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Taming the T Bar Lift in Breckenridge, Colorado

January 28, 2014
Breck's T bar.

Breck’s T bar.

My brush with Breckenridge’s famous T Bar lift began by mistake. I was trying to meet up with some friends, who texted me “We’re at T Bar.” I looked at the map and headed toward a lift called T Bar, while they were at the base of the mountain sipping beers at the bar named T Bar. Oops.

I looked up at the lift, which is actually a long, barely-there rope tow. At the end of the rope is a bar with room for one person on either side. A big sign warned: EXPERT TERRAIN ONLY. All of the runs from the top are either black diamond or double black diamond. I hung back, daunted, but my ski buddy Rob went in for the sell. “You’re ready for this,” he said. “This is happening.”

Even on a crowded weekend day, there was no line at the T Bar. Makes sense, I thought. People must know better. Rob assured me that it was only because it’s harder for snowboarders to use. Without any waiting time for me to chicken out, we went for it. I shouted a warning to the operator. “This is my first time on a T Bar!”

He laughed. “Just hang on. You’ll be fine!”

Next thing I knew, I was sitting haphazardly against the bar, pointing my skis up the mountain as the line dragged us upward. I clung to the rope, scared stiff. “Feel free to stop whimpering at any time,” Rob commented. Just as I started to relax a little, the ascent got steeper. “Aaaayyyy!” Then it turned a corner. “Eeeeeyyy!” Maybe I was being a bit overly dramatic, but this was hard compared to a chair lift.

A few minutes passed, seeming like hours. The snowboarder in front of us fell off, his rope and bar snapping up from under him. Phew! At least I wasn’t that guy. Yet. Finally, the end was in sight. A wave of relief hit me, followed by a new wave of panic. How do I get off this thing?

“LET GO!”

After a small ordeal of letting go just a little too late, we were there. The very top of Peak 8! It was treeless, windswept, icy, and nearly abandoned. Normally I’d be nervous about the expert terrain ahead, but not this time. I had just been pulled up a mountain on what looks like a big bungee cord with a little stick at the end of it. I felt like I could take on anything. T Bar lift: conquered. A celebratory beer at the T Bar bar was in order.

Safe Travels,

VacationRoost Ambassador Cynthia

Consider Big Sky: the largest skiing area in the U.S.

January 27, 2014
Big sky resort.

Big Sky Country. (Photo: Scott Spiker)

Big Sky, Montana lives up to its name, with expansive vistas that stretch out over seemingly endless miles of stunning scenery. Home to soaring mountaintops and bountiful powder, Montana offers limitless chances for exploration and fun in the wintertime. Big Sky recently combined with Moonlight Basin resort making it the largest skiing area in the U.S. with more than 5,500 ski-able acres. Massive terrain topped with an average over 400 inches of annual snowfall makes for epic skiing. The resort’s terrain offers long, winding groomers, steep chutes, powder-filled bowls, and diverse backcountry terrain. Escape city life for Montana’s Big Sky country! Explore travel deals and resort conditions on our Big Sky page.

Events

  • Big Sky Big Grass Festival is a three day celebration of live music, February 6-9th
  • Watch the 4th Annual Ski Jouring Competition followed by a free concert at the Banquet Hall, February 1-2nd
Big sky monlight basin.

Big terrain at Big Sky Moonlight Basin. (Photo courtesy: Big Sky Resort)

Activities

  • Tube Park: perfect for the whole family
  • Snowshow tours: a great way to explore the side terrain
  • Nordic skiing: a fun way to burn the extra vacation calories!
  • Ice climbing: for the adventurous visitor Big Sky has epic climbing in Gallatin Canyon
  • Snowmobile tours: take a spin on a snowmobile through the Buck Creek Range.
  • Sleigh rides: couples or families will enjoy this ride

Safe Travels,

The VacationRoost Team

Why We Love Spring Skiing

January 24, 2014

As the snow starts to melt and the sun starts to shine, ski resorts transform from a place of serious skiing to venues of wacky competitions, live music and a lot of fun. Skiing in soft snow on a Blue Bird afternoon makes spring one of the best times to hit the slopes. Resort calendars are filled with events you don’t want to miss including Canyons Resort’s Spring Gruv Pond Skimming contest and Breckenridge’s month-long Spring Fever Festival. Let us help plan your next spring vacation today and take part in all of festivities of spring.

Besides the sunshine, here are all of the things we love about spring skiing:

  • The Trifecta: skiing, golfing and mountain biking on the same day!
  • Swapping our ski boots to flip flops
  • Skiers gone wild — spring breakers take over the resorts for a week filled with fun parties
  • Beers on the ski beach
  • Parking lot grilling post skiing (with shot skis!)
  • Lap the resort in a hoodie
  • Snow bunnies in bikinis
  • Guys snowboarding shirtless
  • Our ski legs are finally in shape!
  • Google tans
  • Free concerts
  • Longer days = skiing in the sun for longer

What do you love about spring skiing?

Safe Travels,

The VacationRoost Team

How Denver Locals Ski on the Cheap

January 15, 2014
Denver locals skiing.

Denver locals skiing on the cheap with an Epic pass.

No matter how you slice it, skiing and snowboarding can be pricey pastimes. The costs of flights, baggage fees, lodging, equipment, lift tickets, dining, and transit start piling up like fresh snowfall.

So how does a ragamuffin like me make her way onto the lifts? Proximity and frequency. The closer you live to the mountain and the more often you go, the less expensive each trip becomes.

Denver, Colorado is fortuitously located just a day trip away from a variety of world-class ski resorts, putting the hobby more within reach for its denizens. Here’s how my commoner friends and I afford high doses of skiing and snowboarding fun on entry-level incomes:

Season passes. If you walk up to a lift ticket window of almost any ski resort on a weekend, you’re likely to pay over $100 for the day. Multiple-day passes or weekday passes might trim that figure slightly, but not by much. Most Denverites find it more worthwhile to buy a season pass, which will pay for itself after five or six days on the mountain. The most popular season passes among Denver locals are the Epic Pass (covers Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone) or the Rocky Mountain Super Pass (covers Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Steamboat, and Monarch).

Vacation Rentals. Denver is within two hours of most major ski resorts but I-25 traffic can turn that into a very long day trip, especially on the weekend. Ideally you want a place in the mountains to crash for the night in order to string a few days together. You can find great last minute deals on vacation rentals including condos and homes for the weekend. Season-long rentals are also available and can be great for large groups of people.  For example, 10 to 15 people can split the season-long lease on a 4 to 6 person condo, bringing costs down to around $150 per person per month. They’ll reserve their dates on a shared calendar and invite friends when there’s extra space. As a guest, I’ll pay a $20 or $30 guest fee. I just bring my own air mattress and sleeping bag and join the winter-long slumber party!

Denver gear swap sign.

Denver gear swap is a great way to save money on gear.

Gear swapping.
The specialized gear involved in skiing and snowboarding is pricey enough to break any leisure budget. Luckily, Denver is a robust marketplaces for used, overstock and closeout gear. If you’ve lived here long enough, you probably know about Sports Authority’s annual “Sniagrab” sale, REI garage sales where returned items go for cheap, and the gear swaps at Wilderness Exchange. You’ve probably found a gently-used gems on Craigslist or a thrift store. You’ve probably discovered online bargain sites like SteepAndCheap and The Clymb. If you’ve lived here long enough, you probably haven’t paid full price for any of your outdoor goods.

Free parking lot shuttle.

Allow a few extra minutes and save a few extra bucks by taking a shuttle from free parking lots.

Carpooling. With the major costs of lift tickets, lodging and gear diffused, the next expense to tackle is transportation. A trip from Denver to any of the major resorts costs me up to a full tank of gas. While solo days have their appeal, I don’t like to be an SOV. It’s more cost-effective to ask around for a carpool or post in rideshare forums online. Also, resorts usually offer a choice between paid parking and free parking with shuttle service. You can probably guess by now which one I generally choose.

Lunch packing. I simply refuse to pay ski resort prices for cafeteria-style food. An $8 slice of pizza that’s been sweating oil under a heat lamp all day? No thanks. I’d much rather pack a bagel sandwich in the cargo pocket of my snow pants and stock up on the freebie granola bars at the base to get me through the day. I’ll save the dining money for dinner in town, where fast-casual options mean a more-for-your-money meal to finish off the day.

Safe Travels,

VacationRoost Ambassador Cynthia

Tips for a Good Road Trip

January 13, 2014
Author with friends on trip.

Nikole with her friends at a stop along the way.

This past weekend, I took my second ever road trip with some friends down to Washington D.C. to help a friend move. The first road trip I took was in October 2013 and it was from Chicago to Nashville. Naturally, I am now an expert at road trips and as an expert, I have a list of five tips to make your road trip extra awesome!

 1)  Pack some food

You’re going to definitely be making pit stops along the way for bathroom and stretching, but I found that not having to stop for food was helpful. On my first trip we had a cooler we filled with snacks and beers, and on the second trip we bought food before we hit the road and then some gas station snacks along the way. Make sure to pack some fruits and vegetables, because sitting for 8+ hours at a time are going to make you feel kind of gross anyway, so adding chips and chocolate to that mix won’t help.

2)  Bring water!

This one can be hard because you don’t want to have to stop a million times for the bathroom but staying hydrated is super important. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated as it is, but when you’re in a car and focusing on the road you can often forget to be drinking lots of fluids. Hydrate yourself!

 3)  Get a good playlist

Road trip number one was taken with a friend who I am dubbing the queen of playlists. Half of the music on my iTunes comes from her music. She had hours and hours of music loaded onto her iPod so there was never a problem of deciding who got to control the music.

4)  Find awesome things to see along the way

There’s an app you can download that tells you different landmarks nearby where you are, but you have to pay for each segment of your trip. To break the trip up a bit, do some research ahead of time and chose a few interesting places to stop along the way.

5)  Split up the driving

I’m going to admit, this is not my strong suit. I’m a naturally nervous driver, even more so when its a car that isn’t covered under my insurance where if I crashed I would be broke forever. So I was fairly useless in this department, and for that I apologize to my friends. Otherwise, make sure to break the driving up fairly. It sucks when one person is stuck driving the entire time (unless they enjoy driving. In which case, more power to them!)

Hit the road, everyone!

VacationRoost Ambassador Nikole

Newly Reopened June Mountain is Perfect for Families

January 7, 2014
June Mountain Lift

June Mountain Lift is perfect for kids.

With a ‘Chalet’ lodge perched on the top of a mountain face like a cozy castle, weekly bonfires and s’mores events, wildlife and nature walk programs, and a playful mascot named Bucky, it’s no wonder children consider skiing June Mountain to be magical. Long described as a ‘best kept secret’ amid the California ski crowds descending upon the Eastern Sierras, June Mountain–just outside Yosemite National Park–provides tranquility, community, and seriously fun skiing a world apart from its big sister, Mammoth Mountain.

For years, June may have been a secret too well kept, forcing its temporary closure for the 2012-2013 season. Managing Director Carl Williams spent the interim carving out a new family-friendly focus for June that plays to its natural strengths of affordability, fun, and pristine location.

Families used to the sometimes-overwhelming array of options, lifts, and visitors of Mammoth Mountain will find a slower pace at June, except in the un-crowded lift lines: only the double-chair ride up J1 to the Chalet may feel dizzying. Families arrive off the lift into the sanctuary of a lodge straight out of most parents’ youth, complete with wooden construction–no iron and steel accents here–and a roaring fire in a real–forget electric or gas–fireplace. Beginner and intermediate terrain span outward from the chalet’s wide wrap-around deck, offering stellar views of the Sierras and little learners.

Ambiance and atmosphere is all well and good, but June is standing behind their new family-friendly focus in a tangible way that will appeal to parents’ wallets, too: kids 0-12 now ski free at June Mountain all day, any day. No blackouts, no restrictions. As if this isn’t enough incentive to get kids to this hill, ski and snowboard lessons for kids at June are roughly half of what they cost at nearby Mammoth Mountain, making June an ideal place to get those first days on the snow under one’s belt.

June Mountain photo of children and reindeer.

Family fun on the slopes.

Thanks to June’s manageable size (it boasts seven lifts and 35 named trails), school-aged kids can be let loose to ski on their own while parents explore the glades…or the famous Antler Bar. Runs funnel down to J2 and the Chalet, allowing for easy lunch meet-ups and stress-free departures. Take a mid-morning break to try an expert-led nature walk through the snow, or see what you can spot from the chair; thanks to June’s wilderness, it’s not unusual to see wild animal tracks in the snow. From this vantage point, it’s hard to remember one is only 20 minutes from Mammoth.

Mammoth Mountain lift tickets are accepted at June Mountain, allowing families to split their ski vacation between both resorts. Start with lessons for the kids at June to stretch your ski vacation dollar before exploring Mammoth…though be warned: you may run right back to the tranquility of June!

Safe Travels,

VacationRoost Ambassador Amy

9 Ways to Save on a Ski Vacation

December 20, 2013

Vacations can be pricey and ski vacations are no exception. They don’t have to be though. There are tons of ways to save money on your next ski trip. The #1 way to save money is to talk to a local Destination Expert before you book your travel. It’s free to call and they can give you tips about your entire trip. Read more on our website about how using public transportation or reserving rental equipment ahead of time can save you money on your next ski vacation.

Safe Travels,

The VacationRoost Team

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