Friday, December 21, 2012

Not-So-Secret Tips for a Happy Ski Vacation

As any parent knows, expectations run high this time of year for young and old alike.  With so many tasks to juggle, I'm hoping this list of tips will help make your ski vacation be just that: a true vacation from the everyday, with time to truly cherish some family moments.

Following your holiday festivities with Santa next week, many of you will be joining me for a week filled with all things Winter Fun: skiing and riding, skating, snowshoeing, dogsledding, sleigh rides, tubing, and of course, a little hot chocolate at the end of the day.

Here are a few dos and don'ts as you head to the resort next week:

Make sure that you make reservations for all the great activities you'd like to take part in.  Ski school,  canopy tours, babysitting, sleigh or dogsled rides and many other activities fill up over vacation week, so be sure to call the activities desk ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out.  (And don't forget your Spa reservations; you deserve it after all you've done to get the gifts under the tree and the family to the mountain!)  Lift tickets, rentals, and ski school reservations can also be made online ahead of time, which will give you more time when you're at the mountain to be on the snow.

Show up for first tracks.  There are some days when it's nice to linger over your morning pancakes and coffee, but vacation week is the time to get an early start.  You'll get a better parking spot, avoid lines for rentals, lessons, the lifts, and enjoy some fresh corduroy, or even perhaps some untouched powder tucked away in the woods.

Make use of those friendly red-coated Ambassadors you see in the parking lots and along the entrance to the lodge.  Need some help carrying all that gear AND managing the kids? They'll be happy to help. Wondering where to go for lessons?  They'll head you in the right direction.  At your mid-morning break, search them out: they'll be handing out steaming cups of hot cider to warm you up.

Ski on trails that you can't see from the lifts.  There seems to be a draw for people to ski on Bigger Ben and Range View, perhaps because you can see all the great snow you'll find as you speed over those trails on your way up the lifts.  But if you're looking to find a trail that's a bit less populated, do a little exploring.  Just to skier's left of Bigger Ben, In Between is a "hidden gem" that winds over the terrain cut to take advantage of the contours of the mountain.  Crawford's Blaze will also take you away from the masses along an undulating ride through the forest.

Ride on lifts you can't see from the base lodge.  When the Bethlehem and Zephyr lifts get busy at high times, usually between 10:00 and 2:00, enjoy some of the terrain you can access from the Rosebrook or West Mountain lifts.  The lines at these lifts are usually much shorter, and again, you can explore new trails that are less frequented than those that you can see from the lifts.

Break early for lunch. The base lodge will get busy at high noon with hungry skiers and riders looking to fill up on hearty soups and sandwiches, so buck the system and head in closer to 11:00 for lunch - you'll be ready for some chow by then, since you arrived for first tracks!  Then, when everyone else piles in for lunch, you can be back out on the trails.  For an elevated lunch, try Latitude 44, at the top of the Bethlehem Express Quad, for a quick sit-down lunch and stunning views of the Presidentials.

Relax and have fun.  Remember to enjoy each other's company, whether you're sharing a lift ride or just waiting in line to pay for that chocolatey brownie you'll share as a reward for a few good runs.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fitting In Some Fun Shopping

Okay, I admit it: I'm a procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping.  I don't shop on Black Friday and I certainly don't plan ahead and buy Christmas gifts in July.  The truth is, given the chance, I'd much rather be playing outside than spending the day indoors at the stores.  Luckily, there are some places where I can combine my love of skiing with a little shopping, like TreeTop Sports at Bretton Woods.

The top of my list includes my favorite winter gift: hats. Everyone could use another fun hat to add to their collection. They are easy give: you don't have to guess at sizing and they're easy to wrap and ship.  Last year I sent Skida hats to my family in Colorado.  Skida has a great story: they are made locally in Vermont by a skier and student, and the company donates hats to cancer patients as well as proceeds for Olympic racers.  Here's my friend Nicole and me with our Skida hats on for a Nordic ski day last spring:

For the kids, I love these Sesame Street character hats and mittens.  Perfect for my little Cookie Monsters!

Animal hats with ear flaps have several benefits: in addition to keeping their ears covered, with a fun animal on their heads, imaginations run wild and Mom doesn't have to convince the little angels to keep them on.

For the skier in your life that needs a gorgeous sweater, I love the Core Sweater from Spyder.  Spyder offers sizing all the way down to 2T, so even the little guy can warm up with this one.  The Bitsy Virtue Fill Zip is cut slim enough to layer under a ski jacket, but the mid-weight fleece will keep her warm on extended laps on the bunny hill

You may, like me, also need to find some last minute stocking stuffers!  How about some ski socks from Darn Tough (another local company, and they also come in sizes for the little skiers),  or a Turtle Fur Totally Tubular that can be worn as a neck warmer, headscarf, or headband?

If you want the full luxury treatment, head to the Bogner shop at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.  The Munich-based company, known for its high-end sports fashions, now offers a virtual clothing store where you can select custom clothing, gear and accessories electronically, and your order is mailed directly to you.

Still stuck for the perfect gift?  For the thrill-seeker on your list, I think a Canopy Tour gift certificate would make their Christmas morning!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Power of the Kid Posse

Do you ever feel like you need a little inspiration to get the kids motivated to ski?

Last Sunday, we were on our 5th ski day out of the last ten days, and it seemed like the kids were just going through the motions.  Timmy was more interested in making block towers with the door stops in the lodge, and Bridget lacked her usual bubbly enthusiasm for conquering the mountain. Outdoor Dad and I were thinking we might need to just cut our losses; we have said time and again that we want this to be FUN - if skiing isn't fun, because the kids are tired (skiing takes a LOT out of those little bodies) or just need a change of pace, then maybe we should just head home.

But then, by chance, we ran into one of Bridget's old friends, and we hopped on the lift with her and her Dad.  Suddenly, little girl laughter and jibber-jabber filled the air.  They hadn't seen each other in months, and now were ecstatic to have a skiing playmate.  Rejuvenated, Bridget and her friend filled the lift rides with giggles and stories, and took turns making up games to play on the runs down.  They had a contest to see how many turns they could make in one run.  They played follow the leader.  They tried skiing backwards on the flatter parts.  And they raced, again and again.  Soon, another skiing family arrived and we had a whole posse of kids, from ages 3 through 6, romping over the snow.  They     joked as only they could, shouting from one chairlift to another and giggling hysterically when one friend lost his ski when he got on the lift.  (Luckily his Dad grabbed it and everyone was safe.)  Lap after lap, they just got back in line each time they reached the bottom, barely noticing if the grown-ups were along for the ride or not.

It was great to see them just having fun (that's the point, right?) and not worrying about anything else.   No grown-ups cajoling them to hurry up, or slow down, or to make more turns.  It was an unusually warm day and no one was in danger of getting too cold.  The kids ski gang took on a life of its own, and while they were playing, unbeknownst to them, they were learning, too.  Their games were allowing them to practice all those things we want them to learn on the snow: keeping their weight forward, finding balance on skis, and avoiding collisions as other skiers act as moving targets down the mountain.  Bridget's friend's dad, who is a racing coach, even showed them how to do a tuck on the flat section of the bunny hill.

It was great to end the day with smiles on our faces, and I hope all our friends can join us again for another skiing adventure.  What do you do to make it fun for your kids?