This year our son’s family’s spring break takes us to Winter Park, Colorado, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains - Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, the three grandkids ages 7, 4, and 19 months.
There is not much snow in these here Colorado parts, but ski slopes remain snow-covered and open. The rest of the terrain is brown. Brown mountains, brown roads, brown grass, bushes, and buildings.
The two older kids are skiers, having spent several Saturdays at ski schools. Mom and Dad joined the kids on the slopes, including ski lessons and lunch. What a deal! (thank you, Groupon).
Grandma and Grandpa spent an interesting day exploring the slopes. We do not downhill skill for several reasons including the cost and our age. We cross country ski and snowshoe. Having packed and schlepped our snowshoes West, we were anxious to use them.
Cross-country trails were snowless, but there was an alternative.
We snow shoed the ski slopes.
Most ski slopes in the West are in national parks. The land is accessible to everyone – for free. Skiers pay an astronomical amount of money not to ski down the slopes, but for the privilege of riding up the mountains in a chair lift, gondola or some other contraption. If an individual wants to walk up the mountain and ski down, they can do it – for free.
Snowshoeing is permissible on the slopes. We snow shoed the Turnpike, an easy-rated trail winding uphill around the base of the mountain (EZpass not needed!). The trail ends at Snoasis, a lodge on the slopes offering food, restrooms and warmth.
I could boast we walked half way up the mountain, which is what it felt like. Actually, looking at the trail map, Snoasis is not far from the bottom. It is where the ski school feeds the kids. It is where you can see young parents with leads on their tiny tots meandering down the hill, teaching our future winter Olympic wonder kids. Some were as young as three, maybe younger, and I am sure one or two were still in diapers.
It took us an hour at a very slow pace to reach Snoasis. The altitude, the steady uphill and our desire to savor the surroundings are all excuses for our turtle pace. Winter sports in early spring can be idyllic – warm days (it has averaged 50 degrees), fewer crowds, cheaper lodging. The skies are totally clear, the sun strong. I could have sat at a picnic table on the Snoasis patio all afternoon soaking up the rays.
The experience almost makes one forget the occasional meal time temper tantrums, the baby crying the two hour drive back to Winter Park from Steamboat Springs one day, an obstinate kid deciding he (or she) really does not want to do whatever activity is on the agenda, the evening melt-downs as totally exhausted, wiped out children and adults wind down.
Creating memories and a vacation to remember.