Family time might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of terrifying downhill runs such as Highland Bowl in Aspen. This is precisely why so many ski destinations celebrated for their daredevil Instagram feeds are ramping up features to better engage and excite families with beginner skiers — on the slopes and off. Here’s a rundown of some of the season’s new additions.
• Aspen: Though the alpenglow of 14,000-foot peaks is this resort’s calling card, Aspen Snowmass — which is composed of four mountains: Buttermilk (green), Snowmass (green/intermediate), Aspen and Highlands (both steep black terrain and backcountry) — is also a terrific spot for beginner skiers.
This season, it will expand its signature Terrain Based Learning for the 6-and-younger set with sculpted snow features designed to introduce spatial awareness and rudimentary skills (stopping, turning, balance) with props.
Translation? Curved walls, controlled wave tracks and wee halfpipes allow beginners to practice starting, stopping, sliding and balance. Once the gentle green runs of Buttermilk are conquered, students move to the more challenging terrain at Snowmass, where instruction progresses in the same prop-based vein.
For preteens (8 to 12) looking for camaraderie and carving skills, a new small-group program, Kids Mountain Explorers, is a week-long adventure camp tackling all four mountains with the same crew of kids (depending on the group’s ability level).
On the hospitality front, the about-to-debut Limelight Hotel Snowmass is a dream for parents who crave sophisticated digs minus the constant pressure to shush their brood. In the heart of Snowmass Village (with its celebrated apres-ski s’mores cart), the 99-room ski in/ski out property’s top-drawer amenities — two pools, an outdoor skating rink, a five-story indoor climbing wall, a lobby and restaurant with a bean bag chair-studded game area and a ski valet — are the definition of family fabulous.
• Beaver Creek: Aside from being home to Birds of Prey, the acclaimed downhill, super-G and giant slalom race course, Beaver Creek Resort — which famously serves hot cocoa at chairlifts and just-baked cookies at the mountain base each afternoon — has been burnishing its reputation as a family destination for some time.
Building on last year’s debut of Red Buffalo Park, a 200-acre, 13-trail family adventure zone for intermediates, comes Haymeadow Park, a learning terrain focused on the beginner experience. The new space includes Smarte Terrain, the sculpted runs that allow skiers and snowboarders to hone skills such as speed control, turning and carving. There also will be a gently sloping introductory racecourse to instill confidence in pint-size daredevils.
In addition to having its own gondola and magic carpets (surface lifts for beginners that are like moving walkways on snow), the Ranch — the ski school’s kids-only restaurant — will unveil an ice cream parlor specializing in nostalgic sweets. Another perk for families: After the lifts close, the village of Beaver Creek, as in seasons’ past, will offer apres-ski programming that includes outdoor, big-screen movie nights, fireside readings of classic stories, demonstrations by snow and ice artists and ice skating.
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