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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

Why We Ski?

My 25-year-old-year-old son’s girlfriend didn’t grow up skiing…. so when visiting him in Seattle she couldn’t fathom why we so wanted to ski with him, in Washington.

Why is skiing so important to you, she asked? Don’t we just like to hang out together? Which brought me to thinking about why we ski, why it’s important to us, why it’s our family sport…

Well, let’s see…. How do you explain to a non-skier your lifelong love of skiing? How do you capture in words the bond that skiing can bring? “The family that skis together, freeze together” …lol…

Ever since our kids were three, skiing is the one thing we could all do together … I can’t name another sport or activity that provides us all with excitement, fun, healthy exercise, laughs, stories, memories, and love. We can’t play football together – too rough a sport, and family game night inevitably ends in someone winning and by default – others losing. Perhaps we’re too competitive for cards and board games (being a writer, I want to school them all in Scrabble).

Back to skiing, we each have our individual experience on our skis, our own signature turns on the snow, but simultaneously it’s our collective shared experience. Together, we brave the cold, breathe in the spectacular scenery, actively pursue nature’s glory, conquer the mountain, leave our tracks, keep our memories. Yes we could all be sitting on a beach together but where is the adrenaline adventure in that? I picture my husband and son glazing over, my daughter and I burning to a crisp… gingers!

As I reflect on raising our kids, I am flooded with fun memories – many of them skiing. I remember the joys (and concerns) of starting them on snow when they were so little, and the ensuing accomplishments, pizza pie to French fries, Ian’s first non-stop bump run at Vail, Aspen’s Prima Cornice cliff drop that same day. What a fantastic family day that was! Skiing the snow and sun soaked trees at Steamboat, the four of us in perfect synch, I can picture it still like a snow globe. If I say the words “Canis Lupus”  the kids will grin at our fun twisty gulley run down The Canyons trail through the woods at Park City.

Cat skiing in Idaho was amazing with a fun bunch of adults, and our mature-beyond-his-years son who impressed the posse with his skill, vocab, and worldliness. I could go on for days recounting our downhill adventures.

Our skiing adventures have already spanned three decades, and three generations. We’ve skied with Greg’s Dad, my Dad, Greg’s uncle, his brothers – who share the passion, my mom who still rips, and my brother Brian (who makes snowboarding look like poetry btw – and can switch to skiing in a mountain minute) all together with our kids – who are now grown, independent, and still love to ski. … with us! They buy their own season passes now, a true sign of commitment and addiction to the sport! We can reconnect at ski resorts and have a real adventure together leaving everything else in our sparkly snow dust.

I know of no other sport that offers the opportunity to travel to a vast bucket list of ski resorts around the globe, with the bonus of high alpine beauty. Another benefit is that skiing is a full day’s activity – unlike tennis that lasts an hour – with a winner and a loser again – like family game night. When we got boating, we each water ski for about 15 minutes, that’s it! One and done…

I also believe you can enjoy skiing among multiple ability levels. We don’t all ski the same, we have different skill sets and terrain preferences. I’m nostalgic just  reflecting on our trails  choices over the years, bumps, trees, steeps with the kids… Anyhoo… most ski resorts allow us to indulge our faves: moguls, glades, groomed or untracked powder, often all from the same lift. So Jack can ski Black, Jane can ski Blue, and Jill goes Green and we can all meet at the lift for the conversational ride back up together. At minimum we can meet for lunch and at après ski to share our day’s stories of wind blown pow, wipe-outs and wicked good lines.

So back to our trip to Seattle, Washington, and what to do together as a family? The beauty of this part of the world, The Pac Northwest, is its plethora of big mountains, in surprisingly close proximity to the city and the sea. Summit at Snoqualmie and Crystal were both calling us, just over an hour away… how could we not want to ski? We “4 skiers” (my license plate for many years – till it became a problem – separate blog) all enjoy exploring new mountains, making tracks and carving our names on spectacular summits all over the country …. It’s what we do, and we can do it together.

I hope we can share our family’s love of skiing with others, with our kids’ loved ones, their future families, as our parents did with Greg and me. I hope to ski with my mom and my kids again…as we did in Big Sky Montana a few years ago… that was magical to me. Just last weekend, we met up with our daughter Aspen and her friends at Sunday River. We shared a few laps, and lots of laughs. Skiing with family and friends is social, stimulating, and creates a bond like no other. Let me know if you find one better?

I received a joyous note from a best gal pal who’d re-joined the sport last week with mutual friends. The enthusiasm in her voice was palpable, how she loved skiing, loved that she could do it with her husband and our mutual friends. Their picture from après ski told the story of their collective fun, accomplishment, and enhanced friendship shared over a sport.

We will continue to love skiing as our glue!

Copyright 2023, by Heather Burke of  Photos by Greg Burke of Luxury Vacation Guide

From one Ski Mom to another… be brave!

What does it take to be a Brave Ski Mom? I recently chatted with fellow ski mom Kristen Lummis, Brave Ski Mom, in Colorado about her love of  skiing, family times on the slopes and her fantasy ski trips!

Q: So Brave Ski Mom, is bravery a necessary trait for moms wanting to take their kids skiing?

I think bravery is a necessary trait for all parents. Having children requires a leap of faith, a step into the unknown, into a realm so filled with love and yet so challenging that all parents have to be brave, each and every day.

More to the point with skiing however, I think that ski moms are special. We love our children and we’ll protect them with our lives. But the moment they can walk we put them on skis and push them down a hill!

When they fall, we brush them off and encourage them to try again…over and over again, hoping that this will all pay off.

I’m here to tell you, it does pay off! And then the tables turn. Suddenly, our children can out ski us, and now we’re the ones challenged to keep up, pushing the envelope on our skills.

Yep. You have to be brave!

Q: What do you love about the sport of skiing?

I love skiing for so many reasons. I love the cold. I love the speed. I love the ever changing challenges. I love the pride I feel in watching my sons’ grow into outstanding athletes and I love the time we spend together on chairlifts.

I love trying to carve perfect turns and the rush of trying to ski a fast, tight bump line.

Most of all, I love how skiing is passed down through families, from parent to child. Skiing is one of the few sports I can think of that is truly a multi-generational, lifetime endeavor.

Q: You have a family of skiers, has being a ski mom made motherhood better or difficult?

I truly believe that skiing together brings our family together. Skiing is bond we share and that we enjoy doing as a unit. Especially as a mother of two boys, I love that we have a sport we can share and participate in as equals.

This doesn’t mean that we’re always skiing together. But at the end of the day, even if we’ve been apart, we join back up to share our stories. This has been especially important as our kids hit their teenage years. Skiing has given us a portfolio of shared memories to draw on when things get difficult. And it gives us a new way to create more memories each day.

This is not to say that it’s all been rainbows and unicorns!

When our oldest son was 11, he was in a ski accident that resulted in an investigation lasting nearly five months. As a parent, it was an incredibly difficult time in my life.

In the end, everything worked out, but it was painful for us all.

Q: Some parents say skiing is “too much work,” “too expensive,” or “too dangerous”? What do you say to them? ?

One of the primary reasons I started my blog was to help other families get out there and ski. There is no disputing that family skiing can be a lot of work. It certainly takes a lot of gear and organization. It also takes a lot of patience.

But there are tricks and tips for getting organized and staying organized (the always packed and ready to go boot bag, is one), so that a ski day or ski vacation doesn’t have to be too much work. There are also ways to save on ski passes and take some of the expense out of the sport.

As for the danger, I’m all about managing risk. Don’t start your kids off too fast on a slope that is too hard. Not only does this increase their risk of injury, but it is counterproductive and may increase their sense of fear.

Skiing is a skill, and like any skill, it is best taught by professionals and learned incrementally. Sure accidents can happen, we’re living proof of that, but they can happen on a bike, in a car or running across the school playground.

Q: What’s your goal with your Brave Ski Mom blog?  Who do you hope to reach?

My goal is to inspire other families to get outdoors and enjoy winter! My audience is largely moms and dads with kids of all ages, who are looking for tried and true tips, advice to make each ski day easier, and unbiased reviews of resorts, from a parent’s point of view.

One of the reasons I started Brave Ski Mom was because my friends kept asking me questions like “how do I know when my child is ready to ski, how do we pick a racing club, what kind of mittens are the best,” and so on.

I realized that our family had a lot of information, drawn from our experiences, that we could share.

Q: Do you have a home mountain? Where do you  ski most?

Living in Colorado, I have several home mountains! The resort nearest our home is Powderhorn Mountain Resort, a Colorado “Gem” where we can always meet up with friends and where we enjoy skiing the trees and the often, quite deep powder.

Since the boys began school, however, we primarily ski at the Aspen/Snowmass mountains. Aspen offers kids in our school district a season pass at a very low cost. It’s an easy drive to all four mountains, with amazing terrain.

Q: Where would choose for an all expense paid, month long fantasy ski trip?

I’m torn on this one. Europe or Japan?

3skiers-powder-sun2Europe has such an appealing skiing history. I am intrigued with Austria, France and Italy, not just for the amazing terrain found in the Alps and The Italian Dolomites (not to mention the Pyrenees), but also for the food! I like the idea of long lunches and hectare upon hectare of terrain to explore as we move from village to village.

Japan however, has that amazing powder and the lure of a completely different culture. In another life, maybe I was one of those Japanese hot tub monkeys. I love soaking that much!

Can I have two fantasy ski trips? Please?

Q: Why be the brave ski mom, not the brave shopping mom, or the brave bike mom? or are those future blogs?

Well, perhaps if I’d had girls, I’d be more of a shopping mom! But with boys, no way!

Being the Brave Ski Mom is a good fit for me, because skiing, snow and winter are truly my passions. I am lucky to have a husband who largely feels the same way, although truth be told, he’d probably prefer that I focus on biking!

Even more, I am so blessed that my children share my passion. Together, we have the most amazing adventures.

As for future blogs, I’m starting to think about that. My boys are in high school and we’re beginning to envision what life will be like without them living with us. It’s both exciting and frightening! We can ski the world!

Copyright & Photos Family Ski Trips 2023

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