What activity always brings your family together? For mine, it is skiing.
Regardless of our varying abilities, we all enjoy the mountains, find places to ski together and have fun talking about our day later. Skiing with my family has been a constant throughout my life, which is why it was an obvious activity to include on my first family visit in three years.
At the start of 2022, South Australia finally reopened its international borders to quarantine-free travel for Australian citizens and we booked a flight to the States as soon as possible. Planning for our trip required large amounts of paperwork and keeping up with the constantly changing travel restrictions; but, amazingly, we arrived in the US just seven weeks into the new year.
Our first stop was a quick visit to Chicago to visit my 97-year-old grandmother and my cousins. Next was a quick stopover in Denver to visit some close friends. Finally, we headed up the mountains to spend time with my parents in Summit County and Crested Butte.
Summit County keeps changing. It used to be a small year-round community spread throughout the valleys between the ski resorts. Now, it has more than 30,000 year-round residents and the population still seems to balloon during the ski season. There are several new housing and hotel developments and there is definitely more traffic.
Two things haven’t changed: the shocking number of visitors who can’t drive in the snow and the type of person Summit County attracts. It is still full of people who love the outdoors and are more interested in the next activity than the next corporate promotion.
Copper Mountain Resort
We spent our first day over on Copper Mountain, which has had a new lift built since we were last there. Unfortunately, we didn’t get over to try the new Three Bears lift on Tucker Mountain; it was far too cold and windy to head out to the back. It was also our first day skiing on snow in nearly two years and we needed a warm-up day to get our ski legs back before hitting the really hard stuff.
While it was good to be back at Copper where we used to work, it’s hard to ski there and not be critical of the service quality. There’s been a noticeable decline in recent years, which is disappointing. The staff is less friendly and are out of uniform half the time, they don’t bump the fixed grip chairs, and the ramp heights seemed poorly maintained.
Loveland Ski Area
In contrast, the staff at Loveland Ski Area were friendly, helpful, and seemed to actually enjoy their jobs. Despite the unusual bitterly cold temperatures, they were out on the snow bumping chairs and maintaining the ramps.
Loveland Ski Area sits east across the Continental Divide (and on top of it) in Clear Creek County. Loveland is a day ski area with no accommodation, which is part of the reason that my family didn’t ski it when I was growing up; as visitors to Colorado, we typically stuck to the resorts to the west of the Divide.
Loveland is a very affordable ski area, especially when compared to the Vail Resorts alternatives west of the Divide.
During our two days at Loveland, the temperatures were unusually cold, so we stopped often to warm up in the huts. Despite the cold, we still managed to get in some good skiing. The muscle memory in my legs came back very quickly and we skied a mix of runs to ensure we were able to ski with every member of the family.
It was a lot of fun being able to ski with my family again and I especially enjoyed the two runs I skied with just my brother. It brought back fond memories of us skiing together as teenagers.
The last portion of our trip to Colorado included a four-night trip with my parents to Crested Butte, Colorado. Crested Butte Ski Resort is a three-hour drive from Silverthorne and has been on our bucket list for a long time. We were interested in both its small mountain town and renowned extreme skiing.
Both lived up to the expectation; Crested Butte is a very quaint mining-era town that feels ready for an adventure and the upper terrain was challenging and exciting to ski. I skied Headwall on my own – no one else was game enough to join me – and it was one of the most enjoyable ski runs I’ve had in a long time. CB’s on-mountain staff were very friendly and helpful, which also made the trip enjoyable.
The one disappointment was that it was difficult to find places to eat dinner. Most of the restaurants and bars in the town of Crested Butte and at Crested Butte Mountain Resort had significantly reduced hours due to staffing shortages. According to a few people we spoke to, COVID-related sick leave and travel restrictions were partially to blame, but the real issue was a lack of affordable housing. Like many ski areas, homes that used to rent to seasonal staff are now used for short-term rental opportunities like Air BnB. Combined with a lack of planning and assistance from the resort, seasonal staff can no longer afford to live and work in a resort town.
Despite having fewer options for dinner at CB, I had such an enjoyable time on this trip. I spent a few days skiing with my entire family, and it was enjoyable to be on the mountain doing the thing I love with the people I love. I also made sure to get in a few runs individually with both of my parents, my brother, and my husband (in fact, we got the whole day to ourselves skiing on our anniversary).
Those precious moments reminded me of what’s truly important to me.