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

Category: Ski Goals (Page 1 of 3)

Ski Goals, ski your age, season pass skiing every day, how many days do you ski

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.

What NOT to say to a ski friend

“Don’t get hurt”, “be careful”, “don’t break a leg”, “I worry about you”, “don’t let anything happen to you”. This is what friends say to me when I go skiing, these people I treasure and adore… clearly they care about me too.

But…

I don’t need extraneous fears and doubts in my head, especially when I am skiing. What I need is confidence and positivity…that’s all.  I know the dance between safety and risk when I’m skiing, I know it very well. No one is more protective of me than me! My adventures and my risks are highly calculated.

I am never “not careful”. Greg and I put safety in our skiing above all desire to adventure, well ahead of a rush to ski un-tracked, to conquer new unknown snow terrain.

Skiing is my element, the mountains, the snow, the high alpine, its my environment, my choice of passion. Skiing is my zone, but in order to have the best (safest) skiing, I need to be “in the zone” – strong, ready, resilient, confident, courageous, prepared, present. There is no place here for self-doubt, for Debbie-downers pointing out the obvi…yes skiing comes with risk. I have read my lift ticket and season pass disclaimers, have you?

Ski resorts’ legal waivers clearly state “skiing has inherent risk”.  We could talk endlessly about risk versus reward, in skiing and in all sports and activities.

Instead I’ll just proclaim skiing is safer than texting and driving,  ponder that instead of pouncing on my choice to ski and how risky it may be.

Yes, I’ve heli skied with a pack of men in Bella Coola, gone out of bounds in The Alps (as they say in France – it’s better to be off-piste than piste-off– lol) and skied with the best World Cup ski racers on the planet at Portillo Chile.

I did the Bobsled on the Olympic track in Park City (now that was dangerous), and hurt my neck for a week!
I skied the speed trial run at Verbier, loved cat skiing the remote Monashees (with a pack of salivating Sugarloafers), and look …I’m still here to write about it.

Because I take great care… of myself, my surroundings. I have immense respect for the weather, the mountains, ever-changing snow. I stay fit so I am prepared for a myriad of ski conditions and slopes. I have been educated on avalanche slides, tree-wells, avalanche protocol. I also have the utmost respect for those who work in the ski biz, from liftees to groomers, to patrol and 1st responders.

Last but not least, I love my own body and know its strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t wanna get injured… been there, done that. Don’t wanna die either, haven’t done that – not ready – so much more to explore, so much life yet to live…  I also want to LIVE life to the fullest, not from the safety of my “living room”, the sidelines are not for me …thank you.

Would you tell an Indie car drivedon’t crash” or the crazy Wallendas “don’t slip and fall”? At our summer camp in Maine, my sis in law shouts “don’t fall” just as the waterski boat pulls and you are getting up on water skis. Hey, thanks…didn’t need that seed planted right now. When my friend Mary announced she’d be climbing to Everest Base Camp, I gave her only positive encouragement, not “you could die” because she knew that. Proud of her… delighted to hear of her adventure firsthand. She planned, prepared and had success!

I enter every adventure with thoughtful consideration and caution, a heady approach and  acknowledgement of worst case scenario, but also enthusiasm and a vision of best outcome – as a goal…which we often achieve. Visualizing our safe outcome, with proper preparation and fitness, is highly effective, especially at high altitude. Self-doubt, or voices in your head telling you not to get hurt, does not play in your favor. There is no room for uncertainty when you are in a steep white room, untracked, unknown…you  need your best self. I channel my nerves and anxiety (yes, I do get nervous) into positive energy, along with a little self pep talk.

I will digress to say I am so blessed to have friends who genuinely care about me, my health and well-being, as I do them. Friendship is such a gift… caring about another human being that’s not your family, but someone you choose to share with, and laugh with, is one of life’s greatest gifts….perhaps the best of all! Because friendship… well, you earn it…the trust, the experiences – from the silly to the sublime, the camaraderie, the crazy, the loyalty, the acceptance and appreciation of knowing each other quirks. I love my friends! #iloveus

So my friends, next time you want to say “don’t get hurt”, instead say “have fun” or “I look forward to seeing your ski photos” and “let’s celebrate when you get back”, “do what you love”. I will in turn be as supportive of my friends’ crazy (ok, risky) passions and pastimes: running (oh geez your knees), sky-diving (OMG), making candles (hot wax – yikes), sunbathing (burn baby burn),  beach boot camp (ok – not so risky – just sandy, early morning and not fun).

I’ll be skiing (safely) with good vibes, thank you very much. It’s what I love, it challenges me, makes me happy, healthy, accomplished, vibrant.

Do what you love, love what you do, know the risks, picture the rewards, life is an adventure… go get yours…

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke
Family Ski Trips Luxury Vacation Guide

 

Top 10 Apres Ski Tips

How to Après Ski Like a Pro…

My friends ask me, “do I have to ski to après ski?” This naive inquiry comes mostly from my gal pals , who fear getting cold, hurt or embarrassed, but don’t want to miss a good party. I have decided to let them in on our after skiing social since the ratio of ladies to dudes at ski resorts bars is sadly disproportionate. However, I do ask that non-skiers make an effort to understand the skiing lifestyle and après ski culture. Most importantly, I advise them not to start conversations with “I wish I could ski, looks fun, but it terrifies me.” Or “I hate the cold.” And “I’m afraid of heights.” That may just end the convo before it starts!

Here’s a guide of how to be a good après skier!
You can join in all the fun and camaraderie over cocktails, predominantly beer,  without the risk of falling on the slopes, totally avoiding the cold, heights, and the cost of a lift ticket.

To excel at après ski requires much less athletic prowess than skiing or snowboarding, you just need to balance on a bar stool, maybe navigate snow base lodge stairs. As a non-skier, you can show up to the slope-side bar looking fresh, no helmet hair or sweaty UnderArmour, and jump in as if you have been carving cord all day.

Here are some après ski practice tips, so that you are top notch, and can fit in with your fall line friends when snow flies.

  1. Dress like a skier. Look like you skied even though you didn’t.
  2. No need to wear ski boots, real skiers take them off for serious après ski. Instead opt for boots like Merrill’s or LL bean boots (when in Maine). I love my Rossi apres ski boots. Ladies can don furry boots, but be careful not to look to chi chi or haute-maintenance in the mountains. See our guide to looking stylish on the mountain. You are pretending you skied, not auditioning for “snow bunny”!
  3. Get yourself a prime bar stool, near the window so you can watch the descending last chair lappers. Point outside, laugh, as if that awkward guy who is actually skiing is a bigger loser than you. LOL
  4. Tip the bartender early and enthusiastically. Remember their name, share yours. You will look like a regular,and you’ll be treated like a member of the mug-club.
  5. Bring a puppy (pet friendly bars only) and say you’re training your Dog for patrol and avalanche rescue. Wait and watch as your dog, and eventually you, receive ridiculous amounts of attention.
  6. Bring attractive friends if the puppy ploy seems staged and you don’t actually own a dog.
  7. Wear an air cast and have an epic, convincing story about your double black diamond crash that was not caught on tape – sadly. LOL!
  8. When asked about your ski day, deflect – ask them: what’s your favorite trail, what do you ski on, how many millimeters under foot, how many ski days do you usually bag in a season? etc… Skiers love to brag and boast.
  9. Don’t dance in your bare feet, rookie move. There are sloppy skiers in ski boots on the dance floor – ouch! Unless you are going for the “après ski injury” and sympathy vote.
  10. Don’t get hammered… that’s not pretty in any sport or season…sure, do one shot ski to cross it off your bucket list – and because its a fun “trust building” exercise with your new ski buddies – but know when to say when.  Cheers! See our Favorite Après Ski Bars on the Planet… seriously consider Learning to Ski or Trying to Snowboard!

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

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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

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

Indy Pass – 50+ ski areas for $199

So you’ve heard about the IKON Pass and Epic Pass?! Impressive conglomerate ski passes with dozens of ski resorts included in one price.

Well, enter The Indy Pass! Introduced in 2020, the Indy Pass includes “indy” aka: independent resort – (read: NOT owned by Vail, Aspen, Alterra, Boyne, etc). This ramped up pass now provides ski benefits at 52 “independent” smaller, lesser known ski resorts. That alone makes it attractive in a skiing future where social distancing may continue to be a focus.

The Indy Pass also now offers “pass assurance” and a lowered prices. The campaign is to drum up business and skier confidence, and to  “Get America Skiing” which you’ve gotta love! There should be a hat for that! Acronym: GAS: Get America Skiing…

The Price? $199! Or $299 with no blackout dates on The Indy+ Pass. And if you already have a pass at one of these resorts, adding on an Indy Pass will give you a chance to ski around for just a $129 add-on.

While the Indy Pass sound super cool, grass roots, and its super cheap, keep in mind those ski privileges at 52 ski areas are for only 2 days at each.

Kids Indy Passes (12 and under) are $99 or $149 for the Indy+ Pass.  A family of four could all season’s Indy passes for just $596.

Indy passholders also get 25% off Lift tickets “Rack Rates” (read: full price) for a third day skiing at each “indie” resort or if you wish to ski on a Black Out day on your Indy Pass basic.

As for the “Get America Skiing Promise, you will receive an automatic credit to your account for a 2021-22 pass if, for any reason, you use your Indy Pass less than four days – no questions asked! The “Get America Skiing Promise” goes like this: if you use your 2020-21 pass zero days – 80% credit; one day – 60%; two days- 40%; and three days – 20%. Pretty straight forward, fair and square.

Indy Passes will be available for purchase Sept. 1, 2020.

Indy Pass Western Ski Resorts –  West Indies – lol
Brundage ID
Tamarack ID
Silver ID
Lost Trail MT
Red Lodge MT
White Pass WA
49 Degrees WA
Hurricane Ridge WA
Mission Ridge WA
Mt Shasta CA
Beaver UT
Sunrise AZ
Eaglecrest AK
Hoodoo Oregon

And in Canada – Maple Leaf Indies
Apex, BC Canada
Castle AB Canada
Sasquatch, BC Canada

In The East – East Indys
Bolton Valley VT
Magic VT
Suicide Six VT
Cannon NH
Pats Peak NH
Black NH
Berkshire East MA
Mt Abram ME
Shawnee Peak ME
Mohawk CT
Catamount NY
Greek Peak NY
Massanutten VA (just love the name, is it a mass a nothin’, or something with 1,100′ vert?)
Blue Knob PA
Bryce VA
Canaan WV
Cataloochee NC

Plus Midwest ski resorts – you’ve likely never heard of….
Lutsen MN
Detroit Mountain MN
Powder MN
Spirit MN
Granite Peak WI
Little Switzerland WI (emphasis on little, 50 acres, 200′ vert)
Nordic WI
Trolhaugen WI
Tyrol Basin WI (yodelahewhoo?)
Pine Mtn MI
Crystal MI
Big Powderhorn MI
Caberfae Peaks MI
Schuss MI (great name, let’s go schuss at schuss. eh?!)
Swiss Valley MI
Terry Peak SD

Honestly when I first heard about the “Indy Pass” I thought it was promoting drag racing… The Indy 500 Formula One fun all-access and private pit pass … woohoo…anywhoo… I’m glad to see this pass at some of my favorite small but might ski mountains.

Some of my fave “Indy” ski areas:

Brundage, Tamarack and hi-ho Silver in Idaho – worth an Idaho ski Iditarod! A ski safari could also hit Montana Indy members Lost Trail and Red Lodge. Too bad it doesn’t include Lookout Pass, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, and Whitefish Montana! #SkiRoadTrip

Castle Mountain in Alberta Canada is epic, sorry – no its Indy. This humble Canadian ski area is huge, Alberta’s 2nd largest behind Lake Louise (4 hours away in Banff)! 3,500 acres, snowfields, 2,800’ vert! Nearby Fernie and Kimberley are on the Epic Pass. Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay are on the IKON.

Cannon and Black in NH – the “live free or die” Granite State where skiing is the official winter sport!

Vermont’s Magic, Bolton Valley, and Suicide Six are all wicked authentic small mountains with big heart and inspiring history!

Maine’s Shawnee Peak and Mt A (Abrams) are cool ski areas with soul, night-skiing and great après ski bars I might add – Blizzard Pub and Loose Boots Lounge respectively.

So ski friends, much to consider for next ski season, with Covid potentially still in play. But we MUST PLAY outdoors regardless. We must ski… Skiing is an “essential service” for my health and sanity… yours? See you on the slopes in 2020. Till then, get your season pass, at a discount with pass assurance (or insurance if you’d prefer to call it that ) and stay in ski shape this summer!

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Vail’s Top 10 Most Epic Resorts

I love Vail… its one of the top ski resorts on the planet, and I have sampled a few (ok, over 270). There’s even more to love now that Vail has acquired over 42 ski resorts, some of the best in ski country, and they are all on The Epic Pass. Yes this is an epic time for skiers and riders. Like that’s not enough, right? But Vail Resorts offers even more skiing on its affordable season pass ($900 range) to 65+ ski resorts in the US, Canada, Japan and The Alps. Vail’s 2020 Epic Pass includes Sun Valley and Snowbasin, plus Telluride and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, and Peak Resorts  – Mount Snow, Attitash, Wildcat, Hunter in The East and more! Its mind-blowing, especially when you consider a pass to any one of these mountains would cost over a $1,000 … yes for just one ski resort… now you have access to 65+ for  $979! You may need to take the winter off. Seriously….

Here are the Most Epic Ski Resorts on the Epic Pass, in this skier’s opinion:

Vail – yes, it is a perfect skier’s mountain, with great front side trails, huge back bowls, high-speed lifts everywhere, stunning Rocky Mountain views, and a ski village that looks plucked from a Zermatt postcard. From first gondola one, and first tracks down the Back Bowl or Blue Sky Basin, to lively après ski in Vail village, Vail is a skier’s paradise.

Whistler Blackcomb is the biggest in North America. 37 lifts, 200 trails and 8,171 acres and 7,494′ vertical …Boom! I love the vast terrain, the two unique mountains, the crazy Canadian extremes, and the even crazier après ski in the Intrawest village.

Breckenridge – yes, I’m a Breck girl – I love skiing this vast resort in Summit County Colorado. First, Breckenridge has the highest lift service ski terrain in North America (12,840’)… cool. Second, Breck has five unique ski peaks across 3,000 acres, Peaks 10 thru 6, each offers everything from tame groomed boulevards to gritty high-alpine all-natural skiing. Finally, you have the beastly village of Breck – once a quaint silver mining frontier town, now it’s a big bustling skier’s paradise of breweries and bars for Breck après, shops and hotels. Beware Breck is busy…

Stowe, the Ski Capital of the East, is iconic, with formidable New England terrain – including the Front Four which should be on every skier’s bucket list. Spruce Peak is a gorgeous mountain village, steps to the slopes, that looks more Beaver Creek than Vermont. Then you have the charming village of Stowe with classic après ski bars, boutiques and inns up and down the Mountain Road, and iconic Main Street with its pretty church steeple. Stowe is the best in the East.

Heavenly California – the name says it. This Lake Tahoe Resort has it all – the most beautiful views of the magnificent Lake, great glades, steeps, cruisers, bi-state skiing from Cali to Nevada on 4,800 acres- Lake Tahoe’s biggest – served by 28 lifts! Add in après ski Casinos, or a boat ride on Lake Tahoe. Bonus: a Heavenly ski trip can encompass skiing at neighbor Vail resorts Kirkwood and Northstar at Tahoe.

Beaver Creek – This is Vail’s little sister, and she deserves some secret love. The Beav’ has such long well-pitched trails, steeps that host the annual Birds of Prey downhill, swift lifts, the best grooming, and two super classy base villages at Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gultch – where you’ll find the swank slopeside Ritz. The Beave doesn’t get a busy as the Front Range or Vail, another reason to love the sophisticated lil’ sis… did I mention Beaver Creek’s  five-star mountain hotels, the beautiful birch groves or the fresh baked cookies handed out at day’s end in the perfect pedestrian skiers village?

4 more ski resorts, not Vail owned, but epic and worth exploring on the Epic Pass

Telluride Ski Resort is remote, and worth it! This absolutely stunning mountain resort in a boxwood canyon in South West Colorado is special. The San Juan range scenery is a gem, the 2,000-acre ski terrain is awesome, and the old mining town is as authentic as they come. Be sure to lunch at the highest restaurant in North America – Alpino Vino at 11,966’ is a cozy European chalet on top of the world. Stay at Telluride’s modern Mountain Village or down in town in an historic lodge with cool après ski and local dining, either way – your ski days are scenic, with “epic” terrain from 12,500’ Palmyra Peak (or hike for more) – hence the nickname To Hell U Ride.

Kicking Horse in the Canadian Rockies is kick ass. On the powder Highway of BC, this ski resort has long steeps, with a vertical of over 4,300’- the 4th biggest on the continent. A swift gondola takes you to tremendous bowls and chutes, while the ski village is humble and fun, not overdone. The panorama from the mountaintop Eagle’s Eye restaurant is amazing, reached by a 2,800’gondola. From Kicking Horse, you can try a heli-ski day with Purcell Heli Skiing in Golden, or visit sister Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – Kimberley and Fernie. You’re also close to Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff but they are on the IKON Pass.

Les Trois Vallées in France is epic, with skiing on the Epic Pass when you purchase partner lodging. The 3 Valleys represent the largest interconnected skiing in the world – joining Courchevel and Val Thorens via Méribel. It’s highly scenic – in the French Alps with views of Mont Blanc, it’s huge – with 600 kilometers of trails served by 155 lifts connecting 8 ski areas, 4 valleys, 6 glaciers, and 25 peaks. Add in some French chalets for ski-to-lunch, the chic ski hotels of Courchevel and Meribel (Val Thorens is modern – not so charming), crazy off-piste opportunities, and even crazier après ski … you have the joie de vivre of French skiing.

St Anton Lech and Zurs – the most authentic ski region in the world, the cradle of alpine skiing in fact, is the Arlberg of Austria. Ten interconnected ski resorts are the stuff of legends– for their vast Alps terrain, amazing lifts  – 88 trams, cable cars, 8 packs and funitels, for their snow abundance, for the ski culture that exudes in each quaint mountain village, and for the alpine huts along the ski trail sides serving delicious homemade cuisine just as the locals have for centuries. Every skier worth his edges must  skiing the Austrian Alps, ride the Valugabahn, ski to lunch in St Christoph, tour the White Ring of Lech, and après ski at the Moosewirt in St Anton. An Arlberg ski vacation is epic, and its on the Epic Pass – 3 days free skiing when you book lodging via Vail partners.

Those are my favorite Epic Ski resorts, and I have yet to ski Japan… or Japow as my powder friends call it, and Hakuba Valley’s nine ski resorts on the Epic Pass. Enjoy your winter, and I see you in the million vert skiers circle if you are also tracking your epic ski season with Vail Resort’s Epic Mix app.

Copyright 2023 Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com
Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

  

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 spokesperson on ski travel tips at  the 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.

Exploring new resorts? Heather skis 10-20 new ski resorts each season with her husband ski photographer Greg Burke. She’s already skied over 224 ski areas (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. See tips on looking stylish from First Tracks to Après Ski.

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

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