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

Category: Ski Resort Review (Page 1 of 2)

Ski Resort Reviews, the best ski resorts for your family ski trip

Love of Vail, too big to fail?

Dear Vail,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Reasons to Ski Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vail Epic Pass is more epic

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is now more epic, with a surprising 2023 season pass price of $980 early purchase! Its the best value multi-mountain season pass out there! Last season Vail sold 2.3 million Epic Passes, up from 1.4 in 2021. The Pass price goes up every fall, and season pass sales end late November or early December.

The Epic Pass offers unlimited skiing at 46 Vail owned ski resorts and 7 days each at many more, plus ski pass benefits in the Alps, for a grand total of 65+ resorts.  Vail Resorts now include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte in Colorado, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  and Kirkwood,  Washington’s Stevens Pass, Vermont’s Stowe,  Okemo, Mount Snow, NH’s Wildcat, Attitash, Mount Sunapee, the Midwest’s Wilmot,  Mt Brighton,  Afton Alps, Seven Springs, and even Perisher Australia. Also Vail’s latest acquisition Andermatt Sedrum in Switzerland and Crans Montana for ski season 2023-24.

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

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

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass blow up, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass at over $1,000!

You should strongly consider buying the Epic Pass, with full insurance- “Epic Coverage” as protection for next season – at no extra charge. Then download Vail’s Epic Mix app and start dreaming of skiing next season, locally, out west, airfare will be a deal too.

IKON pass is the other big mega-mountain pass, at $999, which combines Aspen’s ski resorts (the newly formed Alterra Mountain Company) with Boyne, Powdr and Intrawest Resorts plus some indies for a total of 41 – its another extremely versatile pass valid at  Aspen’s 4 mountains, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort, Squaw Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, Big Bear, June, Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain.  Plus limited skiing at Deer Valley, Snowbird/Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Revelstoke, and Sugarbush, Canada’s  Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, and Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

See our Guide to the Top Ski Resorts and our Guide to Skiing the Alps to plan your winter!

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

Top Ski Resorts

We editors at Family Ski Trips love to rank our favorite ski resorts, based on terrain, scenic beauty, lifts, snow, ski village amenities and après ski, plus activities and programs for families. We have our favorites:
Top 10 Ski Resorts of the East
Top Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Family Ski Resorts in Canada
Top Family Ski Resorts in the Alps

All of these we keep up to date with frequent personal visits (tough job, eh?!) and we reward those resorts with recent capital improvements, new programs for learn to ski, lodging and culinary enhancement, by moving them up (or down) our Top 10 Ski Resorts ranking.

We also love to see how other ski sites rank the top ski resorts in the world. We enjoy comparing their results, and metrics, with ours. Our ski resort rankings are quite similar to those of Ski magazine and their annual Top 50 Ski Resorts readers’ poll, with the occasional anomaly, see this year’s review of Ski Mag’s best ski resort poll.

TurnKey recently released their Top Ski Resort rankings, with cool data about the top three ski and snowboard states – not surprisingly Colorado, California, and Utah. These three states comprise almost 50% of their top 100 ski resorts in the US, Colorado has the most skier visits and 77% of their top 100 resorts. Here’s where we might disagree, since we like to steer families looking for a great ski vacation away from the highly ranked, highly visited ski resorts. We say ski Idaho, Montana and Wyoming… even Washington!

TurnKey’s top 25 ski resorts only has 3 Eastern Ski Resorts, #15 Killington, #18 Sugarloaf and #23 Whiteface. We respectfully have very different New England ski faves: Stowe, Sugarbush, Sunday River, Okemo, Bretton Woods and Smuggs are all deserving ahead of Whiteface! Out West, we agree with Big Sky at #2 but Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Vail, Telluride and Deer Valley all move ahead of Park City.

We did find very interesting the lift ticket prices, with Winter Park and Vail topping out at $159 a day. $68 is the average ticket price among the 260 resorts in TurnKey’s study.

Let us know your Top Ski Resorts, and why? What makes a perfect ski resort for you and your family ski vacation?

Copyright 2023, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com and 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 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

  

Aspen Ski Resorts Epic Merger

What does $1.5 billion in the the ski biz?
A bunch of great ski resorts, so says the Crown family, of Aspen Resorts, with their recent acquisition of Intrawest, KSL and Mammoth.

Aspen – or Alterra – owns a mammoth ski resort conglomerate  now – competing with the likes of Vail Resorts (which now tallies 26 ski resorts, and more partner resorts fora total of 65+).

This new Aspen ski company, renamed and branded as Alterra Mountain Co., now includes 15 mountain resorts in their portfolio, plus  partner resorts – all on the IKON Pass for a total of 41,  attributing over six million annual skier visits.

Alterra – Aspen owned ski resorts include:
Squaw Valley  Alpine Meadows
Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain
Snow Summit and Bear Mountain also in California
Steamboat and Winter Park Resort, Colorado
Solitude and Deer Valley Utah
Stratton Vermont
Sugarbush Vermont
Tremblant in Quebec
Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia
Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario
Canadian Mountain Holidays heli skiing operations

Boom!

Aspen Resorts, and its four ski mountains, Snowmass, Ajax, Aspen Highland and Buttermilk, remain a separate company owned by the Crown family. If you were to count them in the overall ski picture that would be 15 ski resorts, approaching Vail Resorts conglomerate of 26… but Vail is still the big daddy in skier visits with busy resorts like Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge and Keystone, Whistler Blackcomb, Park City and Heavenly.

KSL Capital Partners and the owner of the four Aspen resorts, Henry Crown and Company, are the backers of this $ billion ski bundle.

The mega mountain pass for Aspen’s entourage is the IKON Pass – a strong pass competitor to Vail Resorts Epic Pass . The Vail Epic Pass includes  ski benefits at more – including Telluride, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies –  Kicking Horse, Kimberly, Fernie, Nakiska and Mont Sainte Anne, and Hakuba Japan’s 9 ski areas, for about $900 bucks.

While we don’t love ski monopolies and downhill dynasties, you can’t beat the value of a multi-venue unlimited vertical ski pass for under a $1000….

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

Visit Heather Burke’s websites Family Ski Trips.com and  for luxury resort reviews: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

 

Affordable Family Ski Trip Tips

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

In recent years, 13.91 million people traveled annually  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 and IKON Pass are often better deals (valid at many ski resorts all winter) when bought in advance than the retail day tickets. Vail is over $200 a day but an Epic Pass starts at $899! 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!


Ski Writers’ Top Ski Resorts

As ski journalists, we have the enviable job of traveling to ski resorts and sharing our likes, dislikes, and love of the sport of skiing. Not only do I love my travel writing work, (please no job applications – I’m set) I also enjoy reading ski resort reviews from my peers, fellow ski writers. A departure from my favorite ski resorts reviewed, here are my best colleagues in the ski biz sharing their top ski resorts, along with their humor and inside tracks:

Favorite Ski Resort from Eric Wilbur, talented sports writer with whom I worked at Boston.com for a decade.

“It’s quite difficult to narrow this down to a singular superlative. The best North American resort I’ve skied with kids? Sunday River. Site of the best powder day I’ve ever experienced? Magic Mountain. The best vibe I’ve ever felt at a resort? Copper Mountain. The best place I’ve visited, but never skied? Kirkwood (Sitting at the base all day with an ACL tear, all while hearing avalanche control in the midst of a total whiteout also qualifies as the greatest, individual torture at a ski resort).

But ever since my first visit more than a quarter-century ago, Stowe has consistently remained my favorite place to ski, a matter that speaks about as much about the mountain’s history as it does Stowe’s infamous terrain and the resort’s brand of mountain luxe. Few experiences are comparable to a spring-time bump run down Hayride, or a mid-winter duck in the woods wherever you might choose not to tell. Skiing these trails, so steeped in lore matters so much more, particularly in creating the soul of a skier. Cookie cutter slopes serve a purpose elsewhere, but at Stowe the skiing is about immersing yourself into a culture that has come to define the Vermont outdoors.

Yes, you can pay heftily for the experience. But in a world of Big Mac skiing and riding, Stowe remains that James Beard destination that lives up to the exorbitance. The drive up Mountain Road still delivers a unique anticipation upon approach, no matter how many times I’ve made the drive. And when the day is through, I can always count on the Front Four winking at me in the dusk, as if knowingly scheduling my inevitable return. ”

Eric Wilbur is a freelance writer and a member of NASJA whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, The New England Ski Journal, and Boston Metro.

Top Ski Resort from Rich Stoner of All About Après, who I typically find in the ski bars “researching” though we hit first chair at Okemo on an epic snow day:

“I love Deer Valley and Vail is, of course, epic, but there is just something about your home mountain that makes it…well, home. For me that resort is Mount Snow. It’s where I learned to ski oh so many years ago and it shames me to say that it took me 25 years to eventually go back. However, now that I’ve returned, I plan on being there for a while, especially since my three daughters also learned to ski there and it holds a sentimental place in my heart, having created a lifetime of future memories.Despite this emotional connection, Mount Snow is also a darn good resort. They have come a really long way since I first visited, oh so many years ago and continue to evolve each season with a host of improvements to the overall mountain scene. Now, with snow making capabilities that are arguably the best in the East and apres ski offerings guaranteed to satisfy everyone, Mount Snow has proven to be the perfect ski resort for my family to call home.

I’ve experienced it all at Mount Snow. From warm, rainy days that have created gnarly ice coast conditions, to deep pow that produced incredible gladed runs (duck in off Olympic, you won’t regret it) you just never know what the weather will bring to southern Vermont. However, having spent $30 million last summer upgrading their snowmaking system to a capacity that is, basically, unlimited, what you do know is that they can rebound from these unpredictable temperature swings very quickly while producing a much longer ski season. This alone makes Mount Snow worth the trip because you’ll be skiing more trails with more snow and for longer than most other eastern resorts.

However, increased skiing is only the half of it. We are, after all, All About Apres and when the snow is skied off, later in the day, there are après options galore, all right there for the taking. Need to recharge at the summit? Head to The Bullwheel for some tasty Bloodies and pretzel sticks dipped in cinnamon butter. Bypass the line for the tables and walk straight to the bar to order, then head out on the deck and drink in the view. Done for the day and don’t want to deal with wait service? Canned is your gig. Serving craft beers in cans from Vermont, its simplistic approach will have you thirst quenched in no time. If drinking from the can is not your thing, then head upstairs to The Taproom Station. They, too, have quite the selection of brews (on tap and in bottles) for the savvy craft beer drinker and a few more food options as well. Finally, if you are looking to really go next level and party a bit more, then you need to take in all that is Bruce Jacques and his Saturday shows at Cuzzins. Get there early or you’ll struggle to get in at all. Once inside, there is no shortage of table-dancing après skiers singing along with Bruce as he plays his set while donning a variety of outlandish costumes and interacting with the crowd that is, very much, all in. Trust me, you just won’t be able to peel yourself away, no matter how hard you try.  It’s this type of “can’t stay away” mantra that defines how I feel about Mount Snow. Now that I’m back, the improvements in snow making and incredible variety of apres ski options will keep my family and me there for a long while.”

– Rich Stoner – From first chair to last call, he’s bound to be laying down tracks or throwing back beers with family and friends somewhere in the mountains.

Favorite Western Resort – Snowbasin – Rich Stoner, All About Après
“Wait until you see the lodges at Snowbasin, there is nothing like them. And, the bathrooms…yes, the bathrooms, are nicer than anything you’d see at a high end wedding. Sounds a bit odd for a ski resort, especially one that, all things being considered, is not on too many lists as being super posh. But, that’s what you get when you’re a Sun Valley property and your owner really wants the Salt Lake City Olympics at his resort. Nothing says the Olympics like Venetian chandeliers hanging from the lodge’s ceilings. However, for as opulent as these buildings are, it is still hard to define Snowbasin as a showy resort. There’s some seriously sick skiing complemented by ridiculously tasty culinary delights both of which know no boundaries.

Breakfast is something that I usually skip out on when skiing but when the menu in Earl’s Lodge offers Smoked Beef Brisket Hash and Eggs, that’s a dish that cannot be overlooked. With two runny fried eggs oozing goodness all over the perfectly smoked brisket hash, this is a breakfast entree you cannot pass up. It’s delicious and is sure to have you energized for some incredible skiing. When it comes to skiing, what truly makes Snowbasin special, is the notion that you can pretty much ski anywhere. I can remember riding the lift up with Paul Marshal of Ski Utah and pointing out something that looked like a ravine saying, “That might be fun to ski.” So we did. With nothing but open bowls, the idea of defined trails is a notion that should be forgotten for the day. You can and should go anywhere. From The Sister’s Bowl to local favorite, Lone Tree Chute, it’s all there for the taking.

When you’re a little spent and need a lunch break, there’s no better place than the John Paul Lodge. With insane 360° views complemented by the “Best in Snow” winning chili or the John Paul ‘Mondo” Pastrami Burger (yes, that’s a thing) you may need a nap before you head back out, but head back out you must. The lift lovingly named, “The Beer Can” is right there to take you to the mens’ and womens’ Olympic downhill courses, and you need to try them. Want to burn off all of those, oh so worth it, calories? See if you can make it down either course in one shot. You may not have anything left in the tank after that, but if you do, head back up, there’s plenty more to shred. However, if your day does end there, quads sore and stomach full, grab a beer and a seat on the expansive patio at Earl’s Lodge.  There, you can look back out at the mountain and reminisce about the epic freedom to ski and fantastic fare that makes Snowbasin so special.” – Rich Stoner 

Photos by Greg Burke, More Top Ski Resorts:
Top 10 New England Ski Resorts for Families
Top 10 Western Ski Resorts for Families
Top Canada Ski Resorts for Families
Top European Ski Resorts for Families

 

How to Plan The Perfect Ski Vacation

How to Plan the Perfect Ski Vacation

Planning the perfect family ski vacation can be as difficult as tackling a black diamond trail with a broken pole. Not only do you have to book essentials such as lodging and transportation, but you also have to consider less obvious factors such as local weather and terrain. If you’re thinking about planning a ski trip with your family in the near future, here are some points to consider to help you holiday the right way.

Why Plan a Ski Vacation?
There are plenty of good reasons to take holidays throughout the year. Vacationing helps you to unwind, giving you time to rejuvenate your mind. It’s important that you make an effort to separate yourself from the daily grind during your vacation to give yourself a legitimate break. You should make sure that your clients and co-workers know not to contact you during your absence, and avoid the temptation to check your phone or work email while away.

Giving yourself time to relax on holiday can have a significant positive impact on your mental health. Vacationing has been associated with reduced levels of depression, higher energy levels, and greater satisfaction in relationships. In addition to the emotional benefits of taking some well-deserved time off, a ski vacation can also help you to improve your physical wellbeing. Skiing is a high-octane activity that gives you a full body workout. It helps you to strengthen muscles and joints while also getting an intense aerobic workout that strengthens heart muscles.

Where to Stay
Choosing the right ski destination is one of the most important aspects of planning a ski vacation. If you pick the wrong location or book tickets at the wrong time of year, you may not find yourself enjoying the snow-covered wonderland that you had imagined.

You need to consider an area’s terrain, its climate throughout the year, and its popularity. Renowned resorts such as Aspen are often much more crowded than lesser known slopes, which can make skiing especially difficult for beginners. You should also look for a place that gets enough snowfall during the time of year you plan to visit.

Planning a ski trip on a budget can be challenging during skiing season, as prices tend to skyrocket at this time. While you may be able to find cheaper early-season tickets, you may be limited by which trails are open for use. It’s best to look for a resort with on-season prices that fit your budget. Don’t forget to consider additional costs as well, such as meals, lessons, and equipment rental.

What to Do
Obviously, the main event on any ski trip is hitting the slopes, but it’s also important to consider what you have to do in your downtime. Off-slope activities can be just as much a part of any vacation as strapping on your skis, especially if the weather on your trip ends up being rough.

Ski resorts often have après ski family activities, tubing, snowshoeing, and indoor games, movies, and a bar area, but you may also want to look into nearby entertainment. Many ski towns have plenty to do to keep the whole family occupied. There are local museums and historical sites, shopping outlets, spas, theaters, and more.

Who to Bring
When going on a skiing vacation with the family, it’s important to consider the experience of everybody involved. You should bring skiers that are advanced enough to enjoy the slopes around the resort that you’ve booked. If you’re planning to go to a location that’s shy on green circle trails, you may want to invite only older children and experienced skiers.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, traveling with the family will often end up saving you money at popular resorts. Groups can often get reduced rates by booking together. You can also stay in a multiple-bedroom condo with a kitchen to avoid eating out too much.

Planning the perfect ski vacation isn’t easy, but for most families, it’s worth the effort. With a little bit of research and the proper preparation, you can make your next ski trip an overwhelming success and come back home feeling rejuvenated.

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

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