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Colorado: Family Style

Visiting Colorado with Kids | The JetSet Family (header)

Our experience traveling to Colorado has evolved considerably over the years. After growing up skiing on the East Coast for most of my life, my first trip to Colorado came when I was a junior in high school when my aunt and uncle surprised everyone (14 of us at the time,) with a trip to Beaver Creek that would forever alter my view of what a ski mountain really was.

For over twenty years now, my husband Mike and I have traveled to Colorado both with our families as teenagers and eventually as a married couple.  Mike spent the summer of ’98 living in Breckenridge after we graduated from college only to move back East, meet me, and propose four years later on the mountain in Beaver Creek. In February of 2010, our ski bags were pack to leave the next day when we received a call that forever changed our lives. In just thirty-six hours from that call, we canceled our flights and brought our newly adopted son home from the hospital. Our jet setting ski trips as a young married couple were days of the past.

Tom O'Hara | The JetSet Family

Colorado has become a favorite vacation destination of ours now through many stages of our lives. Heading back into the mountains this year as a family of three was a completely different experience for us. After the two and half hour drive from Denver to Vail on a Friday afternoon (with a mix of adults and kids,) there is no better solution for dinner then pizza.

In years past Vendetta’s (located on the main strip of Vail Village,) was known to us more of a ski patrol hangout great for grabbing a drink and a slice of pizza. Unbeknownst to me until this trip, they also offer a beautiful first floor restaurant that is more suited for families. The pizza and service were absolutely fantastic and I still find myself thinking about their pesto chicken pizza! They were very accommodating to the particular tastes of each kid’s pasta order, and quick to make sure that their dishes were on the table in no time.

Colorado with Kids | The JetSet Family

Our first day of skiing was Saturday morning.  The Vail Resort has several ski-school options and packages to choose from.  Since we were staying in East Vail, we chose to enroll our five year old son at the Golden Peak ski school.  We had called earlier in the week to pre-register for the group lesson in order to ensure a spot for him.  It also made sense since the rate increases slightly if you book less than 48 hours prior to your desired start date.

From the moment I called to make the reservation, the team of representatives could not have been more accommodating.  We chose the group lesson for our son with the option to upgrade to either a four person maximum group or a private lesson.  Upgrades are always welcome of course, but to us the most reassuring part of making an advanced reservation for a five year old child was that we could cancel at any time with a full refund.  They operate with the understanding that the unexpected can happen with small children and that vacation scheduled can sometimes be unpredictable.  In today’s world of modern conveniences we felt that this type of flexibility is virtually unheard of. 

Golden Peak Ski School Vail, CO | The JetSet Family

On Saturdays, it is recommended to arrive for check-in at ski school an hour ahead of time especially if your child needs to be fitted for equipment. Always perpetually late, this family arrived about fifteen minutes prior to start time and was delighted to find no line and a well seasoned staff to ensure that we were taken care of.  We had traveled to Colorado with all of our son’s equipment so rentals were not necessary.  They do ask that you have your child ready to go with ski boots on at drop off and that you do not leave bags of extra clothing behind.  

This makes perfect sense when you consider the daunting task of remembering to bring your own child’s multiple layers of winter clothing and accessories (helmet, face guard, goggles etc.) and expect that the ski school team is able to make sure that every child is returned at the end of the day with everything they arrived with.  Their process was an ingenuous one in my opinion, using a clothing store tag gun to attach most loose articles to your child’s jacket.

Ski School Vail Colorado | The JetSet Family

To our delight the ski instructors and staff at the ski school were excellent. From the moment it was time to say goodbye the team was on hand with a reassuring smile and a comforting voice to help wipe away the inevitable tears from many of the youngsters (and this dad.)  I was quite impressed when one instructor was able to quickly step forward and comfort a quite hysterical child who only spoke Spanish.  Having that type of diversified skill on hand from staff is just another sign of a well run operation.

To us, there are few sights more magnificent then climbing the mountains of Vail, CO on a chairlift and making our way to the back bowls. Vail and Colorado in general never cease to amaze us with its absolute grandeur and natural splendor.  Spectacular days become tranquil nights amidst Colorado’s never ending ski village experience.

Tubing in Vail Colorado | The JetSet Family

Complete with white light covered evergreens that epitomize for me what a snowy winter wonderland out to be.  We have grown to relish the tranquility of the ski village experience so much so that we have become “those neighbors.” The ones who often leave a few spruce trees covered in white lights throughout the bitterness of our east coast winter. Only in a feeble attempt to maintain the sense of peacefulness and treasured memories that Colorado provides for us.

Tom O'Hara + Mike Gerardo | The JetSet Family

No ski trip would be complete for us without at least one après ski on the outside patio of the Red Lion. The nachos while a tad on the expensive side are some of the best we have ever eaten. To us creating the perfectly layered nachos is a true art form. There is usually some great live music to enjoy inside or if you time it correctly you can grab one of their outside tables perfect for a few drinks and people watching as the mountain begins to wind down for the evening.  

Red Lion's Famous Nachos - Vail, CO | The JetSet Family

If you are looking for a truly memorable dining experience then we must suggest dinner at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek. They offer family-friendly reservations beginning at 5PM. This is in an effort to graciously accommodate their younger clientele while respecting the more adult crowd later in the evening. Reservations are a must and last minute cancelations are not an option so make sure to plan accordingly.

Guests enjoy a snow cat ride up the mountain to a beautifully appointed log cabin retreat with the warmth that can only come from a true ski lodge experience. Feel free to switch out your shoes for a pair of comfy slippers as soon as you arrive and indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail in front of the inviting two story stone fireplace while your table is prepared. The pre-fixe five course menu ($115 per person) offers a delectable assortment of soups, salads, appetizers, entrees and desert. Alcohol and tip are not included in the fixed pricing.

Sadly, the only thing missing was the porcupine who used to hang out on the porch to welcome dinner guests (he was a staple fixture of Beano’s but has not returned since last season.) As an equally beautiful and delectable alternative to Beano’s Cabin, Zack’s Cabin can be reached by snow cat from The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch and offers an a la cart menu.

Family Travels Vail, CO | The JetSet Family

Towards the end of our trip, my husband hit the slopes our son and I decided to take the day off from skiing and enjoy some of the fun that Adventure Park had to offer.  The park itself sits right at the top of the Lion’s Head gondola so a $15 sightseeing lift ticket is required if you go before 3:30. After two days on the ski school magic carpet our son was blown away after climbing onboard the gondola and heading up the mountain for the first time.

If you are not in Vail to ski or ride then the views alone are worth the sightseeing pass! Adventure Park also offers plenty activities for the adventurous at heart including a zip-line, obstacle course and even snowmobiling for kids!

Colorado with Kids | The JetSet Family

My next post will tell you all about our experience with Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park. It was a great time and hands down one of the most memorable experiences of our trip.

Written by Tom O’Hara

Tom O'Hara

Born + raised on the east coast, this JetSet dad calls Maryland home. Husband, dad and avid traveller, Tom’s favorite vacation destination is Florence, Italy and he looks forward to visiting Bald Island, NC with his family next.

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7 COMMENTS
  • Terri Ramsey Beavers April 15, 2015

    This looks like a really fun trip for skiing. I’ve never been skiing but have always wanted to try it. The resort is so cool, esp that fireplace. Thanks for sharing, I love all of your photos.

  • Jeanette April 16, 2015

    I love to ski and I have never taken my kids skiing, this looks like a blast! I really want to take my kids to this! I know they would have a good time!

  • Heather April 16, 2015

    Gosh, sounds like such a fun travel destination whether you are a skier or not. It sounds like you and the family had a blast.

  • Mistee Dawn April 16, 2015

    I have actually never been to Colorado. It looks like so much fun. I really hope to make it there one day.

  • Coralie April 17, 2015

    This sounds like such a great experience! I would love to take my family there and enjoy the sites. I grew up close to the Colorado border but never experienced this. Looks like a lot of fun!

  • Stefani Tolson April 19, 2015

    Sounds like a great place to take a family vacation to go skiing. I have never been to Colorado but would love to see it one day!

  • harriet April 24, 2015

    I was all over that toboggan idea until I saw those yummy nachos! 🙂

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