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Après Ski for Families

New England Ski Resorts | Canada | Rockies | Europe

With today’s high-speed lifts and ski slopes buffed to baby’s bottom smooth, you can easily have ten by ten (10 runs by 10am). Maybe “après ski” needs to be redefined for our fast-paced, short-interest society. A plate of nachos and a TV screen may not be entertaining enough for the multi-tasking, must-do-it-all weekend warriors. Of course, you can still have your beer and live band adult-style après ski in your ski boots.

Resorts recognizing this trend are adding amenities away from the snow to amuse you after you have carved out your alpine time. This is good news for families, especially teens with nanosecond attention spans, and for non-skiers that tag along on ski trips but find base lodge bench warming to be less than stimulating. Now you can zipline at ski resorts, or snow tube, or snowshoe to a yurt for candlelight dinner and star gazing. Ski Resort have  outdoor heated swimming pools and spas, Mountain Coasters and Climbing Walls, themed movie and game nights to keep you amused beyond the alpine and cross country skiing options.

Okemo understands that skiers, and non-skiers alike, want fun beyond the fall line. The Ludlow Vermont resort continues to tack on “alpine alternatives” for guests to sample after (or in lieu of) skiing. To entertain guests at Okemo’s Jackson Gore, three après amusements await: The Spring House aquatic center with an indoor pool, frog slide and splash features for kids, plus racquet ball, hot tub, fitness facilities and spa treatments for “big kids.” The neighboring Ice House is a covered ice arena, where you can rent skates, then sip hot cocoa by the fire. Okemo's Mountain Coaster called The Timber Ripper at Jackson Gore is a thriller, like a downhill train on curvey tracks.

Valley's Golf Training Center, just a short drive away,
is an impressive indoor facility that remains open all winter here (inside), sharing space with the Nordic Center (and a delicious restaurant - Willie Dunn’s Grille). You can spend an hour or the entire day practicing your putt, having your swing professionally analyzed, or playing 18 inside on a cold Vermont day. If you’d rather be playing Pebble Beach or Pinehurst than pushing through powder on Okemo’s ski trails, queue up a round of virtual golf on the simulator and avoid frostbite (and sand traps).

Stowe has my kind of après, shop till you drop on the Mountain Road. But for a healthier way to end your day – The Swimming Hole is a fantastic place for indoor water play. Modeled after a classic Vermont red barn, this community project with a competition-size pool was funded by Jake Burton – giving it immediate cool factor. Parents will find a wading pool and a kid-size waterslide. Non-skiers, or anyone who didn’t get enough cardio on Stowe’s Front Four, can join a circuit training or fitness class. Day and week passes are available for Stowe vacationers.

If gravity gets you down on the slopes (so to speak), the Antigravity Complex (AGC) at Sugarloaf is the place to “hang” after skiing. AGC is a world-athlete training facility, part of Carrabassett Valley Academy’s campus where the private student skiers and snowboarders work out, practicing aerials and maneuvers indoors before taking it up onto Comp Hill. AGC is open afternoons for the public to use the rock climbing wall, the trampoline with harnesses, the wooden skateboard bowl and park, plus basketball courts and a running track.

The Sugarloaf shuttle can take you from your condo to the complex for free. AGC is 20,000-feet of athletic action, all for reasonable fees. And, you never know when you might bump into CVA’s next Olympic bump skier on the weight bench. All this antigravity comes with a heavy liability release form, not much different than skiing (have you ever read the back of your lift ticket?).

If skiing at Sunday River is not a big enough day for you, try the Sunday River Zipline at South Ridge or tubing. Kids can enjoy ice skating at White Cap Fun Center while Mom & Dad enjoy a brew and tunes inside at Shipyard Brewhaus. Bethel's “Big” on Route 26, take the free Mountain Explorer shuttle, has plenty of indoor games to further amuse you. The Big Adventure Center lets you shoot your teenagers (its legal because its laser tag), scale the rock climbing wall, or play a game of mini-bowling. Big is a huge hit with kids, and big boys that like toys, especially in the evening. If the Big arcade and animated setting is too much for you – you can drop the kids off and go next door to the Briar Lea for a Guinness while your game players exhaust themselves (and their allowance).

New Hampshire's Gunstock has the most exhilarating, best Zipline in the East, a perfect compliment to your day carving Gunstock's scenic slopes is soaring above the ski trails on the longest zip span on the continent. Bretton Woods also has a Zipline Canopy Tour for adrenaline seekers, as well as dog sled rides.

Big Sky in Montana has ziplines too. For a really special Montana excursion, you can tour Yellowstone National Park in winter, a short drive from Big Sky, to see Old Faithful geyser, bison, elk and even coyotes and wolves via snowcoach tour or on snowmobile through the park.

So next time you are in the mountains, wrap up your skiing so you can have more après ski amusements. It makes for good water cooler chat on Monday that you carved Sugarloaf's White Nitro then banked turns on Maine’s biggest skateboard park all in one day, or skied Lone Peak at Big Sky before watching Old Faithful blast off in Yellowstone in the afternoon.

All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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