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

Month: December 2015

Colorado’s got the snow!

If you are tired of waiting for Eastern temperatures to drop and natural snow to dump, you 1heather-powdershould jump on a flight West where the snow is. The Rocky Mountains have great early season snow this season.

We took off from balmy Boston, landed in a Denver snowstorm, drove two hours up I-70, rode 3 lifts to the 12,500’ summit at Copper Mountain, and we were skiing deep natural snow. Our first ski run of the ski season, almost 3,000’ vertical on Copper’s front face, was breathtaking – from high-alpine down through heavenly snow-caked towering pines, long sweeping trails were covered in fresh powdery snow. We could have easily stayed at Copper for a week.  But our Colorado ski safari included four ski resort destination,  Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen Snowmass, and Winter Park– lots more skiing.

2heather-pow-treeVail is the king of Colorado skiing
, and already this season this legendary ski resort has 100” of snow and 4,500 acres open including the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. Arriving in Vail Village, the pine trees were twinkling with lights and fresh sparkly snow, chalets roofs were loaded in white, like an Alps snowglobe. We found winter, and brilliant western blue sky, skiing 30,000’ vertical mid-December according to Vail’s “Epic Mix” app.

If you are looking for the snow, you will find it in Colorado.

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

Vail’s Epic Ski App

1heather-simbaLeave it to Vail Resort to generate the most engaging mobile ski app – Epic Mix. From the folks who bought you the Epic Pass – a super savings season pass good at all Vail’s resorts, here is an Epic Mix app that tracks your vertical skiing, gives you real time intel on ski conditions, lift line times throughout Vail Resort, shows how your kids are progressing in ski school, and how your race time is compared to Lindsey Vonn. Epic Mix even offers up photos of you and your friends that were captured around the mountain, thanks to your scan-able RFID lift access card.

3-snowmass-sheer-blissHere’s my honest scoop on the ski app, I’m not big on apps or skiing glued to my phone… I go to the mountains to escape technology, electronics, stats and media. What I like about Epic mix is you don’t even need your phone app turned on. Just sign up, turn off your phone and go ski if that’s the way you want to play. You can check your skiing stats online or on your phone at the end of the ski day. Other ski apps- Trace and Navtronics Ski apps munch data and run down your battery.

2hrb-beaver-creekEpic Mix tracks via your ski ticket, so you can turn it on to check your stats at the end of the day or the season, even view the app on your pc, so you’re not staring at your smart phone all day and missing out on Vail’s epic scenery. Of course the new Gondola One has Wi-Fi and heated seats, a Vail’s 50th anniversary lift, if you want to check on your vert accumulated mid-day, see the line wait times at Lions Head, or reserves a lunch table with a view at the 10th Mountain Lodge at mid Vail.

The only thing better than the free Epic Mix app is Vail’s Epic Pass, which for $599 with an early season purchase (read: April for the next season) includes skiing at all 10 of Vail Resorts. Figure that a day ticket at Vail is $149, Beaver Creek is $165 – so this pass amortizes quickly with one trip out west. The Epic Mix app will track your vertical at all them, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City/Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.

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

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.

Go Glove is a ski glove liner for high techies on the hill. This Bluetooth wireless glove can operate your phone, camera, GoPro, control your playlist and volume, you name it, with a touch of your well-protected glove fingers. The Go Glove is $129 and you can wear it under your ski mitts or gloves, no more numb-finger fumbling with your devices.

For the Patriots fan on your list, get RAMP’s New England Patriots Ski emblazoned with NFL graphics that will get cheers from Pats fan on the chairlift. This 90-mm all-mountain ski made in Park City, Utah, is $649, skiing up to Super Bowl Sunday = priceless.

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

By Heather Burke
Photos of Schweitzer Mountain Resort by Greg Burke

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


Is Schweitzer in Schwitzerland? No, Idaho.

Funny that everyone has heard of Sun Valley Idaho, but not Schweitzer. Schweitzer is a real skiers’ mountain located in Idaho’s northern panhandle – almost in Canada. And its huge, the largest ski area in Idaho and Washington, with 2,900 acres of skiing. To top it off, Schweitzer Mountain is beautiful with panoramic views as far as Montana, Washington and Canada from 1schweitzer-mountain--heatherthe 6,400’ summit.

The most impressive vista is that of Lake Pend Oreille (ear lobe in French for it shape) stretching out below, the 5th deepest lake in the US – the Navy tests submarines here. I nicknamed Schweitzer the Lake Tahoe of Idaho for its wonderful lake views and beautiful ski trails sweeping down toward the big expanse of water.

Schweitzer offers well-pitched consistent trails on the front side, about half of them well-groomed, the rest left fresh for powder hounds. On a Schweitzer snow day, you can ski dozens 2summit-view-schweitzerof shots and chutes in perfectly spaced evergreens and big bowls in between. With five unique alpine aspects, amid 2,400 vertical feet, Schweitzer skis like several ski areas in one.


The Snow Ghost Double with its many double black diamonds might be my favorite terrain, but then the soft groomers of Stella Six-Pack are pretty sweet too, especially Springboard. Ski for 2.5 miles on Little Blue Ridge Run, or take the more direct straight steeps of Stiles.

3-schweitzer-sign-lakesideWith big mountain skiing and a beautiful base village, Schweitzer would be a great ski destination for a few days to a week. There’s cat skiing with Selkirk Powder Cats, and the cool lakeside town of Sandpoint just 9 miles down the twisty mountain road to explore too – recently named a top emerging ski town by Ski Magazine. Ski Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Idaho if you get the chance.

By Heather Burke
Photos of Schweitzer Mountain Resort by Greg Burke

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

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