This guest blog post is by Julie Marsh who blogs at CoolMomPicks.
As we were gearing up for yet another winter storm warning here in the Denver metro area (really? REALLY?!), Colorado ski areas have had a veritable snow shortage this season.
In spite of these less than stellar conditions, we were determined to make a family trip to the slopes this year. Ski Cooper graciously hosted our family for two days and showed us exactly why families ought to put this mountain at the top of their list of top ski destinations for next season.
We loved everything about the mountain and the people who work there -- from the instructors to the lift operators, and from the black diamond run Nightmare (a misnomer) to the carefree green Molly Mayfield. Our trip to Ski Cooper was just plain easy; easy to get to, easy on the wallet, and an easy way to get our whole family skiing.
The Mountain: Located between Vail and Leadville, Ski Cooper is an affordable family ski destination perched atop Tennessee Pass. While some Colorado resorts are bigger, more expensive, and more popular, Ski Cooper is ideal for families that want to get out there and ski -- without breaking the bank or their necks. The mountain has plenty of varied terrain (though don't look for any extreme double black diamond runs), short lift lines, and families can easily ski together or reunite at the base with minimal delays.
Lessons and Day Care: With the installation of a new magic carpet and two wide expanses of gently sloping snow, Ski Cooper's Panda lesson programs are equipped and run just as well as any of the big resorts. Ski lessons are available for kids three and up, and snowboard lessons are available for kids seven and up. Day care and lesson packages are also available -- a great way for parents to get in a full day of skiing without spending it all on the bunny slope.
Where to Stay: Families on a budget will appreciate the reasonable rates in Leadville for either cabins or hotel rooms, only a short drive from the mountain. The Columbine Inn and Suites is convenient, clean, and features a hot tub -- a welcome end to a ski day.
Where to Eat: Stick to the budget and bring lunch to Ski Cooper. Enjoy it inside the lodge or on the deck at the base. (No outside alcohol, please.) In Leadville, check out High Mountain Pies just off the main drag of Harrison Avenue. The pizza and hot sandwiches are fantastic, and kids get a fistful of dough to keep them occupied.
How Much?: For the 2011-12 season, lift ticket prices were $44/day for adults, $24/day for kids. Ski Cooper also offers senior and military discounts, and kids five and under are free. Lift ticket prices have not yet been established for the 2012-13 season. Lessons are also an incredible deal: Full day ski and snowboard lessons start at $80, including equipment rental, lunch, and lift ticket. Day care and lesson packages start at $77, also including equipment rental, lunch, and lift ticket.
What Else?: There's more to Leadville than skiing. Leadville also boasts a huge outdoor ice skating rink with budget rates for admission and rentals, plus a sledding hill that's completely free -- bring your own tube or sled, or rent a tube for $7/hour. The annual Leadville Winter Carnival is held the first weekend in March, where spectators can check out snowshoe racing, dog sledding, and ski joring (think horse jumping on skis).
Julie Marsh moved to Colorado from the east coast seven years ago and discovered how much she loves playing outside all year long. When she isn't testing her athletic limits, she's working for Cool Mom Picks, a cheeky shopping blog, and Social Media Energy, a Denver-based social media outsourcing firm.