One of my favorite things about living in Park City is that we sometimes have the opportunity to “check out” of our regular routine and check in to a hotel and play the part of tourists.
We got to do this on the second weekend of ski season, when Jeffrey and I were invited to dine and stay at Goldener Hirsch Inn, at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Village. We made arrangements for the kids to spend the night with our good friend (and theirs) Mel. But we also had the chance to bring them up to the property to see what it was like.
It turned into a brief glimpse of what it means to take a ski vacation with the kids. I’ve always tipped my hats to families who pack up all their gear and brave the wilds of air travel to then decamp to Deer Valley for a ski vacation. It seems daunting, but of course, it’s not without rewards. And, I realized, there are lots of ways in which being a tourist is way more fun than being a local. (I didn’t have to do a single household chore while I was at the Hirsch.)
As we proceeded through the weekend, I picked up a few insider tips and tricks that might make your vacation here a little easier to manage.
Tip #1: Call about early check-in
Granted, if you are traveling here during the busiest weeks, your room is unlikely to be available before the property’s official check-in time. But most lodge/hotel/inn style properties will have secure baggage storage, so that you can stash your belongings and get on with your day, as quickly as possible after arriving. We were visiting the Goldener Hirsch on a “pre-holiday” weekend, meaning they were not busy, and were happy to welcome us early, so we could take advantage of the ski-in, ski-out location. It was a massive luxury to be able to layer up and boot up in the room—which had a lovely sitting area with plenty of room to organize our stuff. Even if you are not staying in a slopes-side property (as I don’t, nearly every night), it pays to get geared up as head-to-toe as possible, at your lodging location. Fewer items get dropped or left-behind if you are wearing them. By the same token, if you’re looking for a more leisurely approach, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the lockers and basket-check at both Snow Park and Silver Lake Lodges.
Tip #2: Invest time in getting your ducks in a row
Note that in the tip, above, I did not say “get on the slopes as quickly as possible after arriving.” Honestly, when you’re traveling with kids, it is well worth the investment of time to allow a few business hours after your arrival (whether it’s the afternoon/evening you arrive, or the next morning) to sort out all the gear and arrangements. For instance, getting fitted for your rental gear the night before your first ski day is a great time-and-sanity saver (the Deer Valley Ski Rental Shop at Snow Park Lodge is open until TK time). If you or your kids are taking ski lessons, visit the Children’s Center or the Ski School well before the lesson’s start time to make sure all the waivers are signed, and that any allergies or special requests are noted in the file. I did exactly that. We pulled up to Snow Park Lodge, and Jeff dropped me off at the curb before he pulled into a designated “waiting” spot. I’m telling you this detail for two reasons: First, this really is a quick errand. Second, if you are going to be at the lodge for more than 10 minutes, find a spot in the regular parking lots.
It took just minutes for me to visit the Children’s Center and make sure everything was in order for the boys’ lessons the next morning, as well as for the Children’s Sunday Ski Experience programs that begin next month. The super-helpful staff even printed the tickets for the private lesson Jeff and I had scheduled with Letitia Lussier, and my ticket for the Women on Wednesdays program, which begins next month. I learned that one of the members of the team, there, has the initials J.Z. so I couldn’t resist taking a photo of “J.Z. and His Ladies.”
“We wish more people did what you are doing,” the staffers in the Children’s Center explained. “It makes it less stressful for everyone.” I thought back to many seasons’ worth of chaotic first-days of the CSSE, and realized how right they are. Granted, the staff there are over-the-top helpful, but walking into the morning rush, with overheating geared-up kids, can be an unnerving experience. If you can’t get to the Ski School ahead of time, take a moment, a day or two before you depart for your vacation and call the Children’s Center to make sure everything’s arranged as you planned.
Tip #3: Manage Expectations—the kids’ and your own
Jeff and I agreed that we’d count on getting no more than two runs in with the kids, Saturday afternoon. Any additional snow time would be considered a “bonus.” (Granted, this would be an expensive proposition if we didn’t hold season passes, but we do, so we figured a couple of runs would be a good idea. But it can also work if you plan to do a half-day ski day, which will likely involve more than two runs, but not leave you all to exhausted to enjoy the rest of your vacation.) So, we let the kids know that we wanted to just “test” our ski legs, and have a nice lunch at Silver Lake Lodge restaurant. This dovetailed nicely with one of my oldie-but-goodie tips:
Tip #4: Leave them wanting more
This one never gets old. (For the Seinfeld fans, I call this the Costanza Rule.) If you want your kids to love skiing, call it a day while they are still enjoying it. The pros at the ski school say that frequent breaks can be the key to a successful day. We did exactly two runs on Ontario and then it was time to break for a late lunch. Yes, the lifts were still running when we finished, and the kids were BEGGING for more runs. “You will have all day tomorrow to ski,” I reminded them. Then, I engaged my supermom powers with a deft “look at the birdie” distraction move: I asked if they wanted to go back to the Goldener Hirsch and check out the live music in the lounge. People, there was yodeling. And it was a big hit. Also, there was a little nook on our guest room’s floor, where several varieties of freshly baked cookies, some hot beverages and fresh fruit were laid out for guests to enjoy. So, my chocoholic big boy availed himself of a chocolate chip cookie, while his (shockingly) sweet-tooth-impaired younger brother delighted in choosing and eating an apple. This was just one of the great details we appreciated at the Inn.
Tip #5 Stay Hydrated
While Jeff and I were in our private lesson with Letitia, on Sunday, she told us about a seminar she’d attended, through the Professional Ski Instructors Association, that focused on hydration. Among the highlights: Flying is dehydrating, as is staying at a higher altitude, as is eating spicy food and drinking alcohol. So if you do any or all of these before you make your first turns, you’re already at a hydration deficit. Then, when you’re skiing, you lose water through your breath, in the cold, dry air. Boom. Then, your muscles aren’t working at their capacity—and, to boot, once you start to dehydrate, your ability to feel thirsty shuts off. So, drink lots of water—and take plenty of breaks for water throughout your ski day. (I reviewed the previous evening’s delicious tasting meal at the Goldener Hirsch restaurant, including the bottle of Pinot Noir that Jeff and I shared, and realized, that I could benefit from an extra glass of water or two throughout the day.)
Tip #6 Know thyself
If you are tired, take a break. If you know you didn’t get enough sleep, or had a sore back the day before, take it easy. Skiing within your limits is way more fun that pushing yourself to the point of injury. Take an early lunch if your energy is starting to flag by 11 a.m. This is a great strategy, also, because the restaurants aren’t crowded, and then, when the rest of the skiing population is at lunch at noon, you’re back out on empty slopes. This is especially helpful if you are skiing with your kids—you get the benefit of keeping them fed and hydrated, and enjoying quieter trails with them. Plus, you can be the hero and call for a hot cocoa break at 2 p.m.
Tip #7 Invest in a caribiner
Among its many handy uses you can attach your basket check tag, or ski-check tag to the handy metal clip—sliding those around your wrist or shoving them into a pocket can create an opportunity to lose those items. (Also, take a photo of the tag with your smartphone, so you can show it to the ski check staff in the event you do lose the tag, somehow.) Collecting your whole family’s tags at the end of the day, in one place, is a great way to keep track of them. I use some sort of memory device to recall whose is whose. For instance, my current ski-check tag says “1619” and since I often think of myself as younger than I am, I told myself, “For the purposes of this exercise, I am in my teens.” Then, when my kids got their tags, I noticed that the older child had a tag with a higher number than his brother’s tag. There’s always some funky way to recall which tag correlates to which family member, so I find them where I can.