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Family ski vacation guide with the best ski resorts for family skiing

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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, 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.

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 consider 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 at 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.

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 – 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, Sunday River to the Swiss Alps, 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. Wes’ skis are mounted above the Barker Bar. Also prophetic, in 2018-19 The Weather Channel has named a winter snow storm for ” Wesley”.

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.

We will 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 19 Ski Resorts! Epic!

vail-heather-simbaVail Resorts is quite the mountain monopoly now. How many ski resorts can one company own? ! Apparently more than a dozen of  dreamy downhill destinations! Vail has purchased Canada’s biggest – Whistler Blackcomb for $1 billion and Stowe Mountain for $50 million, now Okemo, Sunapee and Crested Butte for $82 mill, and Stevens Pass Washington for $67 mill.  Vail now manages the most 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, and recently acquired 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 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, Stevens Pass, 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 and

Photos by Greg Burke

Where was the snow in 2018?

Where was the snow for winter 2018 ski friends?
Skiers are always lusting for the best snow conditions. It’s a cat and mouse chase… as the weather is as fickle as Tweety and Sylvester. This year the chase is real, while the Rockies, particularly Utah and Colorado, haven’t gotten big snow or consistent cold, The East, The Alps and The Pac North West have seen big snow accumulation, cool temps and great ski conditions to start the season.

Top ski resorts in the East like Sugarbush, Okemo, Jay Peak, Mount Snow, Pico and Stowe are wide-open by New Year’s, that’s something to pop Champagne about. Its been uber cold to perserve New England’s snow, perhaps a bit too cold for skiers though when well below zero!

Meanwhile, Park City Utah is balmy, with just 60 of its 300 + trails open, yikes! Aspen’s four mountains are just 20% open. South West Colorado and New Mexico are downright snow-deprived. Same goes for Tahoe ski resorts in California. Meanwhile, Grand Targhee in Wyoming is 100% open, and nearby Jackson Hole is looking good! So is Montana, big snow at Big Sky, Great Divide, and Whitefish. In the Pacific Northwest, where we are headed in January, Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie are 100% with 50-100” base depths of natural snow!

Canada’s Rockies are strong, with the majority of terrain open at steep Kicking Horse, Panorama, Big White which we skied and loved last season, Lake Louise, and Sunshine in Banff, and Whistler Blackcomb, where we’ll ski January. In Quebec, its been frigid, and Tremblant and Mont Sainte Anne are frosty with snow.

The biggest snow of the season is in the Alps! The French Alps, Austria and Switzerland have all been hammered with December snow, all white for the holidays and the start to the year. St Anton Austria already has base depths of 250cm, Verbier Switzerland is reporting 10 feet of snow so far.

So if you like to go to the snow, follow us here at Family Ski Trips. We started our ski season at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, where they’d blown piles of man made, and early December brought natural snow to complement their conditions. Similarly Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Resort just before Christmas had us skiing natural glades and gorgeous groomers with 5 inches of fluff on top – white Christmas in New Hampshire’s White mountains!

Next up, we’ll be skiing Whistler Blackcomb in the new year, as well as Washington’s ski resorts Snoqualmie and Crystal – so says our crystal ball.

Snow prayers for Colorado where we head in February for Copper On Snow Demos, skiing at Steamboat and Vail too!

We are Alps bound mid-winter visiting Portes Du Soliel – the largest ski terrain in the world which spans 12 resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

We’ll end our winter at one of our favorite ski resort on the planet, Big Sky, this Montana resort never disappoints with its big mountain terrain, beautiful views and cool vibe.

Where are you skiing this season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your 2018 winter of skiing!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

Skiers Wish List for Christmas Gifts

At Christmas time every skier I know has “snow” on the top of their wish list. The White Christmas is not so easy to deliver … its up to Santa and Mother Nature. Here are my favorite ski and snowboard gifts that you can easily give, from cheap to steep, for the ski friend that warrants a gesture – but not a new pair of goggles ($$$), to your sweetheart you want to woo and wax with serious swag so they are as excited to ski as you are.

sunday-river-skiing-risky-businessA Liftopia gift card. Liftopia sells discounted lift tickets at over 250 alpine resorts across North America, so giving the gift of this versatile vertical card is easy, for a downhill deal like $49 tickets to Sugarbush. You decide the amount, $5 to $1,000 denominations, and your friend can ski when and where they want – at serious savings.

Heat Factory hand and toe warmers. These cheap pocket-size hand warmer packets are my personal life saver. Heat Factory or Grabbers chemical heat packets provide about seven hours of warmth, and extend your time on the slopes between lodge breaks for frozen fingers and toes. I have a pack a day habit – so I am always happy to give and receive (hint hint) hand warmers by the case. Give them to your ski buddy so they don’t bum yours all season.

alp-n-rock-ski-shirtAlp N Rock makes gorgeous après ski shirts. I finally splurged forone myself – Merry Christmas to me, and I LOVE it. If you want your gal to embrace skiing, buy her a beautiful wool henley with alpine motifs and cool graphics from Stowe to Aspen to Zermatt – this stylish shirt goes from the slopes to the bars, anywhere you want to make a ski statement($160). Alp N Rock makes crew necks for dudes too, it’s like Affliction goes alpine.

Ski socks. Ski instructors, pro skiers, and racers all agree – if your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t on top of your ski game. Ski socks make a huge difference in foot comfort, warmth, and wicking of funky foot sweat and odor. Ski socks cost $10-30, worth it for the technical fabric and fit. SmartWool Ski Socks  and Vermont’s Darn Tough  come in fun colors, shapes and sizes for skiers and snowboarders.

New England Ski Museum,  located at the base of Cannon Mountain, has great retro ski posters, videos, ski t-shirts and ties, games, and snowflake jewelry, for sale in their online store, from as little as $12. Best of all, your purchase benefits this non-profit ski association that is preserving ski history in New England.

kulkea-powder-tracker-backpackKulkea Boot Back Pack is the best I have found. For $120 you can pack for a day, weekend
or week out west with this versatile backpack. The Powder Trekker holds your ski boots in separate waterproof compartments, helmet, goggles, and gloves, with lots of smart pockets for your pass, sunglasses, and a surprisingly roomy center compartment for base layers. Kulkea’s boot bag is super lightweight, made of performance fabric, looks moderately stylish (for a backpack), and keeps you organized on a powder morning. Kulkea means “to go” in Finnish, and this will be your go to ski boot bag.

Happy Holiday and I hope your Christmas is white with snow!

Best Ski Reviews and How to Pack for a Family Ski Trip

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

 

Top Ski Resorts

We editors at Family Ski Trips love to rank our favorite ski resorts, based on terrain, scenic beauty, lifts, snow, ski village amenities and après ski, plus activities and programs for families. We have our favorites:
Top 10 Ski Resorts of the East
Top Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in Canada
Top Family Ski Resorts in the Alps

All of these we keep up to date with frequent personal visits (tough job, eh?!) and we reward those resorts with recent capital improvements, new programs for learn to ski, lodging and culinary enhancement, by moving them up (or down) our Top 10 Ski Resorts ranking.

We also love to see how other ski sites rank the top ski resorts in the world. We enjoy comparing their results, and metrics, with ours. Our ski resort rankings are quite similar to those of Ski magazine and their annual Top 50 Ski Resorts readers’ poll, with the occasional anomaly, see this year’s review of Ski Mag’s best ski resort poll.

TurnKey recently released their Top Ski Resort rankings, with cool data about the top three ski and snowboard states – not surprisingly Colorado, California, and Utah. These three states comprise almost 50% of their top 100 ski resorts in the US, Colorado has the most skier visits and 77% of their top 100 resorts. Here’s where we might disagree, since we like to steer families looking for a great ski vacation away from the highly ranked, highly visited ski resorts. We say ski Idaho, Montana and Wyoming… even Washington!

TurnKey’s top 25 ski resorts only has 3 Eastern Ski Resorts, #15 Killington, #18 Sugarloaf and #23 Whiteface. We respectfully have very different New England ski faves: Stowe, Sugarbush, Sunday River, Okemo, Bretton Woods and Smuggs are all deserving ahead of Whiteface! Out West, we agree with Big Sky at #2 but Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Vail, Telluride and Deer Valley all move ahead of Park City.

We did find very interesting the lift ticket prices, with Winter Park and Vail topping out at $159 a day. $68 is the average ticket price among the 260 resorts in TurnKey’s study.

Let us know your Top Ski Resorts, and why? What makes a perfect ski resort for you and your family ski vacation?

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

Vail’s plans for Stowe Vermont? Epic or Not?

For years I had been hoping Vail Resorts would round out their portfolio with an Eastern ski resort. Wish granted, but like all wishes – its not exactly as you’d dreamed or anticipated. I was hoping Vail would come in with capital infusion for a New England ski resort in need- say Saddleback that has been closed for two ski seasons, or maybe Jay Peak and Burke Mountain now in receivership after last season’s EB5 ponzi scheme and scandal. But no – Vail goes for Stowe… my favorite ski resort in the East. I must say Vail Resorts has excellent taste! Then in May of 2018, Vail buys Okemo and Mount Sunapee and Crested Butte in Colorado- part of Triple Peaks.

The $50 million price tag for Stowe is for the Mountain Ski operation, so ownership of the luxe Stowe Mountain Lodge, the Stowe Mountain Club, and the Stowe Golf Club remain with AIG. That makes for an interesting, perhaps complicated, equation. After all Vail Resorts loves its real estate and lodging revenue, right? They also own RockResorts – a posh collection of hotels, spas and resorts from Colorado to the Caribbean.

Back to Stowe.  Vail now includes Stowe in its Epic Pass. Consider that a day ticket at Stowe is over $120, and an Epic Pass unlimited for next season is just over $800. Doesn’t take a math wiz to calculate the savings in 7 days, with bonus access to 19 ski resorts to boot! Vail Resorts Epic Pass is unlimited, no blackout dates for Stowe  for their Epic Pass.

So with unlimited access – the throngs are going to Stowe, including me, though its midweek for me! After all it is some of the best skiing in the East. Arguably Stowe’s epic snow conditions this winter are better than some resorts out west…lol to my western ski friends that assume we “ski ice in the east.”

Currently the Epic Pass is an outrageous deal, with skiing privileges at 19 major ski resorts Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Arapahoe Basin, Whistler Blackcomb, Stowe, Okemo, Sunapee, Stevens Pass, and Perisher Australia, plus four small regional ski areas. The Epic Pass also gets you some free lift tickets in the Alps, 6 days of skiing in France which I just enjoyed at Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski, and Val D’Isere Tignes, plus 3 days skiing the Dolomites of Italy, and 5 days at Les 4 Vallées of Switzerland which includes Verbier, and 6 days in Austria at Lech Zurs, St Anton and St Christoph (the Austrian ski resort privileges require that you purchase lodging and pre register).

I predict lodging rates going up in Stowe – now that it is a Vail destination. And Stowe is already pretty pricey by New England ski standards. I hope Vail Resorts will consider buying abutting Smugglers Notch Resort – a wonderful ski reosrt with lots of lodging, great skiing but slow old lifts. Stowe has the RFID lift ticket technology so  the Epic Mix vertical tracking app is on– bonus. I know you can bag a lot of vert on Stowe’s Front Four – 10 X 10 when the lifts open at 7:30! Hmmm, that might change too…So there are pros and cons with Vail’s Stowe purchase.

Now is the time to lock down the best season pass deals  for next season. Aspen’s IKON Pass is now a strong competitor … it’s a ski deal show down throw down. A little healthy competition is a good thing, right my ski friends?! Especially with $800 pass for dozens of top ski resorts!

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2018

Visit Heather Burke’s websites Family Ski Trips.com and  for luxury resort reviews: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

 

 

Holiday Gifts for the Skier and Snowboarders on your List

It’s Christmas time, and you’d rather be skiing than shopping, right?! White snow versus Black Friday – yes?! So here are some easy holiday gift ideas, you can get online, in no time, and be skiing before you can say “there’s no place like snow for the holidays.”

Our top ski and snowboard gifts, from cheap to steep, for friends, family, kids, and après ski fans who never plan to hit the slopes but want look the part for the party!

For the Kids
How cool – literally – is the Lego Ski Resort Kit? I love Legos, my son did too – and he went on to study engineering. Let your kids be creative this Christmas – and all season long, use their imagination and build their own snow resort. I can picture kids in their cuddly long undies on the floor by the fireplace playing with these ski themed Lego for hours, après ski! Check out the adorable ski chalet kit with multi-racial skiers, a snowmobile, fireplace, hot tub, and a husky – of course! Ok, I wish I was a kid, let go of my Lego!

For Fun
Check out Till I Die  for hilarious après ski inspired shirts, from Killington Vermont. You will want some of this humorous ski swag for your #selfie as well. We love the Black Diamond “I’m Difficult” shirt (it also comes in Green Circle “I’m easy”) and the Pizza Pie French Fry Ski Till I die shirt. For the older folks on your list, they even have rear-entry ski boot graphics on a retro t-shirt. We respect the culture of Till I Die and creator/ founder Ryan Orabone’s comment, “To us skiing is more than just a recreational activity. It is a brand that reflects our attitude and a way to live.” Get your tillidie, while they last, before you die. Morbid maybe, but you get the mantra…

For the Feet from cheap to steep
Heat Factory hand and toe warmers are a cheap but cozy thoughtful gift. These pocket-size hand warmer packets are my personal life saver. Heat Factory or Grabbers chemical heat packets provide about seven hours of warmth, and extend your time on the slopes between lodge breaks for frozen fingers and toes. I have a pack a day habit – so I am always happy to give and receive (hint hint) hand warmers by the case. Give them to your ski buddy so they don’t bum yours all season.

Ski socks… Ski instructors, pro skiers, and racers all agree – if your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t on top of your ski game. Ski socks are your base and the basics to comfort and performance. Quality merino wool ski socks provide foot warmth, and wicking of funky foot sweat and odor. Ski socks cost $10-30, worth it for the technical fabric and fit. SmartWool  and Vermont’s Darn Tough come in fun colors, shapes and sizes for skiers and snowboarders.

The Best Ski Boot Bag is by Kulkea. For $120 you can pack for a day, weekend or week out west with the versatile Powder Trekker backpack. They also have a heated Thermal Trekker boot pack ($229)! How sweet is that – you can warm your ski boots, and your breakfast croissant on the way to the ski slopes. Kulkea boot bags are compartmentalized to hold your ski boots in separate waterproof sleeves, helmet, goggles, and gloves, with lots of smart pockets for your pass, sunglasses, and a surprisingly roomy center compartment for base layers. Kulkea’s boot bag is super lightweight, made of performance fabric, looks moderately stylish (for a backpack), and keeps you organized on a powder morning. Kulkea means “to go” in Finnish, and this will be your go to ski boot bag. We also love that the Kulkea brain children are East Coast skiers.

Skis, Beautiful Skis
Blizzard’s Coming! Get your loved one some cool new skis. We are big Blizzard fans (snow pun intended) so we gifted each other Black Pearls (for her) and Bonafides (for him), all mountain skis at 98mm underfoot we are ready to conquer any conditions together. Merry Christmas my dear… bring on the blizzards this year. See our Top Skis Review

For the Graphic Obsessed Skier
J Skis are the ski to be on. Designed by Jason Levinthal, creator of Line and Full Tilt, these J Skis are his latest baby, 6 unique designs with a variety of custom graphics J’s. We love the construction and creativity behind the Vacation Skis – complete with cute babes on the top sheet. The Hot Dogger comes topped with condiments – smear of mustard please. For gals who rip, the unicorn inspired pink Whippit looks wicked fun. These high quality, head-turning skis are hand made with carbon fiber and maple core (made in Quebec Canada eh?!). J Skis are sold direct with 100 % guarantee from Jason himself – so you save on “retail markup” and your skis are autographed by the man, the legend since 1995.

A Liftopia gift card. Liftopia sells discounted lift tickets at over 250 alpine resorts across North America, so giving the gift of this versatile vertical card is easy, for a downhill deal like $49 tickets to Sugarbush. You decide the amount, $25 to $1,000 denominations, and your friend can ski when and where they want – at serious savings.

Ski Keepsakes For great retro ski posters, pillows, mugs, ski t-shirts, games, and snowflake jewelry, The New England Ski Museum has a great location, at the base of Cannon Mountain, and an online store, with unique ski gifts for as little as $12. Best of all, your purchase benefits this non-profit ski association that is preserving ski history in New England.

For your best ski bunny
Alp N Rock  makes gorgeous après ski shirts. I splurged for my #selfie – Merry Christmas to me, and I LOVE it. If you want your gal to embrace skiing, buy her a beautiful wool henley with alpine motifs and cool graphics from Stowe to Aspen to Zermatt – this stylish shirt goes from the slopes to the après ski bars, anywhere you want to make a ski statement ($160). Did I mention its warm, with soft merino wool, no itch?! Alp N Rock makes crew necks for dudes too, it’s like Affliction goes alpine.

For the Downhill Dude on your list
We love All About Après ski swag, from caps, to T-shirts, hoodies and hats, this wearable-art ski gift will be the talk of après ski – especially the lovable St Bernard Ski Shirt. Also we love the First Tracks Bloody Mary T, perfect for those pretty gals that dress Sunday morning to ride the lift to the on mountain bar for their booze infused lycopene cocktail!

Or give them snow, take your family to a New England ski resort – they have been blowing snow whenever it’s below, and it’s surprisingly white on the slopes due to the extensive, expensive snowmaking the ski areas have been putting out.

Copyright 2017, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

 

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