Make Room for the Mountain Minnies

Photo by Kevin Kamis
Photo by Kevin Kamis

Say hello to the winter adventure program designed to get little girls outside to brighten the colder months.

The Mountain Minnies program is designed to get girls ages 3 to 5 outside and having fun in the snow at Cannonsburg Ski Hill. Activities include sledding, practicing balance on Spooner Balance Boards, riding up the magic carpet, going on adventure hikes and more. Each session is one-hour long and offers a different theme each week incorporating sports, science, fairy tales and a mandatory hot chocolate break, of course.

The idea to have a program specifically geared towards young girls originated from instructor Cassidy Gale’s experiences on the hill. Gale, a professional wake surfer and current 2018 Wake Surf World Champion, grew up snowboarding on the slopes at Cannonsburg but noticed there were always way more boys than girls. This realization brought her and other instructors together to gather girls at an early age and get them used to the hill, so they won’t be as intimidated in their later years.

By incorporating Spooner boards into every session to practice balance or visiting the magic carpet to get used to movement and sensation, and even just sitting in tubes, the Minnies get acquainted with some of the gear and become familiar with the lay of the land.

The Mountain Minnies exposes young girls to outdoor adventures with the hope that they'll follow those pursuits into their teen years and beyond.
The Mountain Minnies exposes young girls to outdoor adventures with the hope that they’ll follow those pursuits into their teen years and beyond.

“At that age, the kids are all about having fun,” said Danielle Musto, marketing director at Cannonsburg Ski Hill. “They don’t realize they are exercising while running at the base of the hill cheering on other skiers and snowboarders.” Minnies get back to nature and obtain a ski hill introduction via scavenger hunts looking for squirrels and following woodland clues as well as riding the magic carpet during an Aladdin-themed session.

The first weekend in January found the Minnies enjoying a “Frozen”-themed weekend, complete with tubing rides, a snow hike and finishing the day with a hot chocolate party in a snow castle. There’s also the chance for a Winter Olympics session featuring long jumping, running relays and a parade where everyone cheers for the Minnies—even the older skiers and snowboarders have to give it up for their comradery and cuteness.

“We want girls to feel a sense of accomplishment and feel like they’re athletes that had fun outside working out and having adventures,” said Musto, who notices how proud the girls are when they talk about using their muscles and getting strong. If you think your girl is Minnie material, cruise through a few program points to get an even better picture of what to expect. Parents of boys, there’s a similar program in the works for them as well.

From the kids: Cece: We got to do a bonfire. Piper: Going up the mountain was the best!
From the kids: Cece: We got to do a bonfire. Piper: Going up the mountain was the best!


While the Mountain Minnies are independent, every now and then it’s nice to wave at mom and dad in between adventures. Since each session is only an hour, it’s advised that a parent or a family member remain on-site. While the youngsters do their thing, adults are encouraged to ski or snowboard, lunch by the fireplace in the Cedar Lounge restaurant or take part in the Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bonus: There’s usually a photographer on staff so parents can see snapshots of their children on social media that they can download free of charge.


The number one priority is keeping the Minnies safe and warm. If the weather isn’t cooperating or it’s too cold to be outside, there’s a full list of indoor activities to keep the kids busy. Whether it’s setting up a slackline for practicing balance and movement meditation or bringing the outside in with a teepee, there are plenty of imaginative play opportunities. Coloring arts, crafts and scavenger hunts can be adapted to suit the indoor session.


A team of women helps empower the girls during each session.
A team of women helps empower the girls during each session.

The instructors involved are quite impressive. Along with Cassidy Gale, there’s lead instructor Siarra Vanderveen, a Cannonsburg regular and zipline manager in the summer. Another lead instructor, Aaron Velting, is a certified personal trainer, marathoner, Ironman finisher and amazing coach. Also on board is Jade Clinton, who has a degree in outdoor recreation leadership and management from Northern Michigan University. All the women involved are keen on exposing young girls to the wonders of the outdoors by working together to create imaginative themed-sessions revolving around sports, science and fairy tales. “They basically asked themselves, ‘what would I have wanted to do when I was a kid?’” said Musto.


Parents are big on kids spending time outdoors—especially to combat technology usage. “Many parents wished they had something like this when they were growing up,” said Musto. She mentioned that parents understand that kids are experiencing life on the ski hill and actively partaking in things they wouldn’t normally do in school. The kids become friends at the end of the hour and, whether coloring together or spraying food coloring from bottles into the snow, all the kids are good and tired by the end of the session. They’re spent of energy in a positive way.

Look into the winter schedule at Cannonsburg or call the ski hill at (616) 874-6711 for additional information. The Mountain Minnies program may go into March depending on the weather.

*Photos by Kevin Kamis

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