ByKristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
“I may be biased, but I think that Sol Vista is the best mountain anywhere for families learning to ski.” We were riding up the Quick Draw Express Quad at Sol Vista Basin, with a ski patroller. “I’ve skied all over the world,” he told us. “I’ve never been anywhere as family friendly as this mountain.”
As he spoke, we looked down at the run beneath us. To one side, we saw families: Little kids with parents, bigger kids in a pack and families of all shapes and sizes skiing together. To the other side, we saw Sol Vista’s ripping terrain park. This is where the “big kids” were, throwing tricks and catching air off the mountain’s large features.
And what did we hear? Nothing but laughter, and more “whoops” of joy and excitement that we’ve heard at any other mountain, anywhere. Sol Vista Basin is noisy — with families having fun and going big.
No Fear Terrain
A large part of the family appeal of Sol Vista Basin is the terrain. With a vertical drop of 1,000 feet, Sol Vista is a smaller mountain, but for families looking for diverse winter fun, it’s big.
At the base, there is a magic carpet, a small double which serves two short green runs, and the Quick Draw Express which serves the top of East Mountain. This quad gets skiers onto the bulk of the resort’s terrain. There are no black runs on East Mountain. They are found on West Mountain which is served from the base by the Conquest Triple chair. West Mountain has some steep, groomed advanced runs and gladed tree skiing. This being the dry winter of 2012, only two runs on West Mountain where open (neither of them being in the trees), but they were fast, fun, and never crowded.
The terrain progression from easiest green to forested black allows skiers to advance without fear. There is no taking a “wrong” turn and ending up at the top of anything scary. Take a right off of the Quick Draw Express, and green terrain lies before you. Take a left off of the chair and it’s all blue.
No matter which mountain you’re on, all trails at Sol Vista lead back to the mountain’s base, except for High Roller and Home Again, which lead to the mountain’s ski-in/ski-out condos. The Kicking Horse Lift serves this area, moving guests from the residential area onto the main slopes. You simply cannot get lost at Sol Vista Basin and neither can your kids.
Progressive Park Action
Sol Vista takes its parks seriously. Like everything else on the mountain, Sol Vista’s seven terrain parks have a natural progression from small, to medium, to large. The features in the large park are big — big enough to challenge anyone’s skills. I spoke to one teenager who was impressed. “I don’t know why every rider from Denver isn’t up here,” he told me. “There are no crowds, the park is served by a high-speed quad, and while you can’t throw triples, someone really good could definitely be sending doubles on those jumps.”
When snow allows (which is every year but this one) Sol Vista also has a halfpipe near the base. Some of the big park features at Sol Vista are near the base, making it very easy for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and friends to sit on the deck, or around the fire pit, and watch the action.
Direct-to-Parallel Ski School
Another big draw for families learning to ski is Sol Vista’s Ski and Ride School. The school, directed by veteran instructor (and dad) Dan O’Connell, focuses on teaching direct-to-parallel skiing and using the latest shaped skis. Dan explained this to me. “When we teach beginners, we want to focus on teaching them in a way takes knowledge they already have and applies it to the new sport of skiing. Kids know how to walk. They know how to move with their feet under their bodies. Rather than teaching new skiers to wedge, which moves their feet out from under their bodies in an unnatural position, we work to get their feet parallel as early as possible.”
The direct-to-parallel method means that skiers don’t learn one skill (the wedge) which they have to unlearn later. This doesn’t mean you have to start over if you or your kids already learned the wedge. Dan emphasized that the Ski and Ride School will work with students of any ability and with any experience. “We are guest-centered and student-driven,” says Dan. “Our instructors will work with clients to pick what’s best for them and help them progress — always with the goal of getting the skis parallel as quickly and easily as possible.”
The Sol Vista Ski and Ride School has 50 accredited instructors who teach alpine skiing, snowboarding and telemark skiing. Sol Vista Basin also has over 7 miles of nordic, cross-country skiing trails and lessons are available. Compared to many larger resorts, class sizes are small and prices are low. It’s a great value.
Saturday Nights Alive
Weekends at Sol Vista are big. Granby Ranch, a residential community for about 400 families, surrounds the ski resort. Many of these families visit on the weekends, so on Saturdays the mountain offers night-skiing and night-tubing from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tubing requires a reservation for one of three 45-minute sessions. During January’s Snowfest, free family friendly snow-themed movies are shown during this same time in the lodge.
When You Go.
Sol Vista Basin is located 78 miles northwest of Denver at Granby Ranch. Granby Ranch was founded 16 years ago by Marise Cipriani, a Brazilian mom who wanted a safe place for her family to experience the mountains and create memories. In the winter, Granby Ranch is all about snowsports, while in the spring, summer and fall, there is fishing, hiking and world-class downhill mountain biking.
Property owners have access to exclusive amenities including a club in the main lodge, a new weight room and outdoor pool and, at busy times, priority in the lift lines. However, anyone can rent a condo or home for a weekend, or more, and feel right at home. We were in a ski-in/ski-out two-bedroom condo at Kicking Horse, which was lovely, convenient and well-designed. We couldn’t have asked for anything nicer. More information on lodging at Granby Ranch is found here.
Finally, whether you ski at Sol Vista, stay at Granby Ranch, or you’re in the area looking for a nice meal, I recommend the Seven Trails Grille. The Grille is in the base lodge and serves lunch, apres ski and dinner. The dinner menu is simple, but not ordinary, with an emphasis on fresh, unique Italian-themed dishes and seafood. Kids’ dishes are available. Prices are reasonable and the presentation and quality are high. We’ll be back.
Check out the Kids’ Totally Insane Winter Blast at Sol Vista on Saturday, February 4. With a rail jam, treasure hunt, dance party, night skiing and tubing, family fun is guaranteed. For the biggest adventure, sign up as a team for the Family Quest. Just watch out for the Abomindable Snowman!
For more information about Sol Vista’s fun events and great deals, including a special lesson deal for couples during February, please visit their website.