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

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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

Aspen’s IKON Pass or Vail’s Epic Pass

Hey Ski Friends! Winter is coming and its time to consider which season pass to invest in for ski season. Aren’t we all ready to ski again, and hoping to have a better, longer ski season? Social distancing – fine… let’s just get skiing!

The two major season pass conglomerates are back for ski season 2023-2024! EPIC or IKON! With mergers of more mountain resorts this year by both Vail Resorts – and competitor Aspen and Alterra Mountain Company, skiers have a big choice between the Epic Pass or the “IKON” pass – both for similar expenditure, around $1,000. The IKON Pass unites 47 top ski destinations, while  Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is valid at over 65 ski resorts across the US, Canada and the globe.

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass price started at $980 for unlimited skiing at 42 ski resorts, plus 5-7 days each at many more.  Vail resorts include:  Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge,  Keystone,  Crested Butte, Park City in Utah,  Whistler Blackcomb, Washington’s Stevens Pass, California’s Heavenly,  Northstar,  Kirkwood,  Vermont’s Stowe, Mount Snow and Okemo, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched and Mount Sunapee in NH,  Wilmot,  Hunter in NY, several in the Poconos, The Mid Atlantic and Michigan,  and Perisher Australia, Hotham and Falls Creek, plus 7 days skiing at Telluride, and the Canadian Rockies Resorts – Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Nakiska, Mont Sainte Anne, and Stoneham!  The Epic Pass also has great free ski benefits with in the Alps, The Arlberg, Verbier, Les Trois Vallees, and Hakuba Japan – so many ski resorts. Epic Pass holders get 20% off food and bev, lodging, lessons and rentals, and their Mountain Express airport transportation. See the Epic Pass on sale now.

The IKON Pass offers 47 ski resorts acres across the continent, yes Canada & Japan too,  on one season pass, with varying access at each destination, with a price of $1149 No Black Out Pass, a strong competitor to Vail’s Epic Pass. The IKON Pass brings together Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company,  Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Alta/Snowbird, Snowbasin and Sun Valley, and Canada’s Ski Big 3 – Lake Louise, Sunshine and Banff, plus some Indies like Mt Bachelor Oregon, Revelstoke BC and Tremblant in Quebec! A spin off from previous The  Max Pass, this iconic pass has some pretty epic ski resorts – Aspen, Steamboat, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park and Copper in Colorado, to Deer Valley, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird in Utah, Squaw, Mammoth and Big Bear in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington, Big Sky in Montana, Jackson Hole Wyoming, plus Loon, Sunday River , Sugarloaf in Maine, Stratton, Sugarbush and Killington in Vermont, Wyndham NY in The East.

The Ikon Pass is on sale, see details at www.ikonpass.com. Alterra’s IKON Pass is $1149, returning pass holders get $200 off. There’s also an IKON Kids pass with $200 savings when added to the parents purchase. For a lower price point, there’s a slightly more restricted IKON Base pass at $879 (with black out dates and a few caveats).

Well, skiers are the winners in this big mountain pass play off, with great choices at significant savings versus the old-school one-mountain season pass that was often well over $1,000! Yes, there will  be more crowds and lift lines at EPIC and IKON resorts.

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

Copyright, by Heather & Greg Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com 

 

Vail’s Epic Ski App

1heather-simbaLeave it to Vail Resort to generate the most engaging mobile ski app – Epic Mix. From the folks who brought you The Epic Pass – a super savings season pass good at all Vail’s 42+ ski resorts, here is an Epic Mix app that tracks your vertical skiing, gives you real time intel on ski conditions, lift line times throughout Vail Resort, shows how your kids are progressing in ski school, and how your race time against Mikaela Shiffrin or  Lindsey Vonn. Epic Mix and the Epic Pass now function entirely through your cell phone, no season pass card needed! Amazing technology.

3-snowmass-sheer-blissMy honest scoop on the EpicMix ski app, I’m not big on apps or skiing glued to my phone… I go to the mountains to escape technology, electronics, stats and media.

What I like about Epic Mix is you don’t even need your phone turned on. Just sign up, turn off your phone and go ski if that’s the way you want to play. You can check your skiing stats online or on your phone at the end of the ski day. Other ski apps- Trace and Navtronics Ski apps munch data and run down your battery.

2hrb-beaver-creekEpic Mix tracks via you with GPS, so you can check your stats at the end of the day or the season, even view the app on your pc, so you’re not staring at your smart phone all day and missing out on Vail’s epic scenery. Of course the Gondola One has Wi-Fi and heated seats, a Vail’s 50th anniversary lift, if you want to check on your vert accumulated mid-day, see the line wait times at Lions Head, or reserve a lunch table with a view at the 10th Mountain Lodge at mid Vail.

The only thing better than the free Epic Mix app is Vail’s Epic Pass, which for about $841 with an early season purchase (read: April for the next season) includes skiing at all 41 of Vail Resorts, plus partners in the US, Canada and The Alps! Figure that a day ticket at Vail is $210 ish– so this pass amortizes quickly with one trip out west. The Epic Mix app will track your vertical at all them, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City/Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood, Whistler Blackcomb, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, Attitash, Andermatt Switzerland…the list goes on…your Epic Mix will too.

See more of our Best Ski Reviews

Heather Burke, Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Top Spring Ski Events

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

Top spring ski fests in Colorado, Utah, California, and Montana:

Taste of Vail is our favorite spring ski event – food, wine and skiing combine for an “epic” fest. What could be better than skiing spring conditions at Vail followed by après ski wine tastings and delicious cuisine prepared by Vail’s Top Chefs early April !? This year,  Taste of Vail turns 30 with the mantra “elevate your palate” – a playful reference to the high altitude setting at Vail’s 8,000′ base  and the Top Chefs, world-renowned wine-makers and master sommeliers bringing their best . First weeked in April (April 3-6, 2024) is this festival of culinary classes, tastings, uncorking of top Roses, Chardonnays and more. The big events are Vail Village’s Après Taste, the  Mountain Top Tasting during the day,  and the Grand Tasting finale at the Hythe! If you love skiing, food and wine (who doesn’t?!) go to Vail Resort for this amazing foodie event in April!

Spring Back to Vail mid-April  brings live headliner bands for free concerts to Vail Village in a warmer weather celebraton. Après ski at Vail just got bigger, better and FREE which rarely happens at Vail, right?! The best bands play Free concerts at Ford Park and around town at après and in the evening at night clubs around Vail Village. Look for parties on the mountain too – like Tiki & Tunes Luau at mid-Vail – top of Gondola One. SpringBack to Vail is mid April.

Vail’s World Pond Skimming Championships is the biggest..well..in the world!  An early April weekend at Golden Peak, enjoy the scene – a BBQ and beers overlooking the big pond where the best (and worst) dressed in crazy costumes attempt to cross the big expanse of cold water to the cheers and jeers of a big crowd. Like everything in Vail, this pond skim is massive, so is the crowd of spectators. The following April weekend at Vail is Powabunga – Vail’s end-of-season celebration, more snow and slush shenanigans!

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

Park City’s Spring Grüv in Canyons Village runs late March to early April with awesome free concerts and après-ski parties, plus a fun fundraiser late March – Pink Park City breast cancer awareness event. Park City’s “epic” spring fling culminates with the  Annual Pond Skimming Contest at Red Pine.

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

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

Breckenridge’s annual Spring Fever Beer Festival early is now in its 15th year. This Colorado spring ski event is perfect for craft beer lovers and spring skiing lovers – that includes everyone right?!

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

Top Spring Ski Events in The East

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

Cannon Mountain Bodefest is late March early April with Bode Miller himself.. I think he still “hates the media” so don’t bring the news crew but this is a great spring ski event and fundraiser for the Olympic skier’s Turtle Ridge Foundation. When the sun shines on Cannon Mountain in spring and Bode comes out – #boom (cannon sound) .

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

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

Sunday River’s Spring Festival is the first weekend in April,  was once called Parrot Head, so expect Jimmy Buffet music, margaritas flowing, palm trees, tropical outfits and general island vibe outside the White Cap Base. April also ushers in Sunday River’s is Pond-a-palooza with pond skimming  and outdoor après ski outdoor concert series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Spring Ski Resorts in The East

Best Spring Skiing Out West

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke, Copyright Family Ski  Trips 2023

For luxury resort reviews visit: www.theluxuryvacationguide.com

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

Columbus weekend Sunday River wife carrying…

Columbus Day weekend in New England means two things to skiers:

1. Peak Foliage  2. Countdown to Skiing

chairrideDie hard skiers start to get amped mid-October, knowing their favorite time of year is drawing near. The three-day weekend including Columbus Day Monday is an ideal time to head to the mountains , get that season pass picture updated and drink beer..its apres ski – pre game before the first snowflakes.

Columbus Weekend at Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine a wonderful fall traditions, with peak foliage,  Sugarloaf hosts Homecoming and Sunday River Wife Carrying Competition.

3wife_carrying3Saturday of Columbus day Weekend at Sunday River Resort is your chance to witness the Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship, this wildly popular event draws thousands of spectators to watch 50 couples crash, dash and splash through an obstacle course, over log hurdles and through a mud pit. Wives get wet and muddy, guys get hurt and the winner gets their wife’s weight in beer. Sound fun? You must see this event in person. For additional entertainment at Sunday River, the Chondola will be operating for scenic chairlifts rides, live bands will play at the South Ridge Base Lodge by the beer and wine tents, and the Annual Blue Mountain Arts & Crafts Fair takes place too. Sunday at the River is a new event, the New England Corn Hole Championship where some lucky duo will take home $500 in this classic Yankee toss. It’s also “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Bloody Marys. For family fun, Sunday River’s Fall Festival weekend includes wagon and pony rides, chainsaw carving demonstrations, and a ski sale at Sunday River Sports.

6sugarloaf-summitSugarloaf’s annual Homecoming Weekend is always Columbus Weekend. Loafers come out of summer hibernation to pay homage to prime foliage, and hike 2,400′ vertical ‘to the summit – three miles, all smiles in the Uphill Climb Race, with a big finish of beer and lunch at Bullwinkle’s. Other fun fall activities at the Loaf include the CVA Used Ski Equipment Sale, the Upcountry Artist Show, Sugarloaf’s Annual Meeting, free scenic chairlift rides, The Jay Moody Memorial Golf Tourney, and the Maine Outdoor Film Festival at Sugarloaf’s Beach.

Enjoy the three-day weekend, get your ski gear out of the basement and ready to go. It’s only a few weeks till we have snow, skiing and snowboard season.

Keep your skis tuned and tune back in to Family Ski Trips for news and ski resort reviews and The LuxuryVacationGuide.com for travel tips and resort recommendations.

Heather Burke, 2023 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips

Why we Love Vail

A few of our favorite things about Vail!  

The Terrain – Vail’s 5,300+ acres is truly phenomenal, something for everyone. So much of Vail’s 195 trails and turns are perfectly pitched, not too steep, nice and wide, ego-pleasing! You will not soon be bored at Vail, whether on skis or a board. 

The Trails – Vail has dozens of fantastic long, wide, interesting front side trails including the 2.9 mile long Riva Ridge, Lindsey’s, Lodgepole, Lion’s Head classics Bwana, Simba and Born Free – such amazing undulating  fall line runs. Props to visionaries Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton for identifying ideal terrain from 11,750-feet, and shaping  so many unique fun runs. 

The Back Bowls – Drop over the Mountaintop of the 11,750’ summit and your ski world opens up! Vast wide-open bowls stretch from Outer Mongolia to Sun Up and Sun Down. On a powder day, you are in heaven here. 3,000 backside acres of gorgeous snow, some faces are dotted with beautiful aspen glades, other spaces are just that – blank snow pages to carve your name. 

The Lifts – What a superior network of high capacity, high speed lifts Vail has installed over the years, their flagship resort, to swiftly move you about the mountain. Gondi One and Eagle Bahn are showcase gondolas. The only thing I don’t love is how locals reference Vail’s 31 lifts by their numbers, not their names…so banal. I’d rather meet you at Mountaintop than Chair 4. To me the lift name lends such character and legacy to each place on the mountain. Game Creek, I’m game. Pete’s – count me in. A great ski day spans from Outer Mongolia to Sun Down by High Noon, (or #22 to 5 if you insist).  

The Views – The snow capped Gore Range glimmers in the sun with beautiful jagged peaks soaring into the blue sky. At 11,750’ you are on top of the world skiing Vail (two-miles high). Every turn and flank of the ski resort affords more spectacular scenery, from visions of sister-resort Beaver Creek to the west and more stunning views to the valley below.  

The Village of Vail – So European, so pedestrian and pet friendly, brick-lined Bridge Street has just the right mix of alpine charm, bougie boutiques selling shiny furry ski outfits, to serious ski shops, plus Vail’s inviting eateries and entertaining bars. Vail is a small-scale St Anton, Zermatt or Wengen – with a car-free, authentic ski atmosphere. At a base elevation of 8,150’ it’s a lofty special place. 

The Après Ski – Vail has a celebratory vibe throughout the village after skiing. Live music, tables and chairs spill out onto the sidewalks in a celebration of skiing and the alpine lifestyle we all love. Special kudos to the “to-go-cup” policy (adopted for Covid outdoor spacing) allowing skiers and riders to buy an adult beverage and stroll the village. Hope these Vail friendly après ski outdoor bars remain. 

The Fashion Parade – A major attraction of aprés ski in Vail village is people watching. The ski fashions, from blingy and furry, to gapers and complete ski fashion faux pas, its the best amusement other people’s money can buy. You’ll see the latest victims of VISA and AMEX splurges at Gorsuch. I swear these people don’t ski, they dress up at 3pm to promenade in their powder suits. 

The Founders – Vail has a fascinating history, from the visionaries that saw Vail’s tremendous vertical potential, and their dream of making the most idyllic slopeside village. These 10th Mountain heroes and passionate skiers nailed it, Vail truly is “like nothing on earth.” Add to those archives, the tales of the 10th Mountain Division that trained here before their World War II alpine assignment in the Alps, amazing. Don’t miss the Colorado Ski Museum and 10th Mountain Tribute. Also enjoy the Legacy Tour from the Legacy Hut atop Mountaintop, and ski to the 10 trail sign stops around the mountain to learn the heritage of Vail’s trail name. Of note, November 2021 Vail hails the first female CEO – Kirsten Lynch and a balanced male/female Board of Directors!

The Epic Pass sister ski resorts – Vail is a classic, a big bold ski area, but wait there is more… for less. Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass makes all this skiing accessible and affordable with season passes available for under $800 for Vail and 40+ other major ski areas. Bonus: sister resorts Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone are all within striking distance from Vail on your ski vacation. 

More on Vail Colorado

Vail’s Female CEO, Epic win or fail?

Vail Resorts now has a female CEO, Kirsten Lynch. After 15 years, Rob Katz has stepped into a new role as Exec Chairperson of Vail’s Board, making way for Lynch to take the helm at Vail – the resort conglomerate that she joined in 2011, she was previously Chief Marketing Officer. I was personally excited about a female leader at Vail, thinking she’d bring personality, passion and a quest for the best individual resort performance to the curated list of 4 dozen top ski resorts in North America.

Lynch is the highest ranking woman in the ski industry. Vail Resorts’ board is now balanced, with five female and five male board members, according to VT Ski & Ride.

Kirsten Lynch claimed to be a passionate skier when taking the helm, but her background was all about rising up through the ranks of Pepsi Co, Kraft Foods and Ford Motor Co., before she launched into the ski biz. And so far, there hasn’t been much notable warm and fuzzy lady’s touch o her operating style. It seems all about revenue and reporting profits to shareholders, more so than bringing quality to passholders.

Vail CEO’s salary? Kirsten Lunch is making $6.2 million, with 83% of her pay as incentive base. So more pass sales, more money in her pocket. Are there any quality components to these incentives shareholders have created? Or is it purely revenue based? Is there a factor for skier experience, because Vail’s complaint desk has been brimming of late over resort crowding, huge lift lines, poor food quality with increased prices, extremely inflated day ticket pricing ($290 a day at Vail!), subpar grooming and snowmaking at certain Vail Resorts, homogenization of Vail’s ski resorts, the list goes on.

Lynch led the charge at Vail Resorts’ to drive revenue through a data-driven approach. She built the company’s analytics and database team, and brought user-ex technology like the Epic Mix, to focus on a season pass push since joining in 2011, the Epic Pass started in 2008. Under Lynch’s direction, Vail Resorts pass revenue has grown from about 500,000 passes sold to 2.4 million. Lynch was part of a surprising decision to lower pass prices for the 2022 season, going instead for volume. Yes, she’s a numbers gal! We’ve watched maximized sales of the EPIC Pass, and many of us have experienced epic crowds?

Vail Resorts now manages 42+ ski resorts, but at its core – its now more of a data and marketing company than a recreation portfolio. Its the Amazon of the ski biz. Think of how Vail has acquired the names,credit card numbers, and behavioral patterns of more than 2.3 mill Epic Pass-purchasers.  

Kirsten Lynch also sits on the Board of Directors for Stitch Fix (SFIX), a publicly-traded eComm fashion company that uses data-driven personalization.

Lynch said “It is an honor to lead Vail Resorts as CEO and build upon Rob’s legacy of re-imagining the mountain experience. I am passionate about this Company, the leadership culture we have built and our 55,000 employees who make Vail Resorts the industry leader. Looking forward, I am excited about the incredible growth opportunities for Vail Resorts.”

But does growth mean quality for the skier and rider? You be the judge.

2020 Hindsight on ski season

Did your ski resort seem more crowded this winter? Yes? Well, I say that’s good news – just the fact that we had a ski season at all is cause for celebration… since Fall 2020 there was only uncertainty.

With Covid 19 on the climb, many resort operators feared they’d not be able to safely open winter 2020- 2021, or that they’d be shut down as a “super spreader ski area” just days after opening.

Well, ski areas opened – and skiers came – in droves, with masks, and tailgate plans (since lodges were mostly closed for apres ski). Skiers were happy to be out, out from isolation, out of quarantine, out of the house and outside, and on the slopes! Mountains, change of scenery and fresh air, healthy activity were a sanctuary for skiers and snowboarders since being shut down, quarantined, mid-March the previous season!

National Ski Areas Association reports 59 Million skier visits 2020-2021, the 5th best season on record EVER! In fact, it was a record season in the Pac NW, and 2nd best in the Rockies. The NSAA has been tracking skiers visits since 1978.

What a year it has been. From utter uncertainty to a top 10 season in participation,” said Kelly Pawlak, NSAA President. “Americans yearned for safe outdoor recreation, and ski areas across the country delivered.” Ski area were open for an average 112 days, up from 99 days in 2019-20 season. “While forced closures impacted many ski areas last season, this year ski areas, for the most part, remained open for their planned season duration.”

Online reservation systems and updated e-commerce facilitated the newly required advance-purchase lift tickets to ensure capacity restrictions. Call it the decline of window ticket and the rise of “touchless sales” since in person sales went from 46% in 2019-20 to 17% in 2020-21. As expected, the percentage of visits from season pass holders rose to 51% from 45% the previous season.

Midweek skiing was up too, 48% of total visits, a 27% increase from the previous season, as more people working from home, and home school students, could manage their own schedule, or play hooky when their boss or prof “no lookie.”

Smaller ski areas too (defined by lift capacity) performed well winter 2020-2021, with people staying close to home for ski trips (due to obvious travel restrictions) but still craving outdoor activity.

Vermont was an exception to Covid ski popularity, due to their strict quarantine rules, skier visits dropped by 40%. Historically 75% of Vermont’s ski area visits come from out of state or Canada (the borders remained closed for the 2020-21 ski season).

Nordic and back-country soared! Some Nordic ski areas saw an increase of 100-600%. That trend is great for the industry, and for fitness. I’ll resist my jokes about Nor-dorks, Nordic and snowshoeing are fantastic winter activities with an easier learning curve, and less expense, you can even ski in your back yard with cross country equipment if you’ve got snow.

Backcountry gear sold out in summer of 2020 as skiers scrambled to get outdoors and ski outside of ski resorts bounds, with doubts that resorts may not open for the season. Unfortunately many newbies went into the backcountry and there were safety repercussions… avalanche deaths hit a high of 37 (as of April 2021), a number not seen since 1918, obviously we have far better safety gear now than a century ago.

New Ski Trends to Emerge from Covid

Multi mountain passes are HUGE, namely EPIC and IKON, such good value for those skiers who plan to ski more than 3-4 days! Yes, that’s putting more skiers on the mountain, no doubt! Vail’s CEO said Vail Resorts sold 2 million Epic Passes for this season! So yes, multi-mountain pass sales are a new norm, for better – value, and worse – more skiers. How many IKON passes sold? That data has been more difficult to find. But the reality is people are skiing more frequently, and multi-mountain passes make that affordable and amortizable. With more skiers telecommuting, they have more free time to ski, and more time to ski midweek, and now that we have the vaccine, skiers will be able to travel and visit more resorts on their conglomerate passes since travel restrictions are lifted.

Reservations for skiing, even advanced paid parking at Snowbird, Killington, Mount Snow, are becoming a thing….was that a Covid incident or a new precedent?

Time slots for skiing? Some resorts are now considering ski by the hour, with RFID ticketing, your ticket might only be valid from 8-10am, or maybe you reserve the afternoon slot for less money (less cord too).

Outsides all day!? Ski areas adapted with outdoor firepits, take-out windows, even culinary food trucks provide more safe outdoor alternatives beyond the indoor banal cafeteria burger, all of which reduces congestion in base lodges. But, your French fries congeal quickly on a snowy ski day! Anwyay, I like that Covid made everyone rethink their approach, maybe the death of the germy handshake, but the rise of some new enterprise.

Summer well ski friends , now that vaccines are flowing, and people are going ..on trips again. I look forward to seeing you on the slopes..maybe we’ll all be skiing without face masks, unless its really cold…lol.

See our other non-ski travel, boating, biking, beaches, surf and sand, drink in hand, at TheLuxuryVacationGuide.com

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