FamilySkiTrips.com

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

Category: Family Skiing (page 1 of 3)

Blog on family skiing, teaching your kids to ski, where to take your family on a ski vacation and the best skis and gear for you and your kids for the winter.

Aspen Ski Resorts Epic Merger

What does $1.5 billion in the the ski biz? A bunch of great ski resorts, so says the Crown family, of Aspen Resorts, with their recent acquisition of Intrawest, KSL and Mammoth.

Aspen owns a mammoth ski resort conglomerate now – competing with the likes of Vail Resorts which now tallies 14 ski resorts.

This new Aspen ski company, yet to be renamed and branded, includes 12 mountain resorts and six million annual skier visits, including:
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows
Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain
Snow Summit and Bear Mountain also in California
Steamboat and Winter Park Resort, Colorado
Stratton Vermont
Tremblant in Quebec
Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia
Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario
Canadian Mountain Holidays heli skiing operations

Boom!

Aspen Resorts, and its four ski mountains, Snowmass, Ajax, Aspen Highland and Buttermilk, remain a separate company owned by the Crown family. If you were to count them in the overall ski picture that would be 16 ski resorts, more than Vail… but Vail is still the big daddy in skier visits with busy resorts like Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge and Keystone.

KSL Capital Partners and the owner of the four Aspen resorts, Henry Crown and Company, are the backers of this 1.5 billion ski bundle.

For now, Aspen and the new company says they will honor existing passes this ski season 2017-18, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass +, the M.A.X. Pass, and the Mountain Collective.

It will be interesting to see what mega mountain pass Aspen’s new entourage  will roll out in future ski seasons to compete with Vail Resorts Epic Pass – 14 ski resorts for about $800 bucks. While we don’t love ski monopolies and downhill dynasties, you can’t beat the value of a multi-venue unlimited vertical ski pass for under a $1000….

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

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

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Norway Glacier Skiing at Fonna

A ski resort that’s only open in summer? In the northern hemisphere? Yes, that’s Fonna in Norway. And you can arrive by boat…  it’s just a half hour from a magnificent fjord. Fonna Glacier Ski Resorts is very cool, literally – located on the northernmost of four glaciers in Foglefonna National Park in western Norway along the Hardanger Fjord. Folgefonna is the most southerly Norway glacier- and the 3rd largest largest.

Summer skiing on a glacier is amazing, at this high alpine winter wonderland with brilliant sea views of Norway.

Fonna is not a big ski area, especially by Europe’s Alps standards, it’s just one T-Bar serving four wide trails and several terrain parks. Fonna’s ski slopes are not particularly steep either – its intermediate terrain.

The most black diamond aspect of Fonna is the road up to the glacier. Its a 16-km bus ride to Fonna Glacier ski resort, a one lane road with crazy hairpins turns, climbing swiftly from sea level up 3,900 vertical feet.

Take the ski bus from Jondal, which makes one trip a day from the ferry docks at 9:50am ( so you can boat and ski in the same day). Let the expert bus drivers steer while you enjoy the scenery of rivers and waterfalls, pastoral farms with grazing sheep, then massive boulders and cairns balancing on huge granite slabs. Fonna is closed in winter because of this precarious road and the 30+ feet of snow pack received during the cold dark winter in Norway.

Fonna Ski Resort opens mid-June through mid-August – that’s when the best glacier skiing occurs and it also allow the town of Jondal to share the same bus for skiing as for the school kids September to June (a quite luxurious bus for children, with panoramic windows).

Fonna’s spectacular mountain road ends in a small parking lot by the glacier, where you find Fonna’s humble facilities – two 1970’s vintage chalet buildings. The first hut sells lift tickets ($390 krone for the day) and rents skis, boards, boots, poles, helmets – everything you need to ski if you arrived by boat. Fonna’s modest lodge serves home cooked food cafeteria style and restrooms. Picnic tables outside are the best seat in the house on a clear day.

Visit Fonna on a blue sky day – it’s all about the view, and a picnic outside to truly savor the setting. We had a perfect blue-sky ski day at Fonna in late June, with a fresh dusting of sparkling snow on top of perfect groomed corduroy.

Fonna’s T-Bar is the only lift – intentional to withstand the ice movement on the glacier, it climbs efficiently up 800’ vertical. Fonna’s trails are very wide, moderately pitched, and well-groomed, even salted to harden the snow from melting on warm summer days.

Fonna skiing can get busy with alpine race teams training from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. But the alpine racers are relegated to one big trail, training in several courses with gates side by side. The majority of other skiers and snowboarders hit Fonna’s terrain parks. That leaves the other ski routes on the wide open glacial plateau to us. Fonna also offers 5 km of Nordic groomed trails above the alpine skiing on the plateau.  We made a short climb from atop the T Bar to the cross-country terrain and scored a few beautiful off-piste turns and even better views of Hardanger Fjord and the North Sea.

Your panorama from Fonna is striking blue water below and lush green mountains in contrast to the white wintery glacier. You can see Rosendal’s towering Alps and the North Sea in the distance. For non-skiers, guided glacier tours depart from Fonna’s base lodge. Sunscreen is a must, beware the sun’s refraction from the snow at high elevation even though it feels cool on your face.

Dress in layers for glacier skiing, its winter-like and very exposed, but you can be blessed with intense sun and summer temperatures. We skied 14 laps on the glacier, with a few stops for water in the lodge and a picnic of Norwegian cheese, smoked fish and fruit. The only bus back to Jondal is 3:50pm, get a front seat as the descent is as stunning as the ride up. We were back to town, on our charter sailboat in Jondal harbor by 4:30, for drinks at Hardangerfjord Lodge overlooking the water. Don’t be surprised to see local kids jumping off the ferry dock into the “refreshing” Hardanger Fjord – after all it is summer – and you were just skiing.

Fonna Glacier Ski Resort Stats
Elevation: 1,450 meters, 4757ft
Vertical: 250 meters, 820’
Lifts: 1 T-Bar
4 Trails, 3 Terrain parks and 5 km Nordic groomed trails
Open 9 – 4pm mid June to Mid-August

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Most Epic Ski Winter Ever?

Entering this winter I had lofty ski goals. I vowed to ski my age in days, and pledged to do so at a big birthday party with all my friends as witness. Not only did I hit my mark, I exceeded 50 with a bunch of bonus ski days! This was the best winter of skiing EVER. How was your ski season?

My amazing ski season brought first tracks in Maine and a White Christmas in Vermont, cat skiing Canada to Courchevel France, ending with perfect spring corn in Colorado. 69 days at over 28 ski resorts. It was truly epic, thanks in large part to the EPIC Pass. Did you achieve your ski goals? Ski anywhere new and different?

My skis are put away, so I am reminiscing about this best-ever ski season, already dreaming of next winter’s snow and where to go!

My Top Ten from a Top Ski Season:

1. Skiing Vermont over Christmas with my daughter and husband was snow globe magic. I grew up in Vermont so I treasured being back in the Green Mountains all covered in white at Jay Peak and Burke.

2. Cat skiing in the Canadian Rockies. How ironic that we flew from Maine to the remote Monashees only to find that our cat ski companions were all from Sugarloaf! What followed? Four days of fantastic camaraderie, untouched powder, steep and deep tree skiing and hot tubbing amid Alpen Glow with our new ski friends.

3. Discovering Big White was a big win, this cool Canadian ski resort is friendly, fun, with fantastic frost-covered trees. What’s
not to love? Good snow, gorgeous groomed trails, genuine Canadian hospitality in the village, and a bonus 25% exchange rate for beer, eh?!

4. Skiing five Colorado ski resorts on one Epic Ski Pass in January was, well, EPIC! The snow goods blessed Colorado, and we skied fresh powder at Vail, Beavercreek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapaho Basin. We followed that trip with Utah, where we hit Park City and Canyons also on our Epic Pass. A lot of ski bang for our $800 bucks.

5. Powder Mountain in Utah lived up to its name. What a cool powder stash, and an up-and-coming indie resort, owned by the Summit Group. If you want to get away from Vail Resort conglomerate and crowds, Snowbasin and Powder – just a half hour apart, are gems with huge terrain, few peeps, and terrific scenery.

6. Skiing The French Alps! It had been 30 years since I’d skied France and the alpine ambiance was just as “charming” as I remembered. Jagged snow covered peaks, vast vertical descents at the biggest ski resorts in the world, alpine chalets serving fondue on the slopes, après ski dancing and drinking, followed by more refined cuisine and fine wine at five-star French hotels. Fantastique!

7. My new favorite European ski villages are Courchevel and Méribel, on par with Kitzbühel and St Anton. Val D’Isère is another classic ski town – historic and happening apres ski with La Folie Douce on-snow party that’s off-the-hook.

8. The best culinary event on the snow is “Taste of Vail” combining my three favorite things: wine, food and skiing. This is an extraordinary culinary event for the vertically obsessed. I’ve never tasted such wonderful wines – the perfect après ski in quintessential Vail resort.

9. The big splash to our end of season – watching
Vail’s World Championship Pond Skimming at Spring Back to Vail
which also featured a big name band live concert, free, with Magic in Gerald Ford’s presidential park at Vail. A musical magical ending to a 69 day ski season!

10. Two scary moments that make the highlight reel: Escaping a horrendous car crash on Vail Pass on our way to the slopes at 7am. (When it says icy roads may exist, you need to slow down even if you’re driving a four-wheel-drive Subaru. No one is invincible on ice). Surviving food poisoning in France (eating raw scallops at 10,000′, even at a Michelin 1 star restaurant, is a bad idea).

What were your top 10 ski memories of 2016-17 ski season? Remember, if you don’t set ski goals, then how can you accomplish them? Skis are stowed, pulling out the Paddleboard, the bike and the boat… but dreaming of next ski winter!

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

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

 

Top Spring Ski Events in the East & West

Don’t you love spring skiing? Warm temperatures meet a winter’s worth of snow depths. Ski conditions soften and so do bulky dress codes at the best ski resorts. From music to moguls to general mayhem – these spring fests are super fu:

Top spring ski fests in Colorado, Utah, California, and Montana:
Taste of Vail is a fun food, wine and ski fest – what could be better than skiing spring conditions followed by wine tastings and food from Vail’s top Chefs April 5-9!? Spring Back to Vail April 14-16 brings live headliner bands for free concerts to Vail Village. Après ski at Vail just got big and FREE which rarely happens at Vail, right?! Look for parties on the mountain too – like Tiki & Tunes Luau at mid-Vail.

Vail’s World Pond Skimming Championships is the biggest, April 16 at Golden Peak. Enjoy a BBQ and beers overlooking the big pond where the best and worst) dressed in crazy costumes attempt to cross the big expanse of cold water to the cheers and jeers of a big crowd. Like everything in Vail, this pond skim is massive, so is the crowd of spectators.

Whistler Blackcomb World Ski & Snowboard Festival April 7-16 is a top ski event, bringing together skiing, film, art, professional ski and snowboard competitions, plus top concerts and après ski parties that go crazy late! If you’ve watched Bravo’s Après Ski and Timber Creek Lodge- you know Whistler’s party scene is out of this world.

Park City’s Spring Grüv in Canyons Village starts late March with awesome free concerts and après-ski parties – culminating April 8 with the 21st Annual Pond Skimming Contest at Red Pine.

Squaw Valley celebrates PAIN MCSHLONKEY for Shane McConkey, posthumously and humorously – skiers are encouraged to dress up in vintage gear and pay tribute to the legendary free skier by going big March 18.

Steamboat’s Springalicious 37th annual cardboard classic is April 15 – locals recycle by creating box-cars to derby to fly downhill. The crashes are spectacular, so is the après ski scene at Steamboat.

Breckenridge’s annual Spring Fever Beer Festival April 8 marks its 11th year. This Colorado spring ski event is perfect for craft beer lovers and spring skiing lovers – that includes everyone right?!

Aspen Highlands Closing Day is an elevated spring ski party – the spring ski celebration above 10,000’ in the Rockies gets wild, with ridiculous retro outfits, serious drinking, even Champagne spraying! Did we mention you’re at 10,000 feet?! High times in Colorado.

Top Spring Ski Events in The East

New England skiers know the best skiing is typically in spring. Put away the facemasks and hand warmers for much welcome warmer sunnier ski days. The hard snow softens, those man made base depths turn to cream corn by mid morning and the BBQ fires up mid afternoon for sun and fun by the slopes. Spring is also a time for pond skimming, zany costumes and competitions on the ski slopes, even tailgating in muddy parking lots. No one said Eastern skiers were sane? But they are hard core! Here are some Eastern spring ski rites of passage and grand season finales full of fun and games, music and grills.

Cannon Mountain Bodefest on March 25 with Bode Miller himself.. I think he still “hates the media” so don’t bring the news crew.

Killington Bear Mountain Challenge NOR’BEASTER is April 8 as Bump skiers go all out on Outer Limits moguls. Cheers and beers (sponsor Dos Equis) flow at the base of this spring ski party. The Beast of the East will keep skiing in to May.

Sugarloaf Reggaefest – now in year 29 April 6-9 is like Jamaica comes to Maine’s mountains. Top reggae bands set up on the Sugarloaf beach by day, and in the base lodge by night for some rocking island music. Wear your tie-dye and tie on a good time. Ironically few reggae fest attendees ski, so this is a great weekend for spring ski conditions at the Loaf, especially when the snowfields are open.

Sunday River’s Spring Festival April 1-2 was once called Parrot Head, so expect Jimmy Buffet music, margaritas flowing, palm trees, tropical outfits and general island vibe outside the White Cap Base.

Loon has 80’s Day April 1- no foolin! Dress in your best (or worst) 1980’s outfit and get out on Loon’s soft slopes. Be totally rad for this spring weekend at North Peak, South Peak and Paul Bunyan’s for après ski! Loon Mountain’s Slushpool Party and Wet Tug-O-War is April 8.

Wildcat has their Annual Cat Scratch Fever event April 7-8 as skiers compete to be the Cat’s Meow before the judges. If you’ve seen Wildcat’s Kitty Litter Box Derby in February, don’t miss this wild spring event at the Cat with live après ski entertainment in the Wildcat Pub .

Sugarbush Gelandesprung & Mt. Ellen End of Season Celebration is April 1, this traditional ski jump event is a classic – to watch – even wilder to get sprung.

Sugarbush‘s Pond Skimming at Lincoln Peak April 8 is also a big splash, followed by the legendary Steins’ Challenge on April 22 which is spring mogul mania – bring Z rubber knees to Sugarbush.

Okemo’s Slush Cup and Splash for Cash April 8 is a wet and wild good time with a pretty good pay day for the winner. Okemos 80 Retro Jam is set for April 15 – rock your most rad 80s attire – totally awesome dude as Okemo wraps their season!

Jay Peak has Pond Skimming and their Annual Tailgate Party April 15, so bring your bikini and your bbq.

Easter Sunday at East Coast ski resorts brings sunrise services at Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Killington, Stowe and Jay Peak….. Most ski resorts have Easter Egg Hunts on the ski slopes for kids, and costume parades, even a visit by the Easter Bunny. Look for a few snow bunnies on the beginner slopes too! Easter weekend is the season finale Sunday for most New England ski resorts.

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2017

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

 

Extreme Sports, Even Skiing, With a Disability

How ‘Extreme Sports’ Can Be Adapted for Those Living with a Disability

Staying active is just as, if not more, important to those living with physical disabilities as it is to those without. Not only does staying active promote better physical health and help prevent further complications arising from one’s disability, but it also provides a boost to one’s mental health. There’s nothing like exercise and enjoyable activities to improve one’s mood.

But how do you get this physical activity? If you live with a physical disability, are you confined to swimming laps at the pool, or casually walking around the neighborhood?

Of course not. In fact, people with disabilities can participate in the excitement of “extreme” sports and activities. With the help of modern technology, service dogs, and various organizations devoted to helping the disabled stay active, you can put the thrill back into your physical fitness routine.

Image: Pixabay.com

Skiing

Your disability should not keep you off the ski slopes. Skiing is a wonderful activity that improves balance, coordination, and provides a serious amount of aerobic exercise. With adapted skiing, the disabled can experience the thrill and benefits of skiing while minimizing risk.

In fact, my best friend, who lost his leg in a car accident a few years ago, is still hitting the slopes. He is also passionate about getting others with similar issues to do so.

“Adapted skiing requires intense upper body strength, dexterity and reaction times, and can provide one of the most exhilarating experiences available on this earth. So it’s only natural that people with various bodily injuries and disabilities would want to find ways to start or to continue to enjoy this beautiful adapted sport,” notes Disabled Sports USA.

Adaptations include the mono-ski, bi-ski, and sit-ski. The mono-ski involves a chair placed atop a single ski, and uses shorter ski poles and upper body movement to direct the ski. Bi-ski involves dual skis, and is “for people who have intact lower legs but poor control of their extremities. This can include people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.”

Canoeing, Kayaking, and Rafting

Some of the most enjoyable sports out there involve paddling down a river or lake, and they are perfect “extreme” sports for those with disabilities. Most canoeing, kayaking, and rafting vessels can be upgraded to group or tandem models, which allows those with disabilities to safely participate with the help of friends and/or a guide. Even those suffering from visual impairment can safely participate in watersports due to this.

Image: Pixabay.com

Rock climbing

“Rock climbing is a powerful tool in building confidence and reachable goals. It demonstrates how a successful climb is the result of fundamental teamwork. Climbing is not only a fun and challenging sport, but provides tremendous health benefits by improving strength and flexibility,” notes Abilities.com.

There are plenty of adaptive technologies out there for those with disabilities who wish to get into rock climbing. These include adaptive harnesses, ascending devices, and foot and knee prosthetics.

Hunting and archery

For those looking to add some firepower to their activity list, there’s always hunting, sharpshooting, and archery. Modern technology can assist those who are unable to shoot using traditional means, and various organizations provide opportunities and support for the disabled. For example, the United Foundation For Disabled Archers has been working for over 20 years to give disabled people the opportunity to live out their bow-hunting dreams.

Image: Pixabay.com

Wheelchair sports

You’ve surely heard of wheelchair basketball and wheelchair polo – both of which are rather self-explanatory. But those in wheelchairs can kick their sporting up a notch if they wish. Did you know that there are communities devoted to things like wheelchair skateboarding and even wheelchair parasailing?

Author

Travis  White is a proud member of the LearnFit team, which provides people with information on healthier and happier living. We are happy to have him as a contributor to FamilySkiTrips.com

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Get Your Kids Ready to Ski

2-ski-timberline2The PSIA and I agree on how to get your kids ready to ski. Here is sage ski advice from the Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructors of America with our own Family Ski Tips. Confession: I was a member of PSIA when I taught skiing at Smugglers Notch Resort in Vermont in the 90s. Flash forward, as Editor of Luxury Ski Trips and FamilySkiTrips.com, I have similar ski tips for parents on how to make skiing fun with less stress for everyone.

PSIA Ski Tips
1. Be active as a family before your ski trip

Skiing and snowboarding require physical fitness, so start an exercise program for you and your family. Whether it’s enrolling kids in soccer or another sport, to taking walks together as a family, it’s important to get moving. See my similar tips on quad strengthening wall sits with the kids pre ski season.
2. Do your weather homework 
blizzard-heatherSki resorts have mountain cams,  temperature updates, even meteorologists on retainer. Know before you go –  what the weather and temperature is like on the mountain and where you are staying, so you can dress your child appropriately for conditions. At some resorts temps vary greatly from the town versus the mountain, mind the elevation too!
3. Try on ski/snowboard  gear before you go
For younger children getting used to putting on ski or snowboard equipment and clothing helps them adjust to the mountain environment more easily. You can make it a game, we call it the pre ski season fashion runway show,  and help them see their ski/snowboard clothes and equipment as something fun to play in versus something strange or bulky to wear. For older kids, it also helps to check to make sure everything still fits and is working properly before you arrive on the slopes.
3family-lookout-pass4. Invest in lessons for your kids
Having your kids learn from an expert can make their ski/snowboard experience more fun, see our Top Tips for teaching kids to ski,  and also gives you time to enjoy the slopes. Set the expectation that the lesson is more like a sports practice than going to school and that they’ll have fun while getting to learn new skills.
5. Watch ski/snowboard movies or videos to get everyone excited
We couldn’t agree more – nothing like a Warren Miller family ski movie night to amp up the alpine enthusiasm among the fam! Use media to motivate your kids and set expectations of what their experience on the mountain and lessons will be like. Check out ski and snowboard clips on YouTube and PSIA-AASI’s  YouTube Channel.
6. Pack the right gear
family-ski-trip-packingYou don’t have to spend a fortune on kids’ ski and snowboard gear. Just make sure they have a good snowsuit that’s wind/snow resistant along with goggles, long socks pulled up below the knee, snow gloves and insulated layers. If they become more involved in the sport then you can invest in wicking base layers and more expensive jackets when they will be out on the mountain for longer periods of time. There’s a science to packing properly – see our guide to packing for a family ski trip.

Get your kids ski bags and gear and get ready! See our reviews of the Best Family Ski resorts in the World and we’ll see you on the  ski slopes!

By Heather Burke, photography by Greg Burke www.luxuryskitrips.com

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2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

John Christie – Maine Ski Legend – His Legacy Lives

John Christie, Jamie Walter photo

John Christie, Jamie Walter photo

I couldn’t have imagined a better ski writer to assume my beloved newspaper column for the Maine Sunday Telegram than John Christie. As flattered as I had been in 2010 that Christie, and his son Josh, were chosen as my successors for the ski column I had written for 11 years, I was equally saddened to learn of John’s passing on May 7, 2016.

I was proud the day he and Josh took over “my ski column” at the Press Herald. I joked with John that it took two to fill my ski boots – but I was impressed with their work, and loved that a father son team shared the column , carrying on beautifully, with engaging, eloquent and just plain fun content. I had been hired at Boston.com as the ski guru, but I circled back to check on “my baby” weekly. John and Josh shared, possibly eclipsed, my passion for skiing, writing, and the ski biz.

John Christie was always a generous enthusiastic promoter of the sport – and a super nice guy! His son Josh is so-damn-outdoorsy and also a brilliant writer (of books! about beer! and skiing! #cool). How heartwarming that Josh can carry on his Dad’s legacy and continue to create and share stories about their family’s favorite sport.

As for my memories: every time I met John Christie, his smile warmed my heart, especially on those cold windy ski days at the Loaf. His laugh cut through any frostbite, his optimism and first-hand stories could outlast any fixed-grip chairlift ride.

6sugarloaf-summitJohn had mad people skills, amazing retention of every player’s name and their influence (the good, the bad and the not-fit-to-print) in the ski biz, myself included – he not only remembered me but made me feel like a ski rock star, calling me the “First Lady of Maine Skiing” – I told you he was funny. He was an incredible storyteller. His words came from the heart, honest and humorous, but peppered with factoids.

John Christie was a skiing walking Wikipedia of New England ski timelines, the take overs, the tumult, the triumphs, the comings and goings and gondolas, all the crazy ups and downs in snow sports, from his experiences at Camden Snow Bowl, Mount Snow, Saddleback, and Sugarloaf. Did I mention he was a pretty fine skier? Fast too. #SkiYourAge

The sad news, John Christie died suddenly at 79, he was working Saturday morning at the entrance gate of Camden Hills State Park. He was doing what he loved, welcoming people to engage in Maine’s great outdoors. I can picture the last people he greeted with his boundless energy, and how he brightened their day during that brief encounter.

ski_museum_maine (3)The truly positive news though, John Christie will be remembered and revered through his written word, he wrote “The Story of Sugarloaf,” which won the 2008 Skade Award from the International Skiing History Association ( a must read for every Sugarloafer). He’s left a legacy,  as president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, the Sugarloaf Ski Club, as director of the National Ski Areas Association, as a founder of the Maine Ski Museum and the Maine Ski Hall of Fame – where he was inducted in 2006. A celebration of John’s life will be held at Sugarloaf Resort Saturday June 18 at 4pm.

John 2-ski-timberline2Christie’s name will remain forever “google-able” in the ski biz, and he was schussing the world long before the world wide web. He will have a sparkly snowy space  forever in our fondest ski thoughts. My first tracks next ski season down Sugarloaf’s Timberline to Tote, or Saddleback’s Mule Skinner, will be dedicated to John Christie.

By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke

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Heather Burke, 2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips & Luxury Ski Trips

How was your ski season?

big-sky-moonlightHow was your ski season? Did you ski your age in # days? That’s always a goal of mine, it’s exponentially more challenging each winter. I like to envision my 80 ski days when I am retired at 80, and (hopefully) still fit and carving fabulously. Klaus Obermeyer, Aspen-based famous ski clothes designer from Germany, had the goal of skiing as fast as his age, he’s now 95. I think my approach is safer but you go Klaus!

big-sky-heather-moonlightAs an East Coaster, I could be completely disappointed with this season. Let’s see – it rained Christmas, was 60 degrees New Years, with
abysmally low snow totals all season long. Mad River Glen was only open 45 days. New England ski resorts struggled, many didn’t make it to Easter weekend which was super early – still March. A few kept making snow into April, Sunday River and Killington, way over snow budget. Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Sugarbush made it to May Day, Killington keeps spinning.

Back in December when I saw the El Nino
6kitzbuhel-hrb-markus-pow2weather writing on the wall, I hashtagged this winter #GoToTheSnow. And that’s what I did. I skied pow from start to finish, soft snow at Vail and Aspen-Snowmass in mid-December, to my finale at Big Sky Montana on Easter in a foot of fresh. I ventured to Austria in January, skiing Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck, Zillertal, SkiWelt and Alpbach, then flew back to Colorado in February for more white gold at Copper and Steamboat.

aspen-heatherI ended with 49 ski days (I don’t turn 50 till July this year – so I legally accomplished my goal). Of those 49 days, only 7 where bagged in balmy New England. I hit 30 different resorts, a stat I find pretty cool, from East to West to Europe.

My best ski day? There was the stellar sunny day in Kitzbühel Austria when I skied the Hahnenkamm course the week before the world’s best downhill skiers hit this hairy race course.

1aspen-highlands-bowlIn Aspen, we had powder days at Ajax, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass – so we certainly hit that jackpot. First tracks in 9 inches of fresh snow at Steamboat was pretty sweet too.

My favorite ski run was probably a moonlight ski down at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont on an unpredicted 8-inches of powder that fell during our mountaintop beer pairing dinner in mid-February – cheers!

big-sky-aspen-heather-moonlight2The best ski trip was Big Sky Montana, because our family of four was reunited on the snow. We hadn’t shared a family ski trip in four years (while the kids were in college). Staying in a cozy mountainside cabin, we could put our skis on for first tracks from our Cowboy Heaven deck, and do laps on the Lone Peak Tram, and the Six Shooter high speed six-pack chair, skiing all of Big Sky’s amazing 5,800 acres. We had fresh snow almost daily, except for the gloriously sunny Saturday prior to Easter. Skiing the Dictators steep and deep with our son, and cruising cord on Tippy’s and Silver Knife with our daughter were the stuff ski dreams are made of.

big-sky-family2016Of course, we had the inevitable family fits, travel hassles, planning our canned family ski photos, and bickering about which Big Sky trails to ski, but that’s what gives downhill skiing its uphills.

It’s time to tune my skis and set my sights on next ski season. I’m shopping next Season’s Pass deals too. The Epic Pass is super tempting with unlimited skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City, and three ski resorts in Lake Tahoe… to name a few.

big-sky-ianThe Max Pass  is another multi mountain deal including Big Sky, Bachelor, Solitude, Steamboat, Copper and Winter Park and my East Coast favorites Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Loon, Killington/Pico, Stratton and Tremblant. I will let you know which ski pass I purchase to #GoToTheSnow.

By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke

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Heather Burke, 2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Big Sky is a big deal for New England skiers

Here’s a confession, as a New England skiers I long for my big week out west skiing under bright blue sky on steeps with deep snow. Mind you I love skiing the slopes of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, but there is nothing quite like the Rockies and the big mountain experience western skiing provides.

big-sky-heather_aspenAs a New England Pass holder, the pass valid at Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loon, I have to let you in on a little secret.. buy the Max pass add on ($299) for 5 days each at Big Sky Montana, Steamboat, Brighton, Copper, Winter Park, Mt Bachelor, Cypress and Crystal, plus Stratton, Killington, Pico, and Tremblant in the East. A total of 22 ski resorts…

Big Sky now has 5,800 acres, that’s more than Vail. The summit of Big Sky is an amazing 11,000′ reached by tram, you can ski off all directions from Lone Peak and it is as scenic as steep. You can see as far as the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Club, or straight down the full 4,350′ vertical to Big Sky’s ski village at the base. You just must ski Big Sky before you die.

I recommend you stay at Big Sky’s Summit Hotel – can’t get closer to the slopes, but the Shoshone ans Huntley are super close too. Did I mention Montana has great snow this season?!

That’s my ski stash revealed and your best ski trip deal for the day. Happy trails!

By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke

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Heather Burke, 2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Rock Stars at Sunday River

So perhaps you have heard that Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer has opened a cafe at Sunday sunday-river-foggy-goggle-apres-skiRiver Ski Resort in Maine. That’s right, the rock and roller is rolling out his  certified organic coffee slopeside in the restaurant formerly known as the Phoenix House at South Ridge.

Sunday River’s newest dining spot is the Rockin’ & Roastin’ Café & Restaurant. Krammer is in cahoots with Les Otten, former vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox and previous owner of Sunday River and the former American Skiing Co. Makes sense that Les Otten would hand over the reigns from the Phoenix, so he can focus on his revitalization plans of the Balsams in New Hampshire.

sunday-river-skiing-risky-businessSunday River’s family friendly fun eatery Rockin & Roastin offers Aerosmith music memorabilia and menu entrees that tribute the great band. How about  ordering up “Janie’s Got a Bun” and “Livin’ on a Wedge”?

This new ski resort coffee and brew news got me to thinking, and a DownEast magazine editor asked me for ideas on other mountain diners and dives’ potential dish names. Here’s what I thought up:

“Sweet Dreams” Sugar Shack at Sugarbush, Vermont, owned by the Eurythmics

“Papa Don’t Preach” Pizza Bar serving Madonna’s Mozzarella Pie at the base of Madonna Mountain at Smugglers Notch, Vermont.

Camden Snow Bowl “Rock Lobster” shack in the Lodge – run by the B52s

“Baby You Were Born to Run” take out taco stand at Big Sky Montana, run by the boss- Bruce Springsteen

“Whip It” Coffee Bar at Sugarloaf – with baristas from Devo making frothy triangular loaf logos on everyone’s fancy coffees.

alta_utah_-heather“American Pie” pizza parlor , with Don McLean working the pizza oven at Alta.

“Freebird” Lynyrd Skynyrd free range chicken roast café at Snowbird Utah.

“Stairway to Heaven” après ski bar upstairs at Heavenly with bartender Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin

That’s all I have for today – enjoy your skiing and apres ski too, eh?!

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Heather Burke, 2015 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

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