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A Parent’s Guide to Kids on the Slopes

5 Best Resorts for Beginners, Slope-side Family Fun, Gearing Up, and More!

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Snow! It’s one of Colorado’s greatest gifts to families. And what goes hand in gloved-hand with snow? Skiing: Our other winter obsession. From the moment the first flakes fly, discussions turn to snowpack, I-70 road conditions, and how to get the family out into the white stuff. It can be pricey, and yes, even frustrating with kids in tow. Unless, that is, you know where to find great insider advice. We’ve asked long-time skiers, industry insiders, and other families for their tips on saving money, picking gear, and choosing destinations. Whether you are a skiing family or new to snow sports, here is a roundup of information to get you and your family happily swooshing down the slopes this season.

Success on the Slopes

Experts agree that the most exasperating part of the ski day for parents is from the time you load your kid into the car to the point you drop off at ski school. “Practice patience” is the key advice experts offer to get the day off to a good start. “Most other sports don’t require the gearing up that skiing does,” says Colorado mom of three, Laurie Bouzarelous, who has also worked as a ski instructor. “It is its own activity with its own learning process.” In addition to patience, here are some other points to consider before heading to the slopes with kids.

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Before you know it, your child will have the ability to experience the freedom of skiing on her own.

Top 3 Ways to Save Money on Skiing

The list of expenses for skiing with the family is intimidating. For many, it makes a day on the slopes seem out of reach. Chris Linsmayer, public affairs manager at Ski Country USA shared his top three tips to make skiing more affordable for families.

  1. Use the 5th & 6th Grade Passport Program – Colorado Ski Country USA offers each fifth grader three free days of skiing or snowboarding at each of their 20 member resorts, and each sixth grader four days of skiing or snowboarding at each of their 20 resorts for just $105 (register before November 30). “This is really good for families who one, have never skied before, and two, haven’t decided what type of terrain they like best,” says Linsmayer. “This gives them as opportunity to try lots of different terrains.” coloradoski.com/passports
  2. Look For Packaged Deals -Rather than looking for lift tickets and lodging in one place, and equipment rentals in another, search for bundles. “If you book the lodging, lift tickets, parking, all together through the resort, you are going to get the best deal,” says Linsmayer.
  3. Find Kids Ski Free Programs – Just about every resort has some kind of kids” ski free deal, whether it is bundled with an adult pass or combined with ski programs or lodging packages. For example, between November 24 and December 16 at Crested Butte, kids 12 and under ski or ride free, no adult ticket, lodging, or advance reservations required.

Bottom line: Do your research before you go, says Linsmayer. Your best chance to find money saving deals is checking with the resort websites before you head out the door.

Other Things to Remember When Skiing With Kids

5 Best Resorts for beginners

Back in the day, ski resorts were intimidating places for newcomers. Now, every Colorado resort (except Silverton and Aspen Mountain) has designated beginner slopes and offers lesson and rental packages to help beginners get started. Deals are best in January, National Learn-to-Ski & Snowboard month. Here are some favorite spots for beginner families.

Accessible Slopes

Colorado’s resorts make the slopes a welcoming place for kids of all abilities. If it’s your first time skiing or snowboarding with a member of the family who has special needs, be sure to call ahead. Adaptive centers are available at almost all resorts, but advance notice and reservations are usually required. Here are a few centers that offer a wide range of adaptive winter sports opportunities.

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Another Money Saver

The EPIC SchoolKids pass offers kindergarteners through fifth graders four free days of skiing and riding each at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone, and one free first-timer ski or ride lesson with equipment rental. Registration for the 2016/2017 season is now closed, but watch for 2017/2018 registration opportunities.

Indoor Skiing? You Bet!

Ready to hit the slopes, but can’t swing a trip to the mountains? Colorado’s four indoor ski-training facilities teach kids (and adults) how to shred, carve, and rip in an environment-controlled atmosphere. Most offer weekday and weekend lessons and camps, and the locations are perfect for building the confidence needed to tackle the big mountain without fighting ski traffic.

Slope-side Family Fun

“All of our resorts do a really good job of catering for families,” says Chris Linsmayer, public affairs manager at Ski Country USA, of the wealth of activities that families can enjoy when they aren’t swooshing down the slopes. Watch for these and other special experiences to elevate your trip to the resorts this winter.

December – Colorado Family Ski Month at Keystone Resort This month-long celebration on the slopes kicks off with a day of free skiing and riding for all kids 12 and younger on December 1. A line-up of family events continues with the opening of the Snow Fort on December 10, the Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular December 16-18, and more.

Gear Up!

Before you hit the slopes with your kids, make sure they have the right snow attire and gear to keep them comfortable and safe on the mountain. Here’s what the experts at Christy Sports recommend. christysports.com

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Five Reasons to Ski Smaller Resorts

A day of skiing with the family can be overwhelming—it’s expensive and crowded (especially on weekends), and can be a hassle from parking to renting gear to getting separated from the kids (that can ruin a ski day). But don’t give up, instead pick one of the many smaller resorts in Colorado. Here are five great reasons to visit them.

  1. Lift tickets are more affordable. Colorado Ski Country offers a card for $25 that provides two-for-one lift tickets, or 30 percent off an adult ticket, twice at each of their Gems Resorts (Arapahoe Basin, Cooper, Eldora, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Ski Granby Ranch, Sunlight).
  2. Parking is free. There are no expensive parking garages or lots. And parking lots are usually within a short walking distance to the lodge and lifts, so schlepping equipment is manageable.
  3. All the runs funnel to a single base area and lodge. It’s nearly impossible to get lost if you keep going downhill. At some areas like Cooper you can sit on the deck of the lodge and watch the kids come down.
  4. Smaller areas have less crowds, making the whole experience safer and more fun. Lift lines are shorter so you get in more rides. On the mountain, less density means less chance of collisions. Plus, fewer skiers and snowboarders keeps the snow from getting glazed off and provides a softer, more skiable surface.
  5. Renting equipment in the smaller shops is more personalized than at larger resorts.

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