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Month: January 2018

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

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