Kids Like Adventure at Vail Resorts
by Shannon Luthy
Family fun on the slopes is the ultimate goal. But how can you make the kids happy? Kids really love entertaining, exciting attractions hidden in the hill. Ski instructor Sharon Dale, who has taught kids and adults at Vail for 16 years says,"Kids like adventure. They don't want to ski flat trails because there is no excitement to them. Our kid zones have created reasons to turn because there are things to ski around and through."
Many ski resorts are realizing this and doing their best to accommodate mighty mites of the mountain. And, don't tell anyone, but the kids might be learning something about the history of the area at the same time.
Vail and Beaver Creek have gone so far as to print up a secret treasure map with all of their mountain attractions. If you start at Vail's Golden Peak Ski School Castle, head straight up Chair 6 and you'll find Fort Whipper Snapper, which has rooms, towers and a jail. It's also the site of many an end-of-day snowball battle between the different ski school classes.
Just down from the fort, you can learn about some of the silver mining history of the area at an old sluice machine, used for extracting ore from rock, that you can ski right over and through. Or, ski through the Devil's Fork Mine or Dragon's Breath Mine. These are wooden tunnels with snow down the middle, which are much easier for kids to negotiate than adults. When you leave the mines, ski the huge buffalo bumps which feel like a roller coaster. At the bottom, don't miss the camel bumps, big and small.
Chaos Canyon below Mid-Vail is the old bobsled run, now a curving, winding ski run; kids love it. You can also negotiate Ricochet Ridge and Tornado Alley. The Magic Forest is whatever you want to make it. Instructor Sharon Dale says she tries to find something mystical each time she takes a class through, whether it's magic ribbons tied to a branch, or animal markings on a tree trunk. Near Lions Head, you'll find Thunder Cat Cave. You can ski through and feel real mountain lion fur, as well as learn about the mountain lions who live in the area.
Both Vail and Beaver Creek are honoring the Native American Indians of the area with simulated Indian Burial Grounds. It gives the kids an idea of what the mountains used to hold. You can ski on trails through the trees to see the Indian scaffolding up high, that much closer to the spirits. Beaver Creek also has a pretend abandoned gold mine to ski through and a hibernating bear cave complete with growling bear sounds and a simulated bear family built into a nook in the wall. Costumed characters make the kid adventures even more convincing. Maybe you'll get lucky and hear a tale from Jack Rabbit Joe.
Look for these kinds of secret adventure sites - some built, some honed by creative grooming, some natural - whenever you ski with the kids. It'll enhance your fun with a sense of quest and discovery.
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