Taking the Kids to Steamboat Springs Colorado
Steamboat Springs Skiing
Taking the slope
AAAH. Snow-covered mountains and tall evergreens surround me as I soak in Steamboat,
The story goes that in the early 1800s a French trapper heard a noisy hot spring that reminded him of a steamboat. When the railroad was built in 1908, the formations around the spring were changed and the chugging sound was lost. Still, the name stuck. There is also an Old Town Hot Springs (www.oldtownhotsprings.com) -- first dug 132 years ago by town founder
It's our annual family reunion on snow, too -- 11 of us this trip all between the ages of five and sixtysomething -- and we've gathered in Steamboat, Colo., known for having more U.S. Olympians -- 79, including 17 from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games -- than any other American town. And just as important to thousands of families, Steamboat offers pioneering kids-ski-free programs (www.steamboat.com) dating back 26 years.
While other resorts have adapted various aspects, Steamboat has morphed to include kids rent-gear-free and even fly-free deals (one free child per adult) and has put the town on the map as family central, which could add up to savings of hundreds of dollars a child for a five-day trip. Teens up to 18 get a break on lift tickets, too, as do skiing grandparents. No wonder families remain at the core of the resort's business.
We chose Steamboat because the resort is known for its champagne powder -- more than 400 inches of snow a year -- its new Kids Vacation Center (now doubled in size) for five and seven year olds, plenty of terrain for such a varied group of snowboarders (lower intermediate) and skiers (expert), as well as non-skiers (they plan to snowshoe). Parents will like that there are lifts just for the terrain parks -- look for 30 new and refurbished features, designed for different levels, on the four progressive parks so tweens and teens can "lap" the parks easily and safely.
Another plus: This may be one of the largest mountains in
One morning, we signed on for a snowshoe tour and found ourselves in five feet of snow, slipping and sliding through the
Of course, families here are paying plenty for the privilege -- more than
It seems that once families discover Steamboat -- there are direct flights from nine major cities across the country -- they return again and again. More than 60 percent of families are repeat customers. Instructors return, too -- 60 percent have been here more than five years. "They get what families need," says
"It is our culture that makes us different," believes
The resort certainly does its best to make it easy for families -- from a seamless drop-off right at the ski school to special GPS units that allow supervisors to track children on the mountain. (If a child strays too far from his or her instructor, supervisors are sent an alert and can immediately notify the instructor.) Kids love that they can also go online at the end of the day, plug in their number and see exactly where they skied -- bragging rights for how much vertical they covered.
Still, whatever the benefits, many snow-loving families decide ski school is just too pricey.
"These memories will keep me warm when I'm 90 and they will keep the kids on the right track," adds
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(c) 2009 EILEEN OGINTZ DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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