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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

Chairlift Chats

Part of my love for skiing is the people… skiers bring such contagious energy to an otherwise chilly snow sport. From first chair to last and flowing into aprés ski, there’s a kinship among alpine enthusiasts.

One of my favorite aspects of skiing is meeting new people on the lifts, striking up conversations within the confines of our 5 minute ride up the mountain. I have met some rally “cool” peeps in my ski travels…. pun intended. Hey chairlift chats really do keep you warm, or at least distract you from the chill. Besides, there is so much to learn from fellow skiers. We share the same passion, serious commitment to our gear, our ski fitness, our  desire to travel to new peaks, and our love of skiing snowy covered mountains from fall to spring, from nearby to far far away.

My kids would eye-roll when I’d engage in a chair chat with our new quad sharing neighbor. Now they’re grown and they do it too. It’s a great way to pass the time (5-10 minutes) on your ascent, be it in a cozy gondola where its downright awkward not to talk (god forbid someone fart), a bubble covered chair which is very conducive to good acoustics, or an open air chair (btw: a better place to “pass gas” as my mum would say).

On chairlifts, I have met colleagues- literally – people I went to college with at University of Vermont- on a Gondola in Vail and the quad at Stowe. I have connected with friends of friends and sent selfies to mutual friends from a chairlift in Park City, ran into (not literally) my brother’s first roommate in Big Sky, and extreme skier Dan Egan. I’ve met pro ski racers (Ted Ligety), the snow reporter looking for someone to photograph in the fresh snow for the day’s social media post  (yes, that’s happened 3xs),ski reps from Atomic, Rossi, Parlor, Liberty, Kulkea – good peeps to know, right?! Sure beats sitting in cold silence. Don’t you think?

A natural starter topic is to chat about the weather, a classic ice breaker – you can bitch about the cold, or boast about today’s snow, pontificate the forecast. Is today a “Top 5” day or what?!

Ski equipment is a conversation magnet for alpinists…we’re gear obsessed as a ski society. Hey, how do you like those skis in the powder? But do they hold a grip on the hard pack? Those heated gloves you are wearing – “cool” – but how warm are they – I want to know for how long, how much, how effective, worthwhile or not? So much to share, learn and laugh about in this finite ski world with infinite possibilities. And on it goes…

My favorite ski topic: ski resorts you’ve visited and where’s your favorite ski destination… best ski day ever? The topics are endless, the lift rides are not – endless – so if there is no social synergy, you’ll be unloading soon.

Friendships have formed with these folks on the lift and in lift line, ever-early Wayne at Sunday River, Mark & Ken at Gondi 1 -Vail Colorado, Darian at Sugarbush (she rips)…. The list goes on…. I love these skiers (and snowboarders – I don’t discriminate one plank vs two) for their friendliness and openness to discussion, and their dedication to our mutually beloved sport.

Technology has me concerned, specifically – ear buds, skull candy, and cell phones on the slopes and how they’ve isolated and even eliminated the natural flow of conversation among everyone- including skiing “strangers” who could easily become buds. You can at least share a laugh and an engaging opinion or outlook given your commonality as the 4% that ski and ride. My kids laugh (or eye-roll) when my “hello” goes unanswered to my chairlift neighbor because their ears are filled with music-playing wires. Or worse, I respond to my chair neighbor’s question “hey how are you doing?” only to discover they are on their cell phone talking with someone else not present… literally not present.

In Switzerland, chairlift and gondolas rides are surprisingly quiet. I guess the Swiss are conservative and not very chatty. Greg and I always try to engage… in The Alps its become a game, even with our limited German. We’d love to hear more about skiing Europe from the genuine source…. but we haven’t scored very many Swiss friends…yet. One Swiss gent said, “We’re too tired between ski runs to talk”…. hmmm. Ski lift conversations give me energy, its not tiring- its engaging, I am infused with passion from like-minded ski fans. Downloading details on a recent ski trip is anything but a downer, it’s an upper for me while riding uphill. Hearing about an epic adventure from a ski friend is not only interesting but inspiring…. So many resorts to visit – love to get the firsthand perspective to help steer future trips.

I hope technology, which has so many benefits (RFID lift tickets, vertical tracking, weathercasting…) doesn’t erode the social aspect of skiing. I love to ski, and I love to talk to equally passionate skiers. Isn’t that why we love après ski (aside from the quenching libation and music)?

See you on chairlift in the future and perhaps we can become friends too – not like “facebook friends” but like in IRL (in real life). Cheers to chairlift chats.

 Copyright 2019, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

Aspen’s Ikon Pass or Vail’s Epic Pass

Season pass deals abound! With mergers of mountain resorts by Vail Resorts – and competitor Aspen and Alterra Mountain Company, skiers can choose between the Epic Pass or the “IKON” pass for  the 2019-2020 ski season, the IKON Pass and it unites 38 top ski destinations. While  Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is valid at 20 major ski resorts, with benefits at 65+.

Vail Resort’s Epic Pass, priced at $939 for unlimited skiing at 20 ski resorts, 7 days each at many more.  Vail resorts include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  Kirkwood,  Vermont’s Stowe and Okemo, and Mount Sunapee in NH,  Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps,  and Perisher Australia, Hotham and Falls Creek, plus 7 days skiing at Telluride, Snowbasin and Sun Valley, 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, Verbier, Les Trois Vallees, and Hakuba Japan – so many ski resorts.

The IKON Pass offers 38 ski resorts acres across the continent, yes Canada & Japan too,  on one season pass, with varying access at each destination, with a price of $949, its a hybrid of the MAX Pass and Mountain Collective, and a strong competitor to Vail’s Epic Pass, all good news and great alternatives for skiers and riders.

The IKON Pass brings together Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company,  Intrawest and Boyne Resorts, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, POWDR, Alta/Snowbird and Canada’s Big 3. A spin off from The  Max Pass, this pass has some pretty epic ski resort from Aspen, Steamboat 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, Stratton, Sugarbush and Killington in The East, Tremblant in Quebec!

The Ikon Pass is on sale now, see details at www.ikonpass.com. IKON Access is unlimited at 14 ski resorts: Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Crystal Mountain, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain. Plus ski privileges at 21 more…

IKON Pass holders get 7 days each at Deer Valley, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush. Plus…

IKON pass holders get 7 days combine at Aspen’s 4 mountains, and 7 at Alta/Snowbird, 7 days at Canada’s Big3 Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and 7 days between Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

Alterra’s IKON Pass is $949, there’s also a kids pass for $299 with parents purchase. For a lower price point, there’s a slightly more restricted IKON Base pass at $649 (basically 5 days at the restricted resorts versus 7, with black out dates and a few caveats).

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 $1,000!

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 2019, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com 

 

 

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 hear when I go skiing, from friends, whom 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 tight rope I walk 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, to ski untracked, 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 my choice to ski and how risky it may be.

Yes, I’ve heli skied with a pack of testosterone charged 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). I have bobsledded the Olympic track in Park City (now that was dangerous), skied the speed trial run at Verbier, cat skied 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 have been educated on slides, tree-wells, avalanches. 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 home, the sidelines are not for me …thank you.

Would you tell an Indie car drive “don’t crash” or the crazy Wallendas “don’t slip and fall”? At our summer camp in Maine, my sis in law shouted “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.

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 quiet little self pep talk.

I will digress to say I am so blessed to have friends who genuinely care about me, my health and wellbeing, 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”… “go get it”, “do what you love”. I will in turn be as supportive of my friends’ crazy (ok, risky) passions and pastimes: running (oh my 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

 

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 170). There’s even more to love now that Vail owns 19 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 2019-2020 Epic Pass includes Sun Valley and Snowbasin, plus Telluride and the resorts of the Canadian Rockies! 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  $950! 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 – Kimberly, Nakiska and Fernie. You’re also close to Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff but they are not on the Epic 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 2019, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

  

Vail’s Epic Pass is a 10

This ski season marks the 10th anniversary of the Epic Pass, arguably the best season pass for skiing, best value, versatility, at the best ski resorts for serious vertical. Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Breck, Stowe, Heavenly, Park City… the list goes on!

Not only is the Epic Pass now ten years old in its great pass tradition, it has expanded 10 fold since its introduction in 2008. The Vail Resorts Epic Pass is now valid at over 65 major ski resorts, with benefits to dozens of others around the world.

One more epic “10” for you ski friends – this year’s epic pass is dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division. The US 10th Mountain Division trained in the challenging alpine terrain of Colorado’s high peaks, and went on to serve and fight in WW II – playing a pivotal role in winning the war overseas in the harsh Italian Dolomites. Pete Seibert, founder of Vail, and Earl Eaton, both served in WW II and later developed one of the best ski resorts in the world- Vail (inception 1957).

Fast forward to 2008, as Vail Resorts was growing into a Titan of Ski Resort mergers and acquisitions. The Epic Pass was launched as a conglomerate of Vail’s 5 extensive ski resorts terrain. The affordable pass cost less than most ski resort season passes, and provided skiers with unrestricted skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone … And that was just the beginning…

For ski season 2019-20, the Epic Pass includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone,  Crested Butte, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stevens Pass, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Wilmot, Mt. Brighton, Afton Alps, Perisher, plus 7 days at Telluride , Snowbasin, Sun Valley, and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – Fernie, Kicking Horse, Nakiska and Kimberley, Mont Sainte Anne, and Stoneham in Quebec.

Overseas, Epic Pass holders get three day skiing at Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France, 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria, Skirama Dolomiti Italy, and Hakuba Valley in Japan. That’s a lot of ski perks for the price of one Epic Pass at $949.

Funny that in a Sports Illustrated interview in the 1980’s, Vail founder Pete Seibert said ski industry peeps called him and his big ski plans “crazy.” Well, cheers to the crazy ski pass. Vail Resorts later launched a crazy app, The Epic Mix that allows skiers and rider to track their vertical, see snow reports, grooming and trail openings, lift line wait times, and view photos of their skiing and their kids day in ski camp.

What else sets the Epic Pass apart on its 10th anniversary? It’s actually charitable! To honor our military, Vail Resorts has committed to donating $1 for every season pass sold, to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) – which should reach and exceed $750,000 based on last year’s pass sales. Generous with their $7.5 million in pass sales.

Will Vail Resorts continue to buy up ski resorts and broaden its skiing portfolio, adding to its Epic Pass and making it more and more epic? That we cannot say. But we do say, buy up your Epic Pass early for an epic deal on skiing at over 40 phenomenal ski resorts!

See more about Vail Resorts, and the Best Ski Resorts anywhere:

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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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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Ski Writer Award – Heather Burke

Heather Burke of Kennebunkport Maine received a 2018 national award for her travel journalism. NASJA, North American Snowsports Journalist Association, awarded Heather the NASJA Mitch Kaplan Award, honoring persons who have contributed to the advancement of skiing and snowboarding, demonstrating excellence in media relations, bringing commitment and dignity to journalism. The award was presented in Lake Tahoe, California, at NASJA’s annual meeting, coinciding with The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and a Legends of Skiing reunion, and at the Boston Ski Show.

Heather and her photographer husband Greg manage the websites theluxuryvacationguide.com and familyskitrips.com, and are major contributors to snowpak.com.  Their works have appeared in scores of outlets including Boston.com, Forbes Travel Guide,  Marina Life, Snow Country, Liftopia and newspapers like the Boston Globe, The Maine Sunday Telegram – where Heather wrote the ski column for 11 years, Montreal Gazette, Providence Journal, Burlington Free Press and more, with her husband Greg’s photography accompanying her articles.

Award presenter, NASJA past-president, Martin Griff said, “When I read Heather’s work, I’m awed by how good it is, how she captures the essence of the ski experience at each resort she writes about and how effortlessly her words flow together. Heather was and still is an inspiration to me and it is just so appropriate that she be honored by NASJA for work that reflects the spirit, enthusiasm and dedication that Mitch Kaplan had for snowsports writing.”

Heather, who learned to ski at the age of three at Gunstock in New Hampshire, worked at her parents’ Smugglers Notch Vermont ski lodge, and as a ski instructor before embarking on her writing career. She has been a ski journalist for over two decades, sampling over 170 ski areas and gathering many awards along the way including three NASJA Harold Hirsch Excellence in Journalism Awards, and Freeskier Magazine’s “Top 100 ski industry people to follow” honor.

Klaus Obermeyer of Aspen Colorado, Nordic Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins, and Jeff Wise of Stowe Mountain  also received awards  at the 2018 NASJA media event. Previous winners of this NASJA award include The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan. NASJA, founded in 1963 as the United States Ski Writers Association, is North America’s largest association of professional snowsports writers, authors, photographers, videographers, broadcasters and industry professionals.

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

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Affordable Family Ski Trip Tips

Shred the Slopes And Not Your Wallet: Tips For A Budget-Friendly Ski Trip

In 2016, 13.91 million people traveled to a ski resort for a family ski vacation. This is because there’s absolutely nothing like feeling the wind against your face as you take on the toughest Black Diamond trail. However, ski trip costs add up. With the cost of lift tickets, ski gear, lodging, and transportation for everyone, skiing is not a cheap sport. But never fear because you can still participate in the sport you love while being kind to your wallet. Check out these budget-friendly tips to help you save a little on your next family ski trip.

Plan early and book off-peak
Ski season is typically from late November to early April. Therefore, you should start planning your trip  end of summer. This will allow you enough time to shop for bargains and get discounted rooms and airline tickets. You should also ski off-peak seasons, typicallythe beginning and end of the ski season. Early December, ski lift ticket prices are generally less expensive and so are lodging costs, same goes for early April at high-elevation ski resorts that stay open later, like Vail and Snowbird. You definitely want to avoid Christmas-New Years, Martin Luther King weekend in January and mid February – high-peak seasons that come with  higher costs and crowds. See our Tips on Planning the best ski vacation.

Travel with more families
One of the best ways to reduce your cost of travel is to vacation with more than one family. You can find neighbors, family friends, or extended family members to help split the expenses of lodging – renting a  big condo or ski house,  and you can share food expense. Not only will you save some money, but you will also have someone for the kids to play with, and après ski with your adult friends. It’s always more fun with more people to share your experiences with!

Be prepared to cook your own food
When shopping for lodging, try to find a resort ski home, cabin, or condo that comes equipped with a kitchen, and often washer dryer! So you don’t have to eat  out every meal – saving you money, and sparing you from dining with tired hungry kids after a big day of skiing. If you travel with another family or extra friends, you can all take turns cooking every night. This way you can split the cost of groceries as well as the cooking. See our Tips on Packing for a Ski Condo.

Start saving as soon as you book
As soon as you book your lodging and transportation, set up a “ski trip” savings account. Determine how much money you will need for the trip and set this as your goal. You can determine how much you should save each month and what you plan to put on your credit card. If you have a rewards card, place purchases on this card to get cash-back for the big ticket purchases. This will help you budget, with the bonus of rewards later.

Look at Pass Prices instead of Day Tickets
Check out he price for a season pass at the ski resort if you are going for more than 5 days. Today’s ski passes, like the Epic Pass, IKON pass and Mountain Collective are often better deals (valid at many ski resorts all winter) when bought in advance than the retail day tickets. Vail is over $179 a day but an Epic Pass starts at $599! You do the math!

Buy second-hand equipment
One of the most expensive costs of skiing is the equipment. If you already have your own equipment, that is great. But for everyone else, renting your skis every trip can become costly. You may want to look into second-hand shops, local ski swaps hosted by school and ski clubs, and ask about used gear at ski shops for deals on previously owned gear or demos. Also shopping in spring , online, you can find great deals on last year’s ski gear. See our Ski Gear Guide for the top skis to buy or rent.

Pack Well in Advance
Many families find packing for skiing to be stressful, see out Tips on What and How to Pack for a successful ski trip.

If you love skiing, you shouldn’t let cost keep you from hitting the slopes. Shred the snow without damaging your wallet with some preparation, organization, and research.

Skiing = expensive, memories skiing with your family = priceless!


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