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Learning to ski: WinterFest at Beaver Creek

Monday, December 26, 2011 Leave a Comment

When Beaver Creek says they love kids, you better believe it.

We went up for the opening of Winterfest, a family friendly lineup of events and skiing through December 31. It has been SIX YEARS since my husband and I have been on skis. Having kids will do that.

And we put our 5 year old in his very first ski lesson!

Day 1: The journey is the destination 

I admit: the two hour drive was not without a little angst. Not only was the dramamine alternative not as effective as the original, but I had that nagging feeling that my boys were not ready for a ski vacation. Just the thought of dressing them struck me with fear: I can barely keep gloves on them at home, and the 2 year old flat out refuses to wear coats.

I solved the "what to wear" problem with a handy service called Mountain Threads. Started by a  Genessee mom who knew kids can outgrow their expensive ski clothes in a season, Mountain Threads lets you rent them at reasonable prices. They met us at Exit 256 on I-70, transferred our bag of warm clothes to our car, and we were off.

Upon arrival, we checked in to our condo with kitchen at The Seasons at Avon. It's not slope side, but this family friendly mix of owner-occupied and time share condos was perfect for us, with room for the boys to run around, a TV in the bedroom and the living room, a kitchen and laundry, and the new Avon Rec Center with a pool right next door. TIP: Book By January 1st and Save Up To 30% on Lodging! You won't find a better deal on lodging later this season, so book now for up to 30% off on lodging all season long! Rates starting from just $120/person per night.

We unpacked, bundled up and headed to the Beaver Creek Village for some dinner and ice skating. The 5 year old was so excited he could hardly stand it - music was playing, the rink was full of laughing kids, and the energy was palpable. While Dad and the 2 year old wandered through shops, watched us skate next to one of the fire pits, chatted with families from all over the world and drank hot cocoa, Mom and the 5 year old wobbled and slid and giggled around the ice for almost two hours. We could not get him off the ice!

By that time, the wait for family-favorite Blue Moose Pizza was over an hour, so we ordered our pizza to go and kept skating.

Day 2: Hitting the Slopes

The first thing we agreed on was this: there was no hurry.

We had to (1) get the 5 year old registered for ski school and settled in, (2) get the 2 year old to Small World Daycare in the village, and (3) get our own skis rented.  I figured it would be after 10 by the time we caught our first lift.

We quickly learned the Beaver Creek Ski School is a finely tuned machine run by experts in child psychology. From the moment you walk in the door, you are greeted by helpful folks to direct you to the right forms, the right lines and the rental area. What I really loved was this: There is a firm line between ski school and parent drop-off. Once the kids go behind the curtain to be fitted for boots and skis, parents must say their goodbyes. Thank goodness:  no lingering, no clinging, no whining.

It took a surprisingly short time to check in at ski school!

TIP: Beaver Creek Ski School is among the very best in the world. Their instructors are there because they want to teach kids, and many of them have been there for years. In fact, many have taught generations of families how to ski! It's not cheap: $171 per day (includes lesson, lift and lunch) but when you see your little one coming down the hill and stopping, you'll agree - it's worth it. Make sure to pre-register online to streamline the process!

Next stop: Small World Daycare.  Same drill: employees take charge, give quick goodbyes, and the kids are whisked into the playroom. As a parent, I love that.

Then it was off to Christy Sports for our rentals, where we discovered skis are much shorter and fatter than we were used to. The better to turn with! The employees all had fun accents (Italian) and yes, they strapped me into my boots and took extra care with us. We felt pampered just renting skis. Tip: Book 24 hours in advance and save up to 20% off walk in rates.

To the lifts!

No kids. Blue skies. A full day, just me and my husband. A long, leisurely lunch.  Can you say heavenly?

TIP: Beaver Creek has plenty of easy, groomed, cruiser greens at the top of the mountain, while the blues and blacks tend to be on the lower half. It's like the mountain is turned upside down to give beginners and those of us getting our ski legs back the chance to enjoy the whole mountain. The runs were long, fun, and yes - challenging! My quads were burning!

By 3:00, we were happily exhausted and having Irish coffees on the deck of the Park Hyatt, watching our 5 year old coming down the magic carpet hill. We got a full download from his instructor: he picked it up quickly, great at stopping, ready to work on turns. We noticed a lot of instructors on the mountain giving one-on-one lessons to young and old. Beaver Creek is all about the personal touch!

Down in the village, a holiday parade was going on, along with some real live Colorado wild animals (Possums, my boy informed us) and the highlight among many in the day: a chat with Santa.

We had dinner reservations at Toscanini, a nice Italian restaurant in the Village. We were at the door with two misbehaving, squabbling boys. We just looked at each other with a look of "should we put ourselves through hell trying to keep them at a dull roar through dinner, or hit the Burger King in town?"

We opted for Burger King.

TIP: Winter or summer, the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt is premium slope side lodging. S'mores at the fire pits every afternoon, live apres ski music, all the amenities.

Day 3: Exploring

Here's how accommodating Beaver Creek Ski School is: our boy was all registered and ready to go when he had a little trouble getting out of all his layers in time to make it to the bathroom.

No problem, they said. We see it all the time. Just a fresh pair of long johns and he's good to go.

But he was mortified and no amount of cajoling could convince him to go back to ski school.

Instead, we took the gondola up the mountain and back down (it's free if you don't have ski gear), had a snowball fight, did some more ice skating, explored the shops and drank hot cocoa.

It was a good day.

  • Winterfest has activities all week long through New Year's Eve.
  • In addition to Winterfest, Beaver Creek Loves Kids will take place during other holidays throughout the season including President’s Week Feb. 18-25, 2012, Spring Break March 10-31, 2012 and Easter week April 1-7, 2012. 
  • Wondering what happens in ski school? Check it out:

Disclosure: Beaver Creek Resorts hosted our  family, but my opinions are all my own.


  • Unknown said:  

    When you like Park Hyatt Beaver Creek on Facebook, you get deal alerts like ski free/stay free deals or up to $500 credits through December 31!