Some of my strongest childhood memories come from ski days back in New England, where my brothers and I would lay out our multiple the night before, rub our eyes for a quick bowl of Cap’n Crunch and pile into the Suburban headed for Loon Mountain, “Brush Your Teeth” and other Raffi hits entertaining the youngest of us. Park, trudge to the lodge, stash the lunch, buy the tickets. Ride the lifts, ski,
Today, more than 30 years later, Colorado ski days are a bit different. TikTok obsession has replaced that whimsical guitar star in the car, and we’ve done plenty of advance work to avoid the lines and click smoothly into our skis—after all, powder awaits on the rollicking Rocky Mountain Trails. For new skiing families who are still working on the ritual, here’s how it goes in my family—my husband, Carlton; and our kids, Dillon (13) and Harper (11)—for a Colorado ski day, with perhaps a lesson or two learned along the way.
The night before: Thanks to some tips from fellow Denver/Boulder friends, we know how to not only layout our layers, but also to have boot bags packed and ready to go by the front door. The skis are on the car, which is gassed up and has an emergency kit of warmth, water, first aid, and food, just in case.
6 am: Rise and shine. No time even for a bowl of cereal; we all roll out of bed with our long johns already on and head to Moe’s for breakfast bagels and coffee to consume when the sun rises. Everyone except the driver goes back to sleep.
8 am (give or take): Arrive at our Colorado Ski Country resort of choice. Unless it’s bone-chillingly cold, we boot-up in the parking lot and leave just one bag with warm layers and a partial lunch (more on that later) in the lodge.
8:30 am: Amazingly, start riding the lifts right when they start spinning. This takes practice—and buying passes or tickets ahead of time. If you’re renting equipment, try to do this in advance, too, to avoid any potential lines at the ski area. We spend the morning tackling tougher trails
10:30 am: After two hours of skiing fresh tracks, it’s time for a break at one of the upper lodges. Hot chocolate for the kids; coffee for the adults.
12pm: Noon already? Lunchtime. It’s common advice to ski or ride through the busiest lunch hours at the lodge, but who can wait until 2? We’ve packed sandwiches and soup packets so that we can splurge on hot, crispy French fries and warm brownies. My kids and husband and I peel off our boots to dry and warm while we eat; I’ve stashed a pair of street shoes in the lunch bag to fetch cafeteria items.
1 pm: We ease into the afternoon with a few mellow cruisers, spending our chairlift time talking about which mogul run we’ll face as our final challenge before the day ends.
2:30 pm: OK, so once again we committed to ski until 4 pm—and once again find ourselves quitting early. But our little legs are tired and Carlton and I have learned by not pushing the kids past their limits, they’ll be more likely to continue love skiing as much as we do.
3 pm: One last hot chocolate before we hit the road.
5 pm: Home. A slow cooker of chili awaits us for dinner, over which we recount the killer Colorado ski day.
Sarah Tuff Dunn
Sarah Tuff Dunn recently moved to Louisville, Colorado, with her husband, Carlton, and their two children, Dillon, 12, and Harper, 10. They’re looking forward to exploring the world-class skiing in Colorado, aided by the Colorado Ski Country 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program. Sarah has been writing professionally for nearly 25 years and her work has appeared in The New York Times, SKI, Skiing and Powder, among other publications. Read more of Sarah’s stories here and follow along with her Colorado skiing journey here.