Monday, January 6, 2020

Christmas in CO, part 2: Ski Demon Bunnies

Happy 2020! I have a New Year's post half-drafted, but I feel like I need to actually think about what I want to do this year, so it's going to marinate a little. In the mean time, now that my house is back in order and, after some slight rearranging, Cora's massive dollhouse has found a home in her bedroom instead of our living room, let's go back to the mountains!

We begin this half of our Colorado adventure on Christmas Day night, with just my little family of five cozily ensconced in my parents' home near Winter Park. Despite big plans of games and movies and wine we did exactly none of those things, picking up our ski rentals in town, eating a dinner of leftover lasagna we had gratefully brought with us from Boulder, and putting all the kids in bed at 8:30. James and I sat together in the living room for a cozy and romantic half hour when he turned to me and said, "want to go to bed too?" At my look of interest he hastily added, "just to sleep!" and I cracked up and explained that's also why I looked so excited at the idea. Christmas Day is a very long day.

And that's how we were ready to hit the slopes bright and early on the 26th! At 6:45 a.m. we were eating breakfast, packing lunches, and noting with some concern that the temperature outside was -20 degrees. We hoped our little beach bunny's tenuous enthusiasm for the concept of ski school would hold out against the cold. As a reminder of what we were up against, this was Cora on our ski trip in 2017, the first time we tried to sign her up for ski school.

And this is 2018 when we tried again:

So we were a little nervous about the whole thing, but we loaded up the kids in the car and through a combination of miracles and advance planning we left exactly on time and got to Granby Ranch 20 minutes before Cora's earliest ski school drop-off time! Which was good, because we stupidly didn't put everyone's ski boots on in the house and spent a full 20 minutes trying to cram them on in the frigid (-15!) parking lot (such a rookie move and we know better! we did keep the boots in the house overnight, but they froze up in the 15 minute drive and I thought I'd break Landon's ankle getting his food inside). Eventually we got everyone suited up and Cora checked in to her "new school" and we left her happily coloring at a little round table. I did get one picture before she went in:

Attempt #3 is a go!

Granby Ranch is a cute little resort just 15 minutes north of my parents house. It has 2 main lifts up the front sides of two mountains, plus a tiny lift in the middle that goes to two bunny trails. It's significantly cheaper than the larger resorts (about a third of the cost for a one day lift ticket) and a great place to get your kids' ski legs under them before hitting the bigger resorts.

I will say that at least for us, we couldn't do more than one day- the runs are much shorter than Winter Park so you hit the bottom in about 60 seconds and go right back up. After skiing every open run what felt like 15 times, James and I were definitely ready to move on.

But it was the perfect first stop after a year away from the slopes. The blues aren't too tough and were a great confidence booster for the kids, especially Claire who was missing her Gigi ski partner.

After skiing the same blue run 6 times in one hour, we decided to try the other peak which had some black trails.

Baby's First Black!

Honestly, these blacks are more like Blue/Blacks we've skied at Keystone and others, but it was a thrill for the kids and such a confidence booster I was worried we'd have them careening out of control down blacks at Winter Park the next day.

One fun thing about Granby's small size is that you can find each other easily whenever you separate and you can wave at your ski schooler throughout the day. And despite our fears, Cora was a beaming ball of smiles every time we saw her:

She also refused to zip her coat or wear her turtle fur because she was "so hot." I'll note the temperature never rose above 10 and in that picture it was still below 0. She is a lady of passionate extremes: snow is either the despicable worst or a "I don't even FEEL the cold" source of delight.

We ate our lunch in a warming tent by the base, pulling slightly squished sandwiches and crisp cold apple slices out of James's hiking backpack. It was a nice rest and then back up we went, skiing nonstop until 3:00 when we could pick up Cora. I'd harbored a secret hope that we could do one run together as a family of five, but it had been a long, fun, and freezing day and I didn't want to push things with our baby skier.

But! When we got her, she was BEAMING. Her instructor said she was a joy to teach and that every time she looked back at her little group Cora would have a huge smile and would shout out, "I LOVE THIS COACH!!" They moved her up groups 3 times during the day because she was so aggressive and caught on so quick, so she ended the day as a 6-year-old in a group of 12 and 13-year-olds. Being a third baby, she was quite comfortable there.

And so, with that good report, we headed back up the mountain to ski our first run as a family of five.

And that run remains one of the best, most joyous experiences in all our family travels.

I can't even describe it. When the kids were young, James and I used ski trips as a way to get a grown-up getaway within the family vacation. We didn't have anyone to watch the kids and we have always enjoyed traveling with them, so starting when Claire was 1 and Landon was 4 we would go skiing, putting the kids in ski school and daycare and enjoying our adult time on the trails and generally being childless until we picked everyone up, ate, and tucked their exhausted little selves in bed a few hours later, when the day (or night) was ours again. Landon was in ski school at least two trips longer than he really needed to be just because we didn't want to give up our time together and we didn't want to start on slower runs when we could ski blues and blacks together all day and flirt on the ski lifts. I mean, he's the only person I know who looks hotter in ski goggles.

But all that's changed (not the part about James being hot like fire in snowboard gear because he IS, and thank goodness he doesn't read this blog because he would be blushing, but the rest of it). The kids are older and it's easier to get time together and I no longer have any interest throwing myself down back bowl black diamonds with James. Skiing with the kids is a joy I somehow didn't see coming, despite how much we love hiking and doing everything else with them. I got a taste of it last New Year's skiing with the big kids, but Cora remained an elusive snow-hating question mark.

But on December 26, 2019 I got a beaming little Cora Bunny on the lift beside me and my whole family at the top of the same slope and I was so happy I thought I'd burst. And then, after she aced dismounting from the express lift, she blew me away with this first run.

She killed it. She killed it and she wanted more and we did three more runs even though we'd been skiing nearly nonstop for 7.5 hours and it was FREEZING and we finally made her stop. Winter Park was tomorrow and we (and by "we" I mean James and I) needed some reserves for the next day.

By now my parents were back at their house and we ordered pizza (that we had to wait 2.5 hours to pick up; resort towns during the holidays) and passed out so we could be up just as bright and early as the day before for our second and final ski day!

We got to Winter Park nice and early, snagging a free parking spot and taking the bus to the village. This time everyone's ski boots were on before we got in the car and everything went smoothly. James wore our backpack, once again stuffed with snacks and sandwiches, and everyone was responsible for their own gear and accessories on the bus. We clomped across the village to check Cora in early for ski school ($20 and worth every penny; fresh snow and empty lifts were waiting for us and Cora enjoys a good hour of color time) and hoped for a day even half as good as the one before.

And it was GREAT.

The weather was gorgeous, the runs were open and empty and we racked up a dozen long blues before I finally made the kids stop. James's binding had broken on his board so he'd gone to the base to rent a new one (though, turns out, the binding wasn't broken at all, so oops on that), but we ran into him at the top of the mountain an hour later- floating over his head on the lift as he was about to go down a run. He waited for us and then convinced us to go up to Parsenn's Bowl at the top of the mountain above the tree line. I do not love bowls, but it was a first for the kids and they seemed enthusiastic, so up we went.

Claire was immediately skeptical.

It was windy, it was freezing, and a snow storm descended upon us.

The kids rocked it though- gamely following dad along the ridge to a fairly gentle black that quickly connected to a blue to take back to the lift.

A lift I assumed we'd pass by, but somehow I got talked into going up again. The snow and visibility had not improved, but the kids were very proud to have conquered a run above the trees and I was glad James got to do his favorite thing.

We ate our packed lunch on one of the peaks and then skied more until I thought I'd collapse. The kids don't need to stop at anymore, so it's just straight down, to lifts that remained uncrowded even as I wished for lines, and then back up to do it again. Per James's tracking app we skied 24 miles and I swear it felt like more.

We went to pick up Cora at 3:30. Her instructor said she did great and was his fastest student. I wondered if she'd be more tired today after another full day of ski school, but NO, all she wanted was MOAR SKIING so back up the mountain we went. This time even Landon and Claire looked mildly less enthusiastic, but the Winter Park runs are longer and tougher and it was really fun to do a few as a group there too.

Even if Cora kept popping into tree paths and freaking me out.

After two more runs we were WIPED (and again, by "we" I mean only the adults, apparently) and we still had a clomp across the village, a bus transfer, and rental skis to return between us and the fuzzy socks and pj pants that we were waiting at home. And so we clomped and transferred and returned and came home to pasta and salad and wine and all the warm and fuzzy things. We toasted to two excellent days of skiing and to a quick and full recovery for my mom who had gone to the village that morning to get her cast put on her very broken arm (poor Gigi, my parents' Christmas gift to us was the lift tickets for one of our days of skiing and they were very sad to not be able to join us).

We were back in bed pretty early (because day-um does skiing wear you out) and up to fresh snowfall and plans for sledding in their neighborhood before heading back to Boulder to see my sister and reunite with our bulldog.

Cora insisted on taking the toboggan with me, which sounded fun, until we flew off the makeshift trail and hit a vulnerable looking tree. Cora flew out of the sled and landed in deep fluffy snow, popping up and cackling, "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE."

Probably my second favorite memory of the trip; she's a certified snow bunny now.

The sledding continued, now down the slope that leads to the frozen lake the big kids swam in over the 4th of July this summer.

It was great snow and clear skies and a perfect send off from the mountains.

It was a GREAT trip.

I love a holiday foray into the snowy mountains, it feels so festive and after a week we get to come back to mild winter temps and another week of winter break.

We were reunited with Maggie in Boulder and she'd had an excellent time babysitting my youngest niece and adverse possessing my sister's dogs new bed.

The cousins played and we all ate and we packed the car and everyone went to bed. We left at 7 a.m., stopping twice for gas and potty breaks, made sandwiches in the car and got home at 8 p.m. I knew we had some pasta and jarred sauce in the pantry at home for the kids, but James and I treated ourselves to Thai for our return dinner, but when I went out to get it we discovered my car had a very flat tire. Apparently it's hard to just sit still in the driveway for a week, so poor James, who'd just driven 800 miles, had to go get the Thai food too. But it's really the better division of labor because I had us 75% unpacked by the time he returned. And so, with the kids in bed by 9 and Thai food on our laps, The Witcher on TV, and my new socks from James on my feet that were delivered while we were gone and couldn't make it in my stocking, our Colorado Christmas road trip came to an end.

It was a great one. I'm so happy that Cora has accepted snow and skiing into her heart and I am SO thankful to the amazing ski instructors who have taught all three of or children so competently and enthusiastically.

Landon (4 1/2), Claire (3 1/2), Cora (6)

We look forward to so many more family ski days in the future!


  1. The Witcher was absolutely phenomenal! Glad you guys had a great trip!

  2. Looks like such a wonderful trip and how incredible to share one of your favorite activities with all of your kids! We moved to Denver last year and just took our 3 year old skiing for the first time (and put our 1 yr old in daycare!) and it was such an amazing trip! We felt like real grown ups on vacation with the kids taken care of, and it was absolutely magical skiing with the 3 yr old a little bit. I can't wait for more adventures together as they get older.