Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
By guest blogger, Gina Vercesi
“I wish it was snowing!” exclaimed my 12-year old daughter as we walked down the trail from our slopeside condo at Mount Snow Resort last week. It was July and we had just arrived for a week of adventures at Mount Snow’s brand new family camp. We were staying in a lovely, two-bedroom unit at the Seasons Condominiums and signs of winter were everywhere—trail signs pointing the way back to the base lodge, a crock pot ready to hold a hearty après ski meal, a big stone fireplace stocked with kindling awaiting a roaring fire. But it had been a long, cold winter on the east coast this year and the lush foliage of Vermont’s Green Mountains and the smattering of trailside wildflowers along the way were welcome sights on this summer’s eve as we headed to our first family camp meal.
Mount Snow Resort is one of southern Vermont’s leading ski destinations. It’s location is ideal, a short enough drive to easily attract visitors from New England and the Tri-State region yet large enough to offer all levels of skiers and riders abundant trails and serious terrain spread throughout four mountain faces. Mount Snow typically means wintertime family fun and most folks don’t think of Vermont’s mountains when planning their summer travel. Enter Mount Snow’s Family Camp.
In an age where technology reigns supreme, we find ourselves constantly distracted by the pull of smart phones and social media. With the motto of “Unplug and Reconnect” that was coined by Family Camp Director, Mike Mitton, family campers are given the rare treat of leaving their busy lives—and their electronics—behind, creating an authentic opportunity for families to fully enjoy their time together. And isn’t that the heart of what family vacations are all about?
A Perfectly Balanced Schedule of Exploration
At dinner that first night served family-style in Sundance Base Lodge, the camp’s main hub, we met the other family campers and received the schedule for the week. Each day offered plenty of ways to get outdoors and explore, from mountain biking and hiking to golf and off-site field trips. Camp staff created a series of activities designed to allow participants to challenge themselves as much or as little as they liked. Serious adventurers would not be disappointed, while folks who were less familiar with rugged, outdoor activities had plenty of options to go at their own comfort levels and staff was always on hand to support and encourage campers every step—or pedal—of the way.
Mornings were arranged to give parents the opportunity to do some solo adventuring—playing golf, going on a fly-fishing excursion, shopping in the quaint Vermont village of Manchester—while the kids were engaged in activities with the camp’s absolutely fabulous counselors. I had a great run one morning along the picturesque, but hilly, Handle Road while my daughter went on a wildflower hike to gather supplies to make flower crowns.
A quick aside—the Family Camp staff were one of the high points of our visit and I was repeatedly impressed by the positive energy and infectious enthusiasm of the entire Mount Snow team. Each one of them brought their own talents to the group from slack lining to water tubing stunts to organizing epic kickball matches. The kids flocked around them as though they were Pied Pipers and they were never at a loss to suggest an activity in which everyone instantly wanted to participate.
Afternoons are for Families
After the morning’s activities, families would reconvene in Sundance where we would either enjoy lunch together on the Lodge’s back deck with its spectacular view of the slopes or take our lunch on the road for an afternoon adventure like pontoon boating and tubing on nearby Lake Whitingham. Afternoons were also left open for families to explore the resort and the surrounding region together, to relax by the pool, go for a bike ride, or simply play a few games of ping pong in the base lodge.
One day my daughter and I headed into the tiny village of Wilmington and walked around checking out the historic buildings and installation artwork of giant Adirondack chairs that we spotted throughout the region. The village was beautiful, with flowers spilling from boxes in business windows and along the bridge over the Deerfield River. Another day we visited Adams Family Farm, just a few minutes drive from Mount Snow, where my daughter and one of her Family Camp buddies were given adorable baskets that held corn, carrots, apples, bread and grains to feed the friendly animals.
There were several other families at camp that week and I was surprised at how quickly everyone connected with one another, both parents and kids alike. One of the things that especially pleased me was the way all of the kids, without the intrusion of handheld devices or daily social pressures, were able to completely drop their “cool” personas and just be kids.
Their ages ran the gamut, from 16 down to 6, and they were fast friends, playing UNO or pool, encouraging each other as they attempted to balance along the slack line or jump from a platform on the high ropes course we visited, and chasing each other with a vengeance during Capture the Flag. It was a joy to see the big kids hanging out with the little kids, no semblance of unease or embarrassment, searching for salamanders or giving them piggyback rides through the woods. The same camaraderie developed among the adults as well and we bonded over stories about our kids, tales from our hometowns (including detailed instructions on how to suck the goodness out of a crawdad from the Shreveport, Louisiana contingent), and the occasional Long Trail Ale by the campfire. Like the staff, everyone brought their own energy to the Family Camp table and we enjoyed each other’s company immensely all week.
No Stone Unturned
We attended Mount Snow’s Family Camp during their kick-off week yet one would have thought the staff had been running the place for years, that’s how seamless everything was. Whether it was being handed a huge, evergreen spa towel when climbing out of the lake, being delivered back to the condo on a golf cart after a night of s’more making or having a foolproof plan of action in place for rainy afternoons, the entire camp team was continually making sure that we had everything we needed. They were always nearby offering an icy bottle of water after a hot hike, asking if we were enjoying our breakfast (which we always were!), or encouraging us to relax by the pool for a spell. There was no request too large and I almost felt guilty at how utterly accommodating they were—busy parents aren’t used to being so cared for! It was a treat for everyone there.
Mount Snow’s Family Camp offers families the choice of 3, 4 or 7-day all-inclusive camp experiences with lodging in the nearby Seasons Condominiums, 3 delicious and healthy meals served family-style daily, and all activities, equipment and excursions. Time spent at this camp as a family is chock-full of the good stuff from which memories are made.
Gina Vercesi – Kids Unplugged – Founder & Editor
Gina Vercesi is a mother, teacher, writer, runner, hiker, gardener, foodie, and nature girl, with an adventurous spirit and an unyielding sense of wanderlust. Gina cares deeply about helping families (including her own!) unplug from electronics and reconnect with one another and the natural world. In 2009, Gina founded Kids Unplugged as a family nature club and lead weekly hikes for families near her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Kids Unplugged, whose motto is Relax, Play, Explore, has since morphed into a full-fledged family travel site featuring low-tech, off-the-grid adventures for families.