A multi-generational Christmastime ski trip may mean that not everyone in the group will ski, but being together in the snowy mountains will put you in the holiday mood anyway.
I’m part of the 30 percent-and-growing group of grandparents (according to the Travel Industry Association of America) who vacation with grandchildren because it’s one good way to bond when we live so far away from them. So I took a 14-month-old granddaughter skiing here the week before Christmas, even though she didn’t get up on the trails.
But her dad, 50; aunt, 47; and big brother, 12, did, and it worked out beautifully and got us all into the Christmas mood, with the snow, the scenery and the town decorations cooperating.
What does one do all day with a toddler at Copper Mountain while her family skis? While almost every ski area has babysitting facilities, that’s not what we wanted. And it turns out Copper is more prepared for little ones than we could have imagined. Copper’s Critterland, an interactive play place for kids and parents to enjoy the snow together, is made for the very youngest snow bunnies. Colorful snow characters such as Bearilla, Elkguin, Squeal, Ducktopus, Cheetaphant and Alliroo can be found throughout the ski area tempting children to bring their parents to the area at the bottom of the Tubing Hill in East Village where they can ride together around Ducktopus in a tube and where even the littlest of kids can get the sensation of sliding on the snow.
For children a little older than my granddaughter, Squeal Hill is a mini tubing hill for kids under 36-inches tall. Critter Crooked House is a cool escape for little ones to hide from their big brothers. Critterland is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day for ages six and under.
Copper is the best place to prepare the littlest ones for actual skiing with its impressive action sports training ground called Woodward Copper Barn, a 19,400- square- foot year-round snowboard and ski training camp with programs for skiing, skateboarding, BMX and slope-style mountain biking. And, yes, the Barn is a great place to prepare a 14-month-old for eventual skiing, with its enormous beginner foam pit and a trainer to show the little one how to jump into it, crawl through tunnels, and hula hoop. Our little one didn’t even realize she was having a full hour of supervised exercise in the barn; she thought it was just plain fun.
Steamboat Springs is a 100-mile drive from Copper through awesome mountain scenery, where we finished our holiday week. We chose to settle into the magnificent Steamboat Grand Hotel directly across from the main entrance to the ski mountain there, so close that guests can store their skis in lockers that sit by the gondola when they come down from skiing for the day.
Steamboat has some private penthouse condos that can be rented, and ours proved to be the most luxurious ski accommodations we’ve ever experienced, with lovely Western décor and furnishings, fireplaces, stunning kitchen and huge bathrooms and its own sauna. The little one, though, was most impressed with the Steamboat Grand lobby, which had been decorated as if it was Santa’s workshop with elves, snowy Christmas trees, sparkly ornaments and greens, as well as Christmas fairy dolls. She was entranced every time we stopped in the lobby before taking her stroller for a spin around town.
Steamboat offers entertainment of all kinds up on the mountain, even for those who don’t ski, such as a toddler. One night we all together took a gondola up the mountain for a family Western barbeque dinner complete with a live band and dancing.