Snowmass on Sunday, Aspen Highlands on Monday, Powderhorn on Tuesday, Ajax on Wednesday and Buttermilk on Thursday and Sunlight on Friday… this is how one Colorado family spent their spring break—all thanks to Colorado Ski Country USA.
The light is flat on the slopes, but streaks of sun highlight the flat tops of several mesas that extend out in the distance from Powderhorn’s slopes—truly where the desert meets the snow. A group of kids schuss down the aspen tree-lined run. They don’t care about the light: Today, they care about the terrain park and riding the cool features.
Ande Hammers, age 10, tries the Rainbow Rail, keeping her skis straight over the arc and pumping her fists in triumph at the end. For Ande, this is another memorable moment in a ski season full of new experiences, and Powderhorn becomes another stop in what her family has coined “The Grand Tour Colorado.” Long before they had their daughter, lifelong skiers Jennie and Scott Hammers mused about skiing all of Colorado’s ski resorts in one season. “The 5th Grade Passport was the perfect excuse to do it,” says Scott.
Ande rides the Rainbow Rail at Powderhorn.
Copyright: Krista Crabtree
Started 20 years ago by Colorado Ski Country USA, a not-for-profit trade association and global voice for Colorado skiing, the 5th Grade Passport offers every 5th grader in the state the opportunity to ski three days at each of the 20 different participating resorts—that’s 60 lift tickets for free. To date, CSCUSA estimates that the program has put 250,000 kids on the slopes. “We’re committed to growing the sport, getting kids out on the snow in Colorado and helping them enjoy an activity that they can do for life,” says Patrick Bryne, Public Affairs Manager CSCUSA.
The Hammers began planning their adventure and mapping out their calendar before the aspens even started to turn. Scott, a software developer, created an application to allow friends to sign up and join “The Grand Tour,” log all of their visits, upload photos that correspond to those visits and create and join groups. A graphic artist friend helped out with stickers and logo design, and more than 30 people have joined to log their resort visits. The Hammers expected to do a lot of road trips by themselves, but most weekends they had another family or two join them—and sometimes multiple families. “It was fun having other people to ski with besides my family,” says Ande. “I liked having friends to play with after skiing.”
An action-packed spring break in Aspen was one of those big-group occasions and the perfect place to knock off tour stops thanks to the four major mountains all within close proximity. El Niño appeared in the Elk Mountain Range for spring break as well, and the kids on Tour were treated to copious amounts of snow. For Ande and her friends, each mountain had something memorable: The 3-mile run called Long Shot at Snowmass, the Nest sculpture near the Sundeck at the top of Aspen Mountain, the terrain parks and Fort Frog at Buttermilk and any run off of the Deep Temerity Lift at Highlands. “Aspen was all powdery and awesome,” says Ande.
Little birdies take shelter in the Spirit Nests atop Aspen Mountain.
Copyright: Krista Crabtree
In the months before spring break, she had already logged ski days at many of Colorado’s resorts: “I loved Cooper because there was still powder in the afternoon. Steamboat has an awesome terrain park and really fun stuff to ski. I loved all the adventure activities at Crested Butte that you could do after skiing. In Telluride, there was a fire festival with a dragon built out of recycled material that shot out fire.”
Snow or no, “We had a good time at every mountain,” echoes her father, Scott. “Sometimes it was amazing snow, sometimes it was the terrain park and sometimes it was the stuff we did afterwards. We found if you just get out there, you’re going to have a good time.” After traveling most weekends to ski country, Jennie learned to go with the flow. “We couldn’t always execute our plans the way we had them on the calendar because of weather or life activities,” she says. “Despite all that, as of spring break, we visited 19 resorts and will easily hit over 20. It helps that the resorts we planned for the spring—like Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland—are staying open so late.”
Every endeavor, like the mountains, has its peaks and valleys. What was the hardest part of the Grand Tour for Ande? “Probably leaving right after school and not having time to do anything else on weekends,” she says. But ask her about her favorite part and a smile like an upside down Rainbow Rail takes over her face. “Getting to see all the ski areas that we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t done this,” she says. “I want to go back to pretty much all of them.”
Lucky for her, CSCUSA has a 6th Grade Passport. It’s $99 and includes four days at each of the 20 participating resorts—plenty of days to make new memories with friends and families all around Colorado. Not to mention the awesome kids programs on next season’s passes, like the Rocky Mountain Super Pass and Epic Pass. As part of the CSCUSA program, 5th graders who have never skied or snowboarded before can get a day of beginner instruction and rental equipment.