It’s November and in parts of North America the snow has already started flying. But even if some ski areas are already open you’ve still got plenty of time to plan a fantastic ski season for your entire family.
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Thinking about the season in advance and doing some preparation now will maximize your time on the slopes because you’ll be ready to go as soon as there is snow on the ground.
So what are some things you can do to prepare for your family’s ski season?
Go through the ski gear
Now is the time to get out the ski clothing. Check for holes, missing mittens, and cracked goggles. If anything smells musty, toss it in the washer.
Have your children try on everything from long underwear to snow pants and ski jackets. Make a list of what you need to replace. And don’t forget the snow boots – you’ll want to make sure your kids have warm footgear that fits them the first time you head for the mountains.
Get cold feet? Order hand and feet warmers by the case and save money.
If this is your family’s first season skiing, check out this ski gear list to see what you’ll need to buy.
Buy or lease equipment
Fall is a great time to get your hands on equipment for the entire family. Some ski shops offer swap sales where you can trade equipment your children have outgrown for a bigger size. Or take advantage of seasonal lease programs that let you rent equipment for the entire season, with the option to exchange ski boots if your children’s feet grow.
If you buy any second-hand equipment make sure you take it into a ski shop where professionals can check and tune it.
Check for preseason deals
Buy a seasons pass now and you may find the resort you love will give you free passes for your children or day tickets to share with friends. Or if you’re not interested in seasons passes, many resorts offer discount cards that offer a variety of benefits. Check blackout dates and restrictions carefully – you don’t want to get stuck having to pay full price during a holiday week because you didn’t read the fine print.
And if your kids are interested in season-long programs, like racing or freestyle teams, now is the time to sign them up and connect with the coaches to talk about what’s expected.
Book your lodging
Consult your children’s school calendar and plan when you’ll need mountainside place to stay. Making reservations early means you’ll have your choice of condos and can stay in the area of the resort that is most convenient for you (and since getting out the door with your children and all their gear is a pretty big challenge, you’ll be grateful to avoid any kind of commute).
Looking for package deals is another way to save money. Pay one lower price for accommodations, lift tickets, and equipment rental.
Is it a risk to book in advance? In some ways, but if your kids have limited vacation time you will want to make sure you have a place to stay no matter what the weather does. And resorts like Northstar in California have lots of fun non-skiing activities from roller skating to bungee trampolines, so you’re sure to have a good time.
For most people, the first snow brings quite a lot of excitement and joy. It conjures up mental pictures of white-covered landscapes, warm, roaring fires, festive holiday lights and hot chocolate mugs. Unfortunately, after several weeks of the white stuff turning brown on the sides of the road and near-freezing temperatures drying out your skin, those happy emotions are long over. Thoughts of escaping to warm, tropical destinations with balmy breezes, flowering plants, rolling ocean waves and delightful, sunny days fill the mind.
February is a great time of year to break those winter blues. Christmas has come and gone. All the holiday decorations are down and the next big holiday weekend is still weeks away. A break in the cold routine would definitely give you the mental energy to face the rest of winter with a smile. February is the perfect month to steal away to an inviting, tropical destination.
There are many options for the warmth-seeking winter traveler. The Caribbean stays a balmy 82* during the day, 72* at night. Hawaii tops out at 80* in February, but the winds are strongest during this month, which is great for surfing the North Shore. The Bahamas, a slightly cooler spot if a change from 20* to 80* is too much, tops out around a perfect 75*. Mexico averages 82* in February with 9 hours of sunshine a day. If that doesn’t chase away the winter blues, nothing will!
Travel Coach, Linda Barsch
If you’ve never stayed at the Zermatt Resort & Spa in Midway, UT let me tell you what you’re missing out on. This amazing lodge sits just around the mountain from Deer Valley Resort but makes you feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps. It’s Bavarian style and decorations make for the perfect getaway. Last weekend I was treated to an incredible stay at this unique resort. The friendly bell staff greeted us at the entrance and provided us with complimentary valet service! The trip can’t start any easier than that. While checking in we noticed a group of people relaxing around the large stone fireplace in the lobby. It looked incredibly warm and inviting. Our room was perfect with great views of the Wasatch mountains right behind us.
For Halloween they had decorated the grounds with over a hundred scarecrows and lights. Fall colors were in full effect and the mountain sides were covered in a bright mix of reds, yellows, and greens. It couldn’t have looked better. For dinner we drove over to a local favorite, Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, located only a few minutes down the road. It’s a must experience while you’re in town. The fresh salsa bar alone is worth the visit. Our one night there was too short but the perfect getaway. The Zermatt Lodge & Spa is a great place to escape into the mountains and definitely one of the most unique lodges you’ll ever visit.
Destination Expert, Chad Reinertson
Hut trip, anyone? For those seeking a deep backcountry experience in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, check out the 10th Mountain Division huts. This network of 34 huts extends along 350 miles of alpine trails and routes. They’re the ideal base for outdoor adventuring in the Colorado high country.
Before booking a hut, be prepared. Set in backcountry wilderness areas, they require the right clothing and equipment. They also require a certain level of fitness, each with an on-foot approach of at least two or three miles — often more. Here are a few more things to know before you go:
“Huts” is an understatement – they’re gorgeous cabins
Although the huts are off the grid, the so-called “huts” are impressive in their size and amenities. Most are graceful two-story structures, with enough space to sleep 10 to 17 people comfortably. You’ll find solar panels that provide power for lights, bunks with mattresses and pillows, cozy wood stoves with a generous wood supply, well-equipped kitchens with propane burners, water catchment systems that pump water indoors (although it still needs to be purified to be suitable for drinking), clean outhouse bathrooms, huge picture windows, and decks that lend themselves nicely to night sky gazing. The journey in may be rough, but you’re hardly “roughing it” once you get there.
They’re open year-round
The huts are popular in the warm summer months for hiking and mountain biking. Families choose summer months and less-remote cabins for bringing their kids in tow. The real “high season” for the huts is winter, when tent camping is a less viable alternative. During the winter months, hutters arrive by nordic ski or snowshoe. Once they reach the huts, a playground of backcountry skiing and snowboarding surrounds each one.
They book up well in advance
Due to their ever-growing popularity, especially during the winter, the huts get booked up fast. In fact, the non-profit organization that manages hut bookings has needed to implement a lottery system in order to allocate hut space fairly during the winter weekends and holidays. Lottery applications are due in January for the following winter — often an entire year in advance! Cost per person is very reasonable — usually between $20 and $35 per night. Payment is due up-front upon booking, and it includes one bed in a shared hostel-style space that is open to other groups.
They can be hard to find
Since the huts are located in remote locations in the Colorado backcountry, they can be hard to locate. In fact, signage and markings become more scarce the closer you get to the huts — this is to avoid unwanted visitors and vandalism. On the huts website is information about what maps you’ll need for each cabin, and even order them online. Don’t cut corners here. Buy the map. Before the trip, familiarize yourself with the map and make sure you understand how to read and follow it. It’s not unheard-of for groups to get lost looking for a hut and end up spending a night outside or back in town. Ideally, make sure someone in the group knows the route or has lots of experience with backcountry navigation.
They have a place in Colorado history
The system of backcountry huts began to form in the early 1980’s starting near Aspen and extending throughout the surrounding ranges. Its inspiration (and name) comes from the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers, a little-known division of the military who trained for alpine combat in the Colorado Rockies during World War II. They never saw battle, but while they were in Europe, the soldiers were impressed by the hut systems they found, and wanted to emulate them here in the U.S. Today, Colorado’s hut system is truly an ongoing labor of love. A non-profit organization coordinates the booking and management of the huts, and much of the ground-level maintenance is powered by a loyal fleet of volunteers.
Lake Placid, NY is a skiing mecca in winter and a lakeside paradise in summer, but there’s plenty for families to do in the off-season, too. Families wanting a quiet, beautiful retreat filled with foliage, wildlife, and outdoor adventure can turn Lake Placid in to an autumn playground. Three top picks (plus where to stay!):
- Kayak on the lake: Kayaking and canoeing are on offer directly from Lake Placid resorts, or independently, through several area outfitters. Group tours are on tap, but families can just as easily navigate the peaceful lake on their own. Look for wildlife, including many species of birds. Let the kids row while you relax!
- Rock climb with Eastern Mountain Sports: That’s right: Lake Placid offers one of New England’s EMS schools, where families can learn a new outdoor skill together. Rock climbing is one of the most popular picks, with kids as young as four learning the ropes (pun intended!). Instruction is friendly with children, but still professional; kids come away with honest-to-goodness skills. All equipment is included, and the class includes a field trip to climb at a local site.
- Learn about Olympic history: Pick up an Olympic Sites Passport and check out the Olympic facilities at Lake Placid. At the Whiteface ski resort, ride the gondola to the top for a view of the region, then tour the Olympic Jumping Complex. There’s even a pool where visitor’s can watch Olympic hopefuls flip and twist into while they train for their sport. Check out the sliding courses next—bobsled competitions were held here—then head to the Olympic museum and ice skating rink to see where Miracle on Ice occurred in the 1980 Olympics.
Stay at beautiful Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. As the name implies, this hotel is located right on the shore, offers a great swimming beach while the weather cooperates, and family-friendly dining. Golden Arrow stands out in the region for its environmentally-friendly features, including its crushed limestone beach that off-sets the impact of acid rain in the Adirondacks. From this beach, families have full use of kayaks and canoes, and the hotel is a short walk from Lake Placid shopping and dining.
You’ve seen them: First Tracks ticket upgrades offered by more and more ski resorts. But what are they, and should you buy them? First Tracks usually refers to a ski ticket add-on that allows the bearer to access the slopes earlier than the general public. Most First Tracks programs start at 7:30 am or 8 am, allowing skiers first access at groomed and powder terrain before the lifts begin turning at 9 am. First Tracks tickets are not cheap—expect to pay around $75 per person (lift ticket not included)—and are usually limited. Some First Tracks programs set an age limit (usually 13), while others welcome kids of any age, provided they are intermediate to expert skiers, and accompanied by an adult.
Now that you know what a First Tracks ticket is, do you want one? The short answer: sometimes. I tried out a First Tracks experience at The Canyons Resort Park City; it was definitely a unique way to start the day and I had a blast, but it’s out of my budget most of the time. If you’re in the same boat, here’s when it’s worth the splurge:
When your time on the mountain is tight.
During First Tracks at The Canyons, I skied seven long runs between 8 am and 9 am…over twice what I could accomplish during public hours. I only had a day and a half at the resort, so I certainly got a bang for my buck. Another good time to upgrade: when you’re visiting during a peak season, such as spring break or Christmas.
When extra perks are included.
Nearly all First Tracks programs include breakfast at an on-mountain restaurant included with your ticket price, but First Tracks at The Canyons provides an unique opportunity: skiing with an Olympian. The Canyons pairs their Olympic Ambassador program with their First Tracks offering, which means that with every First Tracks group skies an Olympic skier or snowboarder. I had the honor of skiing with Lake Placid’s Holly Flanders, which was not only a thrill, but a great source of information: Holly was able to take us to the best runs and glades, and was a wonderful ski companion.
When the rest of your ski day will be slower-paced.
If you have babies, toddlers, or small children on your ski vacation, you’ll likely be spending a fair amount of time on or near the bunny slopes (or at least signing kids in and out of childcare and ski school). A First Tracks upgrade is a great way to give the adults what they crave: great skiing, even when skiing with young kids.
Before you go: Not all ski resorts offer First Tracks, and those that do are on a limited schedule (most offer it two times per week). First Tracks age limitations and pricing varies, and most require reservations. If you do take the spurge, enjoy!
As a traveler, it’s almost a right of passage to spend a few weeks backpacking through a continent or a country. In the summer of 2012 I spent four weeks backpacking through Europe. I went to Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, and Serbia. Fortunately I have had to pack for long periods of time with small amounts of luggage before, so I had a rough idea of what to bring. I know a lot of people are curious about what to pack for their first backpacking adventures, so I figured I would put together a list of 5 must-have items for your adventure!
1) A good backpack
Technically not something to pack, but what you’re putting it in. When I first started traveling I had a pretty simple bag I used for school. After about half a day of traveling with it, I found my back would get sore, my shoulders would start to ache, and I would need progressively more breaks as the day pressed on. I decided to invest in a good backpack that has back support and cushioning. Luckily for me there was a German backpacker in my town who was selling hers for cheap, but I would recommend doing some research and taking into account your own body and needs.
2) Comfortable walking shoes and flip flops
I CANNOT stress enough how important comfortable walking shoes are. I also cannot stress enough how important it is to not buy new “comfortable” shoes and wear them for the first time on the first day of your trip. Break those suckers in. Also, a cheap pair of flip flops will go a long way. You can use them on hot days to walk, you can use them if you stay in a hostel, you can use them at the beach if you are traveling during the warmer months. You can get a pair at WalMart for less than two dollars.
3) A beach wrap
I bought a rainbow beach wrap at a market in Malaysia for about $10, and it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever purchased. In a pinch a beach wrap can be used as a dress, a picnic blanket, a towel, or something to wipe the sweat from your face. You can find them online for fairly cheap, just look around for a style you like.
It seems like a no-brainer to pack some deodorant, but trust me, it’s not something everyone remembers to bring. Sometimes you’ll have a few stretches of days where you don’t have the chance to shower, and the only way to stay clean-smelling is deodorant.
5) A lot of underwear and socks
Again, for the several stretches where you may not have the time to shower, wash your clothes, or do anything that generally hygienic people do. You’ll get accustomed to wearing your jeans four days in a row or your shirt for a week straight, but you definitely want lots of clean socks and underwear. I don’t think I need to explain why.