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

Month: September 2023

Vail Epic Pass or Ikon for skiing?

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is now on sale, with 42 Vail owned ski resorts and an early season purchase of $909 for the 2023-24 winter! Incredible value! Keep in mind, for ski season 2022-23, Vail Resorts sold 2.3 million Epic Passes, so you might anticipate busy ski areas at these Vail-owned and operated resorts. Its still the most “EPIC”, most comprehensive, affordable season pass for skiing in North America!

The Epic Pass starting at $909 offers unlimited skiing at 42 Vail owned ski resorts and 7 days each at many more, plus ski pass benefits in the Alps.  See full details and deadlines on the Epic Pass.

Vail Resorts now include:  Colorado’s VailBeaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte in Colorado, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  and Kirkwood,  Washington’s Stevens Pass, Vermont’s Stowe,  Okemo, Mount SnowNH’s Wildcat, Attitash, Mount Sunapee, the Midwest’s Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps, Seven Springs, even Perisher Australia. In the Alps, Vail Resorts has acquired Andermatt Sedrun Disentis in Switzerland and Crans Montana for 2024-25 – also on this season’s Epic Pass.

Additional ski benefits to Epic Passholders include partner resorts – Telluride, , and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies!  Plus Hakuba Japan.

In Europe, the Epic Pass also allows for ski tickets in the French Alps – Les 3 Vallees in  (think Courchevel, Val Thorens and Meribel), Paradiski – Les Arcs and La Plagne, and Val D’Isere Tignes, plus Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy. In Switzerland, ski at Andermatt Sedrun, at  4 Vallees in Switzerland – which encompasses Verbier, and The Arlberg in Austria – 3 days at Lech Zurs, Stuben, St Christoph and St Anton. Some of these free ski tickets require lodging purchases in The Alps.

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass blow up, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass at over $1,200!

IKON Pass is the other big mega-mountain pass player, at $1049 for the full pass, which combines Aspen’s ski resorts (Alterra Mountain Company) with Boyne, Powdr and Intrawest Resorts plus some indies for a total of 55 – its another extremely versatile pass valid at Aspen’s 4 mountains, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain.  Plus limited skiing at Deer Valley, Snowbird/Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush, Canada’s  Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf, plus partners Sun Valley and Snowbasin.

Where are you skiing next ski season? Which pass are you buying? At these rates you might consider buying both EPIC and IKON for an epic ally iconic ski winter!

See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter and book your next family ski trip!

Safety bars on ski chairlifts?

Upon loading a chairlift, do you lower the safety bar when you’re skiing?
I do… always have, always will. I like the protection of a restraint bar when traveling 20-50-feet above the cold hard ground with no other “safety net” to speak of. Quad chairlifts (for example) are swift, heavy, 500-pound, metal objects traveling at 1,000 feet per minute. Think about the logistics when a lift stops for some “gaper” that misses loading at the base, a boarder that hooks an edge when unloading?!

I also love a chairlift footrest to rest my 12-pound skis, plus the 5-pound ski boots, a short respite for the 5-8 minute ascent, before my next ski down the mountain.

Bonus, most ski lift safety bars also help define the space in which I should sit, and similarly where my chair neighbors should fit their butt, their backpack, poles and gear. Just like on an airplane, I put the armrest down so you “stay on your side”. Flashback to my parent’s station wagon backseat with my two brothers. I digress…

Skiing out west, Colorado, Utah, California, I am flabbergasted by the number of skiers and riders who do not put down their safety bar. The rope speed on detachable lifts is swift, 16 feet per second. Think about that momentum if it comes to a sudden stop.

Chairlift emergency stops can and will happen. Picture your slippery ski pants, perhaps with a little snow or ice build-up on the chair, and no safety bar to stop your forward inertia. Where is your ass going to slide?

Snowboarders, sorry dudes, in particularly seem to think its cooler to hang out without the protection of the safety bar. So when I happen to join a group of dudes, or dudettes, on a six pack or quad, I politely ask if we can please put the bar down. Inevitably they reply “no problem”, “sure,”… some even comment on how the foot rest “is actually quite comfortable.”

Recent ski tragedies bring the importance of a safety bar to new gravity – literally. A Park City Ski Patroller recently fell from the Shortcut chairlift to his death. So sad, our condolences to his family and friends. Shortcut is a fixed grip chair, a tree fell on the line causing the chair to bounce. The chair also likely stopped very abruptly. Was his safety bar down? Uncertain. But had the safety bar been down, you’d think it would have prevented the fall of over 25’?

In recent years, a ski mom and her two children at Grandby Ranch in Colorado slid from their chair when the lift started traveling backwards. The mom died from her fall and impact. Why didn’t they have the safety bar down? Others on the malfunctioning lift had their bars down, and they remained in their chairs, uninjured. Its so simple.

Vail Resorts company-wide policy requires all employees to “restrain themselves by lowering the safety bar when riding a chair lift.”

New Englanders tend to bigger adopters of chairlift safety bars. According to Vermont Tram Safety, “Always bring down the restraint bar. Before you lower the bar, make sure your child is safely seated and then ask others if they’re ready for the bar. Teach older kids to do the same. Getting off, raise the bar when prompted by signs, not before.”

Is it a wild-west phenomenon to disregard the safety bar? A few lifts out west don’t even have a safety bar. The A Lift at Copper Mountain seems precarious with no protection on this upper mountain, often windy, old double. Ditto the Edelweiss double chair to the summit of Alpental at Snoqualmie in Washington which has no safety bar, not even an old school safety gate!

In Europe, lowering the safety bar immediately upon loading a chair is the law in most regions. Many chairlifts in The Alps have automated safety bars that lower immediately, latch and lock just after loading. And the safety bar mechanism doesn’t unlock until you reach the top station, when the bar releases and rises just as skiers and riders enter the unload area. Its seamless, no discussion, no option.

Its fascinating, ok silly, to me when skiers lift the safety bar a full two or three towers prior to the unload ramp. To me, keeping that bar down until I am safely in the unload area is most important. The likelihood of a stoppage is continual, and I don’t want to fall out of the chair where there is any big gap to the ground. Especially with slippery little kids whose backs don’t reach the seat back, so they are already poised forward on the chair. Besides, there is plenty of time to lift the bar, it takes all of 5 seconds, once you announce “bar up.”

I am all about personal freedoms, I’m from New Hampshire – the “live free or die” state. Bode Miller and I love the freedom that only skiing brings.

But safety bars on ski lifts are just that – “safe”! And a simple metal bar certainly doesn’t infringe upon your freedom. If I ride the chair with you, I will politely announce, or request if I sense people are not “ready”bar people”, that I prefer to put the safety bar. So pay attention, be aware, don’t lean your helmet head forward in the way of the bar coming down. And please refrain from saying “good thing I’m wearing a helmet,” if you are leaning so far forward that the bar taps your skid-lid.

In The Alps, by the way, no one asks, it’s just standard protocol, you load the chairlift, sit down, the bar is coming down. Go ski the Alps, you’ll see!
Happy trails ski friends! See more on ski etiquette and the Skiers Responsibility Code.

Ski Slang for Parents

obsession-2ski (3) Here’s a Glossary for “Groms” – that’s code for beginner skier in the terrain park.  Your guide to speaking ski steez with your kids on the slopes…

If your skiing or riding is “sick,” consider it a compliment.

If your kids says “I’m down with that,” that doesn’t mean they’ve fallen. Quite the contrary, this means “I’m game.” Example: “I’m down with going skiing today,” means pack up the car, let’s do this.

Don’t be a “Joey” No offense to kids named Joey, but this idiom implies you are super awkward on the slopes. Joeys carry their skis crisscrossed, poles sticking out, unzipped, un-stylish, un-cool.

In Canada skiing lingo a joey is a  “punter” and occasionally a “gaper

A “Gaper Gap” is a noticeable space between your goggles and hat or helmet, leaving an open forehead faux-pas that’s super “awky” and amateur.

Snowcrapers, Shredders or Knuckle Draggers are snowboarders.

Two Plankers are skiers.

Knee Dippers or Pinheads are Telemark skiers.

Jibbers” are young skiers and riders chillin’ in the terrain park, jibbing (sliding the rails, taking jumps) and talking about how steez they are.

Fartbags” are old fashioned one-piece ski suits, that baggy Bogner you thought was so steezy in 1970. Ironically, your kids are going to want to borrow it along with your Nevica DayGlo anorak to make a retro ski fashion statement.

Yard Sale” is a significant wipe out where goggles, poles, skis, and personal items, are spread across the trail.

Tag Sale” includes all the aspects of a yard sale plus tagging into another object or skier/rider.

Taco” is lingo for a crash that folds your body over a terrain park rail – like a taco.

Mackerel Smack” is a hard snowboard fall, rhymes with thwack.

To “Stomp” a rail or jump is to execute it well. Say, “You stomped that bro. That was sick.”

To “Shred the Gnar” is to snowboard boldly.

Gnar and Grnarly describe big brave moves. Bode Miller’s bloody gash in his Super G suit and his tendon at Beaver Creek was “gnar” for example.

Jib, Kicker, Booter, and Money Booter are terms for jumps, the Money Booter being the biggest to cash in on. Example, “That dude made bank off that money booter.”

Insta” is now a verb, defining the activity of videoing and posting on Instagram. Example, “Did you Insta that sweet sesh (session) in the park?” or, “I totally Insta’d our wreck, lol.”

Crunchy” sounds like granola, hippy-esque terminology of the 60’s, but crunchy is reinvented to mean cool and colorful as a bag of Skittles.

SPORE” is an acronym for a Special Person On Rental Equipment, easily identified by “Rental” inscribed on their helmet and skis.

Fakie” is to ride or ski backward, or “Switch” looking over your shoulder (hopefully) to see downhill.

Hope this “Sick-tionary” helps you speak steez with young jibber who has swagger. Get more family ski tips and our recommendations on the best ski resorts in the West to bring your family on ski vacation and Top Eastern ski resorts for a family ski trip.

See more Ski Slang in our Family Ski Guide

Heather Burke, 2023 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

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