Get ready for Christmas and New Year's and some snowy fun on the slopes. This is the time many families can take a vacation to a favorite winter resort.
The ski areas want your experience to be perfect so that you come back every year. The best advice is to plan far ahead, according to Tom Watkinson with Colorado's Telluride Resort.
"Make sure everything is confirmed and the resort is ready and waiting for you. Do check-ins the day before the family starts skiing. Don't leave any duties to the day you need to have run smoothly. Get rentals taken care of and the kids checked into ski school. Everyone knows exactly where they need to be and when," Watkinson says. He adds, make your dining reservations, especially for those special meals, before arriving at your destination.
Amy Bassett of New Hampshire's Cannon Mountain agrees. "We recommend that families take some time to do a little research about the programs that we offer. During the holiday periods, it is a good idea for guests to make reservations. Our team will give them all the information they need for their arrival. Preplanning trips is the best way to make this go smoothly."
Preplan your travel too. Chris Eggleton has two small children, and is General Manager for the Newpark Resort and Hotel in Park City, Utah. He says to make transportation from the airport easy. "Minimize inconveniences and hassles - book transportation to from the airport. Parents can relax and enjoy this time with their children and let experts get them to their destination. Also, rent skis and boards to minimize the travel inconvenience of the bulky luggage."
Bruce McCloy of Mt. Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire suggests avoiding weekends. "With Christmas on a Thursday, most kids will be out of school from Wednesday, Dec. 24, right through Friday, Jan. 2. The really peak days will be Saturday through Monday, Dec. 27-29. Tuesday through Thursday will be busy, but not as busy as the weekend."
Mike Harrelson of Travel Montana says think about visiting smaller ski areas or resorts that are "off the beaten path, so that you don't have to contend with massive holiday crowds and long lift times. "Peace and goodwill towards men, women, and kids is greatly enhanced by a low-key, low stress, high quality experience."
He suggests staying slopeside if you can afford it, as it eliminates transportation hassles to and from the ski area, which can significantly minimize the morning craziness (think about that hour before the bus picks up the kids for school).
Jennifer Ekstrom of Idaho's Schweitzer Mountain Resort agrees. "Make a reservation for a condo or hotel on the mountain, and choose one that is easily accessible to chairlifts. Condos are great for families because full kitchens can be utilized to keep the kids fed and happy. Your family can pop in from a run to warm up for a few minutes whenever needed, and the condo makes a great meeting place away from the crowds."
If you can't stay right at the mountain, leave early enough so that you arrive a half-hour before the chairlifts crank up. Harrelson says, "You beat the crowds, you can find a closer parking spot, you can purchase lift tickets before the lines get long and hit the bathroom in peace."
Everyone says to book your holiday packages early. Winter Park, Colo. offers a 10 percent discount if you book seven days in advance (with a few restrictions).
Wolf Mountain, Utah's Bill Cox says, "Prepare your family for their experience by spending time talking about the trip, going to the library or your local ski shop together. Even watching ski or snowboard movies together can help get your future champions ready for action! Share your memories of your previous ski trips or vacations into snow."
Visit OnTheSnow.com's 2008 Holiday Guide for a library of news stories and features about special holiday events from visits by Santa (even his reindeer) to where the best parties are planned for New Year's Eve at the world's mountain resorts.