Family Ski TripsSki Trip with Your Little Snow Angels
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow: Out West is the winter playground this season. From sledding to ice-skating to daredevil down-hilling, a family ski vacation is all about introducing your children to an active lifestyle – and there’s no better place to do so than Vail.
Home Sweet Hotel
Vail is a family-friendly town, and it just got a whole lot friendlier with the new Four Seasons hotel. For years, the family experience at Vail has been dominated by Beaver Creek, with its ski-in, ski-out children’s ski school and warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for you right off the slopes. With an ice rink in the middle of town and plenty of casual dining options, it almost reaches Disney perfection – the “happiest place on the earth.” In Beaver Creek, the Park Hyatt is well-situated at the base of the mountain with its swimming pool and hot tubs featuring views up the slopes. It may have been great for kids, but Mom and Dad were generally relegated to second-tier entertainment – or had to depend on Vail for the primo restaurants and after-dark scene.
But, with the arrival of the Four Seasons, families now have a true full-service experience in Vail Village, which is at the center of all of the fun. And the Four Seasons also rolls out the red carpet for the kids, so the whole family is happy.
It used to be a challenge to trudge around Vail with the kids and all their gear. No longer. The new Four Seasons ski concierges, at the Vista Bahn gondola, now takes care of the dirty work. The army of orange-jacketed concierges, who await your arrival at the bottom of the slopes, have changed the whole experience of traveling with kids. They’ll do it all: Store your skies and shoes, arrange for lessons, provide snacks and more.
For beginners, Golden Peak is ski-school central; sign kids up here for lessons and they’ll soon have a busier social schedule than yours. Next door to the ski school is Vail’s only daycare, Small World Nursery, which takes children as young as 6 months, from 8 to 6pm, for indoor and outdoor playtime. At around $85/half-day or $120/day, it’s relatively easy on the wallet. For those staying at the Four Seasons, the hotel offers a kids’ program (9–5pm), with no additional fee.
Après-ski with the kids means splashing around in an 85°F-heated pool and hot tub at the Four Seasons. No need to shiver in the mountain chill, though; the pool attendant will wrap you up with a heated towel and robe when you emerge from the pool to sit around the fire and enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores. This sure isn’t the Holiday Inn.
Vail abounds with family dining. At the Four Seasons’ new restaurant, children five and under eat for free, or you can opt for an upscale family meal at Larkspur, whichhas a dedicated children’s menu with everything from organic chicken tenders to veal scaloppini. During the day, Larkspur also has a takeout spot which is convenient for quick bites when the kids are at ski school. After dinner, soak in the Vail Village atmosphere with the kids before tucking them into bed, as snug as bugs. Now Mom and Dad can hit the Vail nightlife.
The next day, you can stay in Vail Village or, if you want a change of scenery, venture to Beaver Creek to enroll the kids in ski school there. After a full day of skiing the slopes, take in some early-evening ice-skating in the village before heading out for a steak dinner at the Beaver Creek Chop House. On holiday weekends, reservations are a must. For a more low-key eve, enjoy a casual family pizza night at Vendetta’s on the earlier side, before the riffraff arrives.
Beyond the Skis
On your last day in Vail, hit Adventure Ridge, which has sledding, snowmobiling, bungee trampoline and every other activity in the snow. For a change of pace, head to Lionshead, where you can take in story time at the Lionshead Public Library, or ice-skating near Arrabelle. Lunch at Tavern on the Square at the Arrabelle, enjoying a leisurely family meal. Otherwise, check out the new Solaris in Vail Village, which is a complex of ice rink, upscale bowling alley, and the Cinebistro movie theater. Vail shows how it should be done: Gourmet food is served at both the theater and bowling alley. Later, plan a game night around the fireplace at the Four Seasons. The hotel also has an entire game room, complete with pool table and ping pong, making it an easy place to park the older kids if Mom and Dad want some alone time.
One visit to Vail turns into many: After a weekend here, the ski trip will become a yearly fixture on your family vacation circuit