Traveling With Kids: Stratton Mountain Resort
One of the best things about our adventures in learning to ski as a family has been the fact that we all started as beginners -- I actually just did a Facebook Live yesterday on the benefits of trying new things and encourage you to check that out. And while I was really excited to visit Stratton Mountain Resort this past weekend, I will admit that I was also fretting a bit. Why? First, because I bought boots this year and killed my big toes (toe bang) on my first outing of the season (they are still black and blue almost 2 months later!). And second, on our last ski outing with friends my toes were still in a really painful state + there were no green trails open so I went on an (allegedly) easy blue trail and literally thought I was going to die! I am subsequently THRILLED to report that Stratton was a huge success; the boot adjustments I made early in the season worked and I was free of toe pain, and I regained my happiness and confidence on the slopes! Here are my thoughts on traveling with kids to Stratton:
1. Stop at the Welcome Center
Okay, so this may sound like a ridiculous starting recommendation but here is where I think having smartphones totally defeated us on arrival! When we got to Stratton we used GPS to navigate right to our lodging (Long Trail House) and spent about 15 minutes looping around trying to find the building (GPS was slow) and figure out how to get in before giving up and going to the Welcome Center. Fifteen minutes may not sound like a big deal but it is when you have hungry kids in the car! It turned out that our property was not structured like a hotel where there is a main reception; you only gain access via your key after you have checked in at the Welcome Center.
There are lots of lodging options at Stratton. We stayed in a 2BR condo at Long Trail House, which was fully appointed (kitchen, separate baths for us and kids) and was right across the street from Stratton Village. It was very convenient, though given how painfully slow I am walking in ski boots (at 6 years old Violet was charging so easily ahead of me it was ridiculous!), next time we visit I’d like to look into booking at the Landmark. This property is right in the heart of things -- mountainside behind the base lodge -- so it would be so amazing to walk right out to the lifts quickly and would also save you needing to stow anything at the base lodge.
In advance of our trip, Jon and I speculated that because Stratton draws a big New York City crowd the food would options would be really good. Whether that actually is a determining factor we can’t really know, but the food was awesome on all counts that we tried. If your lodging includes a kitchen, bring food so you don’t have to eat out every meal, but during the weekend we ate dinner at the Fire Tower Restaurant (Violet said their macaroni and cheese was the best she’s ever tasted and Laurel loved the chicken, apple, and brie calzone), had amazing sandwiches and coffee from the Stratton Mountain Deli, and yummy pizza at Village Pie, all of which rendered leftovers for our final lunch before we left.
If you are newer to skiing I can’t recommend enough that you take lessons. Since we started skiing as a family we have taken 3 rounds of lessons and at Stratton landed on a great solution for our family given that Violet is not on lifts yet. We all did morning ski lessons on Saturday. The teen/adult lessons were about an hour and a half (~9-10:30am) and Violet was signed up for full day ski school but the midday break where we wanted to pick her up was 12:30pm. This gave us all a chance to get some instruction (and for me, especially, I needed time to get my confidence back) and then gave Jon and me the opportunity to ski with Laurel for a couple of hours before picking up Violet. Our teacher (Dave) was great and I truly appreciated that he kept reminding us to breathe and smile! My only constructive criticism on the lesson front is that it would be nice if the little kid lesson area next to the magic carpet was more clearly delineated (maybe with some simple ropes or netting-type fencing). Because Saturday’s weather was AMAZING (some said the first really fabulous day of the season) it was very crowded and I saw lots of people crossing through the kid lesson zone and it made it feel pretty chaotic. On Sunday, when it was much less crowded, this wasn’t a problem.
5. Plentiful green trails
One reason Stratton felt like such a great fit for our family is that the green trails were plentiful. There are plenty of blue and black trails too, but we had so much fun on the network of green trails on the lower half of the mountain, and then on the second day, Laurel and I ventured to the summit (it’s always my goal to get to the top to see the view!), from which we were able to ski an awesome 3-mile summit-to-base trail called Easy Street, a designated go-slow zone. The view was breathtakingly beautiful and there were a couple of awesome gliding straightaways, plus a pass under a covered bridge. It was such a treat! Also notable, even though the property was crowded on Saturday due to the good weather, we never needed to wait long on the green lifts, which was fantastic.
6. Ride the gondola
One of the tricky things about having kids who are 6 and 13 is that Laurel and Violet obviously are at very different ability levels. So one huge bonus is that Stratton has a gondola to the summit that you can ride up and down. On Sunday, we started our day as a family riding the gondola. Laurel and I took our skis up so we could ski down Easy Street, and Jon and Violet went for the ride. It was really lovely to ascend together and I had to remind myself that Violet hasn’t yet had a ski lift experience so it was really fun for her to see the action. I’d also recommend that if you are a beginner skier but don’t feel ready to do the 3-mile Easy Street green trail run, just hop on for a ride to see the spectacular view at the summit!
7. Stratton Village
Stratton offers a really charming Village area, including shops (lots of gear!) and restaurants. We didn’t need to use our car to go anywhere the whole time we were there (YAY) and one of my favorite places was the Stratton Market and Deli. Since we forgot a few things at home we stopped in to the market on Friday night and this small place literally has everything you could possibly need, plus a great assortment of food (cheese! meats!) if you want to stock up your kitchen. I also totally impulse bought the chocolate cream pie (fresh made from the Dover Baking Company) and it was INCREDIBLE. Totally not fat-free and totally incredible.
8. More to explore
There was a lot more at Stratton I didn’t have time to check out -- notably, the fitness center and spa, and I was already thinking about their summer tennis offerings! in the summer! -- but meanwhile, I can’t recommend enough that you head to Stratton for ski fun. There are plenty of ski weekends left so check out their deals and packages and enjoy time outdoors with your family!
Disclosure: I visited Stratton in a media capacity, through which lodging, lift tickets, and lessons were provided. All other expenses I paid for myself and all opinions about Stratton are, of course, my own!