(Given that we have been pretty close to home lately, it makes me even more grateful that our family took a mini ski vacation in late January. Though all eyes are on summer, I wanted to share our trip with everyone so that maybe your family can have some fun making plans for your next trip once things start to get back to normal this year.)
Steamboat is a great spot for family vacations with kids. I’ve been itching to get Max on a pair of skis for years. Even on my very best days I am being generous to call myself an average skier, but just the same, it is one of my favorite outdoor activities. Since I turned 30, I try my best to go once a year if possible. Whether it is winding down a narrow path surrounded by towering snow capped trees or taking in majestic mountain views that seem to stretch forever, few things can be so exciting and peaceful at the same time! So this year we headed to Steamboat Springs for a family vacation. There’s a lot of prep work and things to pack for a ski trip (even more work with young kids) so I wanted to share the information I gathered for our ski trip in this post.
Ski School & Ski Gear for Littles
The whole Ski School experience at Steamboat Springs was really easy. We usually arrive at a ski destination the day before we hit the slopes, so when we got to Steamboat we took Max over to see the mountain and to walk through what to expect for the next day. I think seeing the lay of the land helps kids and their grown-ups feel a little less anxious about everyone going their separate ways the next day.
We made reservations in advance to secure a spot for Max, and then filled out the rest of the paperwork when we got there. The check-in and ski school rooms are located next to the big polar bear statue at the base of the mountain – this where drop off (between 8:15-9am) and pick-up (between 2:45-3:15) each day. There is a large room where the kids can play, eat lunch, and have some indoor time, but they will spend most of the day outside and take occasional breaks for snacks and to rest their legs. While you can always hire a private instructor, for group lessons on most mountains kids need to be over the age of 3 and potty trained. Max was in the beginner class that took place right in front of the check-in area, so we got to watch him on a few occasions, but the instructors really encourage you to watch from a distance to keep from distracting your child. Max’s lessons were a little over $100 a day, but that included lunch, a ski pass, skis, boots, and a helmet for the day too.
A few first timer pointers for ski school:
- Book a reservation for ski school in advance of your trip.
- Visit the day before lessons start to complete your paperwork, get a lay of the land, and get sized for equipment.
- Skis, helmet and boots are provided with the price of ski school here.
- You don’t need to break the bank when looking for kids ski gear for those kids who wont’ be high up on the mountain all day and are just trying skiing for the first time. We live in Florida so we don’t have a regular stockpile of winter clothes here. Look for waterproof winter coats, gloves and snow pants on Amazon – there is a good selection of items under $50, and Max stayed plenty cozy.
- Bring one or two hats and pairs of gloves for playing in the snow so you’ll always have a dry set.
- Use masking or painters tape to add your child’s name and phone number on all of their clothes so they don’t get misplaced in ski school.
Where to Stay
There are lots of hotels and other rental properties available in the area, but for ski trips I recommend renting a house, condo unit or even a timeshare unit. All of those options will offer you the ability to have separate bedrooms, but more importantly a kitchen and washer and dryer. Kitchens are a life saver if you are hitting the slopes early in the morning, or are too pooped to go out at night and just want to relax at home. Plus, eating in for some meals will save major dollars over the course of your trip and save your money or one really nice meal out and some fun apre ski drinks mountainside. Another major bonus of a “home away from home” type unit is the ability to wash and dry your ski gear for use day after day. It’s really difficult to fit everyone skis, boots, jackets and other winter gear in a small single hotel room and nothing ever seems to dry without access to a dryer or room to air out.
Check where you are staying to make sure they have the amenities you are looking for. Is a hot tub important to you? Do you want to stay on the mountain or is a small bus or car ride OK? We stayed at Club Wyndham Steamboat Springs and absolutely loved our two bedroom unit with a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, living room, fireplace and a washer and dryer. The kids had an amazing time sled riding behind the resort every afternoon (sleds were provided at the resort). The base of the ski mountain is visible from the resort, and offered a free 5 minute shuttle to and from the mountain throughout the day (departing every 15 minutes).
Getting There & Getting Around
To get to Steamboat you can either fly into Denver and drive or opt for the local Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN). It is about a 4 hour drive from Denver which is a bit long, but I didn’t want to be stuck at an airport for a long layover waiting for the commuter flight with the kids, so we opted for really inexpensive Southwest flights into Denver and rented a large SUV. Tip #1 – If choose to drive from Denver make sure you get a snow worthy the vehicle. Tip #2 – If you are leaving on a Sunday or Monday, be prepared for extraordinarily bad traffic. Also, a small Kindle Fire is a go to for us for the plane trips and car rides for games and books, but Max also loves taking photos on it this trip! Tons of locals head to the slopes every weekend, and suddenly a 4 hour drive can turn into a 6 or 8 hour trek. Try to leave on an off day like a Tuesday or Wednesday, or leave very early in the morning to beat the rush. Once in Steamboat, we only used the car to go to dinner once and to get groceries. We were able to use the resort shuttle to get everywhere else.
Family Photo Album
Views from the chairlift.
Snippet from Ski School. Patience is a virtue… can’t expect a Florida boy to be an expert on day one… 🙂