Thursday, April 17, 2014

Breckenridge Mountain Peak 6

This season, we were doubly excited to head up to Breckenridge for Spring Break. In a new progression to Breck's long history, the resort added over 540 acres via the opening of Peak 6. Why is this important? From a historical perspective, this is the largest and one of the most notable ski area expansions worldwide in the past decade. For us, Peak 6 adds 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain. More importantly, a new, high-alpine, Intermediate bowl opened up for skiing – pretty tough to find in other places, usually it's all expert. And, while the terrain is mostly expert and extreme, there are also plenty of options for the Advanced Intermediate.

Breckenridge Mountain Peak 6

Our first day up, we were amazed to sit on the Zendo Chair and see that the mountain just kept going up and up. To my untrained eye, none of it looked particularly Intermediate, but rather steep and difficult. When Munchkin struggled getting off the lift and down a steep, short slope down to the bottom of the Kensho SuperChair, I decided to call it a day and ski only the bottom portion of Peak 6 with the kids. (Having my brother-in-law break his leg the day before made us extra cautious as well.) Plenty beautiful, with tougher options along with some tree skiing, even on these basic Intermediate runs. The next day, I called in the cavalry and sent Laima up with the kids, so we could get some video from the top as well. They not only survived, but enjoyed the trip down immensely.

Video of our first visit to Peak 6

After looking at the video and hearing their stories, I'm confident that I can ski the top next season, including some of the hike-to terrain at the very top. I'm looking forward to working on my skiing skills at the beginning of next season, then trying them out on this new-to-me terrain.

Disclaimer: A lift pass was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Family-Friendly Keystone Resort, Colorado

Keystone Resort

Being so close to our home base of Breckenridge, Keystone Resort has always been on our radar, specifically because of its reputation as being family-centric. Even the parking is geared towards "family," with larger groups getting front row spots and approximately 150 red wagons available for easier transport of gear (and tired children) to and from the slopes. This, our first visit, was all about the young 'uns, making sure The Little Worker and Munchkin had as much fun as possible, while also not forgetting about Gaigai and Tazer - we didn't need to worry, Keystone has the whole family covered.

The facts: 3,148 – acres of skiable terrain, with 3,128 feet of vertical drop and 20 chairlifts for easy access. There is a natural front-to-back sequence of Keystone’s terrain, with three peaks stacked in front of one-another, progressively getting more difficult as you head away from the main base area. While we stuck mostly to the Beginner and Intermediate runs, there is plenty of challenging terrain for the kids to progress into. Something I didn't know about Keystone is that there is cat skiing in the bowls - for $5, catch a cat ride up to the top and save your legs from the hike up. We are definitely trying that next year!

Photo Credit: Jack Affleck/Keystone Resort
Photo Credit: Jack Affleck/Keystone Resort

We spent most of the day on the Family Ski Trail: the Rockin’ Rollers, Magic Moguls, and Tornado Alley gave us some thrills without having to enter the expert terrain park (though it was fun to watch the more daring from the lift). The SchoolYard is an area for the whole family to take their skiing and riding to the next level and also a chance to ski with Riperoo, which is Vail Resorts mascot for the kids. With each successive lap, the kids got more daring, which worked exactly as the designers planned.

Laima spent the day with Little Worker, attending a half day private ski lesson, in the hopes that we could get him to ski. He was having none of it in Breckenridge, but the Keystone folks assured us they could do it (there IS a friendly rivalry between the two neighbor resorts). Spoiler alert: he loved it and was on skis that day, progressing quickly. Read about Laima's experience over at Women's Endurance Gear.

Beyond skiing, there are plenty of activities and events to keep the kids occupied. Ours loved the World’s Largest Snowfort at the top of the Gondola, which sits next to the highest tubing facility in the world (we didn't partake). Down at the base, there is ice-skating on the largest Zamboni maintained rink in North America (and also a smaller rink). There's also night skiing if they just won't quit. Also new this season, Kidtopia opened a weatherproof family entertainment options at the new Kidtopia Headquarters indoors.

If you're staying two or more nights in one of Keystone’s numerous accommodation then all season, every day, children 12 and under ski free at Keystone. There are no blackout dates, not even weekends and holidays.

Keystone Resort

End the day as we did, with M+M cookies at the Dercum Square Ice Skating Rink in River Run Village - there's also a playground if the kids have any energy left and the weather cooperates.

If you plan on skiing any of the Vail Resorts next season, the Epic Pass is now on sale for the 2014-15 season, and pays for itself in just under 4 days. We chose the Epic Local Pass, because it includes the 2 Midwest resorts Mt. Brighton and Afton alps, our home base Breckenridge, our new fave Keystone, as well as Beaver Creek, which we hope to check out next season. Check the Epic Pass site for their $49 down option, which gives you the entire summer to save up to pay off the balance. Great deal, but it won't last much longer!

Disclaimer: A lift pass and half day ski school were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Breckenridge Road Trip

Road Trips are both the best and worst of traveling. There is literally no better way to see the country than by automobile - walking and cycling might put you into it a bit more, but they cover way less ground and offer far less opportunities.

Our road trip to Breckenridge for Spring Break was a pleasant surprise this year. The kids were flat out awesome in the car, which is a victory in and of itself. We didn't even have to bribe them with movies in the car or anything. I think a big part of it is that we try to stop every few hours, either to switch drivers or to fill up with gas, and we make sure the kids jump out and get moving: jumping, climbing, running. Definitely breaks up the possible monotony.

This year we were lucky on the wildlife aspect as well, seeing many raptors, sandhill cranes, Rocky Mountain Goats and more.

Kearney, NE Restaurants

This year another pleasant surprise was Kearney, NE. We usually stop in Lincoln, but this year there were literally no hotel rooms available to accommodate our family. So we pushed on a bit and ran into some luck. Kearney is the home of a large regional state university, so there is a bit of culture thrown in as well as better dining options. The rest is typical strip malls. We enjoyed it so much we stopped there on the way back as well.

If you find yourself in Kearney, visit The Flippin' Sweet and Thunderhead Brewing Company for better-than average food and drink. Don't order too much, because this is the Midwest, and portion sizes are ENORMOUS.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring has Sprung

Spring has Sprung

We came home from Colorado yesterday to cool breezes and overcast skies, with an occasional raindrop. This morning, however, clear skies and warmth allowed us to wander outside and inspect the garden (or the bones of it). Most everything is brown and hibernating yet, but some bulbs have started pushing through and blooming, including our daffodils and crocuses.

The warmer weather has me dreaming of pleasant weather activities - Tazer and I are planning a trail run this Sunday, camping is on my mind, and soon I'll pull the family's bikes out for a tune-up. We're planning a longer trail ride to visit the New Glarus, Wisconsin, to partake in the area's chocolate, cheese, and beer offerings.

Beyond exercising, the garden beckons. Tomorrow my Paw Paw trees arrive, and soon it will be time to get seeds in the ground. We have a more diverse garden planned for this year - everything from celery to pumpkins to tomatoes. Should be fun to watch it fill in.

Is it Spring by you yet?

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