Colorado resorts are moving family time from apres-ski to the slopes

From Amy Tara Koch

Family time might not be the very first thing that comes to mind when you think of frightening downhill runs like Corbet’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Highland Bowl in Aspen, Colorado, or the Big Couloir in Big Sky, Montana. This is precisely why so many ski destinations celebrated because of their daredevil Instagram feeds have been ramping up features to better engage and excite families with beginner skiers — on the slopes and off.

Among the newest features on tap marquee resorts this winter: expansive learning parks featuring adventure trails and broad, gently sloping landscapes with snow props which help first-timers learn the fundamentals of the sport, family-focused mountain lodges and expanded ski-school offerings for toddlers and teens.

The kid-friendly alpine adventures continue when the lifts alongside apres-ski offerings including ice skating, rock climbing, s’mores-making and open-air sleigh rides. Here’s a rundown of this season’s new additions.

Aspen, Colorado: Though the alpenglow of 14,000-foot peaks is this resort’s calling card, Aspen Snowmass — that is composed of four mountains: Buttermilk (green), Snowmass (green/intermediate), Aspen and Highlands (equally steep black terrain and backcountry) — is also a fantastic spot for beginner skiers. This year, it will enlarge its trademark Terrain Based Learning for the 6-and-under collection with sculpted snow features developed to present spatial awareness and basic skills (stopping, turning, equilibrium ) together using props. Translation? Curved walls, controlled wave paths and wee halfpipes enable novices to practice starting, stopping sliding and equilibrium. When the green runs of Buttermilk are conquered, students move to the more challenging terrain in Snowmass where schooling progresses in the exact same prop-based vein. For preteens (8-to-12) searching for camaraderie and dividing abilities, a new small-group app, Kids Mountain Explorers, is now a week-long experience camp handling all four mountains with the same team of kids (depending upon the group’s ability level). On the waterfront front, the about-to-debut Limelight Hotel Snowmass is a dream for parents that crave complex digs minus the stress to continuously shush their own brood. In the center of Snowmass Village (using its celebrated apres-ski s’mores cart), the 99-room ski in/ski out land ’s top-drawer amenities — two pools, an outdoor skating rink, a five-story indoor climbing wall, and a lobby and restaurant with a bean bag chair-studded game space and a ski concierge — would be the meaning of family fabulous.

Beaver Creek, Colorado: Aside from being home to Birds of Prey, the famous downhill, super-G and giant slalom men’s World Cup tour race, the Beaver Creek Resort — that famously functions hot cocoa in chairlifts and just-baked cookies at the mountain shore every afternoon — was burnishing its reputation as a family destination for some time. Building on last year’s debut of Red Buffalo Park, a 200-acre, 13-trail family experience zone for intermediates, comes Haymeadow Park, a studying terrain concentrated on the beginner experience. The new space features Smarte Terrainand also the sculpted runs that allow skiers and snowboarders to hone abilities such as speed controller, breaking and turning. There also will be a gently sloping introductory racecourse to exude confidence in pint-size daredevils. Along with using its own gondola and magic carpets (surface lifts for newbies that are like moving walkways on snow), the Ranch — the ski school’s kids-only restaurant — could unveil an ice cream parlor specializing in nostalgic sweets. Another benefit for households: After the lifts close, the village of Beaver Creek, as in seasons’ ago, will offer apres-ski programming which includes outdoor, big-screen movie nights, fireside readings of classic stories, presentations by snow and ice artists along with ice skating.

Big Sky, Montana: Lone Peak’s 4,350-foot vertical fall can strike fear into the center of the most experienced skier. However, not all of the Big Sky Resort’s 5,800 skiable acres require avalanche gear. In actuality, 2,300 acres are devoted to beginner and intermediate terrain, even using broad, groomed runs and “predictable pitch” — otherwise known as easy terrain. In 2018, the resort installed four new magic carpets to better support the green regions which include Chet’s Knob, a terrain-based racecourse for novices, also Kidzone, gladded runs at which beginners can acquire expertise weaving by trees. In comparison with these developments, the resort has added to its own ski school supplies with Small Fry Camp, a 1 1/2-hour semester designed to get 3-year-olds on skis and Teen Mountain Experience, a small-group, half-day guided lesson to construct skills and encourage bond with fellow would-be shredders. (After the lesson, kids could be dropped off in the Lone Peak Playhouse, a child-care center connected with the resort, so parents can create a few additional runs.) Chet’s, the resort’s tavern-style eatery in Mountain Village, was entirely revamped this season with an eye toward the family apres-ski along with early-bird dining experience. It provides a kids menu featuring bacon mac and cheese, bagel pizza along with huckleberry grill wings, in addition to board games (playing inside a gigantic teepee( discretionary ) and supervised s’mores- and – gingerbread house-making.

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Park City, Utah: High from the Wasatch Mountain Range, not far out of the lift for a few of this Park City Mountain Resort’s extreme black runs, the 9990shore is High Meadow Park, the resort’s newly reimagined learning region. Its broad swaths of softly sloping beginner terrain are made more thrilling with how the area is located mid-mountain (compared with all the blah mountain base to which the majority of green runs are relegated) and has breathtaking views. The expanded teaching area has yet another enjoyable element: 3 experience trails (gladded runs using a restricted, easy-to-navigate pitch) via a small forest with wooden animal sculptures concealed from the trees — a feature that enhances skills while delivering the feel of back country skiing. Children don’t must go for hot chocolate fractures: The learning area is adjacent to Red Pine Lodge’s grab-and-go restaurant, whose wraparound outdoor deck is the best spot for meeting up with parents for lunch. Last season’s $15 million infusion to the Grand Summit Hotel at the bottom of Canyons Village made this ski in, ski out lodge (steps from the ski vacation ) a favorite of parents who want ample suites and minimal schlepping of gear.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts some of the steepest backcountry skiing in North America. Less famous are its conveniences for newcomer skiers. This season, Solitude Station Learning Center, a new 12,000-square-foot facility only minutes from the bottom and smack in the center of the recently extended Antelope Flats, a network of green-only runs, could shine a spotlight onto the beginner experience. It will offer equipment leasing and lift tickets and ski school drop-off below a roof (formerly it was a busy, multi-stop job ) — a blessing for parents trying to hustle their kids to ski school until hitting the slopes themselves. The airy, wood-accented lodge will possess two cafeteria-style restaurants (with separate areas for kids and adult ’ ski school students), a game-changer to get non-advanced skiers that, in seasons ago, had to descend all the way to the base for lunch. The lodge’s floor-to-ceiling windows along with watching deck, complete with fire pits, offer parents an perfect vantage point from which to see their children begin to cruise.

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Koch is a writer based in Chicago.

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