It is important to do some research before you decide to plan a ski
vacation. Each resort has something special to offer and you need to
decide which one works best for you. You may find that your
requirements change as your children get older and become more advanced
skiers. In addition, advance planning is necessary if you are going to
attempt a vacation during one of the holiday weeks. Asking the right
questions and gathering useful information will give you the ability to
properly evaluate each resort.
Important things that
you should consider when you are selecting a ski resort for your family:
First, you must determine
how much you are willing to spend on this vacation. This will help you
to decide what type of lodging you need. Lodging at ski resorts can
range from hotel rooms to multi-bedroom condos or houses and of course
prices will vary accordingly. Depending on whether you are on or off the
mountain will also determine the cost of lodging. Consider
traveling with another family to share the cost of lodging. In deciding
on lodging keep in mind that walking in ski boots is difficult. You
should attempt to keep walking distance to the slopes minimal. My
suggestion, from experience, would be ski-in, ski-out
lodging. The convenience of being able to ski almost to the door
of your lodging is worth the extra money.
Second, do you want to fly to your
destination or drive? You
must investigate distance to the resort for either choice. Flying can
sometimes be tricky because you will fly into a major city airport and
then either have to drive or take a shuttle flight to the resort area.
Many resorts can be several hours from the airport. If you plan to drive
you must determine the distance and whether your children can handle the
do you need to rent a car when you arrive at the resort? Can you
walk or shuttle to all resorts, restaurants and attractions? What is the
cost of renting a car? Make sure it is something that will be able
to accommodate all of the equipment if you are carrying it from home.
Again, based on experience we always flew into a major city and rented a
car and drove to the resort. We enjoy having the convenience of
and flexibility of being able to drive where we want to go. You
learn more about the area and tend to venture out and see the surrounds.
difficulty of the slopes at each resort will vary. It is important that
you select the proper resort for the skill level of your family.
Fifth, consider other options to
keep the kids amused. Does the
resort have a pool, ice skating, sleigh rides, or tubing? Do you need
to make reservations in advance for these activities? What is the cost
and does it fit your budget? Does the resort have childcare available if
you need it? Remember in most cases ski school is only
part of the day. Consider who will care for your child for the rest of
investigate how the resort's ski school programs are structured. Check
to see if advance reservations are required and find out the cost.
Determine if they give sibling discounts? Ask what are the age
requirements and how the children are grouped? Be sure to find out how
long the lessons are and where they take place. What if your child wants
to stop skiing after one hour? Does the ski school offer beepers or a
way to contact you? Be
sure that there are instructors available to communicate with your child
in their native language.
Seventh, if you don't have your
own equipment, rental costs can eat up a large portion of your vacation
budget. Compare rental prices at local ski stores with those at the
resort. Consider the hassle factor of carrying all of that equipment
with you on the trip verses renting it there. Renting at the resort can
be beneficial in case something is uncomfortable or breaks.
10 great places to peacefully glide cross-country
Compliments of USA TODAY
With ski season in full swing, a growing number of winter-sports enthusiasts are forgoing crowded downhill ski resorts in favor of a more serene alternative — cross-country skiing. Chris Frado, executive director and president of the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (xcski.org), shares her list of favorite wintry places with Tim Smight for USA TODAY.
Sun Mountain Lodge
Situated on the eastern slope of the Cascades about 220 miles from Seattle, Sun Mountain Lodge sits atop an extensive cross-country trail system that makes its way down the mountain and across the scenic Methow Valley below. "Methow Valley is one of the largest Nordic centers in North America, with more than 120 miles of interconnected trails," Frado says. "The terrain is varied to suit all skill levels, from beginners to competitive racers."
Great Glen Trails
Nestled amid New Hampshire's picturesque White Mountains, Great Glen Trails was designed expressly for cross-country skiing. Twenty-five miles of groomed trails wend their way through the trees and meadows. "There's a real harmony to skiing the trails here," Frado says. "Your skis almost seem to sing over the snow." Close by is the town of Jackson, "a quintessential New England village, complete with a covered bridge."
"Tamarack is a brand-new resort that caters to both downhill and cross-country skiers," Frado says. "The lodge is truly luxurious, with magnificent views of the surrounding Payette River Mountains. There are more than 15 miles of cross-country trails — all at moderate altitude, which makes for fun skiing." Tamarack also offers guided cross-country ski and snowshoeing excursions.
Devil's Thumb Ranch
Devil's Thumb, 70 miles north of Denver, has a reputation for environmental responsibility as well as outstanding skiing. "They believe in maintaining the integrity and natural beauty of the property, and they really live up to that ideal," Frado says. "More than 60 miles of trails wend through 5,000 acres of meadow and forest, with minimal impact on the land. You can truly immerse yourself in nature here."
"White Grass is down-home, relaxed and nurturing — all about having fun on skis," Frado says. Tucked into a snowy corner of the Cabin Mountains in West Virginia, White Grass draws cross-country skiing enthusiasts from all over the East. "They have more than 15 miles of groomed trails suitable for family skiing, and offer guided cross-country treks into the higher and more challenging terrain," Frado says. "They also have a wonderful natural-foods cafe."
Located just 20 minutes from the trendy downhill ski enclave of Park City, Soldier Hollow served as the cross-country ski venue for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. "Mere mortals can ski the same trails as the world-class athletes — and then head for a Park City cafe to relax and celebrity-watch," Frado says. The resort has more than 20 miles of groomed trails for all skill levels, and offers spectacular views of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains.
Located in northwest Minnesota, about an hour east of Fargo, N.D., Maplelag is an out-of-the way but very popular cross-country ski destination. Originally a maple syrup farm, the property has been family-owned and operated for two generations. In addition to 40 miles of well-groomed skiing trails, Maplelag offers sledding, ice skating and ice fishing. "The family-style meals are wonderful, and the bottomless jars of homemade cookies in the lodge are also a nice touch," Frado says.
Soda Springs, Calif.
Sprawling across 9,000 acres in the heart of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, Royal Gorge bills itself as North America's largest cross-country ski resort. A short drive from the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, the resort offers skiers more than 190 miles of groomed track for all skill levels. "The trail system at Royal Gorge is fantastic," Frado says. "There are warming huts and trailside cafes along the way, which make for great rest stops. They also run an excellent ski school for beginners."
Trapp Family Lodge
"This is the home of the legendary von Trapp family singers, whose story was told in The Sound of Music," Frado says. "They brought cross-country skiing with them from Austria in 1950 and created what became the first Nordic resort in the U.S." Centered by an Austrian-style main lodge that overlooks the historic town of Stowe, the resort offers 28 miles of groomed track and another 62 miles of challenging backcountry trails.
Camp Sagawau Nordic
City dwellers who don't have the time for a ski trip need not despair, Frado says. Many urban areas allow cross-country skiing in local parks and nature preserves. "One example is the Chicago area, which has seven cross-country ski centers in county forest preserves. Sagawau Nordic in southwest Cook County is one of the best. It's small, with only a few miles of groomed trail, but it's a great place to learn the sport or get a quick skiing fix."