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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!

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 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com and Luxury Vacation Guide

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

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

Vail Resorts now owns or at least operates 34 ski resorts, and half of the 10 busiest ski areas on the continent, the top three being Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, and Breckenridge. All these ski resorts are on the Epic Pass, plus Telluride Colorado!

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

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

big-sky-ianMeanwhile Aspen Skiing Company formed Alterra Mountain Company – which now  operates 14 destinations:
Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk, plus Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California
Stratton and Sugarbush in Vermont
Snowshoe in West Virginia
Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario
Solitude and  Deer Valley in Utah
CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia

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

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

The EPN/CNL ski resorts includes:

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

 

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

Heather Burke, 2019 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips and  The LuxuryVacationGuide.com

 

Ski Magazine Top Ski Resort rankings?!

Dear Ski Magazine,

I love you – I always will…but… your top 50?! I’m not sure…

Seriously I have loved you since my youth, you made me want to be a better skier, and to be a ski journalist. I love seeing you, Ski mag, in my mailbox… it makes my banal schlep to the Post Office feel like a powder day. And your fall edition, with the Top 50 Resorts Readers’ Picks, has always been my favorite flavor of the month issue.

In recent years, however, this Top Ski Resort Guide evokes skepticism on my part… like this year…

Best skiing in the west: Sun Valley #2? Really?! Jackson Hole is awarded the most “terrain variety” … I beg to differ. I’m a well-traveled skier, at 165 ski resorts and counting…  Big Sky (at #13?) in my opinion ranks much higher than Keystone. Similarly Snowbird (#17) is far superior skiing to Crested Butte (#14). Same can be said for Snowbasin at #25.

In the East, I love seeing Sugarbush climb to #2, but Mount Snow is surely not #3 in New England. Stowe (#8) should earn much higher in ranks than Jay Peak (#5). Surprising to see Mad River Glen at #6, but I appreciate the authenticity of the skiers-only mountain. Same goes for Sugarloaf and its loyal following and avid voters deeming it #7 (Sugarloafers probably think this number 7 rank is a travesty for their beloved Maine mountain, should be #1 in their minds). I’d put Sunday River and Killington well ahead of Loon for that matter.

Here’s our Top Ski Resorts in The West
Aspen Snowmass
Big Sky Montana
Steamboat Colorado
Vail Colorado 
Deer Valley
Telluride
Snowbird Utah
Jackson Hole Wyoming
Mammoth Mountain California
Snowbasin Utah
Honorable Mention:
Whitefish – aka Big Mountain – Montana

Top Ski Resorts in The East
Stowe Vermont
Okemo Mountain Resort
Sunday River
Sugarbush
Bretton Woods
Sugarloaf
Smugglers Notch
Loon Mountain
Wildcat New Hampshire 
Le Massif in Quebec

Top Ski Resorts in Canada
Sunshine at Banff
Big White
Kicking Horse
Whistler Blackcomb
Lake Louise
Revelstoke
Panorama
Le Massif Quebec
Tremblant Quebec
Mont Sainte Anne Quebec

I respect that your Readers’ Choice Top 50 Resorts are the result of a ballot, but given the weird results – I wonder if some ski resorts might be ballot-stuffing, or perhaps cultish ski locals are over-voting to put their beloved ski area on top. Or maybe personal taste is just that… no accounting for it…

Thanks of listening, and let me know how you find our Top Ski Resorts Reviews… keep skiing and striving to be the best.

Sincerely,

Ski Magazine reader and passionate skier, forever Heather
Editor FamilySkiTrips.com and TheLuxuryVacationGuide.com

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

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Norway Glacier Skiing at Fonna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright & Photos 2018 FamilySkiTrips

Most Epic Ski Winter Ever?

Entering this winter I had lofty ski goals. I vowed to ski my age in days, and pledged to do so at a big birthday party with all my friends as witness. Not only did I hit my mark, I exceeded 50 with a bunch of bonus ski days! This was the best winter of skiing EVER. How was your ski season?

My amazing ski season brought first tracks in Maine and a White Christmas in Vermont, cat skiing Canada to Courchevel France, ending with perfect spring corn in Colorado. 69 days at over 28 ski resorts. It was truly epic, thanks in large part to the EPIC Pass. Did you achieve your ski goals? Ski anywhere new and different?

My skis are put away, so I am reminiscing about this best-ever ski season, already dreaming of next winter’s snow and where to go!

My Top Ten from a Top Ski Season:

1. Skiing Vermont over Christmas with my daughter and husband was snow globe magic. I grew up in Vermont so I treasured being back in the Green Mountains all covered in white at Jay Peak and Burke.

2. Cat skiing in the Canadian Rockies. How ironic that we flew from Maine to the remote Monashees only to find that our cat ski companions were all from Sugarloaf! What followed? Four days of fantastic camaraderie, untouched powder, steep and deep tree skiing and hot tubbing amid Alpen Glow with our new ski friends.

3. Discovering Big White was a big win, this cool Canadian ski resort is friendly, fun, with fantastic frost-covered trees. What’s
not to love? Good snow, gorgeous groomed trails, genuine Canadian hospitality in the village, and a bonus 25% exchange rate for beer, eh?!

4. Skiing five Colorado ski resorts on one Epic Ski Pass in January was, well, EPIC! The snow goods blessed Colorado, and we skied fresh powder at Vail, Beavercreek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapaho Basin. We followed that trip with Utah, where we hit Park City and Canyons also on our Epic Pass. A lot of ski bang for our $800 bucks.

5. Powder Mountain in Utah lived up to its name. What a cool powder stash, and an up-and-coming indie resort, owned by the Summit Group. If you want to get away from Vail Resort conglomerate and crowds, Snowbasin and Powder – just a half hour apart, are gems with huge terrain, few peeps, and terrific scenery.

6. Skiing The French Alps! It had been 30 years since I’d skied France and the alpine ambiance was just as “charming” as I remembered. Jagged snow covered peaks, vast vertical descents at the biggest ski resorts in the world, alpine chalets serving fondue on the slopes, après ski dancing and drinking, followed by more refined cuisine and fine wine at five-star French hotels. Fantastique!

7. My new favorite European ski villages are Courchevel and Méribel, on par with Kitzbühel and St Anton. Val D’Isère is another classic ski town – historic and happening apres ski with La Folie Douce on-snow party that’s off-the-hook.

8. The best culinary event on the snow is “Taste of Vail” combining my three favorite things: wine, food and skiing. This is an extraordinary culinary event for the vertically obsessed. I’ve never tasted such wonderful wines – the perfect après ski in quintessential Vail resort.

9. The big splash to our end of season – watching
Vail’s World Championship Pond Skimming at Spring Back to Vail which also featured a big name band live concert, free, with Magic in Gerald Ford’s presidential park at Vail. A musical magical ending to a 69 day ski season!

10. Two scary moments that make the highlight reel: Escaping a horrendous car crash on Vail Pass on our way to the slopes at 7am. (When it says icy roads may exist, you need to slow down even if you’re driving a four-wheel-drive Subaru. No one is invincible on ice). Surviving food poisoning in France (eating raw scallops at 10,000′, even at a Michelin 1 star restaurant, is a bad idea).

What were your top 10 ski memories of the ski season? Remember, if you don’t set ski goals, then how can you accomplish them? Skis are stowed, pulling out the Paddleboard, the bike and the boat… but dreaming of next ski winter!

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright 2018

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

 

Where to ski this summer?

1aspen-highlands-bowlWhile most of us skiers have launched boats, turned to paddleboarding, kayaks and bikes, even golf clubs, there are those bold ski souls who #neversummer and want to ski all the time, every season. Here are the latest ski conditions aroudn teh glove from our friends at SAM, Ski Area management:

Two resorts are open in North America : Timberline, Ore., and Whistler Blackcomb, B.C., Canada. The open terrain on Whistler’s glacier is primarily for training, but it does have a small open-to-the-public park. Timberline is currently spinning three lifts to access a park and a pipe. Mammoth Mountain in California wrapped up its season on July 4.

off-piste-tracksFor summer skiing in Europe,  several glacier-skiing resorts are operating with respectable snowpack. Austria has three resorts open, including year-round Hintertux, which has the deepest snow in the alps with a base of just over 92 inches and is reporting “old snow” as the surface. U.S. national team members have been training there recently. Dachstein and Kitzteinhorn glaciers are also open with similar conditions.

France’s three glacier ski areas are reporting the best July snow conditions in years, with base depths measuring about six feet—roughly four times what they were last year at this time. Les 2 Alpes and Tignes plan to be open through most of August. Val d’Isere was the first area to open, but will likely be the first to close with reports calling for July 10 to be the final day.

2marmolada-glacier-ski-offPasso Stelvio in Italy is reporting “gripping” snow accessed by all six of its lifts. Cervinia in Italy re-opened at the end of June after a steady dose of fresh snow. It’s reporting a base depth of more than six feet on 12 miles of trails. It’s possible to enjoy cross-boarder skiing from Cervinia to Zermatt in Switzerland, Zermatt as only ski area open in Switzerland isis reporting excellent July conditions.

Norway’s three glacier ski areas have no shortage of snow, with base depths measuring as much as 23 feet. Despite having plenty of white stuff to enjoy, Stryn plans to close July 19, but Folgefonn and Galdhoppigen should stay open into August.

tracksFresh snow in Australia after a slow start to the season fell on the Ausie mountains end of June, allowing every resort to open for the season, with more snow at Thredbo in July. The forecast is calling for cool temps and at least a chance of snow at higher elevations every day through the weekend, so look for more terrain to open as snowmaking continues.

3skiers-powder-sun2It’s the opposite story in New Zealand, however. After a great start,  warm fronts have melted snow cover and hindered snowmaking efforts, only a few resorts are open. The Remarkables, Cardrona, and Mt. Hutt are the only three resorts open for skiing  on a fraction of their terrain. Coronet Peak is spinning a lift for scenic rides.

The story is similar in Argentina where early snowfall allowed some resorts to open earlier than expected, followed by a drought, according to reports, and only Las Lenas and Catedral are open. Las Lenas has a max base depth of 47 inches on 10 trails, and Catedral is reporting a max depth of 3 inches on six trails served by just six of the resort’s 36 lifts.

1ski-wildcatResorts in Chile got  about 10 feet of snow in early,t more than half of the nation’s ski resorts are open including Valle Nevado and La Parva, each sporting base depths of nearly 60 inches. South Africa’s Tiffendell’s slopes and all but Afriski’s slopes are open for skiing and riding.

It’s still early winter south of the equator, and forecasts are calling for things to cool down over an extended period of time across many of the mountainous areas throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

HB_waterski09To quote John Snow, #winteriscoming so enjoy the summer, or go find snow at these ski resorts! Me, I am enjoying SUP Paddleboarding, water skiing and boating till November. See you out on the h20.

By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke

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Heather Burke, 2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips & Luxury Ski Trips

Ski Southwest Colorado – best ski resorts & snow!

2hrb-beaver-creekYour typical Coloradan family ski trip goes like this – land in Denver, drive the I-70 corridor and take your pick of ski resorts, as you pass Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper, Vail and Beaver Creek. Like downhill ducks in a row, we have skied them all. But this time we diverged and discovered amazing new (to us) Colorado ski country. Our 11 day southwest ski safari delivered us to six high-elevation ski resorts, one day cat skiing, 40 inches of new snow, 14 mountain passes, exquisite haute cuisine, and one epic adventure.

A morning flight from New England, a quick wardrobe change at the top of 11,990′ Loveland Pass, and we’re skiing Arapahoe Basin by 12:30pm. A Basin has ramped up its lifts with two new quads, the Black Mountain Express on the front side and Montezuma Bowl on the back. Arapahoe’s above tree line terrain up to 13,050′ is legendary as a core Colorado ski area. We hit the jackpot, as patrol opened Pallivicini, a daring double black diamond that drops to the base. Colorado had been in a snow drought, it started snowing on our first day, and kept going during our high-country Colorado tour, with ropes dropping and terrain opening at every turn.

Après ski, we drove through Alma, the highest town in North America at 10,578′, by stunning red rock mesas and buttes, to Salida – an artsy, outdoorsy frontier town on the Arkansas River, staying the night at the elegant Palace Hotel before skiing Monarch Mountain. Monarch boasts the highest base lodge in the country at 10,790′ and the highest Starbucks in the world. Monarch is homespun (no lodging or fancy base village – this is the San Isabel National Forest) and heaven on a powder day. Monarch just doesn’t get the swarms (funny butterfly migration reference). If Monarch’s extensive lift served trails and open bowl skiing isn’t enough – you can hike to Mirkwood Bowl or add a day of cat skiing here.

Crested Butte loomed large as we arrived, the 12,162′ Peak that pushes extreme skiers to their limits resembles the Matterhorn. From our slope view Elevation Hotel room, we could see powder hounds lining up for first chair warfare well before the bell. We joined the passionate locals, pouncing on fresh powder on CB’s trails, bowls and glades from Silver Queen to Paradise and East River, then dialed it back for an afternoon of cruising Crested Butte’s pleasant Prospect, Gold Link and Red Lady leisurely runs. At Crested Butte, we had the best ski lunch ever at Uley’s Cabin – this cozy mountainside chalet, and outdoor Ice Bar, is an extraordinary epicurean treat at 10,000.’ Crested Butte’s base village is a smorgasbord of big structures (read: not so charming), but lodging at The Elevation Hotel and Spa slopeside at Crested Butte is first rate. Be sure to explore downtown Crested Butte, an historic wild west mining town that brims with cowboy bars, restaurants and cool shops.

1telluride-skier-hrbTelluride, #4 on our tour, was love at first sight for me, from the spectacular San Juan scenery of 14,000-footers, to skiing on 2,000-acres of snowy slopes. Telluride Moun tain provides everything from perfectly groomed to steep to gnarr (serious hike-to bowls and chutes , a posh ski village on the mountain connected to free Gondola to an awesome authentic miner’s downtown. I can see why top skiers and celebs have abandoned Aspen to make Telluride their ski town, its stylish, sophisticated, and the skiing will keep you satisfied for a winter, not just a week. Our snowcat dinner at the highest restaurant in North America, Alpino Vino at 11,960,’ was extraordinary – delicious cuisine served by Alpine dressed waiters in this handcrafted chalet – a former mining claim. Warning: the wines goes straight to your head at this elevated European-style hut. Alpino Vino is also open for ski in ski out lunch inside or on the sun deck with amazing views.

2telluride-villagePurgatory Durango Mountain Resort was our 6th ski stop. Don’t let the name scare you, this is a super fun, friendly ski resort for families. Durango sports a convenient on-mountain village with affordable luxury lodging at Purgatory Lodge, ski services and a few eateries, at the base of the perfect-sized ski resort on Purgatory Mountain. Durango’s slopes are fun and undulating spreading across 1,360-acres with ten lifts, mostly groomed with a few steeps and natural glades, plus five terrain parks. The locals say you are halfway to heaven at 11,822′ Purgatory, the views of 14,000′ Engineer Peak and The Needles as you ski down certainly bring bliss. Downtown Durango, a half hour drive from the resort, is the real deal – a fun-loving cowboy town with the happiest locals we’ve ever met.

From Durango, you can amp up your powder intake cat skiing for a day with Silverton Powdercats, just a half hour away. Here you ski the huge tenure of snowy Grand Turk Mountain with nine others, your guides and a private snow cat limousine.

Our last ski stop, Wolf Creek, promised “The most snow in Colorado,” trademarked for receiving over 460′ annually, and it delivered. This humble 1939 family-owned ski area, closer to New Mexico than Denver, is a haven of groomed sunny slopes plus 1,000-acres of inbounds backcountry-style skiing off an experts’ Alberta Quad. The Wolf has a wild side, but its super friendly and a deal compared to the bigger dogs in the aforementioned Front Range of Colorado.

Try our southwest Colorado ski safari, you will be entertained with extraordinary scenery, stunning drives along red rock canyons and snowy 14,000′ peaks, you will ski soft snow at less crowded Colorado ski resorts and enjoy some truly haute cuisine, arguably a little closer to heaven at the high elevation ski resorts of Purgatory Durango, Telluride, Crested Butte, Monarch, Silverton Powdercats, and Wolf Creek.

Copyright 2018, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

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