Area (children's package for ages 7-14 years)

Participating Ski Vermont Nordic Resorts from which to choose:
Bolton Valley Nordic Center (children's package for ages 6-12 years)
Mountain Top Inn & Resort Nordic Ski Center (children must be 8 years or older)
Ole's Cross Country Center (adults only)
Smugglers' Notch Nordic Center (children's package for ages 6-17 years.