Schuss, my baby: Big ski re­sorts are giv­ing fam­ily ameni­ties a lift

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - EXPLORE - BY AMY TARA KOCH Wash­ing­ton Post

Fam­ily time may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ter­ri­fy­ing down­hill runs like Cor­bet’s Couloir in Jack­son Hole, Wy­oming, High­land Bowl in Aspen, Colorado, or the Big Couloir at Big Sky, Mon­tana. This is pre­cisely why so many ski des­ti­na­tions cel­e­brated for their dare­devil In­sta­gram feeds are ramp­ing up fea­tures to bet­ter en­gage and ex­cite fam­i­lies with be­gin­ner skiers – on the slopes and off.

Among the new fea­tures on tap at mar­quee re­sorts this win­ter: ex­pan­sive learn­ing parks fea­tur­ing ad­ven­ture trails and wide, gen­tly slop­ing land­scapes with snow props that help first-timers learn the fun­da­men­tals of the sport, fam­i­ly­fo­cused moun­tain lodges and ex­panded ski-school of­fer­ings for tod­dlers and teens. The kid-friendly alpine ad­ven­tures con­tinue when the lifts close with apres-ski of­fer­ings in­clud­ing ice skat­ing, rock climb­ing, s’mores-mak­ing and ope­nair sleigh rides.

Here’s a run­down of the sea­son’s new ad­di­tions.

Aspen, Colorado: Though the alpen­glow of 14,000-foot peaks is this re­sort’s call­ing card, Aspen Snow­mass – which is com­posed of four moun­tains: But­ter­milk (green), Snow­mass (green/in­ter­me­di­ate), Aspen and High­lands (both steep black ter­rain and back­coun­try) – is also a ter­rific spot for be­gin­ner skiers. This sea­son, it will ex­pand its sig­na­ture Ter­rain Based Learn­ing for the 6-an­dun­der set with sculpted snow fea­tures de­signed to in­tro­duce spa­tial aware­ness and rudi­men­tary skills (stop­ping, turn­ing, bal­ance) with props. Trans­la­tion? Curved walls, con­trolled wave tracks and wee half­pipes al­low be­gin­ners to prac­tice start­ing, stop­ping slid­ing and bal­ance. Once the gen­tle green runs of But­ter­milk are conquered, stu­dents move to the more chal­leng­ing ter­rain at Snow­mass where in­struc­tion pro­gresses in the same prop-based vein. For pre­teens (8-to-12) look­ing for ca­ma­raderie and carv­ing skills, a new small­group pro­gram, Kids Moun­tain

Ex­plor­ers, is a week-long ad­ven­ture camp tack­ling all four moun­tains with the same crew of kids (de­pend­ing on the group’s abil­ity level). On the hos­pi­tal­ity front, the aboutto-de­but Lime­light Ho­tel Snow­mass is a dream for par­ents who crave so­phis­ti­cated digs mi­nus the pres­sure to con­stantly shush their brood. In the heart of Snow­mass Vil­lage (with its cel­e­brated apresski s’mores cart), the 99-room ski in/ski out prop­erty’s top-drawer ameni­ties – two pools, an out­door skat­ing rink, a five-story in­door climb­ing wall, a lobby and restau­rant with a bean bag chair-stud­ded game area and a ski valet – are the def­i­ni­tion of fam­ily fab­u­lous.

Beaver Creek, Colorado: Aside from be­ing home to Birds of Prey, the ac­claimed down­hill, su­per-g and gi­ant slalom men’s World Cup tour race, the Beaver Creek Re­sort – which fa­mously serves hot co­coa at chair­lifts and just-baked cook­ies at the moun­tain base each af­ter­noon – has been bur­nish­ing its rep­u­ta­tion as a fam­ily desti­na­tion for some time. Build­ing on last year’s de­but of Red Buf­falo Park, a 200-acre, 13-trail fam­ily ad­ven­ture zone for in­ter­me­di­ates, comes Haymeadow Park, a learn­ing ter­rain fo­cused on the be­gin­ner ex­pe­ri­ence. The new space in­cludes Smarte Ter­rain, the sculpted runs that al­low skiers and snow- board­ers to hone skills such as speed con­trol, turn­ing and carv­ing.

There also will be a gen­tly slop­ing in­tro­duc­tory race­course to in­still con­fi­dence in pint-size dare­dev­ils.

Big Sky, Mon­tana: Lone Peak’s 4,350-foot ver­ti­cal drop can strike fear into the heart of the most sea­soned skier. But not all of the Big Sky Re­sort’s 5,800 ski­able acres re­quire avalanche gear. In fact, 2,300 acres are ded­i­cated to be­gin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate ter­rain, with wide, groomed runs and “pre­dictable pitch” – oth­er­wise known as easy ter­rain. In 2018, the re­sort in­stalled four new magic car­pets to bet­ter ser­vice the green ar­eas that in­clude Chet’s Knob, a ter­rain-based race­course for be­gin­ners, and Kid- zone, gladded runs where novices can gain ex­pe­ri­ence weav­ing through trees. In tan­dem with these im­prove­ments, the re­sort has added to its ski school of­fer­ings with Small Fry Camp, a

11⁄ hour les­son de­signed to get 3-year-olds on skis and Teen Moun­tain Ex­pe­ri­ence, a small-group, half-day guided les­son to build skills and en­cour­age bond­ing with fel­low would-be shred­ders. (Af­ter the les­son, kids can be dropped off at the Lone Peak Play­house, a child­care cen­ter af­fil­i­ated with the re­sort, so par­ents can make a few ex­tra runs.)

Park City, Utah: High in the Wasatch Moun­tain Range, not far from the lift for one of the Park City Moun­tain Re­sort’s most ex­treme black runs, the 9990, is High Mea- dow Park, the re­sort’s newly reimag­ined learn­ing area. Its wide swaths of gen­tly slop­ing be­gin­ner ter­rain are made de­cid­edly more thrilling by the fact that the area is lo­cated mid-moun­tain (com­pared with the blah moun­tain base to which the ma­jor­ity of green runs are rel­e­gated) and has spec­tac­u­lar views. The ex­panded teach­ing area has an­other fun el­e­ment: three ad­ven­ture trails (gladded runs with a con­trolled, easy-to-nav­i­gate pitch) through a small for­est with wooden an­i­mal sculp­tures hid­den in the trees – a fea­ture that im­proves skills while de­liv­er­ing the feel of back­coun­try ski­ing.

Jack­son Hole, Wy­oming: Jack­son Hole Moun­tain Re­sort boasts some of the steep­est back­coun­try ski­ing in North Amer­ica. Less well-known are its ameni­ties for new­bie skiers. This sea­son, Soli­tude Sta­tion Learn­ing Cen­ter, a new 12,000square-foot fa­cil­ity just min­utes from the base and smack in the mid­dle of the re­cently ex­tended An­te­lope Flats, a net­work of green-only runs, will shine a spot­light on the be­gin­ner ex­pe­ri­ence. It will of­fer gear rental, lift tick­ets and ski school drop-off un­der one roof ( pre­vi­ously this was a chaotic, multi-stop en­deavor) – a boon for par­ents try­ing to hus­tle their kids to ski school be­fore hit­ting the slopes them­selves. The airy, woodac­cented lodge will have two cafe­te­ria-style restau­rants (with sep­a­rate ar­eas for adult and kids’ ski school stu­dents).

ED COYLE Big Sky Re­sort

Big Sky in Mon­tana of­fers Small Fry Camp, a 11⁄ hour les­son de­signed to get 3-year-olds on skis and Teen Moun­tain Ex­pe­ri­ence, a small-group, half-day guided les­son to build skills and en­cour­age bond­ing with fel­low would-be shred­ders.

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