It can be hard in the fall to get into the winter mindset, but before you know it the snow will be flying and you’ll be itching to hit the slopes. A little planning now will not only give you more options when it comes to lodging, it will save you money because many resorts offer preseason deals for families willing to commit to a winter vacation when the leaves have only just started to fall. Let’s take a look at what you can to do plan a Vermont family ski vacation.
Look for a resort – and look for deals
How do you pick your favorite Vermont ski resort? Is it the one where you’ve always skied? The one that’s closest to your home? Or the one that has the best spas or dining (and hey, I’m not here to argue about that – Vermont ski areas certainly have plenty of awesome in both departments). There’s nothing wrong with choosing a resort based on those criteria, but the budget-minded among you might also consider taking a look at which resorts are offering pre-season deals for 2014-15 and take advantage of them. For example:
- Mad River Glen has Family Mad Cards – for $204 you get free seasons passes for all your kids who are 12 and under as of 1/1/2015 and also three adult lift tickets good anytime during the season (no blackout dates). Deadline for purchase is October 15.
- Bromley Mountain’s KidsRule Super Duper Ski Package includes six days of lessons, a pair of skis, discounts on boots and poles, and (once your child completes the lessons) a seasons pass – all for $599. There’s not deadline for this package but they do sell out.
- Killington is selling K Tickets – $61 for adults and $51 for kids 7 to 18. Children 6 and under ski free. Buy seven and get a free lift ticket – but you must purchase by October 16.
- Sugarbush Resort has a SugarDirect Card available through December 17 – for $99 you get one all-day unrestricted lift ticket and then discounts up to 25 percent on lift tickets, lodging, and meals at resort’s onsite restaurant for the rest of the season.
Trying a new resort + saving money = A super ski season.
Choose your dates
Now is the time to take a look at the calendar and decide when you’re going to ski. One thing to consider is if any of the deals you so wisely purchased have blackout dates when you aren’t allowed to use the lift tickets. Weekends and holiday periods are usually restricted (and more crowded) so any weekday skiing that fits into your family calendar is a great idea.
The Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passport Program is open to any child in the fifth grade whether or not they live in Vermont. The passport entitles children to up to 88 days of free skiing. Apply now to make sure you have it in hand when the season starts, and then check the list of blackout dates so you can plan accordingly.
One thing you probably don’t want to do is try to guess what the weather will be like during your visit. Vermont’s climate is notoriously fickle. Some seasons the best skiing is in December; other years March is phenomenal. Happily most Vermont resorts have so much to do that you won’t be bored even if the conditions aren’t ideal.
Pick your accommodation
Your lodging options vary from resort to resort and run the gamut from luxury hotel suite to cozy condo. Shop around now and you’ll have the best choice from all the available options. Generally speaking, staying closer to the slopes is ideal when you’re visiting with children because you have exponentially more gear. And children really don’t like to walk with all their own ski stuff – My kids hate any kind of commute other than the ski-to-the-lifts kind.
The Mamas have done some resort research for you – check out these posts for pictures and descriptions:
- Stay and Play at Jay Peak
- The Perfect Family Ski Vacation at Okemo Mountain Resort
- Stay and Ski With Kids at Stowe Mountain Lodge
- Staying at Stratton Mountain Resort
- Understated Luxury at the Woodstock Inn and Resort
- Plan Your Accommodations at Smugglers’ Notch
Booking your lodging early can also save you money – for instance, Stratton Mountain offers 25 percent off both condos and hotel rooms if you reserve them by October 31.
Fall is when ski shops offer seasonal lease programs (a great option for kids because most shops will let you trade in midseason if your children grow), sales on equipment, and swaps where families can trade or buy used equipment.
If your children already have ski gear, now is a good time to check and see if it still fits and to have their skis and bindings tuned. While you are at the ski shop, have the fit of their helmets checked to make sure you are properly protecting their noggins.
The Back to Ski website has a family ski trip packing list.
Condition, condition, condition
If the first time you’ve been outside and being active is the first time you climb on the chairlift, you might not get the most out of your ski vacation. Fall is a great time for every member of your family to start getting in shape. You don’t have to do anything fancy or formal with your kids, but planning some family walks or hikes, especially with a bit of elevation, will start getting your muscles toned and will build endurance.
Other possible family conditioning ideas include hopping on bicycles and taking a spin around your town, trying a family yoga class, or spending some family time at your local indoor pool are all ways to prepare for that first day on the slopes.
And, if I may suggest, what better place is there to get in shape for the ski season in Vermont than Vermont? Climb those mountains you’ll soon be skiing down and save with foliage season specials.
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.