Deals: Starbucks, Spring Skiing, Rocky Mountain Train Show & More
Family Travel: On Top of the World in Leadville
I was driving the rutted, icy streets of Gunnison a few weeks ago, bemoaning the endless winter, the ever-present cold and the seemingly endless gray skies. Normally, Gunnison is sunny and bright, although very cold. Not this winter. It felt as if I had been transported to the Midwest and I was over it. I wanted sun and warmth…and streets that didn’t require a 4 wheel truck to navigate.
So I packed up the kids and went to Leadville for a weekend.
I realize that Leadville is a curious choice given its altitude- 10,000 feet above sea level- and copious amounts of snow. Despite that, Leadville was full of sunshine and affordable activities for my family and yes, even that elusive warmth we had been seeking. Turns out we didn’t need to go to Mexico for a break from winter- we could find it all in Leadville.
Those of you who go on long car rides with children know the desperation that hits when you have exhausted all of your snacks and your kids have lost all of their patience. This was my experience as the kids and I pulled into Leadville on Saturday evening. My kids had resorted to constant whining and I had fallen back on the idle threats that seem to define parenting whenever whining is involved. I am pretty sure I said things like, “If you don’t stop whining, I will turn this car around and we will go home RIGHT NOW” (this was never going to happen) and “If you don’t stop hitting each other, I will cancel all fun activities for this weekend!” (this was also never going to happen). We pulled into High Mountain Pies in the nick of time where I over-ordered (apparently each of my children needs their own pizza and a gigantic root beer) and I attempted to mitigate any and all sibling rivalries while we waited for our pizzas. Fortunately, everyone who worked there was chill beyond belief, the pizzas were quick and delicious and even my notoriously picky children ate without complaint.
Let’s discuss hotels for a moment. A good, family-friendly hotel has the following characteristics: good beds for jumping, actual televisions with actual channels and Lucky Charms in the breakfast buffet. Silver King Inn and Suites checked off every box. Bonus points to the front desk clerk for buying Girl Scout cookies from daughter. Extra bonus points for having a waffle maker at breakfast so that same daughter could make her very own waffles and proceed to pour gallons of syrup all over them. Silver King is kind of amazing.
Day 1: Ski Day at Play
My kids love to ski. The only problem? The 8-year-old is a black diamond skier. The 4-year-old, not so much. As a single mom, it can be hard to meet both kids’ needs (and wants) on the ski hill. I planned our day at Ski Cooper in anticipation of this and I was generously rewarded with happy, satisfied and tired children. I signed the youngest up for a lesson and planned a morning snow cat tour to Chicago Ridge with the oldest. Everything was going swimmingly…until I made the mistake of taking the preschooler on a run before his lesson (on the longest magic carpet in Colorado!) and then forcing him to stop skiing so he could meet his instructor. Cue the world’s greatest tantrum. The boy did NOT want to stop skiing and he really did not want to stop riding what truly is a magical carpet. Here’s where Ski Cooper really shined: every single staff member worked to help me get my boy back on track. They corralled him when he ran away. They soothed him through his tears and they knew exactly what to do to calm him down. Not one person acted frustrated or put out. In fact, I think the only adult on the verge of losing it in that scenario was ME.
As soon as I escaped, Hazel and I hopped on the snowcat for a tour to Chicago Ridge and you guys. This is something you need to do in your lifetime. The views will take your breath away- and not just because you’re at 12,000ft. You can also ride the snowcat to ski (the most affordable snowcat skiing in the state) but on this day, we were in it for the experience. And what an experience it was. Just look at the pictures and tell me you don’t want to do that.
Upon picking the now-happy demon child preschooler up from lessons, I did what I do best as a parent: I let my children eat candy and chips for lunch. Because we were skiing and because we were on a mini-vacation and because yes, I totally gave in.
After scarfing all of the sugar and carbs she could handle, Hazel took off to race in the town race series taking place that weekend. There is something I need to explain here. Hazel had never skied at Ski Cooper before. Yet, I let her take off on her own, find the race course on her own and ski on her own. If this were any other large resort, this would never happen. But at Ski Cooper, it’s totally OK. It’s easy for kids to find their way around and the minimal lifts (2) allow kids independence and the freedom to explore (she killed it in her race by the way).
We ended our day skiing all together, happily roaming down every run we could find, while Tygh sang about trucks and Hazel practiced her backwards skiing and looked for jumps in the trees. Ski Cooper was a complete win.
If you have ever vacationed with children, you know that there will need to be drinks involved, even if those drinks are only coffee. I like my evening drinks to induce a little relaxing so we headed to Period Brewing where I quickly herded the kids upstairs to find couches! space! games! toys! Periodic Brewing gets us. My kids were entertained. I was relaxed. And the drinks weren’t bad either.
Day 2: Dog Sledding
For our second and last day in Leadville, we planned to do something the kids had been talking about for ages- dogsledding. First, I had to tear them away from the endless cartoons in the hotel room (we obviously don’t have real TV in my home) but once I accomplished that difficult task and fed them delicious pastries and hot chocolate at City on a Hill (this coffee snob gives them an A+ for strong, strong coffee), we made a beeline for Alpine Adventures, where my kids could barely contain their excitement. I knew this because they spilled about 6 cups of hot chocolate in the reception area while we waited.
After cleaning up 6 cups of hot chocolate, my kids got to experience their dream: cuddling with 8 adorable huskies. And oh yeah, driving a dog sled. If you’ve never gone dog sledding, I definitely recommend it. Watching the dogs run so hard and so fast (completely normal for their breed) is a wondrous sight. Watching your kids drive a dog sled with so much marvel is also a wondrous sight. Our guide reveled in telling the kids every single fact about huskies and their ability to run, to eat and yes, even to poop, something that delighted the preschooler to no end.
By the end of the afternoon, I had unwittingly adopted 50 huskies and they were all going home with us in our car.
As soon as I pulled on the highway towards home that afternoon, both kids had nodded off, likely dreaming of waffles, snowcat rides and dogs. I felt deeply satisfied. We didn’t escape to the beach- we escaped somewhere better. Somewhere that allowed us to be outside, in brilliant sunshines, doing things that made all of us happy. And that beats the beach any day.
Colorado Spring Break Vacation Ideas and Deals!
Warmer temperatures, blue-bird skies, stellar snow conditions and an itinerary packed with one-of-a-kind events and activities ensure Colorado is the perfect setting for an unforgettable spring break vacation. Whether it’s the whole family looking for downhill thrills or fun on the ranch, Colorado is the perfect destination to welcome a new season of fresh adventures.
Staying closer to home? Don’t miss Spring Break in Denver 2017: Over 50 Activities Listed!
Women’s Ski Week
Amazing Kids’ Non-skiing Activities at Colorado Ski Resorts
Sure, the slopes are a big part of what makes Colorado’s 25 ski resorts so popular, but there are plenty of other ways for kiddos to enjoy their time in the mountains. Here are some favorite non-skiing activities that are guaranteed to keep everyone occupied on your next winter family vacation.
As the powder day winds down, a fun-filled itinerary is just getting started. Free afternoon activities each day are a hallmark of the Very Important Kids program at Snowmass, whether it’s a magic show or sing-a-long and s’mores. Look to Kids Happy Hour in Telluride for a pint-size version of après ski that serves up indoor craft projects.
For parents that want a night out sans-children (it’s ok to admit it), know that you’re leaving them in good hands — and that they’ll probably be too busy to even notice you’re gone. The Beaver Creek Loves Teens Too program, designed for ages 13–17, is a three-hour evening extravaganza that, depending on the day, could involve snowshoeing and pizza or a trick class at the Anti-Gravity Center in nearby Edwards. Aptly named Kids Night Out at Durango’s Purgatory occurs on select dates throughout the season, with the promise of games, arts and crafts, movies and, of course, dinner.
Little ones love to burn off steam outside, so what better venue to do just that than one meant especially for them? Critterland — located at Copper Mountain — is an interactive play place intended for the discerning 6-and-under crowd. Make friends with snow characters, crawl though the play structure’s tunnel, have a go on the Ducktopus Tubing Carousel and hang out in the Critter Crooked House.
In addition to Kidtopia’s packed daily festival schedule in Keystone, the Kidtopia Snow Fort on top of Dercum Mountain is a sight to behold, complete with slides and mazes all constructed from a giant pile of snow. Another playground-like setting is Burton Riglet Park at Purgatory, where kids ages 3–6 can learn to snowboard. During happy hours at this terrain park throughout the season, youngsters take advantage of an hour with an instructor for just $15 — which includes a grown-up beverage for mom or dad.
Glide & Slide
If you have a future Olympic figure skater in the family, let them practice spins and jumps on the ice rinklocated in the center of Beaver Creek Village. Weekly events like American Jukebox Skate Night on Sundays provide endless entertainment for kids and kids at heart (though you’ll have to explain to them what a jukebox is); or cozy up to one of the surrounding fire pits and warm up with a mug of hot chocolate. Take to the frozen 5-acre lake that anchors Keystone’s Lakeside Village for a pick-up hockey game, or glide along with Frosty on Saturday afternoons.
There’s more than one way to zoom down a snowy mountain, including a grin-inducing ride on an inflated rubber tube. Purgatory’s Snow Coaster Tubing Hill has three lanes that are lit at night, meaning you can slip and slide into the evening. Once you make it down the banked curves and jumps of Copper Mountain’s tubing hill, a magic-carpet lift will whisk you back up to do it again! Plus, double tubes are available to rent — perfect for a parent/child pair. The newest spot for tubular amusement in Colorado is Coca-Cola Tubing at Winter Park. After the kids get their fill, thaw out at the Hill House warming hut to snack on fresh-baked cookies.
If skiing and snow tubing just aren’t enough to satisfy your young daredevils, send them in the direction of special attractions, like Crested Butte’s Adventure Park. The gravity-defying bungee trampolines send riders soaring up to 30 feet in the air, or try out the 28-foot climbing wall. Meanwhile, February through April, the Coca-Cola Adventure Zone in Steamboat has its own version of a trampoline bungee jump, slingshot-style.
Being up in the mountains is a perfect opportunity for your child to learn more about their surroundings. EcoXploration in Telluride allows those in the 5–12 age bracket to connect with the environment through a full day of programs — geocaching, winter wilderness survival, and trekking and tracking. Your son or daughter may return striving to become the next Bear Grylls, or at the very least have a deeper appreciation for the great outdoors. In Vail, hop on the Eagle Bahn gondola to access the Nature Discovery Center, with its assortment of exhibits on natural history and local wildlife inside a yurt. On Wednesdays you might catch fire-prevention mascot Smokey Bear skiing around (as bears do); or sign up for a free snowshoe tour (age 10 and up) that touches on winter ecology and how animals adapt in cold climes.
Quality Time With the Fam
Bring everyone back together with activities that cater to families. Ullr Nights is a Snowmass winter wonderland party in honor of the Norse god of snow. On Fridays, take the gondola up the mountain to Elk Camp for live music, a bonfire, snow slide, vast buffet of culinary creations and other merriment. Another chance for bonding happens at Beaver Creek’s Family Funfest Carnival on Saturdays. The free event guarantees a good time with prizes awarded for games of skill, caricature drawings and more. Let your brood roll out of bed and head straight to Pajama Family Brunch at Keystone’s Bighorn Bistro. The Sunday occasion calls for a fun-size breakfast buffet for the littles, and a mimosa or bloody mary for parental units. Afterward, pay a visit to Ready Paint Fire, an art studio with paint-your-own pottery and canvases.
Read up on more off-the-slopes fun across the state, get the scoop on ski and snowboard lessons, and discover fun summertime activities for families at Colorado ski resorts.
Free skiing for kids at these Colorado Resorts
The best deal in town is the Epic SchoolKids Colorado Pack, a FREE program for Kindergarten through 5th graders that provides skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone. However, registration is now closed but if you missed the deadline, there is still good news. Several of Colorado Ski Country USA’s offer kids ski free packages and promotions.
Colorado Ski Country USA
5th Grade Passport Program
Colorado Ski Country USA offers any fifth grader the chance to ski or ride three days at 21 participating member resorts across the state absolutely free. That’s up to 63 free days on the slopes. Fifth graders who have never skied or snowboarded are eligible for the First Class program which provides never-ever skiers and riders one free full-day beginner lesson and equipment rental at the resort of their choice. All Passport holders also receive one complimentary junior rental from Christy Sports. The corresponding 6th Grade Passport Program offers four days of skiing at the same 21 resorts for only $125. To register for the Passport Program visit: coloradoski.com/passport.
Season Pass for Kids Under 5
All kids under 5 ski free at Arapahoe Basin. They can get a free season pass or stop by the lift ticket window to pick up a day ticket. For more information visit http://arapahoebasin.com.
Kids Ski Free
Children 6 and under always ski free at Aspen Snowmass. For children ages 7 to 12 years old, Aspen Snowmass allows kids to ski free when booking two or more nights of lodging through Stay Aspen Snowmass or renting children’s ski or snowboard equipment from Four Mountain Sports. There is no limit on the number of days children can receive free lift tickets when renting from Four Mountain Sports. Additionally, kids receive 30 percent off group lessons with Aspen Snowmass’ world-famous Ski & Snowboard School when purchasing seven or more days. Valid January 1 to April 16, 2017. Mention kids ski free when you call 800-290-1326 or visit www.aspensnowmass.com for more information.
One. Two. Free!
By booking two nights of lodging, guests can receive a third night free. Kids ski free with the purchase of an adult 2-day lift ticket. The deal includes a third day of rentals and group lessons free plus a secret pass to skip the lines. This deal can be booked now for just $30 down, but space is limited. Visit CopperColorado.com for more details.
Kids Ski Free
Any child 12 and under visiting Crested Butte Mountain Resort until December 16, 2016 and April 1-9, 2017can ski free, no adult lift ticket purchase required. For more information, visit www.skicb.com
Grand County Students Ski Free
Grand County students and all kids 5 and under ski free at Granby Ranch. On January 6, Granby Ranch is offering kids 3 to 14 a discounted rental and lesson package, $94 for a half day and $127 for a full day. Visit http://www.granbyranch.com for more information.
Free Season Pass
All kids 5 and under ski free at Loveland. Loveland’s 3-Class Pass for Kids is for all children, ages 6 to 14, of all ability levels. When guests pre-purchase or complete three full-day lesson packages, they receive a free unrestricted season pass to keep practicing their skiing or snowboarding skills for the rest of the season. Children’s full day lesson packages include a lesson, lift access, equipment rentals (ski or snowboard) and lunch. Guests may also pre-purchase the three lesson packages and enjoy the season pass all winter long. More information can be found by visiting http://skiloveland.com/child-3-class-pass.
Kids Under 6 Ski Free
All children 6 and under ski free during the season at Monarch Mountain. For more information visithttp://www.skimonarch.com.
50th Anniversary Special
To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, Powderhorn is offering free skiing for children 6 and under with the purchase of an adult pass or an adult lift ticket. Visit powderhorn.com for more information.
Kids Ski Free Package
Purgatory Resort’s Kids Ski Free package invites guests to enjoy four nights of lodging, three days of lift tickets for mom and dad, and free lift tickets for kids 12 and under. The package includes 25 percent off lodging and is available until April 4, 2017, excluding December 26, 2016- January 2, 2017. Guests can book by calling 800-525-0892 or by going online to shop.purgatoryresort.com/lodging-offers/offer/19180.
Kids/Grandkids Ski and Rent Free
Steamboat’s Kids Ski Free and Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 and younger to ski free the same number of days as their parent/grandparent when a parent/grandparent purchases a 5-or-more day adult lift ticket. Seniors (ages 70+) must purchase an adult ticket to be eligible for this program. Each qualifying purchase allows one free child per paid parent/grandparent. Kids also rent free when their parent or grandparent rents equipment for 5 or more days. For more information on Kids Ski and Rent Free, visit http://www.steamboat.com/tickets-and-passes/kids-ski-free.aspx.
Free Season Pass
Additionally, one child (12 and under) is eligible to receive a free season pass when a parent or legal guardian purchases an adult Steamboat Season Pass. Each additional child or teen can purchase a special priced Family Season Pass. Details can be found at http://www.steamboat.com/tickets-and-passes/kids-ski-free.aspx.
Sunlight Mountain Resort
Ski, Swim and Stay
With Sunlight’s Ski, Swim and Stay package, kids 12 and under ski free. Enjoy a full day on the slopes of Sunlight, a rejuvenating soak in Glenwood Hot Springs, the largest natural hot springs pool in the world, and a relaxing night’s stay at one of seven participating lodging properties. Packages start at just $99/night. Learn more: http://sunlightmtn.com/plan-your-trip/ski-swim-stay-vacation-package-sunlight-mountain-resort.
Telluride Ski Resort
Kids 5 and Under Ski Free
Children 5 and under ski free at Telluride when they stop by the lift ticket office and pick up a day ticket. Visit http://www.tellurideskiresort.com for more information.
Where to pull off I-70 when you’re stuck in traffic
When you have to get off I-70, what are you supposed to do? We know why it happens—the nature of the beast, Broncos aren’t playing Sundays in January, there’s a pack of mountain goats on the side of the road, accidents, I could go on. Here’s some “Plan Bs” that don’t require a detour, just a comfortable pit stop. Here are the top exits in order of West to East. Great FREE options as well.
GREAT REFERENCE: http://roadnow.com/i70/Colorado-Exit-Eastbound.html
WHAT TO DO: More Snow Thrills or Nosh
Kick back before the battle to the tunnel, especially if you’ve battled just to get to the tunnel. There’s a new bar/restaurant that just opened in Frisco called The Clubhouse that has indoor simulated golfing, perfect for spring right around the corner. You know you’re a true Coloradan when you’ve golfed and skied in the same day. The Clubhouse is located on the second floor of a building on Main Street, so it’s a great place to enjoy amazing views, food and drinks while waiting for traffic to die down.
However, what if you’ve gotten to Frisco, the kids are still full of energy and it’s a beautiful, gentle snow that is snarling traffic, but enjoyable to play in—what do you do? Pull off at the same exit and hit the town’s tubing hill. The Day Lodge sits at the base of the tubing hill, so you can go inside to warm up and grab hot chocolate between thrills. It’s appropriate for almost any age, takes advantage of the awesome snow conditions and atmosphere, and saves you three hours of sitting in a smelly car.
WHAT TO DO: Grab a adult or child cocktail at Bread Bar
WHERE: SILVER PLUME
Silver Plume’s Bread Bar at 1010 Main Street opened in the former Dram Apothecary space in the historic mining town this past summer, and already entertains a loyal following as a peaceful mountain stop-off for classic cocktails and socializing. Swing by on a weekend afternoon or evening on your way to or from the high country for a welcome refuge from the highway congestion.
WHAT TO DO: Eat, Drink, Playground Action
WHERE: Idaho Springs
Well, you’ve gotten to Idaho Springs one way or another. Either you’re trying to make it up or down, it doesn’t matter, you’re not getting to your destination. Everyone thinks, I’m not pulling off at Idaho Springs to go to Beau Jos, that’s OK. There’s a new game in town and it’s Westbound & Down Brewing Company. It’s located right on the main drag, and it’s pretty hard to miss.
This place is so pleasing and kid-friendly, my husband has pulled off the highway to go there even without traffic. It’s his new favorite place to take the kids and grab some cool local cans of beer to go up to the mountains or take home. When I finally tagged along in January 2016, I was extremely pleased with the new spot. In fact, I was downright surprised by this level of hipster urbanism in this charming, Victorian-era town. It’s enormous, has brewing and beer canning for kiddos to watch, a simple, yet easy menu, and FAST service. What’s more to say, go Westbound & Down. A year later, and I’m still loving it every bit!
Also in the town of Idaho Springs are two gold mine tours. Clear Creek is known for their historical mine operations and this one fascinates the kiddos. Amber, my editor adds that Clear Creek is awesome (there’s a park with a playground right on it, that my kiddos love to burn off steam – train pun intended.)
WHAT TO DO: Stretch, Lake Walk, Fresh Air, Freedom
But, wait, there’s more. My editor, who has children a few years older than my little ones also has some awesome recommendations. “So many choices like the Wild Game Arcade in Evergreen or strolling around Evergreen Lake (EXIT 252 from West / 252 from East).” Just down the mountain from Evergreen, near Genesse is the Lookout Nature Center. This is a great free family option with plenty of acre to run those legs. (lmnc.jeffco.us ) “When I pull off from I-70 due traffic, I want to place where kids can run around and burn some energy!”
WHAT TO DO: Eat because you’re hungry and home
This makes for a convenient stop for dining-in or ordering to-go on your way to the slopes. Located just minutes from the intersection of I-70 and I-76, it’s the second outpost of the Uptown Denver favorite and offers soul-soothing comfort food to start your getaway right—regardless of the westbound traffic. Stop in to enjoy classics like the award-winning fried chicken, the famed mac ’n cheese or the Friday fish & chips special. On the go? We love the Dinner for Four deal with 12 deviled eggs or Brussels sprouts, salad, 8 pieces of fried, herb-roasted, or Nashville hot chicken, sides, and even a pint of homemade ice cream or 4 cupcakes for dessert. At $55, this makes dinner easy for the whole family—or your group of powder-hungry pals.
AND . . . if you’re keen to avoid the traffic altogether, then head to Denver’s Union Station where you can hop aboard the Winter Park Express Ski Train (https://www.amtrak.com/WinterParkExpress or Front Range Ski Bus (www.frontrangeskibus.com) to Loveland Ski Area and Copper Mountain Resort. After a long and satisfying day on the slopes, Happy Hour and dinner will be waiting for you at Hopdoddy Burger Bar (1747 Wynkoop Street – www.hopdoddy.com), just steps from the train or bus drop-off. Hopdoddy’s $5 Happy Hour features craft drafts, signature cocktails, fries and seasonal special burgers each for $5. Dinner seekers will recharge with all-natural, handmade burgers such as the seasonal Roast Beast Burger, prepared with all the classics of Christmas dinner: green beans, smoky sweet yam casserole, and “Who Hash” on an Akaushi Kobe beef patty smothered in steak sauce. Wash it down with a local draft or canned beer. The perfect Colorado ending to a Colorado ski day.
Monarch Mountain: How this small resort reaches big heights for families
I learned to ski on a tiny two-lift hill within Calgary, Canada’s city limits. As much as I love exploring large ski areas, I feel drawn to these smaller homegrown resorts that are solely about the skiing without the pomp, circumstance and inflated prices. A place where everyone knows your name…and that I don’t drink beer and my name is not Norm.
Monarch Mountain is such a place. Located 150 miles from Denver via U.S. 285, this small ski resort has soaring elevations, stellar family terrain, unbeatable views and big snow (it is second only to Wolf Creek for the biggest snow totals in Colorado). Unlike Summit County’s sardine-packed resorts, Monarch has no neighbors and there’s nothing fake about it—including the all-natural snow.
Monarch’s free parking lot provides quick, easy access to the base. My husband Jamie and I leave our gear in the car to avoid renting lockers while we check our kids into ski school. We pre-registered online, making the equipment rental process smooth. Within 20 minutes, my kids are whisked away with their instructors: Bode with 30-year Monarch veteran Dan and Hadley with her new BFF Sha.
What’s left for a parent to do? SKI! We connect with Jack Sciacca, assistant vice president of guest services and the former president of the Rocky Mountain PSIAA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) who knows a thing or two (hundred) about the mountain. We do a full tour on all 6 lifts and only put a small dent in this 800-acre resort, catching a glimpse of the additional 130 acres of hike-to terrain and another 900 acres of backcountry accessible via snowcat tours.
I’m always curious when accomplished skiers like Sciacca settle in small places and ask him what sets Monarch apart. “It’s the quintessential local’s hill. It may seem small but it skis big.” He points to a cone-shaped peak. “You can ski 360-degrees off that mountain. There are so many areas like that for all levels of skiers and riders.”
He takes us up Panorama chair where we top out at nearly 12,000 feet along the Continental Divide with views of Colorado’s most iconic peaks, many of them 14ers. From our vantage point along the spine of the Sawatch Mountains, we gape at 14,232-foot Mount Shavano, the San Juans’ ocean of crags, the Gunnison Valley, the West Elk Range and even Pike’s Peak is visible in the distance.
Insider’s Tip: Stop by their ‘Pick a Peak,’ a butterfly-shaped tool at the top of the mountain that teaches you which peaks you’re looking at from your perch. Also, the whole family can enjoy the views and ski the Continental Divide–there is green run access from the tippy-top to the bottom of the hill.
Back at the base area, the Caterpillar conveyer lift is where beginning skiers transform into butterflies (hence the ‘Monarch’ connection?) There is also a separate ski school-only area with two surface lifts. I fall in love with the idea of their Mini and Me program, a dual-teaching lesson where the instructor teaches the child while also teaching the parent how to teach the child. If you want the whole family to stay together, their Play Together lessons are designed for three to 10 people, ages seven and up, of similar ability levels. If your kiddos are too young to ski, there is an on-site childcare center.
We reconnect with the kids and eat lunch at the Sidewinder Saloon in the multi-level lodge, devouring our specialty burgers and gargantuan nachos that keep us fueled until dinner. We ski together as a family that afternoon. I catch some serious (1-inch) air at the two terrain parks while Hadley takes us down her favorite run, Short-N-Sweet. All is going well until we spot an unmarked, well-traversed trail through the trees. What we thought would be an easy glade traverse is actual a powder stash of narrow moguls. Hadley hates every moment while Bode and his short skis blow the rest of us away.
“We must do that again!” I indulge him at the end of the day while Jamie and Hadley wisely head to the lodge. This time I keep pace with him but not without a near tree encounter or twelve.
All in a good day’s fun at Monarch Mountain.
Monarch Mountain Lodge is the only property near the base and there are plenty of affordable lodging options 20 miles away in Salida, a whitewater rafting and mountain biker’s haven. We knock an item off my bucket list by staying at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Nathrop, easily one of the most gorgeous locations in Colorado at the base of 14,196-foot Mount Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs. There are quaint rooms in the lodge but we opt for a cozy log cabin with two bedrooms and a loft that the kids fight over with Bode as the eventual victor.
A soak in natural hot springs is said to increase circulation, detoxify and reduce stress but all we care about is relaxing in the 100 percent natural and odorless geothermic springs after a long ski day.
The Historic Bath House was established in 1867 and we start in the adjacent soaking pools that reach temperatures up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the exercise pool in the 90s. But then we spot something peculiar: people relaxing in Chalk Creek. In winter.
We investigate these creekside hot springs that are broken down into natural makeshift pools formed with river rocks. The idea is better than the reality. The water is shallow enough that to be fully covered, we need to lie down, a more desirable option in the summer but not with frigid outside temperatures.
We spot some people crossing a bridge over Chalk Creek and like the lemmings we are, we blindly follow. What we didn’t note was this Spa & Club sanctuary is reserved for guests age 16 and above. My kids are 9 and 11. For once our ignorance paid off and we repented later of our trespass (and trespassing).
This area of the resort is the most desirable and we soak in the relaxation pool. Bode marvels he’s never seen such bright stars and we’re lost in the sparkle of the Milky Way—an eruption of stars shooting out from Mount Princeton.
We vow for a return visit in the summer to enjoy the kid-focused Upper Pool with a 400-foot waterslide fed by the natural spring but our contraband night of soaking at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort under a titanic swarm of 300,000 suns bound together by gravity and time is one we won’t soon forget.
Colorado Ski Country offer a gem-of-a- deal to Utah’s smaller resorts. The $25 Gems Card entitles guests at eight Colorado ski areas to purchase one adult full-day lift ticket and receive another adult full-day lift ticket for free. Each Gems Card is good for one use per Gems resort, per season, and only a limited number of Gems Cards are available for sale. Gems Card holders also have exclusive access to Flash Deals, which are special promotions and additional ways to save that are unique to each Gems resort. Participating resorts are Arapahoe Basin, Eldora Mountain Resort, Loveland Ski Area, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn Resort, Ski Cooper, Ski Granby Ranch, and Sunlight Mountain Resort. Available mid-September 2016 through February 2017.
Killer Deals for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month
I’m sort of amazed at how few people from Colorado actually ski/snowboard. Most of the time, the people that are excited to be on the slopes are those that have moved from somewhere else. I’m not certain if it is the perception that skiing is expensive or a hassle (it can be – but you can also score deals, spend great family time together, get exercise and more). And some people don’t do it because they never learned how. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month – so take advantage of these great deals and learn a new sport that can be enjoyed with the whole family. Then when you out of town guests come to town and want to go skiing you will be able to show them how!
Junior Trade Program. The best deal in town for kid’s equipment is the Junior Ski Trade program at Colorado Ski and Golf (Ski and Sport/Boulder Deals) locations. The easy-on-the-budget program provides deeply discounted prices on full set-ups (skis, bindings, poles, boots, safety check) for both new and used equipment for children and teens who take advantage of this annual update program. The advantage: annual exchange of equipment “grows” with the kids allowing them to be in the right-sized boots and right sized ski or snowboard. The cost for the entire first season on used equipment starts at $99.99 or starting at $199.99 for a brand new equipment set-up. (Normal single day rental is typically somewhere around $30). For every subsequent season the child participates in Junior Trade through Colorado Ski & Golf, customers get a 50 percent in-store credit on their initial purchase price towards updated and re-fitted gear. Early birds get the widest selection of sizes and brands. The program is available to youth snowboarders at a slightly higher price.
Ski Area Programs, Deals and Fun:
- Arapahoe Basin – First timer lessons (1/2 day) Adult (15+) tickets including lesson are just $70. http://arapahoebasin.com/ABasin/lessons/lssm.aspx#sthash.FOv3MjV3.dpuf
- Aspen/Snowmass – A true family adventure. For $405 you can get a full day lesson for up to 5 people. The whole family can get a lesson together. https://www.aspensnowmass.com/plan-your-stay/lessons/buttermilk-deluxe
- Copper Mountain – Ski and Ride University at Copper has an amazing offer. Three lessons (including lift tickets, equipment, close parking and lunch on the 2nd and 3rd days) for $249. After you complete the three lessons – you get a Copper pass for the remainder of the year and an opportunity to buy a season pass for NEXT year at 50% off! Serious DEAL! (The current day rate for one day, just the lift ticket is $150.)
- Eldora Mountain Resort – Eldora is offering two different options. One for kids. One for adults. For the kids, The Start with Woodward Children’s Learn to ski package. At just $159 the day includes a full day lift ticket, all day rental, all day lesson with snacks. The adult package is $149 it includes lift ticket, all-day equipment rental and a ½ day lesson (3.5 hours).
- Keystone – Colorado Residents that took advantage of the Epic School Kids program (free for Kindergarten through 5th Graders – but registration closed in October) can get their free lesson this month. Adults can take advantage of the Adult Novice Ski lesson Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal. This deal makes it just over $115 a day (Normal walk-up rate for Keystone is close to $130 for just the lift ticket. https://www.keystoneresort.com/plan-your-trip/ski-and-ride-lessons.aspx
- Loveland – All first timer adults and children will receive a free season pass when they complete three Level 1 lessons. http://skiloveland.com/rentals-lessons/3-class-pass/.#sthash.FOv3MjV3.dpuf
- Monarch – Probably one of the least expensive deals that we have found is the Monarch group lesson at just $55 for ½ day junior group lesson (junior is for kids ages 7-12). skimonarch.com/group-lessons/
- Purgatory – For packages starting at just $74 you get two days of lift tickets, rental gear and full day beginner lessons. On the third day, you get a free lift ticket, 50% off rental gear and 50% off a half-day lesson. You also get a 50% off discount card on lift tickets, rentals and lessons for the rest of the season.
- Steamboat – (Where I learned when I was in elementary school). Get two days of lessons, rentals and lift tickets for just $199 January 9-31. This offer is good for adults and kids older than first grade. https://www.steamboat.com/plan-your-trip/lessons/snowsports-school/2-day-learn-to-ski-or-ride.#sthash.FOv3MjV3.dpuf
- Sunlight – January 6, Sunlight will celebrate it’s 30th Annual Skier Appreciation Day with $20 lift tickets (all ticket proceeds go to United Way of Garfield County). And take advantage of their Teacher/Studen Appreciation Day on Sunday, January 10 with free lift tickets for teachers and $20 lift tickets for students. sunlightmtn.com.#sthash.FOv3MjV3.dpuf
5th and 6th Grade Passport. Colorado Ski Country is still offering the 5th and 6th Grade Passport. If you have a student in 5th or 6th grades. You can get the best deal in the state! FREE Skiing/Snowboarding (for the 5th graders) Yes, we said FREE! Or just $125 if they are in 6th Grade. In addition to the skiing at the 21 member resorts you get a FREE beginner level lesson which includes equipment rental on the day of the lesson! Sign up online before the end of January.
Email me if you know of any great Denver deals!
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Photo: Colorado Ski Country USA at Arapahoe Basin.
Colorado Family Ski Directory 2016/17
Mile High Mamas is a top resource for planning Colorado family ski/ride vacations. Last year, we launched the Colorado Family Ski Directory that focuses exclusively on families–from daily lift ticket prices to the cost of childcare to where to get the best deals. But we’ve taken it one step further! Click the hyperlink for each resort name below for more in-depth details including additional deals, at what ages kids ski free, lessons, family-friendly activities, area attractions for playtime off the slopes and more.
This is just the basic information you’ll need to get started. To give you a true taste of Colorado’s winter, follow our adventures as we visit area resorts this season in our ski section and look for the button below for our fun insider tips and informative narratives.
Colorado Family Ski Directory 2016/17
|Arapahoe Basin Ski Area||$92||$77 (ages 15-18)l $45 (ages 6-14); Kids 5 and under ski free every day.||No.||Kids class lessons start at $135 for half-day, $160 for full-day. Multi-week programs start at $325. available for kids of all ability levels, age 3 and up.||Arapahoebasin.com. Check out their Snowsports and hot deals pages.|
|Aspen Highlands||$145||$92; kids 6 and under ski free||No on-site childcare||Ski and ride school for children ages 5-6 and 7-12. Rates start at $219.||aspensnowmass.com; Kids Ski Free program for kids ages 7-12. Details: (800) 290-1326
|Aspen Mountain||$145||$92; kids 6 and under ski free||No on-site childcare||Private children’s ski and snowboard lessons offered on Aspen Mountain. Rates start at $575||aspensnowmass.com;
Kids Ski Free program for kids ages 7-12. Details: (800) 290-1326
|Beaver Creek Resort||$149*||$103*||Full day is $155. 1/2 day is $125||Starts at $199+||beavercreek.com|
|Breckenridge Ski Area||$138*||$90||On-site childcare starts at $128.||Starting at $199.*||breckenridge.com|
|Buttermilk||$145||$92||No on-site childcare||Starting at $219||aspensnowmass.com; Kids Ski Free program for kids ages 7-12. Details: (800) 290-1326|
|Crested Butte Mountain Resort||$111||Kids 6 and under ski free, Child (7-12) : $61 Teen (13-17) $100||There is a nursery for 2 months to 3 years old. Full-day starts at $125.||Group lesson with lunch starts at $170.||skicb.com deals. Kids ski free November 24, December 16 and April 1-9, no strings attached.|
|Cooper | Chicago Ridge
|$52||$32′; kids 5 and under ski free||Childcare $14/hr; $55 for half-day; $72 for full-day||Child (5-12) all-day Panda Patrol group lessons start at $109 (get 10% off if you reserve online.)||Deals offered at local rental shops, lodges, and grocery stores. Best deals are at skicooper.com.|
|Copper Mountain Resort||$72||Starting at $56. Children 5 and under ski/ride for free.||Belly Button Babies & Bakery for daily childcare. Kid’s Night Out is a FREE 3-hour childcare on the condition parents spend at least $30 at the resort.||Starting at $191. Pre-purchase most lessons online and save 20%!||Purchase your tickets at CopperColorado.com and save up to 53% on window prices. You’ll also find lodging steals and vacation packages.|
|Eldora Mountain Resort||$94||Starting at $54||No on-site child care||Group lesson starts at $159*||Eldora.com|
|$125*||Starting around $80.*||Starts at $123 for full day||Pricing starts at $182||Keystoneresort.com|
|Loveland Ski Area||$71||$30 – peak child (6-14) rate. Children 5 & under are free||Full day with lunch and two snacks is $75. Half day (morning only) with one snack is $60. Hourly rate is $17/hour.||Full day lesson with lunch, lift ticket and equipment rental for 6-14 is $120. ages 4-5 is $128 and includes early drop off.||skiloveland.com;
lovelandreservations.com; liftopia.com. Any child (4-14) that completes three full lesson packages is eligible for a FREE season pass.
|Monarch Mountain||$74||Teen (13-15) $45, Junior (7-12) $30, Children under 6, Free||The Children’s Center Rates:
$95 – All-day, $50 – Half-day.
|Group ski lessons:
Junior: $90 (4 hour lesson only)
|Monarch ski packages with lodging participants. skimonarch.com
|Powderhorn Mountain Resort||$71||Youth (13-17) $60; Junior (7-12) $35; Child (6 & Under) $18||No on-site childcare||Children’s Learning Center starts at age 3.
Group lessons start at ages 5-7, with prices starting at $78 for a half-day lesson.
|Purgatory Resort||$89||Teen (13-17) $70; Child (6-12) $55; Children 5 & under FREE||$70 half day
$90 full day
$30 Kids Night Out
|Half-day lessons $72 (lesson only)
Full Day Packages 6-12 year olds (lesson, lift ticket, rentals (including helmet) & lunch) $154.
|Purgatory Resort’s website features deals on lodging packages that include discounts on lift tickets. PurgatoryResort.com|
|Ski Granby Ranch||$68 regular; $74 peak season||Junior 6 – 12 $39/$44, Kids 5 and under ski free||No on-site childcare.||Age 3 & 4, half day only, starting at $129.
Age 5 – 12, half or full day, starting at $109.
|Snowmass||$145||$92||The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center. Rates start at $174.||Offered for kids ages 2-4, 5-6 and 7-12. Rates start at $219 for full day.||aspensnowmass.com; Kids Ski Free program for kids ages 7-12. Details: (800) 290-1326|
|Steamboat Ski Area||$90-140||Start at $55-85. Kids Ski Free Program for ages 12 and under.||Kids’ Vacation Center offers daycare for ages 6 months to Kindergarten. All day program is $125 with advanced online purchase.||Kids’ Vacation Center lessons start at age 3. Prices start at $170 with advanced online purchase.||www.steamboat.com or call 800-922-2722|
|Sunlight Mountain Resort
|$63||$45; 5 and under ski free||Childcare is $100 full day; $55 half-day; $25/hourly.||Super Tots: Full Day lesson, lift, helmet, lunch for ages 4-6 is $155. Half-day is $105.
Regular ski school: 2 hour lesson, lift, rentals is $105.
|Kids 12 and under ski free. Affordable Ski, Swim Stay Packages with Glenwood Hot Springs.|
|Telluride Ski Resort||$119*||$71*; Kids 5 and under ski free||For infants and toddlers, half day is $105 and a full day is $140.||Ski/Ride school starts at $195 for a lesson, lift ticket and lunch for ages 3 to 14.||tellurideskiresort.com|
|Vail||$149||$103. Kids ages 4 and under ski free.||Small World Nursery offers daycare for children 2 months-6 years starting at $150.||The Vail Ski & Snowboard School lessons start at $199.||Visit Vail.com and purchase tickets 7 days in advance for best prices.|
|Winter Park Resort||$115||Approx. $67. Kids 4 and under ski free.||Childcare for kids 2 months to 6 years. Half day is available for $109, full day is available for $139.||Full day lessons for kids (ages 3-14), including lunch, are $179.||Call Winter Park Central Reservations for latest deals and special promos. 800-729-7907.|
|Wolf Creek Ski Area||$66||$34. Kids 5 and under $6||No||Starting at $77||Visit wolfcreekski.com.|
*Note: Information and prices are subject to change and most resorts offer discounted rates if you purchase online seven days in advance. Many resorts do not publish a set lift ticket price. When compiling our list, we used the date January 9, 2017 as our base to compare prices.
Featured image: Loveland Ski Area