One of the benefits of living in a mountain town is that we can pick and choose our ski days. To be honest, it’s pretty rare for our family to spend a full day on the hill. We typically head up for a few runs early in the morning when the snow is fresh and crowds are low, or put the boys into their snowboard program so they can ride with friends and coaches. We invest pretty heavily in our home mountain for this luxury, so taking a family ski trip to another Vermont mountain hasn’t really been in the cards. But this year, I’ve been working with the folks at Ski Vermont to launch All Mountain Mamas, a parent-to-parent blog that on the Ski Vermont website that offers families an honest review of the mountains, and have had the opportunity to be a tourist in my home state.
In the past few weeks, we have visited Killington and Mount Snow (both trips are reviewed on the All Mountain Mamas blog, along with reviews from the other All Mountain Mamas on different ski resorts in Vermont). Being on vacation in my home state opened my eyes to the challenges that a newcomer to Vermont’s ski scene might encounter when planning a trip, and so this post is to offer up some tips and resources of planning a family ski vacation to Vermont.
Planning Your Trip
First up, choosing a mountain. Each ski town really does have it’s own vibe, so choosing the right mountain for your family depends on so many factors– budget, the age of your kids, how far you’re willing to drive, and what kind of skiing and riding you’re looking for. Here are a few resources and bits of information to help you make the best decision for your family:
- Ski Vermont’s “Find a Resort” page is a good place to start, with a map and quick overview of each mountain.
- The biggest “x factor” in planning a ski trip to Vermont is, of course, the weather. The mountains are all eager to open before Thanksgiving, but as a mom and a native Vermonter, I’d put my money on late February or early March. The temps are milder and March is a historically snowy month in Vermont.
- Skip busy holiday weekends if you can. I realize that we all live and die by our kids school schedules, but if at all possible, plan a non-holiday weekend (or better yet, a midweek!) stay. Even if you don’t find a deal, you’ll get more for your money since you won’t waste time waiting in traffic, waiting in line for the lift, or waiting for a table in the lodge.
- Look for 3rd party reviews from other parents. All Mountain Mamas, Ski Vermont’s new blog, includes reviews from four different family travel bloggers (including yours truly). The idea of the blog is to give you a feel for the resort experience at each mountain– what trails to try, reviews of the ski school, resort amenities, and tips for making the most of your stay.
- Another great resource is Vermont Mountain Moms. Less about the resort and more about the village, the Vermont Mountain Moms blog aims to provide you with a local’s perspective on the best places to eat and stay, and things to do in each ski town. If you’re looking for where the local mom’s take their own kids, start here.
- Once you’ve figured out where to go, finding out what’s going on is next up. The resort websites almost always have an events calendar, but I also like to pick up a copy of the local paper, which will have information about happenings around town as well. Another great resource for events is Find & Go Seek, which has a comprehensive listing of family-friendly events around Vermont, even including local story hours.
Packing for Your Ski Trip
Okay, you’ve figured out where to go and booked your room, now what to pack? By the time we get all our gear and bags into the car, it would appear as though we’re heading off on a three-month arctic expedition, but such is life with kids! Having done the packing and unpacking a few times this winter, I got it down to a science. Here are the essentials for a weekend ski trip:
- Two pair of good, warm base layers.
- One warm mid-layer (fleece, lightweight wool, or thin down).
- Two pair of warm ski socks (Darn Tough are awesome).
- A “neckie,” balacava, and/or face mask.
- Waterproof outerwear: mittens, snowpants, jacket (Gore-tex is the best!).
- Helmets and goggles.
- Warm hat.
- Skis, boots, snowboards (duh).
- One decent outfit for eating out (ski towns are notoriously casual; jeans are almost always just fine).
- One other outfit for travel, apres ski, heading down to the arcade, etc. In my house, it’s jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies all around.
- Bathing suit. Many resorts have outdoor heated pools, which the kids will definitely want to hit.
- A bag of snacks. Granola bars, crackers and cheese, chips and salsa, fruit, nuts…having a few healthy snacks around cuts down on trips to the french-fry counter and makes sure kids don’t bonk.
- Dermatone and hand-warmers. I rarely leave the house in winter without a Dermatone. It is awesome as chapstick and works really well to prevent wind burn and frost bite on sensitive cheeks. Hand warmers are essential on a cold day. No one has fun when their fingers are frozen.
- Children’s Tylenol, a thermometer, and a few band-aids because who wants to be racing around a sleepy ski town trying to find an open pharmecy?
Making the Most of Your Trip
My good friend Amanda of Vermont Mountain Moms writes this: “They say getting lost is the best way to get to know a place. That’s great when you’re in your 20s or retirement years, but when you’re traveling with kids with limited vacation days, you just can’t afford to spend your time fumbling around.” So true! Here are a few tips for making the most of your family ski vacation:
- Familiarize yourself with the trail map. I’m not saying you need to plan every run of the day, but take a few minutes with the family to figure out where you want to go first together. A new mountain can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s no fun to end up in uncomfortable terrain or at the wrong lift.
- Plan an early (or late) lunch. I like to aim for lunch around 11/11:30 a.m. before the lodges get crowded. We had a really frustrating experience this winter where we could not get a table (even after waiting 40 minutes) and ended up holding the trays so the kids could eat their burgers standing up. Not relaxing.
- Avoid Saturday afternoon when the hill is the busiest. It’s worth getting up and out early at a ski resort– the snow is better and the lines are shorter. Mornings are always less crowded, since those who partake in the apres scene may be sleeping in. “Last call, first chair” is a nice sentiment, but rarely a reality.
- If you’re kids have never skied, or are not very strong skiers, consider ski school. The instructors I have encountered here in Vermont have been impressive– skilled in teaching and making the experience fun for kids. Let’s face it, most kids don’t really want to be taught how to ski or ride by their parents. Consider it an investment in future ski trips where you all spend the day on the hill together.
That’s it! With a little bit of planning and organization, you can skip so much hassle. After all, a family ski vacation should be about spending a day in the great outdoors with your kids. Enjoy!