DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Mount Snow for providing us with ski passes, equipment rentals, and accommodations for this skiing and travel review. The opinions expressed here are honest and solely the author’s.
Our family welcomed a beautiful daughter to the world 10 months ago. Consequently, fatherhood became more complicated juggling a 7-year-old son and a newborn girl. I was thrust back into the trenches — a life of diapers, bottle feeding, sleep deprivation, stroller walks, and precious moments with a nugget napping in my arms. What was surprising was how this drastic lifestyle change would affect our older son. It’s difficult being the big sibling when so much attention focuses on the baby.
As winter enveloped our lives, I wanted to break out and have some inner-child fun. I was seeking a way to give my son some well-deserved personal attention. We hatched a plan to take a father/son trip for an adventurous weekend getaway. We brainstormed several destinations — a warm beach, indoor waterpark, amusement park, and skiing. We figured a ski trip to one of the most popular ski resorts on the East Coast — Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont — would hit our sweet spot.
Here are a few reasons we determined Mount Snow was a perfect family skiing destination.
1. Great for children who have never skied
Truth be told, my son was 99 percent more excited about the chance of riding one of the 20 ski lifts up the mountain at Mount Snow than he was about learning to ski. He was salivating at the prospect of hopping aboard a chair-lift — honing in on Mount Snow’s sleek BlueBird Express that whisks you up to the summit in 7 minutes — and riding it up and down for the entire day. I tried to explain to him you’re only allowed to ride it one way — up. To the top of a slope. Then, you must ski down for another opportunity to ride the chair lift. This was instant motivation for my son to learn how to ski.
We enrolled my son in Mount Snow’s ski school on our first day. Yeah, I’d love it if he learned how to plow, make turns, and was shredding all over the mountain, but ultimately I wanted him to leave the lesson wanting to ski again. My son’s instructors were extremely patient, cared deeply about safety, and made the learning fun.
I wasn’t surprised when my son shared the highlights of his “Mountain Camp” (the snow camp program for 7-year-olds) experience: riding the “magic carpet” (a conveyor belt that takes you to the top of the bunny hill), using the rope tow, and slurping hot chocolate during the snack break. More importantly, he had a beaming smile and was eager to take another lesson. I couldn’t believe how much he progressed after only two days of ski school.
2. Also great for parents who haven’t skied in a while
Skiing is one of the most invigorating activities I’ve ever experienced in my life. However, it’s been years since I’ve last clicked on a pair of boots and skis. I’m older now, feeling mortal, and was definitely nervous at the prospect of getting back on skis.
Fortunately, Mount Snow has a welcoming ski school program for adults as well. I was comfortable being grouped with three other participants who were in a similar situation — they used to ski, but haven’t been on skis in several years. For the next two hours, my anxiety melted away as I practiced with an instructor who focused on my strengths and provided valuable guidance to improve my skills. To be completely transparent, I fell frequently and getting back up on my skis after a fall was embarrassingly challenging. I persevered.
I credit the humor, process, and coaching craft of my instructor, Andy Donofrio, who had all of us within the group gliding confidently across the slopes at Discovery Center in no time. Bottom line: after two days of skiing at Mount Snow, I learned to fall back in love with a sport that I’d completely forgotten about.
3. Mount Snow: An easy road trip from the NYC area
In planning our weekend ski adventure, I wanted a destination close enough to drive in a few hours, had top-notch skiing, and offered a wealth of amenities forwhen we weren’t skiing. Mount Snow is ideal because it’s in the Southern part of Vermont so with a pit stop at the gas station and a snack at the rest stop, we were at our destination in under 4.5 hours. There were several other enticing ski resorts we explored in Vermont, but we chose the resort closest to New York City.
Parents don’t want to hear children in the backseat asking, “Are we there yet?” I’m happy to report the scenic drive consists of easy highways to navigate and the help of a DVD player made for an easy round-trip drive. The other bonus of using your car for a family road trip is you can stuff your vehicle to capacity, and not have to worry about airline weight limits. Let’s face it — children require lots of stuff, so bring their favorite pillow, stuffed animal, and infinite snack options.
4. Numerous activity options … even if you DON’T ski
If this weren’t billed as a “ski weekend,” a compelling argument could be made that the recreational activities for families happening off of the slopes are the top reason to visit Mount Snow.
It was snowing and the mercury was at 25 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived at Mount Snow’s Grand Summit Resort Hotel on Friday night. With an itch to explore the enchanting property, stretch our legs, and seek adventure, we did what any family would do — we jumped into the Grand Summit’s outdoor pool. Yes, you read that correctly. The ultra-warm, outdoor pool is open year-round and frolicking is encouraged. With a view of the slopes and the snowflakes falling around us, we had our first snowball fight in the pool!
One of our weekend goals was to break from our usual routines. So we decided to hit the hotel’s arcade at 7 a.m. before breakfast. After a few games of pinball and Ms. Pac-Man, we ignored the advice from two bitter children (see cute sign in the photo) who deemed the Claw Machine was impossible to win, and were victorious. Disclosure: we spent $6 before being elated when Red the “Angry Bird” fell into our laps.
My son’s weekend highlight was going head-to-head against me in extreme snow tubing, and winning. The spectacular tubing course, located at the base of Mount Snow (and just outside the Grand Summit Hotel) is an eight-lane run. It provides an awesome opportunity to race against your entire family at the same time. Then, after the thrill-seeking, scream-induced, lightning-fast ride to the bottom of the hill, you’re met by a wonderful surprise — a conveyor belt that takes you and your heavy tube back up to the top so you can do it time and time again.
Activities off the beaten path? Imagine an evening sleigh ride through the snowy forest pulled by a pair of one-ton Belgian draft horses. On Saturday night, we ventured to nearby Adams Family Farm for this one-of-a-kind, magical treat. Our sleigh was guided by valiant captain, Kip Adams, to a log cabin in the woods to enjoy some hot chocolate. Cuddling up under blankets with my son, and staring up at a breathtaking, starlit galaxy was a special moment for me. We’re eager to try dog sledding at Husky Works Mushing Company on a future visit during the winter.
There’s no shortage of high-quality food options around the base of Mount Snow. There’s something truly gratifying about skiing right up to the front door of a restaurant. Our favorite lunch spot was 1900′ Burger. An Angus beef burger topped with smoked, applewood bacon paired with a thick milkshake was just the ticket after a two-hour ski lesson.
The focus of the weekend was bonding with my son. It was truly special to have a date night with my sidekick after a tiring day of winter activities. We dined together by flowers and candlelight at Harriman’s Farm to Table restaurant in the Grand Summit Resort. The service and food were superb! I’m still dreaming about the Fusilli alla Vodka topped with sliced ribeye steak.
5. Breath in that fresh mountain air
Our family spends ample time enjoying Central Park in New York City. However, there’s no comparison to that feeling on the mountain when you’re surrounded by snow, trees and natural beauty. Escaping the monotony of our daily lives and surrounding ourselves with breathtaking scenery at Mount Snow was truly special.
So many lasting memories were made during our weekend getaway at Mount Snow. Fortunately, our family no longer needs an excuse to visit. What was remarkable about Mount Snow was that all of the staff from renting equipment, dining, ski instructors, and hotel information made you feel welcome and part of one big family. My son and I are hooked and we’ll be back. In fact, we’re already plotting our next trip which will likely occur over the summer so we can kick the tires during Mount Snow’s Summer Family Camp. Plus, in the warmer months, we’re told that you can ride the Bluebird Express Lift up and down the mountain to our heart’s content.
Have you been or are you headed on a ski trip with your family this winter? Please let us know in the comments where you’re headed.
Photos: Courtesy of the Somerfeld family