Plan a snowy getaway with your family.
Here are five escape-worthy spots to consider:
The Sebastian, Vail, CO.
Splurge on a ski vacation and let the resort pros make sure your high altitude holiday goes off without a hitch. The Sebastian’s amenities-on-demand program can deliver ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-filled breakfast. Order up an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kiddos or another round of sunscreen. Guests can also arrange to have a steaming bubble bath drawn prior to a return from the slopes.
Team up with the adventure concierge to plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure and ice-skating for the older kids while the littlest one plays in the Tykes Room. Should the kids need a break from the mountain they can also opt for hosted crafts in the Upper Lobby where creating hand puppets, finger knitting and experimenting with snow slime are possibilities. Should grown-ups need a break, the hospitality team is on hand to make restaurant reservations and scout for a babysitter.
Basecamp Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Clever and cool, your kids will love the cozy options available at this boutique hotel, where exploring the local mountain community is encouraged. The Great Indoor Family Room sports a King bed for the grownups, adjacent to a wall tented room featuring bunk beds, a faux campfire, a picnic table and camp chairs. Designed as an alternative to a cookie cutter hotel, owners have repurposed “under-appreciated” buildings and infused them with “soul”. Happy hour includes homemade soups and stews. No surprise: s’mores are served nightly.
The National Park Inn. Mt. Rainer National Park.
Leave your technology behind and immerse yourselves in the beauty of this majestic setting in the Park’s Longmire Historic District. Check in to one of 25 rooms in the two-story lodge. Relax in the lounge and sip hot cocoa near the massive stone fireplace while enjoying stories of the day and making plans for the next. Visit the general store, a circa 1911 log cabin, for access to cross-country and snowshoeing rentals and other goodies.
You’ll find it difficult to emerge from the cozy lodge warmed by a roaring fire or your cabin crafted from indigenous materials. But when you do, choose from cross country and snowshoe trails that run deep into the woods or sunlit downhill runs on the slopes of Mount Timpanagos. Founded my film maker and conservationist Robert Redford, the resort offers family-friendly pottery, beading and printmaking classes in the Art Shack, winter fly-fishing and dining menus with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.
Stay in a cozy cabin or opt to sleep in the High Lonesome Lodge where ranch guests steep in expansive views of the Continental Divide and the Ranch Creek Valley while channelling the pioneering spirit of early homesteaders. The centerpiece of the lodge is a reconstructed Civil War-era barn. Choose from 31 guest rooms and four suites, each with private outdoor patios and Adirondack-style rockers. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, which protects more than 12,000 miles of pristine waterways.
Here are five places where you and your family can relish the natural beauty of our nation’s rivers.
Middle Fork of the Salmon, Idaho.
Find your way to Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness and commit to an unplugged week on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. As you float, fish, and splash through 100 miles of spectacular scenery you’ll be treated to unexpected luxuries along the way. Relish the fresh air of morning as your crew delivers hot coffee or cocoa to your luxury tent. Later, warm up in a hot spring, dine on organic, seasonal specialties and plan for the next day’s adventure under a starry sky. Contact:
Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park, Texas.
This Wild and Scenic River forms the southern boundary of this 800,000-acre playground. It’s the only Park in the United States that hosts a complete mountain range – the Chisos. With older children in tow, soak in the Park’s scenery as well as the warm water offered by a resident hot spring. On the northern riverbank, steamy water fills the foundation of an old bathhouse, creating a popular natural hot tub. Nearby, look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy a one-mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled.
The Rogue RIver, Oregon.
Float through 40 miles of scenic Southwestern Oregon and you’ll explore the same rugged country that drew Native Americans, trappers and prospectors for centuries. Stay in the raft or up the adrenalin ante by running the rapids in an inflatable kayak. Designated a “Wild & Scenic” wilderness area, you and your family will paddle through the Siskiyou Mountains and the Rogue River National Forest. Also possible are adventures that include hiking and gourmet dining options.
Au Sable, Wellston, MI. Introduce your family to the joys of fly-fishing in the north woods of Michigan. The scenic and diverse Au Sable River originates north of Grayling and winds for more than 100 miles before meeting Lake Huron
A fly-fishing only section of the river flows past Burton’s Landing and is known as the “Holy Water” for its productive riffles and trout filled pools. Team up with a local outfitter for instruction designed for young anglers.
Contact: PureMichigan.com; https://www.dloopoutfitters.com
Cache la Poudre, Colorado.
Located in the northern Front Range and dubbed thePoudre” by local residents and longtime visitors, the main and south forks of the Cache la Poudre River, originate in Rocky Mountain National Park and flow north and east through the Roosevelt National Forest before eventually passing through Fort Collins.
You can explore the region via the Cache la Poudre – North Park Scenic Byway. Beginning in Fort Collins, it follows the river and the route used by settlers to connect Colorado’s northern plains to the Green River settlement in Utah.
Crested Butte is Colorado's most serious ski resort. Seriously challenging, seriously scary -- and seriously fun.
The mountain's almost-vertical, double black diamond runs, most of them accessible from a T-bar lift, are in a class by themselves. (A T-bar? Haven't seen one of those in years.) These slopes will put the fear of God in you even if you're a lifelong skier.
And yet, the fun is serious, too. A series of much more forgiving blue and green runs are available for your kids, and there's no shortage of things to do in town, none of which involve you staring into a snowy abyss.
"I'm not going there"
Although Crested Butte is only a few miles over Italian Mountain from Aspen, Colorado's most high-profile ski area, it might as well be on a different planet. People don't come here to be seen, and there are no paparazzi tracking the few celebs who venture over the hill.
Instead, everyone is here to ski.
As soon as we picked up our lift tickets, we headed straight to the mountain.
We'd already skied two resorts in Southern Colorado, some of which presented us with challenging terrain. But this was different. Really different. After a warm-up run on the Red Lady Express, which has a lot of mellow runs perfect for families, we headed over to the Silver Queen Express, a quad that services some of Crested Butte's steepest terrain.
The last few hundred feet of Silver Queen are almost pure vertical, and you get the sense that coming down might be a chayllenge.
"OK, kids," I said to my two boys, ages 13 and 15. "Playtime's over."
Skiing down Triangle, a single black diamond run, demanded our full attention. But after a fresh snowfall, the mountain face was manageable. Then my middle son, Iden, made a turn and headed for the trees -- rated the most difficult terrain -- lured by ungroomed boulder-size moguls and cliff-like steepness, and ...
"I'm not going down there," his older brother declared.
Fortunately, you can change your mind and live to tell the tale. We pivoted on our skis and came down International, another black diamond run.
Wendy saves the day.
The next day we met up with Wendy Fisher, a former Olympic athlete and X-Games competitor who offers ski clinics to people who might find the mountain a little intimidating. Yeah, that would be us.
After just one trip down an easy run, Fisher diagnosed our problem: We were leaning too far back on our skis, which tires you out quickly and limits your ability to control your skis, especially on the steeps.
Fisher is part mountain guide, part storyteller, part instructor. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of Crested Butte, is happy to regale you with stories of the 1992 Winter Olympics, and is eager to offer tips on improving your form. Iden, the fastest skier in our group, learned how to regain control even when zipping down the hill. Fisher showed Aren, our most cautious skier, how to relax a little and enjoy his runs.
And me? Well, I had years and years of bad habits to overcome. I tend to ski with both my legs glued together. In German, it's called "wedeln." Fisher showed me how to trust my equipment, keep my legs apart, and let gravity do more of the work.
Thanks to Fisher, we spent the next few days skiing every open run -- yep, even those seriously hard black diamonds. Thanks, Wendy.
About that fun ...
There's much more to Crested Butte than its legendary slopes. After two days of intense skiing, we got off the mountain and headed into town. We met up with Nel Burkett, curator of the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, who took us on a walk through the historic downtown and then offered a brief tour of the museum. It's funny, but when I asked the kids what they remembered, they said, "That's the town where all the buildings burned down." True, more than a few buildings on the tour had burned to the ground at some point in history.
Crested Butte has a fascinating history as a coal mining town and a center for environmental activism, and there's still an interesting mix of money and idealism here. You can find impressive, million-dollar mansions in the hills, but you can also run into a few old-timers who live more modestly. And you can visit shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that remind you more of a college town like Berkeley, Calif.
Speaking of restaurants, there are more than a few tasty choices here. Our favorites included Teocalli Tamale, with its generous burritos and a library of palate-blowing hot sauces. And there's Secret Stash, which claims to have the best pizza in the world. Who am I to disagree? For a more formal dining experience, try the Magic Meadows Yurt, which involves a brisk snowshoe walk through the woods to a backcountry cabin heated by a wood-burning stove, with live music and a five-course meal prepared by a private chef.
At the end of the day, we always found ourselves out in the snow and cold. Crested Butte is one of the coolest places in Colorado, thanks to high mountains that pull freezing air into the valley. On a clear, subzero night, trudging through the fresh powder, we looked up and marveled at a thousand stars bracketed by dark mountains.
Crested Butte may be a serious resort, but at that moment I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I think it was frozen in place.
Eager to ski, board or simply enjoy a little high altitude R&R as part of your family travel plan?
Getting to the slopes of Colorado is easier with new rail and flight offerings to get travelers straight to the slopes, skipping pesky traffic, rental car headaches and more.
The Winter Park Express Train, which reopened in January 2017, has expanded service to select “First Fridays” of every month. In 2019, the train will run every weekend from January 4 through March 31, 2019.
With the revival of the Winter Park Express Ski Train and the new commuter rail line from Denver International Airport to Denver's Union Station, visitors from throughout the country and across the globe can use train travel for the entire trip from flight to Winter Park.
Discounted tickets are sold on a first come first served basis.
With one-way tickets and service on Saturday and Sunday make it a day trip, a weekend-long trip or an extended vacation. Customize your length of stay at Winter Park Resort and get as much skiing/riding in as you'd like.
Here's a look at the Winter Park Express schedule:
Sounds like a plan!
Warm up to the wonders of winter adventure. Here are five, high energy family travel ideas to consider:
1. Juneau, AK.
Visit this world-class winter destination and trade long lines and crowded restaurants for endless views and pristine solitude.
Pop on your skis and put things in perspective as you glide across Mendenhall Glacier Lake. With a massive glacier as your backdrop, your whole family will enjoy speeding across the flat terrain while taking in some of the most majestic scenery imaginable. Check out the groomed Nordic trails at Eaglecrest, a community-owned ski resort on Douglas Island just minutes from Juneau.
The most adventuresome families will find challenging terrain and untouched routes along with insider knowledge through experienced heli-skiing operators in the area.
2. Yellowstone National Park.
Discover the magic of our first National Park cloaked in her winter finery. New snowfall serves as the perfect backdrop for a Nordic adventure to a steaming backcountry geyser, a snowshoe around Old Faithful or wildlife viewing in the Lamar Valley. Venture to and from your overnight at the Snow Lodge via snow coach, stopping enroute to observe animals on the move, icy waterfall formations and the evening alpenglow on the mountains. Guided adventure and snowmobile tours are available.
3. Winter Park, CO.
Explore more than 60 miles of groomed trails on skate skis when you visit this family favorite in the Colorado Rockies. In addition to making the most of free skiing lessons offered by the Nordic Center at the YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch, expect good times ice skating, playing broomball, tubing, sledding, and creating arts and crafts. Get cozy for story time, with hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire. Contact: www.ymcarockies.org. www.visitGrandCounty.com ; www.Colorado.com.
4. McCall, ID.
Bring your favorite furry friends for a day of outdoor fun in this forested mountain town located two hours north of Boise. Dogs are welcome on Nordic trails in several locations throughout McCall, where views of Payette Lake are paired with fresh air and contagious enthusiasm for adventure. At Jug Mountain Ranch, discover the Lyle Nelson Nordic & Snowshoe Trail system, designed by the local Olympian. Skate ski tracks for all abilities send explorers through open meadows and pine scented forests. Fido will enjoy romping through the snow as you and the family navigate trails at the Tamarack Resort, where lessons and guided tours are also available.
5. Kingfield, ME.
Explore more than 80 miles of trails via cross-country skis or on snowshoes in the backcountry of western Maine. Enjoy your off-the-grid adventure by day and then relax in a comfortable hut over night where a warm bed and tasty meals await. Considered “boutique hostels”, the huts, run by a non-profit organization, feature state of the art green energy systems that generate and store their own power. Make tracks from hut-to-hut on your own or with a guide. Contact: www.mainehuts.org
A great read for kids to go with your winter adventures!
You know Colorado, right?
World-class skiing, snow-capped mountains, frigid temps.
Yet, during a recent family trip from our mountain home to another part of the state, we were reminded of how much more there is to explore.
Rocky Mountain Divide
The famous Rocky Mountains run through the middle of the state, dividing the mountainous highlands from...well, essentially Kansas.
The Front Range is what the locals call the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and there is no uncertainty about where those hills end and the Great Plains begin.
The line of mountains looks like a long wave about to crash on a smooth beach. And it's a crowded beach. More than three fifths of Colorado's happy population live in the flatlands (albeit tucked up against the base of those majestic mountains), including the capital, Denver, and the hip college towns of Boulder and Fort Collins. Also in that list is the historic and sometimes overlooked Colorado Springs, the state's second largest metropolis.
So Much To Do In The Springs
The Springs, as locals abbreviate it, isn't absent from the national consciousness, strictly speaking, but it is surprising how its vast and diverse array of activities can remain a secret to most outside the state. Many know it for being the home to the stunning U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Training Center, for its iconic view of Pikes Peak (where Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to pen "America the Beautiful"), and for the U.S. Air Force North American Air Defense Command or NORAD (actually inside Cheyenne Mountain, to protect it from a nuclear strike!).
And while it recently had some recognition for its move-worthy amenities and lifestyle with US News & World Report ranking it the 2nd most desirable place to live in the U.S., it is currently getting more well-deserved love as a tourist destination.
Families Take Note!
But families in particular should stand up and take notice of Colorado Springs. Per square mile, there may not be a more beautiful, diverse, affordable, family-friendly place.
Homebase for our Colorado Springs adventure was the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. Located on 200 acres, with golf, spa, a 35- acre lake with loads of water action, and plenty of hiking trails nearby, it was a grand location from which to explore.
Your family can sit around a beach bonfire, go paddle boarding at sunset, or play Marco Polo in the pool. There's also a Kid's Club to consider and special programs offered during summer and school holidays.
Of course the whole place started with natural beauty. Approaching the city from the east, you'll see Pikes Peak looming over it, just as the mountain's namesake, military explorer Zebulon Pike did in 1806. After the area was settled, it became famous for its healing climate and spring waters (of Manitou Springs). That attention in turn made visitors notice the exceptional aesthetic beauty that is still the soul of the place.
Of course natural beauty often inspires creative beauty, and Colorado Springs is a testament to that aesthetic connection. The Air Force Academy grounds and chapel are a stunning blend of modern architecture and design sprouting from the dense coniferous forest. And if all that doesn't inspire the kids, there are planes, gliders, and skydivers overhead all day long.
The Broadmoor Hotel is worth a visit, even if you're not staying. The grounds and buildings are breathtaking, and the activities in and around will keep you busy for easily an afternoon or more. The founder of Colorado Springs, William Palmer, built a castle, called Glen Eyrie, in the western foothills near Garden of the Gods that is today open to visit, tour, and relax for high tea (it is a castle, after all). And perhaps most inspiring are the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings above Manitou Springs. The dwellings were actually relocated from southern Colorado over 100 years ago to save them from further destruction by artifact poachers, but there is no better testament to Necessity as the mother of art and Nature as her muse.
All of these things are within 20 minutes of each other, making a visit more about experiences and family time than travel time. Particularly convenient is the Colorado Springs airport. If you can fly there from your home city, you'd likely save money on Frontier Airlines, or justify the extra cost of avoiding the time-sucking Denver International Airport. On a recent flight to Phoenix from Colorado Springs, our family timed our trip from car door to gate in less than 15 minutes, with a stop to check luggage!
If you go
Check out Colorado Springs Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for great family activities.
You can find a place for any budget in Colorado Springs, but check out these options that add some character, history, and entertainment into the package.
Located near the Broadmoor Hotel, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and North Cheyenne Cañon Park, this family-friendly hotel feeds kids 10 and under for free and offers packages to keep them busy while you golf, swim, hike...spa! It's also surprisingly affordable.
The Grande Dame of Colorado Springs hotels boasts a massive property with all sorts of amenities, history, and breathtaking view from its high perch. It'll cost you a bit more, but this is the life of the finer things.
WARNING: This North American chain is a self-contained family zone. With a massive indoor water park, restaurants, performances, and activities, Great Wolf will tempt you into never leaving the grounds. You must not let that happen. Our preferred strategy is one to two nights at Great Wolf and at least three more in a property that embodies the character and charm of Colorado Springs.
Did you Know?
Take a hike — and take the whole family with you.
Here are five scenic destinations to consider:
1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
For jaw-dropping beauty, lace up and explore the jagged peaks of the magnificent Teton Range hear Jackson Hole. Trails that hug the shores of String, Leigh and Trapper lakes are ideal for families. With little elevation gain, the flat terrain provides ample opportunity to photograph the Tetons reflected in the water, wade into the shallow lake and picnic along the shoreline where the views will astound your entire crew.
Contact: wyomingtourism.org; http://www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole/
2. Tackle a Colorado 14er.
The Centennial State is home to dozens of 14,000-foot peaks that beckon residents and visitors alike. Whether you make it to the summit or simply relish the high-altitude views, several of the trails are viable for adventuresome and fit families.
At 14,060 feet, Mount Bierstadt is both the closest peak to Denver and considered among the most approachable. Plan to arrive early, hydrate well and be off the mountain by midday to avoid dangerous thunderstorms that can roll in quickly.
3. Shenandoah National Park.
More than 500 trails snake through this National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. Access family-friendly trails via the 105-mile long Skyline Drive, a historic National Scenic Byway that traverses the park. The highway also offers 75 scenic overlooks to stop and appreciate the region’s natural beauty. The 3.5-mile Lewis Springs Fall Loop is popular with families and offers scenic views and waterfalls. The Stony Man Summits and lower cliffs is the same length, offering stunning vistas with only 500 feet of elevation change.
4. Southern California’s Backbone Trail.
Not far from the Hollywood action you’ll find the 68-mile Backbone Trail, extending the length of the Santa Monica Mountains. Choose from a handful of day hike options. Try the Ray Miller Trail, accessed through Point Mugu State Park.
Scenic views of Ventura County can be seen from the 6-mile loop trail, starting at the trailhead off Yerba Buena road. Either way, you’ll be worlds away from the urban hustle.
5. Canyonlands, Utah.
For long views, sunny days and unique land formations, consider a hike into the history-rich Canyonlands. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape, so keep your camera handy as you choose among short strolls, longer day hikes or more strenuous outings.
The 2-mile Grand View Point trail offers panoramic views of the Island in the Sky Mesa. To learn about how the Anasazi lived in the area, consider the Aztec Butte Trail, where some of their rock structures are still visible.
Contact: utahscanyoncountry .com/index.html
During a recent outing I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.
And not “catching”.
Ranch life continues once the snow flies!
Located approximately 130 miles west of Denver, Colorado, Latigo Ranch is situated in one of the most beautiful places on earth and offers a panoramic view of the Continental Divide.
Guests can drink in the views, inhale the crisp mountain air, and gaze in awe at some of Colorado’s most spectacular scenery from the front porch of the ranch’s historic log lodge. Guests will experience warm hospitality and winter activities, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing that keep Latigo Ranch guests coming back year after year.
The outdoor activities are as invigorating as the inside comforts are cozy. Winter rates and packages start just before Christmas and run through late March.