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

Category: Family Skiing (Page 1 of 4)

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.

Learning to AT Ski – Alpine Touring

I have been on skis since age 3, so seriously I’m pretty skilled at skiing. So when hubby proposed that we try AT (Alpine Touring), you know – climbing uphill with our skis on, my eyes grew wide, my pulse raced and I twitched in discomfort.

Sounded difficult to me! Besides aren’t there perfectly good chairlifts and gondolas, even T-Bars to haul my butt up the ski hill? Wouldn’t I rather be resting while ascending and enjoying the view before my ski down? I’ve seen those hikers trudging up the side of a groomed trail with their boards on their feet, and a bulky backpack. These AT skiers always look sweaty, tired, and rarely smile. I am NOT those people, I thought.

But, for years Greg had been eyeing and pointing to snowfields and untouched descents that were not accessible from the chairlift we were riding at the time – saying “wouldn’t that be sweet”?! He pointed out with great enthusiasm that we could go further afield, find un-tracked powder, and best of all – escape the crowded trails and lift lines we’ve been encountering of late at certain conglomerate ski resorts (you know the latest iconic ski places with epically oversold passes).

I had resisted enough, Greg plans all our amazing ski trips, he’s an amazing ski buddy and guide. So I indulged him his AT dream and fall-line fantasy with “ok, we’ll try it.”

The “get away from the crowds” campaign appealed to me especially. Then I Googled the Alpine Touring calorie-burning factor – wow, and I was in (to be thin)!

Getting new AT ski gear sweetened the deal. Opening the box to my Rossignol All Track ski boots that are super lightweight, comfy, and Barbie pink – I was all smiles. I vowed not to be one of those grumpy frowning groaning sweaty AT skiers in that very moment.

Off to Austria we went, 4 weeks, with only our new AT Gear, this was a commitment. Good news though, today’s all-terrain skis, boots, bindings and poles are incredibly well-engineered so they are perfectly suitable on groomed resort runs, and adaptable to hiking (with the telescoping poles and hike mode on the bindings and boots). In fact, we practiced in our carpeted basement prior to our trip, shifting our Salomon Lab Shift bindings from ski to hike mode. We practiced sticking our skins on our skis. And we practiced finding each other with our transceivers. Neighbors must have thought us ridiculous playing hide and seek with avalanche beacons in Florida. Greg was “in an avalanche” out on our dock by the pool on a sunny 80F day – found him! Note of humility here, we take our safety precautions very seriously and we are very careful about what and where we ski, hiring a mountain ski guide typically to minimize any risk.

Our first alpine ski run in Austria was in the Zillertal Valley just a couple of hours from Munich where we’d flown in that morning on a red eye. The AT bindings felt a bit , lightweight and flimsy on my first few turns, but the Blizzard Sheeva skis and Rossi boots were so similar to my previous alpine versions. I was just getting in sych when I crossed a tip and crashed, lesson learned that AT ski do float and steer a bit differently (won’t make that mistake again – tips up).

Ironically, now that we had our off-piste ski climbing equipment, conditions were such that we were relegated to the groomers for several days. Finally, new snow set us up, and a beautiful peak sparkled in the sun beckoning us at Mountopolis Mayrhofen.

My guide Greg had studied the route but was apprehensive to do it alone the first time. Coincidentally (or not?) a nice German couple were putting their skins on, shared that they had skied the route before and offered to be our guides. “Danke, and yes please, what a kind gesture.” Having practiced, we proficiently applied our skins to our ski bases, turned on our beacons, switched our bindings to hike mode, and we were off –  hoofing it up this big mountainside.  I was so surprised by the Montana skins’ grippy nature, no slip – all grip. I couldn’t slide if I wanted to. I’d been concerned about learning the “skill” of AT – but it’s just walking uphill with skis on – literally “put one foot in front of the other” like the Winter Warlock in my favorite Christmas story. The quiet, the calm, the views – the ascent was exhilarating. There was one tricky steep herringbone turn, weird with your heel loose, I managed without grace – but success.

The excitement of learning this new ski trick soon faded as the climb went on, and on, I got warm, tired, and that summit just kept looming further away. I was grumpy, I swore four times, which Greg heard and checked on me, to which I replied “I’m FINE!” with irritated emphasis. I resisted the urge to yell, “this was your f*#c’ing idea!” (Greg’s Note: She mumbled it just loud enough for me to hear).

Then, we summited, we arrived at the top, a perfectly panoramic pinnacle, no noise, just peace and nature, and untracked snow for miles. Catching our breath, high-fiving, hydrating, taking selfies, we stowed our skins in our packs, flipped bindings back to ski mode, and we were ready for a super long lovely descent.

A steep wind-scoured drop led to pillowy powdery knolls and gently pitched wide-open fields. We bounced and whooped, and giggled, and skied and skied. Our descent eventually brought us to tree-line and more challenging skiing at lower elevation, and finally a bus stop to bring us back to the ski resort. Back to civilization, humanity, lifts and lines, but also happy hour – apres ski and we had much to celebrate! But first, ski boots off and a much-needed rejuvenating shower…

So skinning uphill, alpine touring, is not a complex skill as I had feared, it simply requires courage, stamina, fitness and a sense of adventure. It’s walking uphill with skis on… rigorous but rewarding. I still don’t see the benefit of climbing up a groomed ski resort trail only to ski that same prepared run with all the inbounds skiers and lift-riders. But getting out into virgin territory – I get it, I like it!

Now I know why you don’t see fat AT Skiers. Yes, they may look grumpy on the climb at times. I do too. It’s a serious workout. But what you may not see is the joy and sense of accomplishment at the end of an amazing off-piste run, the huge grin. You don’t see them because they are out experiencing nature, the way perhaps skiing was intended.

How to pack for family ski trips

#1 Question we get at Family Ski Trips? Where to go on family ski vacation?
See our favorite ski resorts for families and book your next ski trip:
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resortsin Colorado
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families

#2 Question: How to pack for a Family Ski Trip? Packing shouldn’t fill you with dread, you and your family should be stoked to go ski. Having systems in place is the key to making packing easy breezy… so you are ready to go at the word “snow.”

Here are our tried and true ski packing tips:

Ski Bag: Every skier in the family should have their own snowboard/ski boot bag, labeled with name, address and cell. We love KULKEA boot bag backpack, its roomy easy to carry, and carry-on size, has ideal compartments…and it comes in cool colors and patterns for every person in your ski clan. If you are flying to your ski destination, see our tips on How to Pack for a Ski Trip Flying including airline baggae allowances.

Snowboards and Skis with poles should be stored clean and dry in one place – the garage or basement and ready to be packed in a ski bag, in the car or on the ski rack, ski coffin or Thule. If you are flying overseas or out west, consider renting skis from Ski Butlers, or a destination rental shop to save on the cost of checking skis, and the bonus of getting freshly tuned, new skis perfect for the day’s conditions. Or invest in a ski bag with wheels, ideally a bag that fits two pair of skis – even a jacket/ski pants as padding.

Ski Bag Checklist:
ski or snowboard boots
quality ski socks
helmet/hat mittens/gloves
goggles/sunglasses in their protective case
neck warmer or balaclava
base layer –thermal long undies, and a fleece ore technical fabric layer
wind/waterproof ski pants and jacket (wear the jacket to reduce bulk in your bag)
season pass or lift ticket coupons
hand/toe warmers
lip balm
sunscreen
energy bar

Bonus items:
Cell phone with downloaded ski app & pass
Phone chargers & cables
Après ski clothes – plan your outfit
A swimsuit (can you say hot tub?)
Portable boot dryers

Check each ski bag before and after each ski trip to be sure everyone’s inner and outerwear is clean, dry, and ready to go. With young skiers, pack extra undies, base layers, socks and mittens, with ziplock bags to contain wet stuff.

If you are traveling for a week ski trip, you’ll need an additional checked bag with clothing and toiletries (travel size please)…the key is not to over-pack, overpay for luggage, and over haul stuff you don’t need. So plan your wardrobe, and your outfits.

Ski Tips:
Don’t over pack
bulky bathrobes, sweatshirts, extra pairs of jeans.
Wear your one pair of boots/shoes with insulation and traction soles.
One pair of slacks that coordinate with everything is plenty for après ski.
2-3 base layers and midlayers serve as evening wear tops, hand wash when needed.
Ladies, pack a cute aprés ski skirt to slip on over your base layer/leggings for après ski activities.
Bring disposable Tide packets or Breezio strips to launder ski socks and undergarments on the fly, overnight they’ll dry!

Book your ski trip for the best accommodations at the most affordable rates!

Enjoy your family ski trip! See more on where to go with your family on ski vacation.

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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 Gift Card. Get your ski buddy a GC to their favorite ski shop, online gear store or for lunch and apres ski at their go-to ski resort. Your friend can cash in when the ski – and think of you – maybe thank you by including you in their redemption!.

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 $150 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.

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

Best Ski Reviews and How to Pack for a Family Ski Trip

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

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 postinghttps://www.instagram.com/familyskitrips/ 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

Love of Vail, too big to fail?

Dear Vail,

I have loved you for decades my sweet Vail. From your fun fall line trails on the frontside to your vast untamed Back Bowls, all perfectly pitched and oh so scenic. Our alpine affair has been magical. I’ve loved your amazing grooming, at Vail and Beaver Creek, ripples of corduroy laid out each morning on velvety snow from side to side.

Then you, Vail Resorts, you changed – you became more about take-overs and acquisitions, in the East, the West, and beyond. I watched at first with wanderlust and excitement with more pass options. Then I had genuine concern as your portfolio of truly special ski areas became bigger, and busier. Your attention to detail became attention to an “epic” amount of passes sold! I watched my ski industry friends’ hearts’ break too, they’d dedicated their careers to now Vail-acquired ski areas only to be terminated, eliminated, all for the sake of corporate cost-efficiency.

I witnessed you also let your experienced grooming team go and your fabled “5-star groomingslip to a 2-star with less groomed trails reported, and rookie ridges and divots, really rough transitions in the snow. I’d ski over a groomed crest only to find my path “short-sheeted”, the grooming just suddenly ended on major routes!

I witnessed the local disenchantment toward Vail Resorts, a company now perceived as prioritizing profit over people, at great ski hills like Stevens Pass, Park City, Stowe, Heavenly, Crested Butte, Okemo’s Ludlow, Sunapee, Wildcat and Attitash… the list goes on. These alpine havens have seen an explosion of visitors, over-crowding and traffic congestion, while jobs are eliminated or outsourced away from the local economy.

What’s truly concerning is how crowded the ski experience has become with 2.3 million Epic Pass purchasers out there! Makes a ski gal not feel so special anymore. Lift lines, lift stoppages, crowded slopes with inexperienced, out of control skiers, is now the norm at Vail Resorts. You’ve sold-out to a “cheap pass to the masses” model. The skiing has become dangerous, and the mood has turned rude.

Vail was, is, a world-class resort experience, “like no place on Earth.” Now there are 37+ Vails, and the great name is just not the same. Beaver Creek’s slogan was “Not exactly roughing it”, now it’s just average. Stowe was the “Ski Capital of the East” – now it’s a cluster from the Mountain Road traffic to the Gondi and FourRunner Quad lines. It appears the Vail alpine dream is now quantity over quality – greed-centric, not ski-centric.

It would be “epic” to see Vail Resorts return to people over profits at your three dozen plus areas, a focus on skiing over stock value. Let existing management truly manage each unique ski area, empower your people, encourage the celebration of character at each mountain, instead of just bringing in big crowds for your billion dollars of Epic Passes sold.

Imagine getting back to the joy of skiing? Then my long love affair with Vail would rekindle. My dearest Vail, our intimate ski reunion on a far less-crowded, well-groomed Riva Ridge would be so sweet.

See more Ski Resort Reviews
Top New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families
Top Swiss Ski Resorts for Families
Top Austrian Family Ski Resorts
Top French Ski Resorts for Family Skiing
Top Family Ski Resorts in the World
Top Ski Safaris – multi-resort ski tours

Top Reasons to Ski Utah

#1 Pow – Utah has the snow! Ski resorts Snowbird and Alta typically get over 500’ of snow annually, and this year – they are getting dumped on, storm after stormy! Their patented “greatest snow on earth” couldn’t be truer this season – its copious, light and dry, no heavy wet stuff here, and as a bonus – its often bluebird when the sun shines on these high-elevation Rocky Mountains.

#2 ConvenienceUtah’s big ski resorts are easy to reach. From Salt Lake City, you are a just 40-minutes to Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbird and Alta, under an hour to Powder Mountain and Snowbasin. You can easily be skiing fresh snow by noon of your arrival day. In a week, you can ski eight major resorts, all with their unique character, an easy drive to each other.

#3 Little Cottonwood Canyon is a must, skiing at the legendary 1938 Alta – first and foremost. Alta is loaded with snow, and with alpine accolades – a venerable skier’s only mountain, with a hearty wholesome ski crowd (no snowboarders ever), and a lot of steep and deep terrain. Heading out High Traverse, you can drop in No Name Chutes, the legendary High Rustler, dozens of precipitous powdery chutes, and big snowy bowls. Only thing Alta doesn’t have is many long intermediate groomers. Don’t miss lunch at mid-mountain Collins Grill, grab a scenic table top floor at  Watson’s Shelter.
The Snowpine Lodge, Alta’s beautiful boutique hotel, offers a room with a view, a steamy outdoor Jacuzzi and pool, and aprés ski fireside at Gulch’s Pub. Your boots will be toasty dry in your private locker next to the lovely fireplace living room. Maybe you’ll get snowed-in at Snowpine if Little Cottonwood Canyon closes for too much snow!

#4 Snowbird, Alta’s neighbor, is interconnected encompassing 4,700-acres. Ride the ‘Bird’s amazing base to summit Tram, (2,900’ pure vert) to 11,000’ Hidden Peak and you have bounteous ski options in all directions. Snowbird is a snow cone for skiers and boarders. Charge out to The Cirque for a dramatic drop in under the Tram, or make Mineral Basin your first powder tracks when patrol drops rope to this vast snowy back bowl. Snowbird has so many steep gems, wide open powder fields, it’s a skiers’ playground. Sure there’s white carpet groomed runs too – like Chip’s 2.5 mile trail that winds its way to Snowbird Village. Have lunch at the spectacular glass Summit Lodge, enjoying the panoramic views as far as the Great Salt Lake. Stay at Cliff Lodge – all the rooms have views in this grand 10-story concrete and glass tower hotel originally built in 1971 to withstand avalanches. The rooftop Cliff Spa is a must for a scenic soak, maybe a massage. Après ski at Aerie on the top floor – the place to be for cocktails and dinner, often live entertainment, before you sleep, and repeat! Odds are good it will be another powder day tomorrow!

You can also lodge very affordably in Salt Lake City, we stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott in suite lodging at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon, 20-minutes to Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird and Alta.

#5 Park City Mountain is Utah’s largest lift-served ski resort – 7,300 acres spread across 17 peaks, since Vail Resorts merged Park City with Canyons. It’s huge, and it’s on the Epic Pass. You’ve got all this ski terrain, and a stylish western miners’ town below the slopes. You need a plan to conquer Park City’s 330 trails, but with 41 swift lifts – six packs, quads and gondis – there’s no wrong or right way. If you love wide open cruisers – Park City’s Motherlode, Silverlode and King Con lifts serve beautiful long Blues. Want it steep and deep? Head all the way out to McConkey’s and Jupiter! Lost? Take the Silver to Slopes two-hour ski tour, learn the PC mining history while getting a lay of the land. Take the Quicksilver gondola to Canyons side for great glades, steeps off 9990, long roomed cruisers and powder fields off Super Condor. Lunch at Lookout Cabin atop the Orange Bubble Express for views and yummy victuals, or The Farm at the base for locally-inspired cuisine overlooking the slopes. Après ski, explore downtown Park City – Main Street has lively pubs, distilleries, local shops and people watching galore – many don’t ski which is totally PC with me.

#6 Deer Valley is another skiers’ only resort that sets a high standard for white carpet grooming, stellar lodges, smooth service, with some very worthy ski terrain amid its 2,026-acres. Bald, Flagtsaff and Empire all peak out over 9,000’ with beautiful long groomers, some gorgeous aspen-tree stashes, and venerable steep cornices and chutes in Daly Bowl. Everything is posh at Deer Valley, especially the day lodges and the 4 and 5-star hotels like Stein Eriksen’s, Goldener Hirsch, Montage and St Regis – where aprés ski is Champagne Sabering by outdoor firepits! Deer Valley limits ticket sales, so buy ahead, and don’t bring your snowboard – not allowed at this “ski” resort!

#7 Snowbasin is a Utah gem, this stunning ski resort is just under an hour from Salt Lake and Park City, but it’s not on most skiers’ radar, even though Snowbasin hosted the 2002 Olympic ski downhill. With its impressive vertical, almost 3,000’ on many runs like Wildflower and Grizzly downhill courses, Snowbasin is a super fun playful mountain. Gorgeous gondolas flank Snowbasin’s east and western bowls – with well-pitched groomed runs and exciting double black diamond steeps peppered around the 9,000’ peaks. Ride the summit Allen Peak Tram to the Downhill start huts, and ski non-stop to the finish to gain serious respect for ski racers. Don’t miss the spectacular view of four states and the Great Salt Lake from atop Strawberry Gondi. Snowbasin’s day lodges are jaw-dropping too – Needles and Jean Paul Lodge up on mountain, and Earl’s at the base are all gorgeous with giant chandeliers, leather seating, huge stone fireplaces – you’ll be glad you stopped for lunch. Cinnabar at Earl’s is our fave for table service and a view in alpine elegance.

#8 Stay at Compass Rose Lodge while skiing Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. This chic boutique ski hotel is new, beautifully decorated in vintage ski swag, with an alpine sophistication in each of 15 guest rooms, thanks to the friendly passionate owners – yes they ski. You can walk to aprés ski at Shooting Star Bar – the oldest continually operating bar in Utah. Have a burger and beer – that’s all they serve in this veritable 1879 ski museum.

#9 Powder Mountain is just plain cool – this private ski area has tons of terrain – reached by lifts, snowcats, buses, backcountry guides – you name it. Powder’s 8,464 acres is unlike any other ski area, you’ve got lifts and trails, plus in-bounds cat skiing at $25 a ride, and unlimited opportunities to hike to wild untracked “powder”. The other unique aspect to Powder is it’s a playground for tech execs and start up successes who are building their ski utopia at the Summit Village of Powder. Modular alpine homes are popping across the peak slopes, but the ski area remains open to the public despite this private club community evolving. Powder caps its ski tickets at 1,500 a day, so it doesn’t see crowds. Powder is humble and happy from the rustic base and summit lodges to the pleasant peaceful terrain. You can park and ski from the top -Hidden Lake Lodge, or Timberline near the base. Check out the Powder Keg for lunch and order the noodle bowl. Boom – you’ll love skiing Powder!

#10 Other “cool winter activities” in Utah… try snowmobiling, ice skating, snow shoe or cross coutnry skiing, or visit Utah’s Olympic Park and try the Olympic Bobsled, see our review and don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Go ski Utah now, there’s tons of snow, you can fly and ski the same day, and you have so many choice  world-class ski resorts, lesser known snow havens, and convenient lodging within striking distance of the next great ski place to discover.

See our Top Ski Resorts Reviews:
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in Utah
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families

Aspen’s IKON Pass or Vail’s Epic Pass

Hey Ski Friends! Winter is coming and its time to consider which season pass to invest in for ski season. Aren’t we all ready to ski again, and hoping to have a better, longer ski season? Social distancing – fine… let’s just get skiing!

The two major season pass conglomerates are back for ski season 2023-2024! EPIC or IKON! With mergers of more mountain resorts this year by both Vail Resorts – and competitor Aspen and Alterra Mountain Company, skiers have a big choice between the Epic Pass or the “IKON” pass – both for similar expenditure, around $1,000. The IKON Pass unites 47 top ski destinations, while  Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is valid at over 65 ski resorts across the US, Canada and the globe.

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass price started at $980 for unlimited skiing at 42 ski resorts, plus 5-7 days each at many more.  Vail resorts include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb, Washington’s Stevens Pass, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  Kirkwood,  Vermont’s Stowe, Mount Snow and Okemo, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched and Mount Sunapee in NH,  Wilmot,  Hunter in NY, several in the Poconos, The Mid Atlantic and Michigan,  and Perisher Australia, Hotham and Falls Creek, plus 7 days skiing at Telluride, and the Canadian Rockies Resorts – Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Nakiska, Mont Sainte Anne, and Stoneham!  The Epic Pass also has great free ski benefits with in the Alps, The Arlberg, Verbier, Les Trois Vallees, and Hakuba Japan – so many ski resorts. Epic Pass holders get 20% off food and bev, lodging, lessons and rentals, and their Mountain Express airport transportation. See the Epic Pass on sale now.

The IKON Pass offers 47 ski resorts acres across the continent, yes Canada & Japan too,  on one season pass, with varying access at each destination, with a price of $1149 No Black Out Pass, a strong competitor to Vail’s Epic Pass. The IKON Pass brings together Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company,  Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Alta/Snowbird, Snowbasin and Sun Valley, and Canada’s Ski Big 3 – Lake Louise, Sunshine and Banff, plus some Indies like Mt Bachelor Oregon, Revelstoke BC and Tremblant in Quebec! A spin off from previous The  Max Pass, this iconic pass has some pretty epic ski resorts – Aspen, Steamboat, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park and Copper in Colorado, to Deer Valley, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird in Utah, Squaw, Mammoth and Big Bear in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington, Big Sky in Montana, Jackson Hole Wyoming, plus Loon, Sunday River , Sugarloaf in Maine, Stratton, Sugarbush and Killington in Vermont, Wyndham NY in The East.

The Ikon Pass is on sale, see details at www.ikonpass.com. Alterra’s IKON Pass is $1149, returning pass holders get $200 off. There’s also an IKON Kids pass with $200 savings when added to the parents purchase. For a lower price point, there’s a slightly more restricted IKON Base pass at $879 (with black out dates and a few caveats).

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass play off, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass that was often well over $1,000! Yes, there will  be more crowds and lift lines at EPIC and IKON resorts.

Where are you skiing this season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter!

Copyright, by Heather & Greg Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com 

 

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 brought you The Epic Pass – a super savings season pass good at all Vail’s 42+ ski 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 against Mikaela Shiffrin or  Lindsey Vonn. Epic Mix and the Epic Pass now function entirely through your cell phone, no season pass card needed! Amazing technology.

3-snowmass-sheer-blissMy honest scoop on the EpicMix 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 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 you with GPS, so you can 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 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 reserve 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 about $841 with an early season purchase (read: April for the next season) includes skiing at all 41 of Vail Resorts, plus partners in the US, Canada and The Alps! Figure that a day ticket at Vail is $210 ish– 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, Whistler Blackcomb, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, Attitash, Andermatt Switzerland…the list goes on…your Epic Mix will too.

See more of our Best Ski Reviews

Heather Burke, Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

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