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DIN – When in doubt, come out

DIN, three little letters with big implications, an acronym for safety when skiing. What’s your DIN? is a question oft heard on first tram at Snowbird or Jackson Hole. As if your binding setting determines your weightiness on the ski slopes. 9 or more is a source for bravado, like you are a bolder beefier skier than others set at a timid-sounding 2, 3, or 4.

Growing up, my brothers loved the mantra, “when in doubt, don’t come out.” They also enjoyed making figure 11s top to bottom, “when in doubt straighten em out” …which is now referred to as straight-lining. Now that I’ve matured, I recognize my brothers’ practices were quite perilous. I’m more concerned about safety these days…in my 2nd half-century.

My interpretation on DIN: you don’t want to be a yard sale, with skis scattered across the hill from a premature release, BUT what’s far worse is a twisting fall when you binding doesn’t pop but your knee or other body part does…

Here’s the deal with DIN:

DIN setting is calculated based on your boot sole length, age, weight, height and ability level, when your bindings are mounted on your skis. The higher the DIN, the higher the force required to release (toe or heel) from your bindings. DIN =  Deutsches Institut für Normung (German)

Your height, weight, age and ski ability are all factors in a proper DIN setting. Age is perhaps the key fluctuating component for skiers that’s not always updated –  properly calibrated among old-school skiers, who’ve always had a DIN of 8 for example, but at 55 or 60 should dial it back to a safer 6, say, to prevent injury.

DIN calibrated standards change at 50, and so should your settings. Of course you should also be honest about your height, weight and ability (lol)… and adjust when any of these change. It’s a ski shop form, so it’s not like your weight gain or shrinkage is going on Facebook for all your ski buddies to see.

I for one had a ski injury at 48, that could likely have been prevented if my ski binding had released. That sharp twisting turn should have caused my binding toe piece to release, but alas my marker bindings stayed on – tight, as they were adjusted to avoid a premature nuisance release. Lesson learned, I’ve loosen up. I recovered from that fractured tibial plateau, and now set my DIN per the appropriate age height and weight setting. Staying safe and alive at 5….

For the safest binding setting, your skis should be professionally checked annually, providing real “true” data of your actual weight (lol) height, age and ski ability, 1, 2, 3 and 3+. By the way, very few of us are 3+ ski level, that’s for extreme skiers.

Yes, your ski popping off prematurely is a pain, but not as big a setback as not releasing and popping a ligament, or worse… Have your binding professional set and checked annually. Better safe than sorry, “when in doubt, come out.”

See our Gear Guide to the  Top Skis!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

Top Ski Writers’ Top Ski Resorts

As ski journalists, we have the enviable job of traveling to ski resorts and sharing our likes, dislikes, and love of the sport of skiing. Not only do I love my travel writing work, (please no job applications – I’m set) I also enjoy reading ski resort reviews from my peers, fellow ski writers. A departure from my favorite ski resorts reviewed, here are my best colleagues in the ski biz sharing their top ski resorts, along with their humor and inside tracks:

Favorite Ski Resort from Eric Wilbur, talented sports writer with whom I worked at Boston.com for a decade.

“It’s quite difficult to narrow this down to a singular superlative. The best North American resort I’ve skied with kids? Sunday River. Site of the best powder day I’ve ever experienced? Magic Mountain. The best vibe I’ve ever felt at a resort? Copper Mountain. The best place I’ve visited, but never skied? Kirkwood (Sitting at the base all day with an ACL tear, all while hearing avalanche control in the midst of a total whiteout also qualifies as the greatest, individual torture at a ski resort).

But ever since my first visit more than a quarter-century ago, Stowe has consistently remained my favorite place to ski, a matter that speaks about as much about the mountain’s history as it does Stowe’s infamous terrain and the resort’s brand of mountain luxe. Few experiences are comparable to a spring-time bump run down Hayride, or a mid-winter duck in the woods wherever you might choose not to tell. Skiing these trails, so steeped in lore matters so much more, particularly in creating the soul of a skier. Cookie cutter slopes serve a purpose elsewhere, but at Stowe the skiing is about immersing yourself into a culture that has come to define the Vermont outdoors.

Yes, you can pay heftily for the experience. But in a world of Big Mac skiing and riding, Stowe remains that James Beard destination that lives up to the exorbitance. The drive up Mountain Road still delivers a unique anticipation upon approach, no matter how many times I’ve made the drive. And when the day is through, I can always count on the Front Four winking at me in the dusk, as if knowingly scheduling my inevitable return. ”

Eric Wilbur is a freelance writer and a member of NASJA whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, The New England Ski Journal, and Boston Metro. Samples of his work can be found at ericwilbur.tumblr.com and www.facebook.com/GlobeEricWilbur

 

 

Top Ski Resort from Rich Stoner of All About Après, who I typically find in the ski bars “researching” though we hit first chair at Okemo on an epic snow day:

“I love Deer Valley and Vail is, of course, epic, but there is just something about your home mountain that makes it…well, home. For me that resort is Mount Snow. It’s where I learned to ski oh so many years ago and it shames me to say that it took me 25 years to eventually go back. However, now that I’ve returned, I plan on being there for a while, especially since my three daughters also learned to ski there and it holds a sentimental place in my heart, having created a lifetime of future memories.Despite this emotional connection, Mount Snow is also a darn good resort. They have come a really long way since I first visited, oh so many years ago and continue to evolve each season with a host of improvements to the overall mountain scene. Now, with snow making capabilities that are arguably the best in the East and apres ski offerings guaranteed to satisfy everyone, Mount Snow has proven to be the perfect ski resort for my family to call home.

I’ve experienced it all at Mount Snow. From warm, rainy days that have created gnarly ice coast conditions, to deep pow that produced incredible gladed runs (duck in off Olympic, you won’t regret it) you just never know what the weather will bring to southern Vermont. However, having spent $30 million last summer upgrading their snowmaking system to a capacity that is, basically, unlimited, what you do know is that they can rebound from these unpredictable temperature swings very quickly while producing a much longer ski season. This alone makes Mount Snow worth the trip because you’ll be skiing more trails with more snow and for longer than most other eastern resorts.

However, increased skiing is only the half of it. We are, after all, All About Apres and when the snow is skied off, later in the day, there are après options galore, all right there for the taking. Need to recharge at the summit? Head to The Bullwheel for some tasty Bloodies and pretzel sticks dipped in cinnamon butter. Bypass the line for the tables and walk straight to the bar to order, then head out on the deck and drink in the view. Done for the day and don’t want to deal with wait service? Canned is your gig. Serving craft beers in cans from Vermont, its simplistic approach will have you thirst quenched in no time. If drinking from the can is not your thing, then head upstairs to The Taproom Station. They, too, have quite the selection of brews (on tap and in bottles) for the savvy craft beer drinker and a few more food options as well. Finally, if you are looking to really go next level and party a bit more, then you need to take in all that is Bruce Jacques and his Saturday shows at Cuzzins. Get there early or you’ll struggle to get in at all. Once inside, there is no shortage of table-dancing après skiers singing along with Bruce as he plays his set while donning a variety of outlandish costumes and interacting with the crowd that is, very much, all in. Trust me, you just won’t be able to peel yourself away, no matter how hard you try.  It’s this type of “can’t stay away” mantra that defines how I feel about Mount Snow. Now that I’m back, the improvements in snow making and incredible variety of apres ski options will keep my family and me there for a long while.”

– Rich Stoner – From first chair to last, call he’s bound to be laying down tracks or throwing back beers with family and friends somewhere in the mountains. www.allaboutapresski.com @allaboutapres

Favorite Western Resort – Snowbasin – Rich Stoner, All About Après
“Wait until you see the lodges at Snowbasin, there is nothing like them. And, the bathrooms…yes, the bathrooms, are nicer than anything you’d see at a high end wedding. Sounds a bit odd for a ski resort, especially one that, all things being considered, is not on too many lists as being super posh. But, that’s what you get when you’re a Sun Valley property and your owner really wants the Salt Lake City Olympics at his resort. Nothing says the Olympics like Venetian chandeliers hanging from the lodge’s ceilings. However, for as opulent as these buildings are, it is still hard to define Snowbasin as a showy resort. There’s some seriously sick skiing complemented by ridiculously tasty culinary delights both of which know no boundaries.

Breakfast is something that I usually skip out on when skiing but when the menu in Earl’s Lodge offers Smoked Beef Brisket Hash and Eggs, that’s a dish that cannot be overlooked. With two runny fried eggs oozing goodness all over the perfectly smoked brisket hash, this is a breakfast entree you cannot pass up. It’s delicious and is sure to have you energized for some incredible skiing. When it comes to skiing, what truly makes Snowbasin special, is the notion that you can pretty much ski anywhere. I can remember riding the lift up with Paul Marshal of Ski Utah and pointing out something that looked like a ravine saying, “That might be fun to ski.” So we did. With nothing but open bowls, the idea of defined trails is a notion that should be forgotten for the day. You can and should go anywhere. From The Sister’s Bowl to local favorite, Lone Tree Chute, it’s all there for the taking.

When you’re a little spent and need a lunch break, there’s no better place than the John Paul Lodge. With insane 360° views complemented by the “Best in Snow” winning chili or the John Paul ‘Mondo” Pastrami Burger (yes, that’s a thing) you may need a nap before you head back out, but head back out you must. The lift lovingly named, “The Beer Can” is right there to take you to the mens’ and womens’ Olympic downhill courses, and you need to try them. Want to burn off all of those, oh so worth it, calories? See if you can make it down either course in one shot. You may not have anything left in the tank after that, but if you do, head back up, there’s plenty more to shred. However, if your day does end there, quads sore and stomach full, grab a beer and a seat on the expansive patio at Earl’s Lodge.  There, you can look back out at the mountain and reminisce about the epic freedom to ski and fantastic fare that makes Snowbasin so special.”

– Rich Stoner –  www.allaboutapresski.com @allaboutapres

Photos by Greg Burke, More Top Ski Resorts:
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families

 

Vail Epic Pass is more epic for 2018-19

Vail Resort’s Epic Pass keeps getting bigger and better, and the price stays amazingly affordable for all this skiing, under $1,000. The Epic Pass is priced at $899 for unlimited skiing at 15 Vail owned ski resorts and 7 days each at 4 more, plus ski pass benefits in the Alps.  Vail Resorts now include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  and Arapahoe Basin, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  and Kirkwood,  Vermont’s Stowe,  Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps,  and Perisher Australia.

Additional ski benefits to Epic Passholders  for 2018 -include Telluride and Crested Butte in Colorado, plus Okemo Vermont  and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies!  Plus 5 days at Hakuba Japan.

In Europe, the Epic Pass also allows for ski tickets in the French Alps – Les 3 Vallees in  (think Courchevel, Val Thorens and Meribel), Paradiski – Les Arcs and La Plagne, and Val D’Isere Tignes, plus Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy, 4 Vallees in Switzerland – which encompasses Verbier, and The Arlberg in Austria – 3 days at Lech Zurs, Stuben, St Christoph and St Anton. Some of these free ski benefits require lodging purchases in The Alps.

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass blow up, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass at over $1,000!

If you are planning a couple of weeks out west skiing, or time in The Alps for next season, you should strongly consider buying the Epic Pass, then download the Epic Mix and start bagging serious vertical and bragging rights.

The other amazing pass option is the IKON pass which combines Aspen’s ski resorts with Boyne, Powdr and Intrawest Resorts plus some indies- its another extremely versatile pass valid at  Aspen’s 4 mountains, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain.  Plus limited skiing at Deer Valley, Snowbird/Alta, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush, Canada’s  Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

Where are you skiing next ski season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

Top 10 Reasons to Rock The Epic Pass

Top 10 Reasons to Use Your Epic Pass…Now!  There is no better season pass deal, and no better time than now to ski!

10.  Stowe’s ‘80s Retro Weekend on March 24. Who doesn’t love the 80s and rockin’ a one piece ski outfit in day glo, totally awesome! Après ski at Stowe, hit the classy Hourglass Bar at Stowe Mountain Lodge, or the local fave Matterhorn, or  the visit Trapp Family Lodge’s Bier Hall where the hills are alive with the sound of brewing!

9.  Vail is hosting the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships in Vail March 5-10. This is the biggest event post Winter Olympics and X Games… Download the Epic Mix app and track your own vert between viewing the best snowboarders launch big vert in the halfpipe!   Come April, Vail is all party – Spring Back to Vail with free concert, Taste of Vail – the best ski foodie fest anywhere, and World Championship Pond Skimming – a wet wild good time!

8. Partake in Beaver Creek’s 15th Annual Talons Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 24. More than 26,000 vertical feet of black diamond and double black diamond trails –14 in total – are waiting for you. Finish the job and earn your spot on the Talon’s Wall-of-Fame!

7. Ski seven of Park City Mountain’s peaks during the inaugural Seven Summits Challenge, Saturday, Feb. 24. Earn bragging rights, and hit the après ski party at Red Pine Lodge. Park City keeps partying  with include Spring Grüv – that means warm sunny days, soft snow, free concerts, and Easter celebrations with Utah’s best pond skim competition.

6.  Breck Pride week is March 7-11, celebrate with live music, daily aprés, a flamboyant Color Run in costumes down the mountain and inclusive fun for everyone at Breckenridge!

5. Celebrate all things spring at Spring Loaded at Heavenly with a Spring Loaded Rail Jam, Gunbarrel 25, Live Music, and pond skimming.

4. Whistler Blackcomb is always a blast, especially during the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival. This six day  jam-packed event covers snow sports, music, arts, and mountain culture  April 10-15, 2018.

3. Need more girls in the sport of skiing? Chicks? Check!  Northstar hosts Her Mountain Retreat March 10-11 with personalized lessons with female coaches, restorative yoga, Platinum First Tracks and Platinum tōst. Cheers ski chicks.

2. Got Kids?  Keystone’s Kidtopia Music Experience is March 2-10 with outdoor concerts, music themed daily Kidtopia fun, a mountaintop snow fort, a village parade, and fireworks.

1.  Just rock your Epic Pass already… with skiing at 17 of the best ski resorts …recently added are Crested Butte, Okemo and Mount Sunapee for 7 days at each, its the most epic season pass and the best ski value out there, unless of course you don’t use it …. than you’re a loser, not an epic user. We’re taking our Epic Pass to the Alps where you can cash in free skiing at Val Isère, Les Trois Vallees, La Plange Les Arcs, St Anton and Verbier, and more… See you on the Epic Mix leader board ski friends! 1 million vert – I’m coming for you! Cheers!

See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and make your skiing EPIC!
Copyright 2018, Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com and TheLuxuryVacationGuide

 

Aspen’s Ikon Pass or Vail’s Epic Pass

The recent merger of mountain resorts under Aspen and Intrawest brings the newly emerged Alterra Mountain Company and an “IKONIC” pass. Alterra has launched its collective season pass for  2018-2019 ski season, its called the IKON Pass and it unites 26 top ski destinations, versus Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass valid at 18 major ski resorts.

The IKON Pass will put 63,000 skiable acres across the continent, yes Canada too,  on one season pass, with varying access at each destination, with a price of $899, its a hybrid of the MAX Pass and Mountain Collective, and a strong competitor to Vail’s Epic Pass, all good news and great alternatives for skiers and riders.

The IKON Pass brings together Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company,  Intrawest and Boyne Resorts, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, POWDR, Alta/Snowbird and Canada’s Big 3. A spin off from The  Max Pass, this pass has some pretty epic ski resort from Aspen, Steamboat and Copper in Colorado, to Deer Valley, Alta, and Snowbird in Utah, Squaw, Mammoth and Big Bear in California, Big Sky in Montana, Jackson Hole Wyoming, plus Loon, Sunday River , Sugarloaf, Stratton, Sugarbush and Killington in The East, Tremblant in Quebec!

The Ikon Pass is on sale now, see details at www.ikonpass.com. IKON Access is unlimited at these ski resorts: Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain. Plus…

IKON Pass holders get 7 days each at Deer Valley, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush. Plus…

IKON pass holders get 7 days combine at Aspen’s 4 mountains, and 7 at Alta/Snowbird, 7 days at Canada’s Big3 Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and 7 days between Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

Alterra’s IKON Pass is $899, there’s also a kids pass for $199 with parents purchase. For a lower price point, there’s a slightly more restricted IKON Base pass at $599 (basically 5 days at the restricted resorts versus 7, with black out dates and a few caveats).

The IKON is very competitive with Vail Resort’s Epic Pass, priced at $899 for unlimited skiing at 15 ski resorts and 7 days each at 4 more.  Vail resorts include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  and Arapahoe Basin, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  Kirkwood,  Vermont’s Stowe,  Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps,  and Perisher Australia, and  added for 2018 – Telluride, Crested Butte, Okemo and Mount Sunapee  for 7 days skiing at each!  The Epic Pass also has great free ski benefits in the Alps, Verbier, Les Trois Vallees, and others – so many ski resorts.

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass blow up, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass at over $1,000!

Ikon Pass Resorts: California: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Big Bear Mountain Resort Colorado: Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort Maine: Sugarloaf, Sunday River Montana: Big Sky Resort New Hampshire: Loon Mountain Resort Utah: Deer Valley Resort, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Vermont: Stratton, Killington Resort West Virginia: Snowshoe Wyoming: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ontario, Canada: Blue Mountain Quebec, Canada: Tremblant British Columbia: 10% CMH Heli-Summer Adventures, sorry no heli-skiing.

Alterra Mountain Company now operates 12 destinations, Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Deer Valley in Utah; plus CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. The Ikon Pass includes these, plus Boyne resorts, Powder and a few others.

Where are you skiing this season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com 

 

 

What Are The Mental Benefits of Skiing?

Did you know that in the U.S., around 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress? You probably know the feeling: a racing heartbeat, tiredness, worry and the like. It doesn’t affect adults exclusively, of course; kids, too, can find it hard to negotiate daily life, as they attempt to juggle academic, sporting, and social goals. There is a perfect antidote to stress and anxiety, though, and it’s called a family ski vacation. Here are the mental benefits of one of the world’s best loved family sports.

Fascinating Findings on Skiing

A study published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life, undertaken in three major ski resorts, has found that the joy people feel when zooming over the slopes on skis or a snowboard, can significantly increase overall happiness. This is true for both seasoned and occasion skiers alike.

The head researcher of the survey, Hyun-Woo Lee, surveyed 279 visitors at these resorts. He assessed their happiness level by asking them to report on their level of ‘flow’ or engagement in the activity, and their sense of satisfaction after a day out on the slopes.

The results showed that the more one felt ‘in the flow’, the greater was the impact on happiness. ‘Being in the flow’ or ‘in the Zone’ occurs when we become fully mindful of the activity we are engaging in, forgetting about everything else except the present moment.

In essence, deep engagement in skiing or snowboarding can enhance one’s positivity, even when one returns to normal life. Said the lead researcher, “Playfulness can influence people’s happiness, while activities and socially convening around a sporting activity such as skiing have positive psychological outcomes and contribute to overall well-being. This is also true for people who only casually participate in sports.”

Complementary Steps to Fight Stress

The above findings are one reason why sport is so often recommended for stress, a condition which experts recommend tackling from a multi-faceted perspective. That is, while you are skiing, it is important to boost the effects by consuming a sound diet and considering nootropic supplements to stimulate brain function. This will also helps you fight stress and promote a better night’s sleep.

Being Together, Away from it All

A recent review published by James F. Petrick of the Department of Texas A&M University, begins with this simple yet impactful statement: “For generations, a highlight of childhood memories included the family vacation.” The review, meritorious of reading by anyone interested in family dynamics, noted that as Americans started dedicating more time to their careers, they began travelling less as a family, thus leading in increases in stress and decreases in family time.

The report notes that travel (including ski trips and any activity adults and kids can enjoy together) benefits us in three important ways:

·      By creating stronger family connection and lifetime ski memories.

·      By improving the quality of relationships and reducing the likelihood of distancing.

·      By increasing individual and total family happiness, wellbeing, and overall quality of life.

Taking a ski holiday together as a family, one in which we disconnect completely from the things that keep us apart on a daily basis, is not a matter of luxury, but one of necessity. Enjoying a skiing holiday allows us to kill two birds with one stone, in that skiing and snowboarding are strongly mindful pursuits (i.e. they allow us to enjoy a sole mindful experience), but they also provide plenty of opportunity to enjoy the slopes (and a nice cup of steaming cocoa) afterwards, together.

Content by Family Ski Trips contributor Jane Sandwood

See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts for your Family Vacation
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in the World

Wes Mills Ski Day – for the Best Ski Buddy Ever

February 3 is a day we remember our best ski buddy, Wes Mills of Kennebunk Maine.  Wes Mills Ski Day is celebrated at Sunday River annually on his birthday, sadly in his absence – we lost Wes too soon after his valiant battle against renal carcinoma that took him away on September 28, 2016. But his ski spirit lives on in our hearts, our minds, we all continue to “Ski some lines for Wes” …among his beautiful parting words to ski friends.

Wes was a true hero in a sense, and a top alpine supporter. How many people thought of Wes Mills as their best ski buddy? That was one of Wes’ many gifts. Wes always brought joy, humor and love – everywhere he went, and always to the ski slopes. He wouldn’t want us to be sad …he would want us to be happy – glad we knew him, happy for our mountain adventures with him, he’d want us to carry on – to carry him in our memory skiing, biking, boating.

To know Wes was to love him. He was the mayor at Sunday River, the committee boat at Stage Harbor, the chief of mountain bike rides. Wes loved everything about the great state of Maine – in all seasons – the mountains, the ocean, the lakes, the trails. But his passion for skiing, for hiking to an untracked summit with his buds, that was pure joy to him. His mom said, “We didn’t let our 3 boys play basketball, because winter weekends were for skiing.”

Wes travelled the globe in search of deep powder with his ski posse – from Jordan Bowl to Japan with SAAS, making new friends at every turn, cherishing every moment, every run. He could tele like nobody’s business, except perhaps for his son Wes who literally followed in his tracks.

Another of Wes’ great gifts, when you spoke with him, he made you feel like you were the only one in the room, the only thing that mattered at that moment. He cared, and he remembered – even the things you hoped he would forget. “Hey Heather, remember that time you were petrified to go heli skiing? Look at you now, attagirl.”

As friend Doug Patey said, “There was always just one more ridge to summit for Wes.” His energy and enthusiasm was boundless. He’d say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Wes’ playfulness and passion for the outdoors were extraordinary. He would also find something tremendously positive about the conditions, a perfect patch of cord, or soft carve-able snow on an otherwise firm fast freezing day. He prioritized fun, and friends, and family.

Wes always brought his best, never complained or tuckered out. He found humor in everything. He was strong but humble, a tease but only in kindness and thoughtfulness. He climbed every mountain, carved every slope, lived life to the fullest.

Friend Bill Basset said, “I think Wes wanted to be buried in his ski boots.” Well, he will be in our ski thoughts, in our pockets and packs on those perfect powder days, and when its sleet and hail, we’ll find the silver lining and think of our amazing optimistic friend, forever… this ski season, and always.

Friends of Wes will gather at Barker Mountain at Sunday River on February 3, Wes’ birthday, ski some lines for him, then meet up after for après ski drinks at Barker Bar.

Heather Burke, in loving memory of Wes Mills, best ski buddy ever….

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

Why We Ski?

My 25-year-old-year-old son’s girlfriend didn’t grow up skiing…. so when visiting him in Seattle she couldn’t fathom why we so wanted to ski with him, in Washington. Why is skiing so important to you, she asked? Don’t we just like to hang out together? Which brought me to thinking about why we ski, why it’s important to us, why its our family sport…

Well, let’s see…. How do you explain to a non-skier your lifelong love of skiing? How do you capture in words the bond that skiing can bring? “The family that skis together, freeze together” …lol…

Ever since our kids were three, skiing is the one thing we could all do together … I can’t name another sport or activity that provides us all with excitement, fun, healthy exercise, laughs, stories, memories, and love. We can’t play football together – too rough a sport, and family game night inevitably ends in someone winning and by default – others losing. Perhaps we’re too competitive for cards and board games (being a writer, I want to school them all in scrabble).

Back to skiing, we each have our individual experience on our skis, our own signature turns on the snow, but simultaneously it’s our collective shared experience. Together, we brave the cold, breathe in the spectacular scenery, actively pursue nature’s glory, conquer the mountain, leave our tracks, keep our memories. Yes we could all be sitting on a beach together but where is the adrenaline adventure in that? I picture my husband and son glazing over, my daughter and I burning to a crisp…

As I reflect on raising our kids, I am flooded with fun memories – many of them skiing. I remember the joys (and concerns) of starting them on snow when they were so little, and the ensuing accomplishments, pizza pie to French fries, Ian’s first non-stop bump run at Vail, Aspen’s Prima Cornice cliff drop that same day. What a fantastic family day that was! Skiing the snow and sun soaked trees at Steamboat, the four of us in perfect synch, I can picture it still like a snow globe. If I say the words “Canis Lupus”  the kids will grin at our fun twisty gulley run down The Canyons trail through the woods at Park City. Cat skiing in Idaho was amazing with a fun bunch of adults, and our mature-beyond-his-years son who impressed the posse with his skill, vocab, and worldliness. I could go on for days recounting our downhill adventures.

Our skiing adventures have already spanned three decades, and three generations. We’ve skied with Greg’s Dad, my Dad, Greg’s uncle, his brothers – who share the passion, my mom who still rips, and my brother Brian (who makes snowboarding look like poetry btw – and can switch to skiing in a mountain minute) all together with our kids – who are now grown, independent, and still love to ski. … with us! They buy their own season passes now, a true sign of commitment and addiction to the sport! We can reconnect at ski resorts and have a real adventure together leaving everything else in our sparkly snow dust.

I know of no other sport that offers the opportunity to travel to a vast bucket list of ski resorts around the globe, with the bonus of high alpine beauty. Another benefit is that skiing is a full day’s activity – unlike tennis that lasts an hour – with a winner and a loser again – like family game night. When we got boating, we each water ski for about 15 minutes, that’s it! One and done…

I also believe you can enjoy skiing among multiple ability levels. We don’t all ski the same, we have different skill sets and terrain preferences. I’m nostalgic just  reflecting on our trails  choices over the years, bumps, trees, steeps with the kids… Anyhoo… most ski resorts allow us to indulge our faves: moguls, glades, groomed or untracked powder, often all from the same lift. So Jack can ski Black, Jane can ski Blue and Jill Green and we can all meet at the lift for the conversational ride back up together. At minimum we can meet for lunch and at après ski to share our day’s stories, wind blown pow, wipe-outs and wicked good lines.

So back to our trip to Seattle, Washington, and what to do together as a family? The beauty of this part of the world, The Pac Northwest, is its plethora of big mountains, in surprisingly close proximity to the city and the sea. Summit at Snoqualmie and Crystal were both calling us, just over an hour away… how could we not want to ski? We “4 skiers” (my license plate for many years – till it became a problem – separate blog) all enjoy exploring new mountains, making tracks and carving our names on spectacular summits all over the country …. It’s what we do, and we can do it together.

I hope we can share our family’s love of skiing with others, with our kids’ loved ones, their future families, as our parents did with Greg and me. I hope to ski with my mom and my kids again…as we did in Big Sky Montana a few years ago… that was magical to me. Just last weekend, we met up with our daughter Aspen and her friends at Sunday River. We shared a few laps, and lots of laughs. Skiing with family and friends is social, stimulating, and creates a bond like no other. Let me know if you find one?

I received a joyous note from a best gal pal who’d re-joined the sport last week with mutual friends. The enthusiasm in her voice was palpable, how she loved skiing, loved that she could do it with her husband and our friends. Their picture from après ski told the story of their collective fun, accomplishment, and enhanced friendship shared over a sport. Next weekend is a memorial for our dearest friend Wes, who passed away too soon in 2016. Wes Mills ski day at Sunday River, annually on his birthday February 3, represents the very love and deepened relationship that you can share with someone over this wintry wild sport that is unlike any other. We will ski a line for Wes, and continue to love skiing as our glue!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

 

 

How to Plan The Perfect Ski Vacation

How to Plan the Perfect Ski Vacation

Planning the perfect family ski vacation can be as difficult as tackling a black diamond trail with a broken pole. Not only do you have to book essentials such as lodging and transportation, but you also have to consider less obvious factors such as local weather and terrain. If you’re thinking about planning a ski trip with your family in the near future, here are some points to consider to help you holiday the right way.

Why Plan a Ski Vacation?
There are plenty of good reasons to take holidays throughout the year. Vacationing helps you to unwind, giving you time to rejuvenate your mind. It’s important that you make an effort to separate yourself from the daily grind during your vacation to give yourself a legitimate break. You should make sure that your clients and co-workers know not to contact you during your absence, and avoid the temptation to check your phone or work email while away.

Giving yourself time to relax on holiday can have a significant positive impact on your mental health. Vacationing has been associated with reduced levels of depression, higher energy levels, and greater satisfaction in relationships. In addition to the emotional benefits of taking some well-deserved time off, a ski vacation can also help you to improve your physical wellbeing. Skiing is a high-octane activity that gives you a full body workout. It helps you to strengthen muscles and joints while also getting an intense aerobic workout that strengthens heart muscles.

Where to Stay
Choosing the right ski destination is one of the most important aspects of planning a ski vacation. If you pick the wrong location or book tickets at the wrong time of year, you may not find yourself enjoying the snow-covered wonderland that you had imagined.

You need to consider an area’s terrain, its climate throughout the year, and its popularity. Renowned resorts such as Aspen are often much more crowded than lesser known slopes, which can make skiing especially difficult for beginners. You should also look for a place that gets enough snowfall during the time of year you plan to visit.

Planning a ski trip on a budget can be challenging during skiing season, as prices tend to skyrocket at this time. While you may be able to find cheaper early-season tickets, you may be limited by which trails are open for use. It’s best to look for a resort with on-season prices that fit your budget. Don’t forget to consider additional costs as well, such as meals, lessons, and equipment rental.

What to Do
Obviously, the main event on any ski trip is hitting the slopes, but it’s also important to consider what you have to do in your downtime. Off-slope activities can be just as much a part of any vacation as strapping on your skis, especially if the weather on your trip ends up being rough.

Ski resorts often have après ski family activities, tubing, snowshoeing, and indoor games, movies, and a bar area, but you may also want to look into nearby entertainment. Many ski towns have plenty to do to keep the whole family occupied. There are local museums and historical sites, shopping outlets, spas, theaters, and more.

Who to Bring
When going on a skiing vacation with the family, it’s important to consider the experience of everybody involved. You should bring skiers that are advanced enough to enjoy the slopes around the resort that you’ve booked. If you’re planning to go to a location that’s shy on green circle trails, you may want to invite only older children and experienced skiers.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, traveling with the family will often end up saving you money at popular resorts. Groups can often get reduced rates by booking together. You can also stay in a multiple-bedroom condo with a kitchen to avoid eating out too much.

Planning the perfect ski vacation isn’t easy, but for most families, it’s worth the effort. With a little bit of research and the proper preparation, you can make your next ski trip an overwhelming success and come back home feeling rejuvenated.

Where are you skiing with your family this ski season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your family ski trips!

Vail owns 14 Ski Resorts! Epic!

vail-heather-simbaVail Resorts is quite the mountain monopoly now. How many ski resorts can one company own? ! Apparently a baker’s dozen of  dreamy downhill destinations! Vail has purchased Canada’s biggest – Whistler Blackcomb for $1 billion and Stowe Mountain for $50 million.  Vail now manages 14 ski resorts, the original Vail (since 1962), plus Beaver Creek – one of my personal faves, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City (and Canyons) in Utah, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe California, Whistler Blackcomb in BC Canada; Perisher in Australia; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Vail now has the lion’s share of skier visit too, with 50% of the 10 busiest ski areas on the continent, among the top 3  are Whistler, Vail, and Breckenridge.

1telluride-skier-hrbSo Vail’s Epic Pass rocks, rivaled by Aspen’s IKON Pass,  its even more Epic for 2018-19 by adding Telluride and Crested Butte Colorado, plus Okemo Vermont and Mount Sunapee in NH,  for 7-days each on the already epic pass. Enjoy skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Telluride, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Arapahoe Basin, Perisher Australia, Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton, Whistler/Blackcomb, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Norquay, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee .

Add to that the impressive ski resort collection the luxury lodging brand Vail Resorts owns – RockResorts, with posh ski lodging properties including the authentic first lodging in Vail village-  Lodge at Vail, The Arrabelle at Vail Square, The Pines Lodge and The Osprey at Beaver Creek, One Ski Hill Place at jester-sugarbush-heatherBreckenridge, and the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

You can also use your Epic Pass in Europe for free skiing in France at Les Trois Vallees, Val D’Isere Tignes and Les Arcs La Plagne plus a few days in St Anton Austria.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my Epic Pass and I’m not afraid to use it! Lake Tahoe, Park City, Colorado’s Summit County and Whistler – I’m coming for ya!

Heather Burke, 2018 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Photos by Greg Burke

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