Ask an Adventure Parent: Family Skiing in Colorado
Ski Cooper is a great family-friendly ski area. Photo courtesy of Ski Cooper.
Kids and the outdoors are a natural match—with endless space to explore and play, activities to enjoy, and fresh air to breathe, outdoor time is one of the best ways for a family to be together. But there can be a lot to consider when going on adventures with kids; from safety to snacks, gear to activities, kids require extra attention on outdoor adventures. So we’ve put together this advice column, “Ask an Adventure Parent” to help answer some of the questions our readers might have about their kids and the outdoors.
Real talk, real parents, real experiences.
Meet Adrienne Christy—Not technically a parent, but as a Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Level II certified ski instructor at Telluride Ski Resort with a Level II Children’s Specialty certification, she knows a thing or two about skiing with kids. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Adrienne has been skiing most of her life and moved to Telluride in 2013 to pursue her passion professionally. Adrienne also works as the Integration Program Coordinator for the Tri-County Health Network, a nonprofit committed to improving the quality and coordination of health and healthcare services by increasing healthcare access and integrative health services at lower costs to rural Southwest Colorado.
1. My young kids are comfortable skiing beginner green runs, but I’m not sure that they’re ready for intermediate blues. How can I tell if they’re ready to progress to tougher terrain?
It’s always so fun to watch your kids progress on the ski slopes. The basic PSIA guidelines suggest that the transition from green to blue terrain should go along with a transition from wedge turns (also known as pizza turns) to parallel turns (commonly referred to as french fries). If your kids are making controlled wedge turns and can come to a full stop on their own, they’re probably ready to move on to new techniques and ultimately new terrain. I would emphasize that technique should always come before terrain; if your kids aren’t ready for parallel turns, spend a little more time on green terrain so that they can start to break out of the wedge. Games are a great way to reinforce technique and keep it fun. One of my favorites is “Ski Like an Animal”: fast like a cheetah, slow like a turtle, tall like a giraffe, small like a mouse, and for an added challenge, hop like a bunny. This game is fun, interactive, and gets kids moving around dynamically on their skis.
OutThere Recommendation: Loveland Ski Area offers a separate base area called Loveland Valley just for beginners where families don’t have to worry about getting lost or sharing the slopes with more advanced skiers and riders. When they’re ready for more terrain, Fire Bowl off Ptarmigan Lift at Loveland Basin is the perfect wide-open cruiser for your little ones to get used to the larger mountain and continue to improve their technique.
2. Skiing can be really expensive, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford the slopes this season. How do I make skiing both fun for my whole family and less taxing on my wallet?
In the long term, skiing is definitely an investment sport, but in the short term, enjoying the sport definitely doesn’t have to be prohibitive. I have a few suggestions to help alleviate the cost: First, if you’re ready to buy gear, try to buy used gear in the off-seasons like springs and early summer. You can often find great deals at local gear shops who are trying to clean out last season’s rental inventory. Second, buy a season pass as early as possible. There are so many different types of passes to resorts and ski areas around Colorado, but if you plan on skiing more than three or four times, passes are usually a better deal than individual lift tickets. Finally, consider skiing half days. If you’ve got small children or are worried that meals will add an unwanted cost, leave early in the morning, ski until lunch time, and then eat sandwiches in the car on the ride home. You’ll beat traffic and the inevitable tears of exhaustion. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what works best for you and your family.
OutThere Recommendation: Ski Cooper has one of the best values for a family ski day in the state of Colorado. Its smaller size and approachable atmosphere and staff make the day stress free. Additionally, with free parking, and reasonably priced lift tickets, rentals, lessons, and meals, a ski day at Cooper will be a fraction of the cost of a day at a larger resort.
3. My kids are begging to take runs on their own without the “grown-ups”, and I think I’m ready to let them try it. Do you have some advice about how to give them that freedom and also keep them safe?
Skiing is one of the best ways to encourage independence, but there’s definitely a few safety things to keep in mind before sending them out on their own. First, go over the Skier’s Responsibility Code. All skiers are responsible for its precepts, and it’s designed to keep everyone safe on the hill.
Skier’s Responsibility Code
- Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
- People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
- You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
- Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Second, I would recommend at first choosing as a family which runs your kids are allowed to go on. Wait either at the top or at the bottom of the runs to watch how they’re doing on their own before you send them off entirely alone, and when you do decide to go off to ski your own terrain, make sure that they stay on those runs you agreed on. If you lose each other or in the event of an accident, you’ll know exactly where to find them. Finally, make sure that everyone is comfortable on the chairlift and familiar with lift safety. Always put the bar down, face uphill on the lift, and keep all equipment attached to the body (ie, mittens, helmets, skis).
OutThere Recommendation: All of the runs at Monarch Mountain funnel down to one base area, so families don’t have to worry about losing each other on the hill. A great blue run for confident intermediate pre-teen skiers is the Snowburn run off of the Panorama lift. Because of its solar aspect, the start of the run is often loaded with powder and then you drop down on to a fast groomer. This one is so fun, you and your kids will be lapping it all day.