After not having skied in more than a year, it was great to get back on the slopes. I had the chance to experience a ski getaway close to home in Vermont paired with a trip out west to Utah, courtesy of the flexibility of the Epic Pass and the discounts included for lessons, equipment rental and lodging.
Epic Pass multi-resort options are a great way to ski frequently during the season at a lower cost and with the added flexibility to ski more than one area. The bonus of free or discounted tickets for companions and friends allows you to add family members and additional children at a reduced cost. Kids 4 and under ski for free.
Epic Pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to mountain resorts plus additional access to partner resorts across the globe. This year, Vail Resorts also prioritized the mountain experience for its pass holders by limiting lift ticket sales during three holiday periods across its 34 North American resorts. There are a variety of passes that each cover a different amount of days and resorts, and the cost varies depending on how soon or late you buy them before the start of the season.
Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort is a few hours’ drive from Boston and Providence and just a bit farther from New York City. The skiing was very enjoyable despite the extreme cold (-12 at 8 am!), and the heated seats and bubbles on some of the chair lifts were a lifesaver, allowing me to keep skiing with minimal breaks to warm up. The mountain staff did a great job of grooming and making snow, and there was only one run and one part of the lift where we had to dodge the guns (I am always concerned about being blinded by them).
We had a fabulous ski instructor guide from the Okemo Ski School, a great mountain ambassador as well as an impressive skier and coach. He took us around the mountain, assessing our skills and choosing the trails and lifts well. He was great about suggesting when to stop for a warm up, even before we realized we needed it. We made an extra run despite his suggestion, and regretted it.
We saw — and heard — a lot of families on the mountain, and it was very crowded on a Saturday despite the cold weather. Unfortunately, Vermont had not been gifted with a lot of snow at that point in the season … The next week, two feet of snow dumped on the Northeast!
Where to Stay
We stayed in a Studio King Room at the Jackson Gore Inn, at the base of the Jackson Gore side of the mountain. The room, while not luxurious, was extremely clean and the kitchen updated and neat. Some units have sofa beds, where my son has slept on past trips. Dinner at the hotel restaurant worked out well with solicitous and prompt service and food that hit the spot. Our server even gave us some great tips about where to start on our first ski day.
The ski-in/ski-out location of the Jackson Gore Inn can’t be beat, along with the heated underground garage and the ski check. There is a complimentary shuttle to take guests to the main lodge (it was a wee bit warmer from the sun there) and we used it for our return as well on one day. It‘s a great feature if you want to focus on that side of the mountain and some of the newer slopes with black runs on the other edge of the resort. However, the next day we started right from the base of the hotel once we understood the layout.
A few weeks later I flew out to ski Park City, Utah, despite the (once again!) arctic conditions and shortage of new snow, courtesy of the coverage of the Epic Pass.
Canyons/Park City is a huge resort, and we relied on our guide that first day to show us around the mountain and select the best runs to suit our skiing. It’s great to have such expansive terrain! The groomed trails held up well, and the mountain was consistent in maintaining them every night.
We skied from one end of the huge resort to the other, with a new lift connecting the two formerly separate resorts. We found it easier to focus on one side or the other each day with so many lift options to explore the mountain. There are just so many runs to choose from, whether green beginner runs or double blacks off a craggy face.
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Lookout Cabin was a treat for lunch (reservations suggested), with stunning views and service plus good food, as well as access to a few of our favorite runs. Unfortunately, Cloud Dine, my first choice on the peak, was open only for snacks and warming up during our visit.
Ski school has locations both on the Park City side and on the Canyons side for dropoff. This year they are not offering the Max5 program option, with 5 kids in a class at most, so ski school groups can be as large as 10 kids. My son was in the small group a few years ago and had a great time, even arranging to meet two of the other children in the hotel pool after the lessons.
Where to Stay
The Grand Summit Hotel is extremely well located; you can walk out the back of the hotel to the lifts and ski school. The location alone is a tremendous selling point. The Corner One-Bedroom Suite was a treat! It was very spacious, clean and updated and housekeeping was consistent. With a sofa bed, daybeds and a separate dining/kitchen area, this particular room could easily sleep a family of four, or even six with younger children on the daybeds.
The location of our hotel was a lifesaver for retrieving forgotten mittens and goggles and picking up our skis from the check area, just inside the door from the slopes.
In-room dining for breakfast was convenient and timely if pre-ordered the night before. The Red Tail Grill in the hotel is a popular lunch stop among skiers with convenient access to several lifts from the base area. The Farm restaurant next door was a lifesaver in the unusually cold weather.
The Town of Park City
For a quick run into town, we took the cabriolet lift down to the bus stop and the free bus into town one afternoon, and then took an Uber back after a successful shopping spree.
Park City is a great destination for non-skiers as well, with plenty to keep you occupied from the Olympic museum to the art galleries, as well as multiple outdoor activities and a large variety of restaurants.
Editor’s Note: Barbara received a media package in order to review the Epic Pass for families. All opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Barbara Weindling except where noted.
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