The memories I have of skiing involve lots of heavy lifting: The clothes. The snow gear. Wearing and hauling it all to a mountain. I’ve always loved to ski, but it was always a big to-do. Fast forward a few decades, and my 6-year-old daughter, Lili, was begging for a snowboarding adventure to help fulfill her Olympic dreams (thank you, Chloe Kim).
I had some planning to do.
When you live in New York City, getting to a good mountain ain’t easy. But with this season’s snow being some of the lowest on record, Colorado ski country was calling to us. I’d been to the area a couple of times, but this would be my first trip solo with Lili. As a single mom, I selfishly love my alone time with her. The thought of a mother-daughter getaway to the mountains was pretty freaking exciting.
We decided to start our trip in Snowmass Village before heading to Aspen for a couple of days. I think of Snowmass as a more down-to-earth version of Aspen. Sure, celebrities flock here, but they’re not partying; they’re spending time with their families. Six p.m. dinner rules the scene (or lack thereof). Plus, our trip coincided with the ski area’s 50th anniversary, so there was all sorts of nostalgia in the air. We were excited to join the fun.
From New York, Lili and I took a flight to Dallas and then connected to Aspen; the trip took about 9 hours total. We were booked for two nights on Snowmass mountain at Stonebridge Inn, where rooms start at $234 a night in peak season, to be followed by two nights at Aspen’s Limelight Hotel, where rooms start at $285 a night.
Snowmass is ideal for all levels of skiers. It has a large ski school, along with a massive terrain park that comprises about 5 percent beginner, 48 percent intermediate, and 47 percent advanced terrain. Stonebridge Inn is a two-minute walk from the mountain and right by the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, a ski and snowboarding school that includes a sprawling indoor playscape. Treehouse is the most amazing part about Aspen/Snowmass mountain. The instructors are phenomenal, and you get to drop your kids off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. while you, well, do whatever you want. If you’re jet-lagged like I was, you’ll end up waking up at 6:00, enjoy hanging in the room with your littles, get down for the complimentary kids’ breakfast (um, thank you!) and then pull on your 18 layers of clothing to head outside.
As much as I love the idea of logging off and not working at all during family trips, I admit to feeling better when I can get a few hours of work done here and there. Because the ski school was occupying Lili with snowboarding awesomeness, I had time to hit the cafe, get a hot chocolate, cozy up by the fire and crank on some emails. Throughout our stay, I’d hit the mountain around noon for a few runs and then pick up Lili at 3:00. It made me less anxious, and I didn’t push my body past my limits.
The wild mountain ride
Try to imagine a roller coaster on top of a mountain. Well, someone built that. Called the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, it features a 5,700-foot track with a total ride time of seven minutes. The coaster spans 410 vertical feet with the speed controlled by the rider; safety features include anti-collision technology and a tandem option for small children. The Breathtaker winds through the top of the mountain as you sit back and say “whoever built this is hella smart.”
Ice Age Discovery Center
Here you can learn all about the excavation of the Snowmastodon site, a collection of more than 36,000 Ice Age plant and animals fossils unearthed near Snowmass during the 2010 construction of a reservoir. This interactive museum is perfect for kids of all ages and great to visit after a morning on the slopes.
Compliments of Snowmass Mountain, every day at 3:30 p.m. you can make your own s’mores with a range of irresistible fixings. Nothing like sating your sweet tooth next to a crackling firepit.
Après ski sips
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop is legendary—home of the BEST hot chocolate in Aspen. Grab one and walk around the playground, so your kid can play with the mountains in the backdrop.
Hot tub soaks
One of the highlights of our trip was coming back from our busy days to relax in a hot tub. Stonebridge requires a chilly, slightly-longer than-you-had-hoped-for walk, but it’s worth it. At Limelight, cozy robes keep the cold at bay.
Some of the best food I’ve had recently—delish—with plenty of early reservations and wonderful service. Note: no coloring books or kid distractions.
Limelight Hotel lounge
Sometimes we ate right at the hotel. How could we not? In the afternoon, they lured us with free chocolate cookies (confession: I ate five). Later, their Brussels sprouts and red wine hit the spot. Lili made friends with a few other kids, and I stayed warm by the fire, savoring every minute of vacay-with-daughter bliss.
Elk Camp cafe
A lunch spot at the top of Snowmass, Elk Camp serves up local organic produce and tons of buffet options. You’ll leave feeling nourished and refreshed.
All in all, this trip accomplished more than I had hoped for. Liliana got to thrive at her snowboarding school, and I got to support her excitement while getting some work done. We both relaxed, spent quality time together and came home with wonderful memories.
If you’re looking for a beautiful trip during ski season or off ski season, Aspen and Snowmass are two great towns to explore.
Feel free to contact me via DM @katyaslife if I can answer any questions about the area or offer more suggestions!