Enjoying A Mount Snow Family Ski Vacation

By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva

If your family lives in the Northeast and doesn’t want to travel far for a great family ski vacation, consider Mount Snow in southern Vermont.  Only a 2 ½ - hour drive from Boston and four hours from New York City, Mount Snow is the closet big mountain to major Northeast metropolitan areas, making it an easy family trip. Some of the recent changes and improvements at Mount Snow also bode well for families looking for top skiing and off-mountain activities.

Improved Snowmaking Equipment

In the last two years Mount Snow has installed 151 new-technology fan guns to its snowmaking system. Typically, you may not be interested in this sort of news, but this improvement in the mountain’s snow-making allowed Mount Snow to be the first ski area in Vermont to open for the 2007-08 season and among the last to close in late April. With even more fan guns this season, skiing should be great deep into the month of April. For a southern Vermont ski resort, this is impressive. The quality of snow these new guns create is also superb. So, although the techno-speak about snow guns may not excite you, the great skiing on all that man-made snow certainly will.

Bigger and Better Freestyling

For those in the family who want to do some freestyling, Mount Snow has converted the entire Carinthia mountain face to freestyle terrain parks with over 100 acres of trails in a massive park system, making it New England’s only all-park mountain face.  A smorgasbord of rails, jumps and halfpipes cover nearly five miles of terrain at Carinthia. A snow skate playground, hikable park, beginners’ learning park and a skate ramp surrounds the base area, while the base lodge itself has been outfitted with lounge areas, an extended outdoor deck with ample seating, counter seating along the windows, free wireless internet, flat screen TV’s and outdoor fire pits. A high-speed quad and a double chairlift get riders and skiers up the hill, where they then choose from over 125 different freestyle features scattered around 12 full terrain parks. The improved base area is perfect for spectators like Mom and Dad who want to view their kids in one of the learning parks. Mom and Dad can also join in the fun themselves, as Carinthia is perfect for all levels of skiers and riders.

Skiing Convenience

We spent two days at Mount Snow and had a fantastic time. Staying at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel made our stay something special. Located slopeside, the Grand Summit offers luxury and unparalleled convenience. Many of the Grand Summit’s rooms and suites have full kitchens, allowing families to save money on meals.
After our first day of skiing, we slipped into the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzis and watched skiers finishing their last runs of the day. That’s how close the pool and hot tubs are to the slopes. The Summit Express high-speed quad is just literally steps from the hotel, so getting to the slopes is easy. It’s even easier skiing in, as skiers can ski literally right up to the door. The complimentary ski check, located just outside the back doors, was a welcome convenience.

The next day we awoke to a bright, sunny day and great ski conditions. After a quick breakfast in our room, we picked up our skis at the ski check and made our way over to the Summit Express. We wanted to get in a few runs before the crowds arrived. However, crowding wasn’t really a problem at all.  We found Mount Snow’s lifts and trails easily accommodated plenty of skiers and there weren’t any lift lines.

Great Family Skiing

We found skiing at Mount Snow to be perfect for us, and its diversity allows it to suit the varied needs of most families. Seventy-three percent of the 102 trails are intermediate trails, giving us, and most skiers for that matter, plenty of variety in ski trails. What our daughter Jen and her friend liked best, however, was Mount Snow’s black diamond trails on its North Face. They felt that the trails were challenging but not intimidating. They found no lift lines here at all. So there are definitely some challenging trails for the more expert skiers, especially Ripcord, a bumps run rated one of the steepest trails in the East by Skiing magazine.

The fact that Snow has four separate mountain faces – Carinthia, North Face, Main Mountain, and Sunbrook, helps disperse skiers over a wide area and virtually eliminates those dangerous bottlenecks where trails feed into a small area.
Each of these mountain faces offers something unique. Sunbrook is so named because of its southern exposure and is a great area to stay a little warmer when the temperatures drop. North Face, with its many black diamond trails, doesn’t catch that much sun later in the day, but proved to hold its conditions well. Many of the Main Face slopes offer some great narrow, tree-lined trails in the traditional New England style, as well as some wide open, “snow bowl” areas typical of skiing in the western United States.

The Mount Snow Skiing and Snowboarding School features programs for all ages and ability levels, with its own building, learning terrain and lifts. Programs include Cub Camp, for 3-year olds; Snow Camp for children ages 4-6; and Mountain Camp/Riders for ages 7-14.

Exciting Winter Activities

In addition to the great skiing, a number of other activities are available to ensure that everyone in the family has a wonderful time. One activity that is growing in popularity is snowshoeing. Mount Snow has a few specially marked on-mountain trails open to snowshoers, as well as some great spots in the woods for blazing your own trail. Snowshoe rentals are available or $20 a day at Mount Snow Sports located in the Grand Summit. Guests at the Grand Summit can also enjoy a free introduction to the sport, as the Grand Summit Health Club offers a one-hour guided snowshoe trek with equipment. Just be sure to call to reserve a spot and make sure that a guided tour is available on the day you would like to go.

Another activity that’s fun for the whole family is snow tubing. Riders must be at least 36 inches tall. The tubing park is open for various sessions each day for $20 per session. Although is a bit pricey, but the park is serviced by a covered “magic carpet” lift. You don’t have to walk back up the hill - you ride up! Other activities located in the area include snowmobile tours through the Green Mountain National Forest, traditional Vermont horse-drawn sleigh rides, and cross-country skiing offered at several locations throughout the Mount Snow Valley.

A Variety of Accommodations and Amenities

The Grand Summit offers a Deluxe Family Ski and Stay Package, which offers lodging in a 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite with lift tickets for a family of four, including two children ages 6-12. In addition to the 200-room Grand Summit Resort Hotel, Mount Snow also owns and operates the 100-room Snow Lake Lodge and several condominium complexes within the base area. Within the Mount Snow Valley, a variety of accommodations - from Vermont country inns to ski lodges and motels - is available. With more than 50 restaurants and shops in the Mount Snow Valley and nearby Wilmington, families can find plenty of places to explore and enjoy. However, if you stay at the Grand Summit and you’re like us, you might just park your car at the beginning of your stay and never touch it again until you leave.

The Grand Summit Spa and Fitness Center offers a wide assortment of treatments, including a most relaxing lava rock massage. If you haven’t worn yourself out on the slopes, the fitness center has an excellent selection of equipment and scheduled exercise classes. An arcade and a children’s activity room with a variety of planned activities entertains kids staying in the hotel. A couple of other convenient amenities of the Grand Summit are Harriman’s Restaurant, serving breakfast and dinner daily; the Grand Country Deli and Convenience Store; laundry facilities; and the Mount Snow Sports retail ski and snowboard store.

If You Go:

* Families will want to check out the Kids Ski & Learn Free weeks available during certain weeks of the season. Juniors, ages 4-12, receive a free 3, 4, or 5-day lift ticket and a 3, 4 or 5 days of half-day morning clinic, midweek when an adult purchases a 3, 4, or 5-day lift ticket.

* For more information about Mount Snow lift tickets, lodging packages and area activities, visit www.mountsnow.com and click on the FAMILY ZONE under the Trip Planning tab, call 800-245-SNOW, or contact your favorite travel agent.

Jeff and Stephanie Sylva are retired high school teachers and have been professional travel writers for over twenty years. Their daughter Jennifer, who is currently in college, often travels with them.

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