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Ski Chat with Travel Journalist Heather Burke

Heather is an award winning editor of  TheLuxuryVacationGuide.com, FamilySkiTrips.com, contributor to travel magazines and sites. She travels the globe, reports on the top ski resorts you should put on your ski bucket list,  from the East to the West, The Canadian Rockies to The Alps.

But more importantly Heather rips on skis, she has huge enthusiasm for skiing, and passion for sampling new ski fashion and ski gear, skiing new resorts, and encouraging women to join in and enjoy our favorite sport. Heather was a presenter on ski travel tips at  the 1st annual She Shed – Her Turn at the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo, where she also received an award for “Excellence in Snow Sport Coverage” from ski industry peers.

When it comes to exploring new resorts, Heather skis 10-20 new ski resorts each season with her husband ski photographer Greg Burke. She’s already skied over 175 (okay she started skiing and traveling at age 3)! This ski gal knows how to look stylish skiing first chair and heading to après ski after accumulating 30k vertical.

So Heather, what are you wearing this ski season?
I’m rockin’ Rossignol. I love high performance ski apparel that’s also stylish. You shouldn’t have to choose performance or fashion! Rossi has been making ski gear since 1907, its French-designed, well-tailored, fashion-forward and fun, but the technical aspects are uncompromising. The colors are classic this season, a return to ski glamour with gorgeous blues and bold red, and of course white which I find so chic on the snow …as long as you don’t spill your hot cocoa… lol!

And what are you skiing on?
Rossignol head to toe so that includes my ski boots and skis. I love the Rossi Experience fleet for front side skiing, the 98s and 88s and the Ladies Rossi Temptation skis are all fun, grippy, love to carve, but can handle mixed snow and light pow. This season I finally stepped up to a true powder skis, Rossignol Soul 7 HDW, its 106 under foot, versus most “East Coast” traditional skis that are much more narrow, under 90- millimeters wide. My travel plans have me skiing out west at Vail and Breck, and in The Alps in Austria’s Arlberg – think St Anton & Lech, and Switzerland at Lenzerheide. These versatile fat skis are just the ticket.

How long have you loved Rossignol?
The first pair of skis I ever purchased, not hand-me-downs from mom or my brothers, were Rossi FP’s. I was 17 and teaching skiing at Smugglers Notch. Oh my how I loved those teal skis, 200 centimeters – yes that was the 80’s when the longer the ski – the better you must be..


Heather, do ski apparel companies ever ask for your input?

Fortunately, I am asked on occasion to product-test, or to provide gear feedback. Such a cool opportunities, right? I’m a pocket freak. My number one request is more pockets please! I love a sleeve pocket exclusively for a lift ticket, Now that so many resort use RFID technology, Vail Resorts, The Alps, its perfect to have a small pocket away for your cell phone and credit cards that won’t interfere with the ticket scanning. I also adore a good hood, and a detachable fur collar – faux or no.

Heather, what are your ski mantras:
Yes, ready…

Life is not a dress rehearsal,
Dress like a lady but ski with the boyz.
There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing, to quote my ski friend Wes.
Every ski day is a good ski day, rain is just premature snow, cold is refreshing.
And then there’s my family motto:
If you’re not first you’re last – it’s a competitive ski crowd.

You travel a bunch, how do you pack for ski trips?
I’m a little OCD when it comes to organization, ask my kids. When we go on family ski trips, I have a checklist for everyone. Every member of the family has their own ski bag, covering the list of gear, (see Heather’s ski packing tips  and I wash and dry everything immediately when we return from skiing, and its promptly packed so we are always ready to go to the snow.


Heather, tips on going from skiing to après ski in style?

The après ski skirt is my essential. Strip off your bulky ski pants, slip a quilted skirt (SKEA makes super cute ski skirts) over your base layer leggings, add a furry neck scarf and après ski boots, and you’re comfy but sophisticated and ready to relax, dance, drink. I love my Rossignol Megève boots, they have a super grippy sole, fur cuffs and sassy red laces… I get so many compliments on these super cute boots.

Finally Heather, do you have a favorite ski resort?
So many … in the East, I love Stowe for its classic ski town and beautiful views, and Sunday River for its extensive terrain and top snow quality. Out West, Vail is amazing, so is sister Beaver Creek. Big Sky Montana has a big place in my hear too. In Europe, St Anton in The Arlberg, also Kitzbühel Austria, and Courchevel France in Les Trois Vallees are all fantastically charming alpine villages with so much skiing …its jaw dropping. It’s magical skiing to a quaint chalet on the side of the mountain for a homemade meals of soup, bread and cheese farmed from these alpine pastures in summer. The après ski in The Alps is mind-blowing as well, they invented “apres ski” after all.

See you on the slopes ski friends!

Best Ski Resorts in The East
Best Western Ski Resorts
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts

Copyright and photos property of Family Ski Trips.com and our sister site The Luxury vacation Guide

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Stay in ski shape all summer!

If you are snow lover and ski fan like me, you think winter just doesn’t last long enough. You hear the snow haters that bleep explicatives and moan about snow, ice, and cold, and you think “they are missing out on the best season.” Well, just like you aren’t going to change minds, you aren’t going to be able to skip spring, summer or fall either. You could take a ski trip to Chile, or New Zealand, or ski Zermatt or the volcanic glacier in Oregon at Mount Hood. I suggest a simpler, less expensive option – savor summer and have your sun & fun, stay in shape and appreciate the changing seasons. Here are some of my favorite summer activities, call them ski substitutes:

HB_waterski09H2O Skiing – water skiing is a second cousins to snow skiing. The quad muscles, core strength and isometric movement is the same skiing on water as on snow. Water skiing is a great work out, explosive energy and fitness is required to get up and stay up for a 15-30 minute ski. A good waterski workout equates to much as 10 ski runs. Like downhill skiing, it’s not for the timid or the faint of wallet – let’s see you need a ski, or two, a ski boat, pfd, tow line, gas for the boat, a driver and spotter, and then you pray for calm crystal waters. Water skiing on early morning “glass” conditions are akin to untracked powder or perfectly groomed snow. The speed and centrifugal force of an arcing water ski turn is as close as you are going to get to the thrill and gravitational pull of carving on snow till winter returns.

Wakeboarding – the summer bro to snowboarding, wakeboarding also works your quads, core and upper body in great pre-ski or après ski season conditioning. If you like to hit 2015-bri-wakeboard1the terrain park in winter on your board, then wakeboarding is just your speed in summer sine you can perform tricks, turns and jumps on a wakeboard.

SUP and Boating –  stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing, while not as physically strenuous as skiing, offers a similar great outdoorsy escape as snow sports. Paddleboading engages your core, glutes and your leg muscles in a fun fitness workout afloat, which you can take to the next level with SUP yoga or SUP surfing in the heather-aspen-supwaves. Being on a paddleboard, personal watercraft, or boat, provides a feeling of oneness with nature, and the opportunity to escape from the concrete jungle, the computer keyboard, the day to day, and test your survival skills with outdoor adventure. Many skiers spend their summers boating for the beauty of being on the water, not unlike being on a mountain. Boating is also very social, like minded individuals gravitate toward the water – which is melted snow after all, to party, swim, raft and tell fish tales and yachting stories in lieu of powder day brags.

Cycling – road cycling or mountain biking are great exercise for skiers and riders. You work your quads, gluteus, hamstrings,  and calves while exploring the great outdoors. Whether you are big on hill climbs or prefer touring the meandering coast on your road bike, cycling is a fun fitness activity. Like skiing, heads up and helmets on – bike accidents are more prevalent than ski injuries, and particularly bike head trauma. So ride with care, watch for cars, and seek out bike paths, trails and quieter less trafficked places to ride whenever possible.

Hiking – what better way to enjoy the beautiful mountains in summer, without snow, than to climb to the summit. Pack a picnic, put on your hiking boots and go for the peak. Hiking is easy on the wallet and the eyes, especially when you summit and can see the panorama you earned from your ascent.  Just like skiing, your hiking regimen should start small and gradually increase your distance and mountain difficulty for the best enjoyment and conditioning. Be prepared for all weather and conditions, do your research, and pack in and pack out all your provisions (water, food, flashlight, first aid). Take only memories and leave only foot prints is the golden rule among hikers. Take care on your descent to use proper form for those ski knees of yours.  Consult your local state parks and hiking clubs for tips on the best trails, where to park and start your trip,  and to find the right hike size, length and steepness s for your level and time allowance.

These are a few of my favorite summer things… what’s your summer survival game plan till snow flies and we ski again?

Heather Burke, 2019 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Best Snowvember skiing ever!

My first ski turns at Sunday River felt more like February than end of November. Natural snow, so soft – wall to wall white on steep fun trails like Agony, Vortex , and Airglow. I’ve not had such great first tracks since… I can’t remember. You must go ski, you’ll be amazed at what you see – snow ghosted trees, top to bottom mid-winter conditions.

140 ski resorts are open in the country on 11/30, compare that to about 40 last season at end of November. Skiers are stoked, myself included. Temperatures have been cold for much of the nation – The East, The Rockies, and North. Snow dumps have been regular, versus last November which was downright balmy across most to the US.

In the East, Sunday River and Sugarloaf have both received over five feet of natural snow in November… these Maine sister ski resorts are skiing on 400 acres of open terrain each, reaching the magic number of 100 open trails, including glades. Sugarloaf will open  for Cat Skiing on  December 1 on Burnt Mountain, way ahead of last winter’s March opening – only open for a couple of days at that!  This is “New England’s only cat skiing operation” according to The Loaf, if you don’t count Sugarbush’s occasional Lincoln Limo by appointment on pow days.

In Vermont, Killington hosted an amazing World Cup Women’s FIS race with mid-winter like conditions, and a huge hometown crowd to cheer on locally trained Mikaela Shiffrin to slalom victory. The Big K has been open 43 days since its “first to open in the East” bell back in October.

Sugarbush, celebrating its 60th season with a Sugarbash on December 15, has great snow conditions and over 50 trails open already. Stowe is Epic, Vail Resort pun intended, with half their trails open by November. Okemo is also Epic now… yes another new Vail resort on the Epic Pass – Okemo has been blowing snow and offers 70 trails already, their gunning for Jackson Gore by early December. Mount Snow opened in October with its earliest top to bottom skiing ever.

In New Hampshire, Wildcat opened super early with top to bottom skiing. Loon Mountain had the earliest ever top to bottom skiing on both Loon and North Peaks. The White Mountain look truly white with great skiing at Bretton Woods, Cranmore and Waterville Valley too.

Out west, Big Sky in Montana is already skiing off the Lone Peak Tram into all natural Dictator Chutes and Otter Slide. Mammoth California already has 41 inches of snow. Jackson Hole claims over 90 inches so far, while Vail and Breckenridge are nearing 100 inches of snow so far – and again its November! Grand Targhee is 100% open!

Utah finally got 30 inches of snowfall end of November, and there’s skiing on Utah’s slopes at Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Park City Mountain, and Snowbasin – though not as bountiful as Colorado, Montana and Wyoming so far. Washington, Oregon and Lake Tahoe areas could use more snow, and sustained cold, but again – its early.

Its not yet winter, and we’ve already experience big snow storms – Avery & Bruce according to The Weather Channel’s annual winter storm name alphabet. I’m personally excited for snow storm Wesley – my near and dear, departed friend and Sunday River ski buddy. I bet “snow storm Wes” will hit Maine on Feb 2, his birthday and annual Sunday River Wes Mills ski day now in year 3.

Dreaming of a White Christmas – I think you can “snow” bank on it. My first day was the best day, at Sunday River last day of November. See you on the slopes.

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

  

 

First Ski Resorts to Open

Don’t you love fall skiing in ski country? Nothing prettier than autumn leaves and the first dusting of snow to make those brilliant autumn colors really pop. There’s also the excitement of watching  ski resorts drop ropes and open lifts first. It’s a race to be first to ski – out West and in the North East.

When it’s not even Halloween yet and  dozens of ski resorts are chomping at the bit to open… this is no trick, just a treat,  for skiers…

This year’s first place winner is Wolf Creek – this south western Colorado ski resort opened a full week ahead of everyone else, Oct 12 2018. That’s early.

The following weekend, perennial Eastern eager beavers Sunday River and Killington duked it out for first rights, as they always do. Sunday River opened to the public Friday October 19, Killington opened same day but exclusively for pass holders – a nice privilege, which also included the awesome IKON pass this season. In addition to a private pass holder first ski day, the Big K provides lunch to their first day skiers and riders. Killington also stayed open midweek, while Sunday River closed Monday- Friday to re-open for the weekend.

As for the usual first-to-open Rocky Mountain resorts, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin both opened October 20th weekend.

Pre-Halloween weekend,  more ski resorts joined the early season roster: Wildcat in New Hampshire and Mount Snow in Vermont open Saturday October 27, earliest openings ever for both resorts. A Nor’Easter snow storm dropped snow pre-Halloween weekend just to cap off snowmaking efforts.

Before Thanksgiving, so many ski resorts East & West enjoyed early openings: Vail, Aspen, Grand Targhee, Breck & Keystone, Mammoth and Squaw, plus New England’s Sugarloaf, Stowe, Loon and Sugarbush.

What I love about these early ski openings is not just the advanced opportunity to ski, but the enthusiasm and commitment these resorts make to stretch the ski season, to give long-term value to mostly pass holders –the majority of zealots that show up for early October/November and late May skiing.  Fall skiing can range from fast frozen grass with a thin layer of early season natural snow, to  snowmaking surfaces that range from groomed to rimy to erratic to pow. Still it’s a chance to get your ski legs, thread some first tracks on a ribbon of snow on a trail or two, upload and download, and see your ski buddies that have been hibernating all summer like you. lol…

So the race of the ski resorts to get those first to open “bragging rights” benefits the skiers, and snowboarders. The sooner ski areas open, the more snow they make, the better and longer your ski season is apt to be. Similarly, the season pass competitions of late are great. Conglomerate passes like the Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and the IKON Pass are offering amazing alpine options, 30-44 ski resorts all on one convenient lift pass, at the price of what we used to pay for one single resort season pass. Seriously!

Examples: You can now ski Stowe, unlimited on the $949 Epic Pass, when previously a Stowe Season pass was upwards of $1,800, plus now you get the #EPIC opportunity to fly to Colorado for a week or two with free (ok, included) skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breck, and now even Telluride and Crested Butte all part of your pass, plus Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, and east coast sister resorts Okemo and Mount Sunapee! I’ve got my EPIC pass, do you?

While I’m not making first tracks skiing Halloween weekend, that’s a bit pre-mature for me – I’ve got costumes parties and leaves to rake still, I’m stoked to ski a bunch this winter, and I love watching ski resorts stock pile a bunch of snow for when I’m ready to go. This time of year I like to see my ski peeps at the Boston Ski Show Nov 8-11, to  shop this year’s best gear, and check out the best ski and stay deals for the year. This year, I also receive an “Excellence in Snowsports Coverage” award in Boston. See you soon on snow!

See our Top Early Ski Season Resorts Favorites:
Top Early Season Ski Resorts – East 
Top Early Season Ski Resorts – West

Copyright and photos property of Family Ski Trips.com and our sister site The Luxury vacation Guide

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Vail owns 20 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 by adding Telluride, Sun Valley & Snowbasin 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, 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, 2019 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips and

Photos by Greg Burke

Where was the snow in 2018?

Where was the snow for winter 2018 ski friends?
Skiers are always lusting for the best snow conditions. It’s a cat and mouse chase… as the weather is as fickle as Tweety and Sylvester. This year the chase is real, while the Rockies, particularly Utah and Colorado, haven’t gotten big snow or consistent cold, The East, The Alps and The Pac North West have seen big snow accumulation, cool temps and great ski conditions to start the season.

Top ski resorts in the East like Sugarbush, Okemo, Jay Peak, Mount Snow, Pico and Stowe are wide-open by New Year’s, that’s something to pop Champagne about. Its been uber cold to perserve New England’s snow, perhaps a bit too cold for skiers though when well below zero!

Meanwhile, Park City Utah is balmy, with just 60 of its 300 + trails open, yikes! Aspen’s four mountains are just 20% open. South West Colorado and New Mexico are downright snow-deprived. Same goes for Tahoe ski resorts in California. Meanwhile, Grand Targhee in Wyoming is 100% open, and nearby Jackson Hole is looking good! So is Montana, big snow at Big Sky, Great Divide, and Whitefish. In the Pacific Northwest, where we are headed in January, Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie are 100% with 50-100” base depths of natural snow!

Canada’s Rockies are strong, with the majority of terrain open at steep Kicking Horse, Panorama, Big White which we skied and loved last season, Lake Louise, and Sunshine in Banff, and Whistler Blackcomb, where we’ll ski January. In Quebec, its been frigid, and Tremblant and Mont Sainte Anne are frosty with snow.

The biggest snow of the season is in the Alps! The French Alps, Austria and Switzerland have all been hammered with December snow, all white for the holidays and the start to the year. St Anton Austria already has base depths of 250cm, Verbier Switzerland is reporting 10 feet of snow so far.

So if you like to go to the snow, follow us here at Family Ski Trips. We started our ski season at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, where they’d blown piles of man made, and early December brought natural snow to complement their conditions. Similarly Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Resort just before Christmas had us skiing natural glades and gorgeous groomers with 5 inches of fluff on top – white Christmas in New Hampshire’s White mountains!

Next up, we’ll be skiing Whistler Blackcomb in the new year, as well as Washington’s ski resorts Snoqualmie and Crystal – so says our crystal ball.

Snow prayers for Colorado where we head in February for Copper On Snow Demos, skiing at Steamboat and Vail too!

We are Alps bound mid-winter visiting Portes Du Soliel – the largest ski terrain in the world which spans 12 resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

We’ll end our winter at one of our favorite ski resort on the planet, Big Sky, this Montana resort never disappoints with its big mountain terrain, beautiful views and cool vibe.

Where are you skiing this season? See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your 2018 winter of skiing!

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

CNL, EPR, Vail Resorts- Who owns what ski resorts?

1sunrise-express-baseAre you ready for the latest in mountain mergers and alpine acquisitions? Vail, Aspen, CNL, Boyne… who owns what? Here is our ski merger and acquisition guide!

Vail Resorts now owns or at least operates 16 ski resorts, and half of the 10 busiest ski areas on the continent, the top three being Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, and Breckenridge. All these ski resorts are on the Epic Pass, plus Telluride Colorado!

Vail, Colorado
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Breckenridge, Colorado
Keystone, Colorado
Crested Butte, Colorado
Park City (and Canyons) in Utah
Heavenly, Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar (management contract only, purchased by EPR)
Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe, California
Whistler Blackcomb, BC Canada
Stowe Mountain, Vermont
Okemo in Vermont
Mount Sunapee in NH
Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin
Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan
Perisher in Australia

Vail Resorts also holds the RockResorts brand, with luxury ski lodging properties including The Lodge at Vail, The Arrabelle at Vail Square, The Pines Lodge and The Osprey at Beaver Creek , One Ski Hill Place at Breckenridge, and the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

big-sky-ianMeanwhile Aspen Skiing Company formed Alterra Mountain Company – which now  operates 13 destinations:
Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk, plus Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California
Stratton in Vermont
Snowshoe in West Virginia
Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario
Solitude and  Deer Valley in Utah
CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia

The Ikon Pass includes all these Alterra Aspen ski resorts, plus Boyne resorts:  Big Sky Montana, Snoqualmie Washington, Loon in NH, Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, and Powdr Resorts: Killington Vermont, Crotched Mountain in NH. Ski Las Vegas, Mount Bachelor Oregon, and independent resorts   Alta Ski Area and Snowbird in Utah,  and Jackson Hole Wyoming.

Finally, EPR Properties of Kansas City recently bought up a dozen ski resorts from CNL Lifestyle Properties, for $830 million.

The EPN/CNL ski resorts includes:

2-ski-timberline2Brighton Ski Resort, Utah (Boyne Resorts)
Cypress Mountain, B.C., Canada (Boyne Resorts)
Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Mass. (Fairbank Group)
Loon Mountain Resort, N.H. (Boyne Resorts)
Northstar, Tahoe CA, managed by Vail Resorts
Mountain High Resort, Calif. (Mountain High Holdings LLC)
Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, Calif. (Booth Creek)
Stevens Pass, Wash. (Stevens Pass Mountain Resort LLC)
Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, Maine (Boyne Resorts)
Summit-at-Snoqualmie Resort, Wash. (Boyne Resorts)
Sunday River Resort, Maine (Boyne Resorts)
Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Tenn. (Boyne Resorts)

 

Winter is coming ski friends…see you on the slopes soon!

Heather Burke, 2018 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips and  The LuxuryVacationGuide.com

 

Norway Glacier Skiing at Fonna

A ski resort that’s only open in summer? In the northern hemisphere? Yes, that’s Fonna in Norway. And you can arrive by boat…  it’s just a half hour from a magnificent fjord. Fonna Glacier Ski Resorts is very cool, literally – located on the northernmost of four glaciers in Foglefonna National Park in western Norway along the Hardanger Fjord. Folgefonna is the most southerly Norway glacier- and the 3rd largest largest.

Summer skiing on a glacier is amazing, at this high alpine winter wonderland with brilliant sea views of Norway.

Fonna is not a big ski area, especially by Europe’s Alps standards, it’s just one T-Bar serving four wide trails and several terrain parks. Fonna’s ski slopes are not particularly steep either – its intermediate terrain.

The most black diamond aspect of Fonna is the road up to the glacier. Its a 16-km bus ride to Fonna Glacier ski resort, a one lane road with crazy hairpins turns, climbing swiftly from sea level up 3,900 vertical feet.

Take the ski bus from Jondal, which makes one trip a day from the ferry docks at 9:50am ( so you can boat and ski in the same day). Let the expert bus drivers steer while you enjoy the scenery of rivers and waterfalls, pastoral farms with grazing sheep, then massive boulders and cairns balancing on huge granite slabs. Fonna is closed in winter because of this precarious road and the 30+ feet of snow pack received during the cold dark winter in Norway.

Fonna Ski Resort opens mid-June through mid-August – that’s when the best glacier skiing occurs and it also allow the town of Jondal to share the same bus for skiing as for the school kids September to June (a quite luxurious bus for children, with panoramic windows).

Fonna’s spectacular mountain road ends in a small parking lot by the glacier, where you find Fonna’s humble facilities – two 1970’s vintage chalet buildings. The first hut sells lift tickets ($390 krone for the day) and rents skis, boards, boots, poles, helmets – everything you need to ski if you arrived by boat. Fonna’s modest lodge serves home cooked food cafeteria style and restrooms. Picnic tables outside are the best seat in the house on a clear day.

Visit Fonna on a blue sky day – it’s all about the view, and a picnic outside to truly savor the setting. We had a perfect blue-sky ski day at Fonna in late June, with a fresh dusting of sparkling snow on top of perfect groomed corduroy.

Fonna’s T-Bar is the only lift – intentional to withstand the ice movement on the glacier, it climbs efficiently up 800’ vertical. Fonna’s trails are very wide, moderately pitched, and well-groomed, even salted to harden the snow from melting on warm summer days.

Fonna skiing can get busy with alpine race teams training from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. But the alpine racers are relegated to one big trail, training in several courses with gates side by side. The majority of other skiers and snowboarders hit Fonna’s terrain parks. That leaves the other ski routes on the wide open glacial plateau to us. Fonna also offers 5 km of Nordic groomed trails above the alpine skiing on the plateau.  We made a short climb from atop the T Bar to the cross-country terrain and scored a few beautiful off-piste turns and even better views of Hardanger Fjord and the North Sea.

Your panorama from Fonna is striking blue water below and lush green mountains in contrast to the white wintery glacier. You can see Rosendal’s towering Alps and the North Sea in the distance. For non-skiers, guided glacier tours depart from Fonna’s base lodge. Sunscreen is a must, beware the sun’s refraction from the snow at high elevation even though it feels cool on your face.

Dress in layers for glacier skiing, its winter-like and very exposed, but you can be blessed with intense sun and summer temperatures. We skied 14 laps on the glacier, with a few stops for water in the lodge and a picnic of Norwegian cheese, smoked fish and fruit. The only bus back to Jondal is 3:50pm, get a front seat as the descent is as stunning as the ride up. We were back to town, on our charter sailboat in Jondal harbor by 4:30, for drinks at Hardangerfjord Lodge overlooking the water. Don’t be surprised to see local kids jumping off the ferry dock into the “refreshing” Hardanger Fjord – after all it is summer – and you were just skiing.

Fonna Glacier Ski Resort Stats
Elevation: 1,450 meters, 4757ft
Vertical: 250 meters, 820’
Lifts: 1 T-Bar
4 Trails, 3 Terrain parks and 5 km Nordic groomed trails
Open 9 – 4pm mid June to Mid-August

Copyright & Photos 2018 FamilySkiTrips

Top Spring Ski Events in the East & West

Don’t you love spring skiing? Warm temperatures meet a winter’s worth of snow depths. Ski conditions soften and so do bulky dress codes at the best ski resorts. From music to moguls to general mayhem – these spring fests are super fun:

Top spring ski fests in Colorado, Utah, California, and Montana:
Taste of Vail is a fun food, wine and ski fest – what could be better than skiing spring conditions followed by wine tastings and food from Vail’s top Chefs April 3-6!? Spring Back to  Vail midApril  brings live headliner bands for free concerts to Vail Village. Après ski at Vail just got big and FREE which rarely happens at Vail, right?! Look for parties on the mountain too – like  the Mountaintop Tasting at the top of The Eagle Bahn and Tiki & Tunes Luau at mid-Vail – top of Gondola One.

Vail’s World Pond Skimming Championships is the biggest, April 14 at Golden Peak. Enjoy a BBQ and beers overlooking the big pond where the best and worst) dressed in crazy costumes attempt to cross the big expanse of cold water to the cheers and jeers of a big crowd. Like everything in Vail, this pond skim is massive, so is the crowd of spectators.

Whistler Blackcomb World Ski & Snowboard Festival early April  is a top ski event, bringing together skiing, film, art, professional ski and snowboard competitions, plus top concerts and après ski parties that go crazy late! If you’ve watched Bravo’s Après Ski and Timber Creek Lodge- you know Whistler’s party scene is out of this world.

Park City’s Spring Grüv in Canyons Village starts late March with awesome free concerts and après-ski parties – culminating early April 8 with the 23rd Annual Pond Skimming Contest at Red Pine.

Squaw Valley celebrates PAIN MCSHLONKEY for Shane McConkey, posthumously and humorously – skiers are encouraged to dress up in vintage gear and pay tribute to the legendary free skier by going big March 18.

Steamboat’s Colorado Springalicious 39th annual cardboard classic is mid April  – locals recycle by creating box-cars to derby to fly downhill. The crashes are spectacular, so is the après ski scene at Steamboat.

Breckenridge’s annual Spring Fever Beer Festival early is now in its 13th year. This Colorado spring ski event is perfect for craft beer lovers and spring skiing lovers – that includes everyone right?!

Aspen Highlands Closing Day is an elevated spring ski party – the spring ski celebration above 10,000’ in the Rockies gets wild, with ridiculous retro outfits, serious drinking, even Champagne spraying! Did we mention you’re at 10,000 feet?! High times in Colorado.

Top Spring Ski Events in The East

New England skiers know the best skiing is typically in spring. Put away the facemasks and hand warmers for much welcome warmer sunnier ski days. The hard snow softens, those man made base depths turn to cream corn by mid morning and the BBQ fires up mid afternoon for sun and fun by the slopes. Spring is also a time for pond skimming, zany costumes and competitions on the ski slopes, even tailgating in muddy parking lots. No one said Eastern skiers were sane? But they are hard core! Here are some Eastern spring ski rites of passage and grand season finales full of fun and games, music and grills.

Cannon Mountain Bodefest is early April with Bode Miller himself.. I think he still “hates the media” so don’t bring the news crew but this is a great spring ski event and when the sun shines on cannon Mountain – #boom (cannon sound) .

Killington Bear Mountain Challenge NOR’BEASTER is early April as Bump skiers go all out on Outer Limits moguls. Cheers and beers (sponsor Dos Equis) flow at the base of this spring ski party. The Beast of the East will keep skiing in to May.

Sugarloaf Reggaefest – now in year 30+ is mid April when Jamaica comes to Maine’s mountains. Top reggae bands set up on the Sugarloaf beach by day, and in the base lodge by night for some rocking island music. Wear your tie-dye and tie on a good time. Ironically few reggae fest attendees ski, so this is a great three-day weekend for spring ski conditions at the Loaf, especially when the snowfields are open.

Sunday River’s Spring Festival early April  was once called Parrot Head, so expect Jimmy Buffet music, margaritas flowing, palm trees, tropical outfits and general island vibe outside the White Cap Base.

Loon has 80’s Day early April! Dress in your best (or worst) 1980’s outfit and get out on Loon’s soft slopes. Be totally rad for this spring weekend at North Peak, South Peak and Paul Bunyan’s for après ski! Loon Mountain’s Slushpool Party and Wet Tug-O-War is the following April weekend.

Wildcat has their Annual Cat Scratch Fever event early April as skiers compete to be the Cat’s Meow before the judges. If you’ve seen Wildcat’s Kitty Litter Box Derby in February, don’t miss this wild spring event at the Cat with live après ski entertainment in the Wildcat Pub .

Sugarbush Gelandesprung & Mt. Ellen End of Season Celebration is early April, this traditional ski jump event is a classic – to watch – even wilder to get sprung.

Sugarbush‘s Pond Skimming at Lincoln Peak early April is also a big splash, followed by the legendary Steins’ Challenge on mid April which is spring mogul mania – bring Z rubber knees and short quick skis to Sugarbush.

Okemo’s Slush Cup and Splash for Cash early April is a wet and wild good time with a pretty good pay day for the winner. Okemos 80 Retro Jam is mid April  – rock your most rad 80s attire – totally awesome dude as Okemo wraps their season!

Jay Peak has Pond Skimming and their Annual Tailgate Party mid April, so bring your bikini, beer and your bbq.

Easter Sunday at East Coast ski resorts brings sunrise services at Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Killington, Stowe and Jay Peak….. Most ski resorts have Easter Egg Hunts on the ski slopes for kids, and costume parades, even a visit by the Easter Bunny. Look for a few snow bunnies on the beginner slopes too! Easter weekend is the season finale Sunday for most New England ski resorts.

Best Spring Ski Resorts in The East

Best Spring Skiing Out West

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright Family Ski  Trips 2018

For luxury resort reviews visit: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

Get Your Kids Ready to Ski

2-ski-timberline2The PSIA and I agree on how to get your kids ready to ski. Here is sage ski advice from the Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructors of America with our own Family Ski Tips. Confession: I was a member of PSIA when I taught skiing at Smugglers Notch Resort in Vermont in the 90s. Flash forward, as Editor of Luxury Vacation Guide and FamilySkiTrips.com, I have similar ski tips for parents on how to make skiing fun with less stress for everyone.

PSIA Ski Tips
1. Be active as a family before your ski trip

Skiing and snowboarding require physical fitness, so start an exercise program for you and your family. Whether it’s enrolling kids in soccer or another sport, to taking walks together as a family, it’s important to get moving. See my similar tips on quad strengthening wall sits pre ski season.
2. Do your weather homework 
blizzard-heatherSki resorts have mountain cams,  temperature updates, even meteorologists on retainer. Know before you go –  what the weather and temperature is like on the mountain and where you are staying, so you can dress your child appropriately for conditions. At some resorts temps vary greatly from the town versus the mountain, mind the elevation too!
3. Try on ski/snowboard  gear before you go
For younger children getting used to putting on ski or snowboard equipment and clothing helps them adjust to the mountain environment more easily. You can make it a game, we call it the pre ski season fashion runway show,  and help them see their ski/snowboard clothes and equipment as something fun to play in versus something strange or bulky to wear. For older kids, it also helps to check to make sure everything still fits and is working properly before you arrive on the slopes.
3family-lookout-pass4. Invest in lessons for your kids
Having your kids learn from an expert can make their ski/snowboard experience more fun, see our Top Tips for teaching kids to ski,  and also gives you time to enjoy the slopes. Set the expectation that the lesson is more like a sports practice than going to school and that they’ll have fun while getting to learn new skills.
5. Watch ski/snowboard movies or videos to get everyone excited
We couldn’t agree more – nothing like a Warren Miller family ski movie night to amp up the alpine enthusiasm among the fam! Use media to motivate your kids and set expectations of what their experience on the mountain and lessons will be like. Check out ski and snowboard clips on YouTube .
6. Pack the right gear
family-ski-trip-packingYou don’t have to spend a fortune on kids’ ski and snowboard gear. Just make sure they have a good snowsuit that’s wind/snow resistant along with goggles, long socks pulled up below the knee, snow gloves and insulated layers. If they become more involved in the sport then you can invest in wicking base layers and more expensive jackets when they will be out on the mountain for longer periods of time. There’s a science to packing properly – see our guide to packing for a family ski trip.

Get your kids ski bags and gear and get ready! See our reviews of the Best Family Ski resorts in the World and we’ll see you on the  ski slopes!

By Heather Burke, 2018 Copyright & Photography Family Ski Trips

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