Traveling With Kids: Mount Snow
Over the last few years, we have been taking baby steps towards becoming a ski family. Two years ago, we rented skis one weekend and went skiing with friends. We had such a fun time during that trip that last year, we did seasonal rentals. And this year, when we went to rent our skis, I completely surprised myself and bought skis and boots!
Because here’s the thing. Yes, skiing involves a lot of gear and schlepping around, and skiing is not a sport of affordability in the vein of, say, soccer or basketball (where at a bare minimum you can make do with a ball), but one of the realities of living in the Northeast is that there are many months of the year that are really cold. And as a family, we have discovered three things about skiing: First, it is AMAZING to be outside all day doing something active where most of the time you forget you’re cold (in fact, usually I am sweating profusely). Second, it's awesome to actually be moving fast outside (versus the cold, hunched shoulder winter shuffle). And third, it has been really fantastic to learn something together as a family. Coming into this, Jon and I had only ever been skiing once, way back in middle school.
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of great folks at a Ski Vermont media reception in Boston. I have seriously fallen in love with Vermont over the last few years and seeing how much these people loved Vermont and were excited about the ski season made me so happy! So over the coming months I’m hoping to explore several Vermont ski resorts so I can share some insight from the newbie perspective. Let’s start with my top recommendations from Mount Snow, which we visited this past weekend. We had such a great time that I'm wondering if we can squeeze another winter weekend in there, and I'm also totally intrigued by the prospect of their family camp!
1. Stay at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel
If you are, like me, someone who immensely values convenience and less schlepping, book at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel. Located right at the base of the mountain, you can check your skis at the ski valet out back and forego the use of your car the entire weekend (Mount Snow is just under 3 hours from Boston). We stayed in one of the 2-bedroom loft units, which was fantastic because it gave the girls a cozy space of their own upstairs while having common space and a kitchen/dining area where we could eat in. The Grand Summit also offers the conveniences of a spa, Harriman’s Farm to Table, and the Vermont Country Deli (where I bought all of my coffee!).
2. Sign your kids up for lessons
If your kids are beginners I cannot recommend lessons enough. I wasn't sure either of my kids would be into full-day lessons (which run from 9:30am - 3:30pm), but my contact at Mount Snow really recommended full-day lessons for the kids because they get so much more out of it. He ended up being 100% correct! Everyone we met at the instruction center was fantastic. Laurel was a little nervous about full-day lessons but when we checked in with her midday to see if she wanted to be extracted she said “NOPE, I WANT TO STAY!” And by the time we picked her up she had already been to the summit several times, had advanced to dark green level, and her instructor said she was ready for easier blue trails. WHAT?! As for Violet, we really weren’t sure whether she would be happy with half-day, much less all-day, but she did great! We checked in with Vi a couple of times (once accidentally, once intentionally); on the accidental check in we were literally standing in the training area saying, "I wonder if we should check on Vi" and she walked by with her class and cheerfully said, "Oh, hey Mom and Dad!" and on the intentional check in at 1:30pm, she was happy but ready for some play time with us -- but not before showing us how she could maneuver around cones. I wanted to cry! I actually think that for the remainder of the season I want to keep booking the girls in at least half-day lessons so they can keep improving with the pros!
3. Sign yourself up for lessons
By the time we got Laurel and Violet squared away at lessons Jon and I got to our lesson and were two minutes late and our group had already departed. I started to get stressed out about this but the instructors were great and we lucked out; they had someone available to take us out so we ended up having a couple’s lesson! It was immensely helpful to start our season with a lesson, and like the kids, I want to keep taking lessons through the season because OMG I NEED ALL THE HELP.
4. If you can, get yourself to the top
After the morning lessons and checking in on the kids, Jon and I diverged on what we wanted to do. He wanted to stay on the lower mountain but I was feeling good and really wanted to get to the top. So I went up alone to the summit and I am not kidding that I almost cried when I saw the view from the top. It was magical and I spent a few moments just breathing and trying to issue some good juju into the world from that vantage point. Next time I want to stop for an artisanal sandwich and some craft beer at The Bullwheel. I took the Long John (green) trail down and it was so lovely.
5. Stop for a waffle
I don’t know what the deal is with skiing and waffles but OMG stop for a waffle at the Waffle Cabin at the base of the mountain. And definitely opt for the chocolate drizzle. I stopped there twice in a 24-hour period. Don't judge.
6. Bring a swimsuit
If you take my earlier advice and stay at the Grand Summit, you will have access to a year-round outdoor heated pool. Pools are always Violet’s favorite things about hotels and she and Jon had a great time splashing around outside.
7. Walk for pizza
Since we had dinner at Harriman’s (right in the hotel) on our first night and didn’t feel like driving anywhere on our second night, we decided to walk down to the Snow Barn for pizza. At first I was like, OMG THIS IS TOTALLY NOT KID APPROPRIATE and in a few hours, it wouldn’t be, but head to this music venue on the earlier side and you will be happy. The pizza is delicious (I loved the sesame seed crust!), there was a pool table and a few arcade games to entertain the kids, and the staff was super nice. (Also, I have recently rediscovered how much I like hard cider and I definitely recommend the Vermont-crafted Champlain Orchards Cider!) After dinner, we decided to take the short route on our way back up to the hotel and ran up the steep grassy slope (instead of sticking to the winding access road) and I have never laughed so hard or been so exhausted!
8. Plan your trip and your time on the slopes
If you’re looking to save money, definitely check out Mount Snow's lift ticket deals online. They have a bunch of packages and there also are special days where you can get lift tickets as low as $12 or $17! Also, as I imagine is typical, there was definitely a rhythm to the days with volume kicking up in the late morning and early afternoon so I would recommend structuring your days and meals off-peak, so you hit the slopes as soon as they open, ski during the typical lunch window (12-1pm), and ski towards the end of the day too.
Disclosure: Mount Snow kindly hosted my family while I explored the property for editorial consideration. All opinions and experiences are, of course, my own.