Skiers ride the lift at Mount Brighton.

Skiers ride the lift at Mount Brighton.

Photo provided by the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association

Valuable lessons can brighten season of giving

By: Mary Genson | Metro | Published November 21, 2022


METRO DETROIT — While toys are often in the spotlight during the holiday shopping season, there are some exciting gifts that cannot be picked up at the store or delivered to a house.

Gifting educational lessons or classes is a way to give someone something that they can enjoy throughout the year and that will benefit them for a long time down the road.

A wide range of lessons are offered throughout the area that provide fun opportunities for people interested in art, sports, music, nature and more.

Many children are fascinated by nature and love learning about the great outdoors. One opportunity to experience nature up close is at a program such as the Farmington Nature Center’s Junior Naturalist Club.

For about 10 years, the Farmington Nature Center has run the Junior Naturalist Club, which runs September-June. In the summer, the Farmington Nature Center holds summer camps and an advanced version of the Junior Naturalist Club.

Every month, the Junior Naturalist Club focuses on a different topic that is in some way related to a particular season.

Some of the themes this year will include constellations, coyotes, skulls and flowers.

“It’s different from sports, but it still allows kiddos to be active outdoors and really spark their curiosity for nature in ways that they may not be getting in school or in a family outing,” Farmington Hills Nature Center Supervisor Ashlie Smith said. “We look deeper into nature and really find ways that kids can explore and get excited about the things that we’re finding outdoors.”

Smith said that, as a parent herself, she loves the winter classes the best because it provides an opportunity for kids to connect with nature at a time when motivation may be low to be outside.

“It’s really exciting, and our naturalist staff that leads the program does a great job of keeping it really engaging for all ages of kids that participate in it,” Smith said.

These drop-off classes are designed for children ages 6-11. They run 10-11:30 a.m. one Saturday a month. Each class costs $8 for residents and $13 for non-residents.

Another way to keep children active this summer is by gifting them ski lessons. Michigan is home to several different ski areas.

Ski areas in Southeast Michigan include Alpine Valley Ski Area, Mount Brighton Ski Area, Mount Holly and Pine Knob Ski Resort.

Mickey MacWilliams, the executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, said it is common for people to gift lessons, lift tickets and season passes to children for the holidays.

Many participating ski areas offer downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding lessons. McDonald’s restaurants teamed up with Michigan ski areas to provide affordable opportunities to learn to ski.

Children 7 years and older are able to participate in an introductory course for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Each lesson is $45. In Southeast Michigan, Mount Brighton Ski Area, Mount Holly and Pine Knob Ski Resort offer this program.

One of the programs offered by MSIA that MacWilliams said is particularly popular to gift during the holidays is the Cold is Cool Passport. This allows fourth and fifth graders to ski all winter.

Parents can get the Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport App for their fourth or fifth grader, and their child will have access to up to three free lift tickets or trail passes at 29 participating ski areas.

“This is an opportunity to bond with your family on the ski slopes all winter long,” MacWilliams said.

The Cold is Cool Passport is $30, a portion of which goes towards MIsnow, a charity that gives underprivileged children the opportunity to learn how to ski.

By purchasing this passport, one will receive discounts such as 20% off a helmet purchase and $20 off the purchase of $100 at participating Michigan ski shops.

“It is an opportunity to get outside in the wintertime and recreate, which is really important, so kids aren’t just sitting around indoors when it gets cold outside,” MacWilliams said.

For more information on the Cold is Cool program, visit