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Christmas in Colorado

Old Sep 30th, 2007, 06:06 PM
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Christmas in Colorado

We are ready to see some snow at Christmas!
We have 7 year old twin boys that we want to take to Colorado during Christmas week. WE live in HOuston, have never skiied, but are an athletic family.
Since the boys still "believe" I really want this to feel like a magical trip, and love the look of Breckenridge, but the altitude is freaking me out a bit since we live at sea level.
Knowing nothing about Colorado, I've done some homework that has shown me some alternatives for beginning skiiers... Buttermilk (exactly WHERE is that?) Snowmass and Steamboat Springs. REally, I think we'll probably only ski for 2 days out of 6 and just spend time playing for the remainder.
Any of these alternate towns as magical in appeal as Breck?
Thanks for any information you can share!
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Old Sep 30th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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The altitude in Breckenridge can be challenging--you're sleeping at 9000+ feet.

Buttermilk and Snowmass are both in the Aspen area. The four ski areas (also Aspen Mountain/Ajax and Aspen Highlands) are quite close to each other and easily reached by public transportation. Buttermilk is small, a good beginner/intermediate mountain. Snowmass is very large. The base in the Aspen area is around 8000 feet.

Steamboat has a nice town, and the base altitude is less than 7000 feet.
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Old Sep 30th, 2007, 07:06 PM
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Breckenridge is only two hours from the Denver airport. Aspen is over four but your can fly into Aspen. Aspen can be tricky and expensive. You could try Eagle/Vail airport which is two hours closer to Aspen.

What is freaking you out about the altitude? Thousands of people come there every year with no problems. Generally if you are healthy and take it a little easy you will be fine. Altitude sickness, if that is your concern, is very unpredictable and is not well understand medically. Breckenridge can be very magical. We were there one Christmas eve when it started snowing with big, lazy flakes -- that was magical.

Sking will be crowded at that time but it will be crowded everywhere. There also some tubing and sledding hills and cross country sking in the area. Breckenridge has a wider range restaurants that would appeal to 7 years old.

Buttermilk is view as the beginner mountain of the Aspen ski complex. It is not a village or much around the ski except condos.

Another area that would be very nice but more expensive is the Beaver Creek area just west of Vail and part of the Vail complex.

Without more information from you, I would stick with your Breckenridge decision.

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Old Sep 30th, 2007, 07:36 PM
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One idea if time allows is to spend your first night in Denver. The "lower" altitude will help you adjust. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water!
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 06:48 AM
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That is common advice but of little value, On average you adjust about 1,000 feet each day. If coming from sea level it would take a least a week to adjust. A single day makes little difference. Four or five days at lower altitude would help.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 06:58 AM
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Breckenridge is a good bet for variety beyond skiing. I think your family will be happy spending the holiday in Breck. Have a great time!
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 07:03 AM
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beckster - we spent last Christmas in Steamboat and thoroughly enjoyed it. We're also from Houston and had no problem with altitude adjustment. Steamboat is known for its champange snow and we had over 37 in the week we were there last year. Steamboat is an older town and not just a ski resort so it can be quite magical at Christmas. Also, it is well suited for families and has some great facilities for beginers. We'd certainly recommend it.

Regardless of your choice, keep in mind that many places have nonstop flights during the winter which allows you to bypass Denver - a big plus IMO. For ex, we flew nonstop from IAH to Hayden, CO which is about 30 min from Steamboat. Those storms that disrupted Denver didn't impact flights into Hayden at all, except those that stopped in Denver. You can also fly, for ex, nonstop to Hayden from Chicago, Dallas/Ft Worth, Atlanta, Newark. The same is true for places like Aspen, Montrose, Durango etc. It's worth considering especially if you're time is limited, not to mention that it's a lot less hassle IMO.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 09:04 AM
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Very helpful information..thanks.

A little more info: We're planning on being in Breckenridge 4 nights. Have a few condos to consider that are available, most of them focusing their advertising on ski in/out. Well, since none of us ski at all, is this even a feature we'll use? We all will ski a day or two with lots of lessons of course, then we'll move on to some sledding or just playing around in the snow. This type of vacation is a first for us. So I'm reading up on how to do it all and feeling clueless.
For example, Where does one rent equipment? Will they help us get geared up? Where are the ski lessons...up the mountain?
Are my kids going to fall out of the ski lift?
Believe me, I'm not a hand-wringer as this is sounding, but these are the things going through my head from not having done it before, and we're excited to be able to have this opportunity in such a beautiful place.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 09:46 AM
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Places where you can ski in/out are usually more expensive. Unless you plan to live on the slopes, we don't think they're worth the extra expense - but you'll certainly find people that think that's the only way to go.

Most resorts have free, frequent shuttle services to the base ski areas, so that makes it very convenient. There are plenty of stores (both at the base and in town where you can get fitted for all the equipment you'll need). In our experience the vast majority of people in the outfitter stores are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Places which are not at the base next to the lifts etc (such as those in town) tend to be less expensive - but sometimes the difference isn't that much.

Location of ski schools will vary on level of experience. Beginners are usually at the base of the mountains near the green or easier runs. Sign up for the schools are well marked at various places at base of the mountains.

No, your kids aren't going to fall off the lifts as long as they follow instructions [and don't get too excited about trying to get an early start (!)] Also, many lifts to the higher runs are enclosed gondolas - so really hard to fall from those.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 10:12 AM
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If you rent your skis for one day, get them at the mountain so you don't have to transport them back to town. If you do rent for multiple days, it's probably less expensive to rent in town, and you might be able to leave them at a "ski check" at the mountain overnight (again, avoiding the need for transporting your equipment, in which case a ski-in/ski-out place is less important).
 
Old Oct 1st, 2007, 11:59 AM
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Ok, my response assumes you are going to Breckenridge because it could vary some if going somewhere else.

RENTALS -- there is no difference in equipment rentals at the base or in Breck. A few dollars cheaper in Frisco, Siverthorne or some of the other none ski areas. With kids, life is simplier if you rent at the base in conjunciton with the lessons. Sometimes you get a package deal. Two days of lessons will hardy gain any sking ability at seven. At that aage they are more interested in playing in the snow than sking on it. An adult is another matter. My recommendation is 1.5 days of lesson or two -- practice the half day. And then half day lessons, half day practice. At the end of five or six days you should be able to get down any green slope. Maybe not a lot style but you will survive UNLESS we have a lot of fresh snow -- then go have a beer until it is well groomed.

Personally -- vary personal opinion -- if you are not committed to learning how to ski, then don't try. Two days of lesson is hardly worth it if don't then ski for several days after that. Sking is like riding a bike -- hard to learn at first -- once learned hard to forget. If you are going to learn, you need to spend some time -- a week is not too long.

SKI IN/OUT -- Breck has a lot of ski in place but much fewer ski out. As someone posted earlier the condos are more expensive. Skip it this year. You will not have the ability to ski in. BUT make sure the condo is within a block of the bus routes. Breck has an excellent bus network.

You indicated it would only 4 nights in Breck. At that time of year it may be difficult to find a condo for four nights. Most will require a min of six or seven nights. The VRBO.com will be more flexible.

CHAIR LIFTs At 7 they will not be allow to ride on the chair lifts by themselves. All the chairs at Breck have bars so the possibility of fall out is small. The only gondola at Breck is from the parking lot. Breck has a beginners chair lift that often used by the kids class that is very slow and safe.

Final thoughts, at 7 years and four nights I would focus on having a good time in the snow. Go on a sleigh ride, dog sled ride, tubing hill. Learn to ski when they are older.

Frank, a gray beard, who can remember when there was no Vail, no Copper Mountain, no Keystone. no Beaver Creek, no Snowmass, just a few die hards with leather boots and wooden skis. Ah, those where the days !!!!! not !!!!
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 12:05 PM
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I respectfully completely disagree with the prior poster's belief that a 7-year old is too young to learn to ski (at leas t in the 2 days allotted to learning). Our kids went to ski school (mostly day care with a little time in skis and on the hill) when they were under 4. Several years later, friends joined us and their daughter caught up to ours in one day. They could all ski the bunny slope at 6 (these aren't precocious children, just normal 6-year olds). I think your kids would have a blast, especially since you are from Houston -- "what did you do over Christmas?" "We went skiing!". It'll be a very big deal to them.
 
Old Oct 1st, 2007, 12:11 PM
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Your kids will have a great time at any of the areas you are considering. I suggest Aspen (skiing at Buttermilk or Snowmass for the ski school program) or Steamboat because they are destination resorts. The slopes will be relatively less crowded. You won't get the day trippers from the Denver area.

Have fun!
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 12:13 PM
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4 and 7 is the perfect age to learn to ski. The kids are fearless at that age and they are so low to the ground that when they fall down, they just pop right back up.

Stick the kids in ski school and don't worry about it. The ski instructors are used to taking kids around all day long. If something should happen to your kids, there will be a sign placed at all the ski lifts that will tell you to go to ski school. Plus, I think most ski resorts now require kids to wear helmets that protect them. This will probably be part of your rental of skis.

Also, know that Christmas may be cold. Make sure you have the proper clothing. Hats, gloves, the right socks, mittens are warmer than gloves, gators, long underwear. All this will help make the experience much happier for everyone.

If you are going for 6 days, I recommend 4 of 6 days. Ski two, take one off, ski two more and know also that you can do a halfday of skiing. Sleep in late and then go skiing after 12:30ish.

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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 12:21 PM
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We really like Steamboat. It's got a lot to offer for a family.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 01:40 PM
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I'm loving the feedback and paying attention guys, thanks so much!

I've got lots of places earmarked that I found on vrbo.com. We use vrbo alot for our vacations. I've actually found places with availability and the condos are pricing out less expensive than places like the Marriott.

We've chosen Breckenridge because it appears to be just about the prettiest mountain town I've seen at Christmas and the ambiance and magic of snow at Christmas is very important to us.I am open to suggestions if I'm missing something.

I appreciate the input regarding skiing and time allowed. We'll do the best we can with the time we have. I know my boys are going to want to give it a try and they have my full support.

I'll take a closer look at Steamboat and Aspen as well.

As 40 something parents of young boys, the real purpose of this trip is to immerse them in the real feeling of Christmas we don't get here in Houston,
along with sledding, santa and some snow.
Thank you for your kind help!!
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 01:54 PM
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Aspen is not a beginner mountain. Stick with Snowmass if you're still considering that area.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 07:01 PM
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Beckster, I think Breck is a good choice given what you want to do in that time period. If you have other questions, contact me off line. We will be in Breck over Thanksgiving --- we let you Texans and other flat landers have the mountains over Christmas and New Years.

dmlove, I didn't say that 7 was too young to learn --- what I said, and I will stand by it, at 7 the learning curve is slow. At the end of two days I doubt they will be able to do much more than slide down the hill and remain upright most of the time. And then if they do not practice that what they have learned for a few days, it will all be forgotten a year from now. A couple days in ski school at that age will provide a taste but not much proficency.
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Old Oct 1st, 2007, 07:20 PM
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wWll, I don't even agree with that (that the learning curve is slow); but it doesn't matter, since the OP is just looking for "a taste". They can certainly get that!
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2007, 08:37 AM
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My experience is young kids learn incredibly fast. Their skis are basically the same width as adult skis, giving them a very secure base, and their center of gravity is low, which helps keep them up better than adults. These kids will be out-skiing their parents, without a doubt.
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