The Homestead is recognizing its roots as the first ski resort in the Southeast by renaming its ski school for the man who founded its ski program in 1959, Sepp Kober.

The Sepp Kober Ski School has always had an Austrian connection — Kober was an Austrian national ski coach before he came to America — and Austrian instructors are still part of the mix on the family friendly slopes. Now in his 80s, Kober still teaches a few ski lessons, but mainly he serves as an ambassador for the resort and the sport.

Parents will have a better view of their little snow bunnies this year. As part of the improvements around the ski lodge, the learning-area rope tow has been moved so parents can sit on the deck and watch the ski schoolers in action.

Other improvements to the lodge will be obvious from the moment you take the new drive to the new parking area and notice the new sidewalks from the lodge to the skating rink and from the skating rink to the tubing park.

Inside, a stairway will link the rental shop and restaurant without requiring guests to go outside. The rental shop got a big infusion of new equipment for the third year in a row, so that almost all the ice skates, boots, skis and snowboards have been recently replaced.

Other changes include taking out the halfpipe from the terrain park to create a larger area for skiers and snowboarders and removing the T-bar lift that was no longer operational.

Permanent lighting and snow guns have been added to the snow tubing park and hours have been extended to allow night tubing four days a week, Thursday through Sunday and holi-

days. Ski hours have been extended to 6 p.m. daily.

“We’re just trying to bring more people into the ski area, especially young people,” said resort spokeswoman Beth Richardson. “We’re absolutely the best ski area for learning. It’s so easy to keep track of the kids.”

The Homestead: Nine trails, 700-foot vertical drop, longest run: 4,200 feet. Snow tubing, snowboarding, ice-skating rink. Adult lift ticket: $35 weekdays, $45 weekends, $59 holidays for overnight guests; $39 weekdays; $49 weekends; $63 holidays for day visitors. Snow tubing: $18 for two hours for overnight guests, $24 for day visitors. Location: about three hours west of Richmond at Hot Springs. Details: (800) 838-1766 or Ski report: (540) 839-7800.