It’s August so you must be thinking about that winter family travel adventure right? No? Well, it’s definitely not too early to start planning a ski adventure. Ski season officially starts in November. Many of our friends know that we enjoy skiing. Yes, black families ski…and as of June we camp too :). My husband has been skiing about 5 times, and I have been 4 times including the 2 family trips we have taken with the kids. Our second trip with the kids this past February was especially fun because by the end of our trip the boys were going down the big mountain on their own. They haven’t grown up on the slopes or even been around snow so we were super proud of them for trying so hard to get the hang of it. They still have a ways to go before they are truly zipping down the mountain, but we have at least sparked an interest in going skiing again.
Skiing can be a great vacation if you can spare the expense (skiing is definitely not cheap!) and you don’t mind a little snow. I always thought it looked like a cool sport so was excited to try it for the first time when I went with a girlfriend about 6 years ago. The views are amazing and skiing down the mountain is both fun and exhilarating…even for an amateur skier like myself. The great thing about a ski trip is that even if you are not a skier there are many other activities in and around the ski resort. The kids absolutely loved ice skating, snow tubing, and sledding – all which they got to do for the very first time on our ski trips. There is also shopping. And of course I can’t forget Apres Ski (the social events after skiing). Even if you didn’t ski yourself, having a little food and fun after the slopes close is always a good time.
Your major expenses for a ski trip (besides airfare, lodging and food) include lift tickets, ski school (for you and/or the kids), gear rental (skis, boots, and helmet), and ski clothes (coat, pants, base layer, snow boots, ski goggles, waterproof wool socks, ski gloves and hat or balaclava). Your normal cold weather clothes likely won’t do the trick if you’re going out west. There is usually a small discount if you buy your lift tickets or reserve ski school online in advance. You can also save money on ski gear rentals by doing an online search for coupons or discounts for whichever resort you are traveling to. Every ski resort has a plethora of ski gear outfitters nearby so see who is offering the best deal. For ski clothes, don’t feel like you have to purchase these from the specialty ski shops although they do sometimes have good sales. We purchased the kids’ coats, ski pants, socks, gloves and goggles from a combination of Target, Kohl’s and Amazon.com. Knowing how fast they grow, you don’t want to spend too much on these items, but you do want to make sure they will keep them warm.
My top tips when taking a ski trip adventure with your family are:
- For beginners, young and old, I highly recommend ski school. Many adults will only need one day to get the hang of it. For kids, they get professional instruction and get to hang out with other kids at their age and level. This also allows you to get some adult only slope time.
- When traveling with young kids, book lodging as close to the slopes as possible. This could mean paying a slight premium versus other options, but you’ll save yourself both time and sanity by not having to lug gear for your family to the slopes or hear complaints from the kids of being tired. It’s also great to be able to take a mid-day break back at your condo or hotel.
- Prepare for the altitude. It impacts some, but not others. When we visited Keystone, we didn’t have any issue, but this past February in Breckenridge we all seemed to be impacted somewhat. Mainly it was a daily headache. Advice I have read said to drink plenty of water in the week or 2 leading up to your trip. Taking a Tylenol each day and staying hydrated seemed to help us feel better.
We’ve traveled to both Keystone and Breckenridge resorts with our kids. Both are a couple of hours drive from Denver, Colorado. Last year we booked a shuttle to the resort and this year, due to our departure time, we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves. Both options worked well for us and we were fortunate to have great weather on the way to the resorts and ok weather on the way back to Denver for both trips. While fresh snow is great on the mountain, it’s not so great for driving so be sure to take the forecast into consideration when deciding whether to drive or not.
Here’s what we love about each resort.
We love Keystone because they have many activities and if you staying in River Run Village everything is essentially contained to one general area. No need for a car or to catch a cab/uber. The ice skating rink, snow tubing hill, restaurants and store for sundries are all a quick walk or gondola ride away. A few of our favorite eating spots were Kickapoo Tavern, The Crepe Stand and Spoon Café which were all right outside our lodge door.
Speaking of the gondola, we loved it! You get a nice WARM ride up the mountain before zipping back down. I didn’t appreciate it as much until riding the lifts at Breckenridge on one particularly cold and windy day. It’s fast too, which means more time on the actual slopes. The kids even get to ride it for ski school as one of the teaching areas is in the middle of the mountain.
There are also plenty of trails for all skill levels. While I personally like to stay on the greens with an easier blue here or there, there is even variety within that level.
Oh, and they are one of the few resorts that have night skiing! Jean took advantage of that while the kids and I winded down.
Breckenridge is the cutest little town. Where Keystone feels more like its own insulated resort world, in Breckenridge you feel like you’re visiting a small town that happens to also have skiing. While I loved walking down Main Street (yes, it is really named Main Street!) window shopping and people watching, my husband and family not so much. After a long day of skiing, anything further than a few paces away just seemed to be too much for them. The altitude seemed to effect us more here than in Keystone, so that may have contributed to the overall tiredness we experienced.
Breckenridge also has a lot of activities to offer, but again, because it is more ‘town’ than ‘resort area’ you had to either drive or catch a shuttle or cab to get to most places. Neither ice skating or snow tubing was located in the main ski area. We did discover sledding at Carter Park which the kids absolutely LOVED. It was just a few minutes drive from our hotel. And it’s FREE! Our hotel even kept sleds on hand to lend out to guests.
As for the slopes themselves, for me personally, the greens seemed shorter and less diverse compared to Keystone so I felt like I spent more time on lifts. This was great for the kids though and I felt gave them a little more confidence on the slopes.
All in all, we had a great time at both ski resorts and wouldn’t hesitate to return to either of them. Up next though, Park City. I’ve read great things about Utah skiing so can’t wait to check it out and visit a state I’ve never been to!