Take some tips from the experts at mountain resorts if your family plans to head out for a ski and snowboard vacation during the holidays.
Start when you land at the airport. Minimize the inconveniences/hassles by booking transportation to and from the airport. Parents can relax and enjoy this time with their children and let experts get them to their destination. Also, rent skis/boards to minimize the travel inconvenience of the bulky luggage.
Bill Cox from Wolf Creek in Utah, says, "On arrival, spend some time getting to know the environment. Nothing spoils your family's experience than to get stressed out trying to find your way around the morning of your first day. Plan on getting acclimated to the winter environment, especially if you are traveling to higher elevations. Also, know your meal options; diet is critical to performance and doing well means having more fun!"
If you can't do the checking in the night before, Bruce McCloy with Mount Sunapee Resort, N.H., says to get the family to the resort early. "Generally, children are in need of rental equipment or they are being enrolled in ½ - day or all-day children's programs. It takes time to get through the rental shop or get the paperwork completed for children's programs. The family can get in a bunch of runs together in the morning before the mountain starts to get crowded or the children's program start, which is generally around 10:00 a.m."
He adds that at the end of the day, head back to the condo. "If guests are staying overnight, they can leave a little earlier (when the kids get tired) and they can hit the pool or other amenities at the lodge or condo."
Avoid the 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.
Alison Cummings from Stratton, Vt., says to plan on a crowd. "Don't be surprised that everyone is on vacation at the same time. There will be lines! Get your coffee and relax while waiting. Smile!"
She says to check with the area where you're headed and see what they recommend as to check in, pick up, and whether advanced reservations are needed. Most likely they are and that helps reduce the craziness tremendously.
Finally, Cummings says, "This time of year is great for evening or late afternoon kids activities. See what the area offers and sign them up for a craft program or pizza and a movie and give the adults a few hours to themselves."
Bill Quigley is with Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire, which is the closest major resort to Boston. He says most families come the day after Christmas, which is fine (although the slopes are pretty empty in those few days before the big holiday). He says not to try to do everything at once. "Make sure you have other fun things to do for the family, and keep everyone in mind. Maybe spend a night at the movies, an arcade, a family style dinner, shopping for Mom and daughter, or a day at the spa to relax after a busy holiday month."
He says to mix it up. " How many guests come to a ski area and have never tried cross country skiing or better yet a snoeshoe hike in pristine woods. Amazing how all the stress of the holidays can disappear with a moonlit snowhike along the ridge overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee."
Quigley says to relax in the morning and let the kids sleep in. Gunstock and many resorts have flexible tickets and night skiing. Any resort that has night skiing will have the lights fired up during the entire holiday season.
Resorts are also loaded with other activities for the family. Shawn Stinson says in the Salt Lake and Park City areas you'll find, "Shopping galore, ice skating, galleries, concerts, theater, ballet, opera, professional basketball, hockey, historical sites, a Christmas light display beyond description at Temple Square, and aa family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration."
Another example of off-slope activities is from Daniel Pistoresi at Kirkwood in Calif. "Kirkwood offers tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing (including full moon tours), fitness center/Jacuzzis, family activities, and a torchlight parade/firework show during the holidays."
Your favorite resort will pull out all of the stops for the holidays. Enjoy this special time with your family!
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.