Thursday, January 1, 2009

Skiing in Steamboat, Colorado

Trails from top of the mountain
For the last couple of years, we have gone to Steamboat, CO for our annual ski trip, usually, the week between Christmas and New Years. Each year, we've gotten the heavenly deep champagne powder that Steamboat is so well known for. As far as the days went, some days were sunny while others were cold and overcast but never any complaints with the snow.

For folks with young kids, Steamboat has a great ski and snowboard school. Apparently the resort offers several family oriented packages, we however have only availed the kids ski free program that comes with each paying adult.

In 2007, we enrolled our kid's into the Steamboat's Desperado ski camp, a 5 day ski program.
In 2008, we ended up hiring a private ski instructor. Both, us and the kids like both alternatives. We are torn between which option to repeat next year. Below is our experiences with both alternatives.

Challenging trails with private instructor
The 5 days ski camp, is known as the Desparado ski week. The kids are grouped together in a group of approx 6-8 kids based on age and skill level. The program starts on a Monday and ends on a Friday; goes from 9 am until 3pm each day and includes lunch. Our two kids were in two different groups and according to them each of their groups was lead by a really fun instructor. The morning usually started with a warm up run on an easy trail. Then another two runs before the group stopped for hot chocolate at the Rendezvous Inn. Then another run or so before the group stopped for lunch and then another run or two before pick up time. The instructors seem to focus on basic skiing skills and gave us a report at the end of the week. Younger kids spent quite a bit of their time in kid only areas such as the rough rider basin (pleasant, wide, kid friendly terrain). The older kids did venture outside the rough rider basin on various other trails. The most fun part of this program was that on the last day of the camp, all the kids got to participate in the NASTAR ski race. The results were then posted on the NASTAR's web site. The kids and us liked this program for three main reasons (1) the group included other kids so the kids made friends and enjoyed the company (2) participating in the NASTAR race (3) same instructor for the entire duration. Both our instructors made skiing fun by taking the kids through the trees, through kid freindly terrain park, jumps on small moguls and so forth. The lunch consisted of a choice between few kid friendly options (burgers, mac & cheese, pizza, etc). The cost of desperado week was approx $500 per kid incl lunch.

Wide open blues
In 2008, since our trip started mid week, we could not enroll our kids in the Desperado week. Therefore, we ended up going with a private instructor. Our family group included four kids. The older two kids were at the same advanced skill level while the younger two kids were at the same intermediate skill level. Our instructor the day into two halves, spent the first half day with the older two kids and the second half day with the younger two (after two days we switched the order). Our kids loved the instructor. Along with keeping our kids occupied and mesmerized with puzzles and mysteries, our instructor took the kids on trails that were not crowded, and off the beaten path (not on the trail map) as well as terrain park, bear claw tree, etc. The instructor really worked with the kids on their techniques, and took them on trails with varying terrain some of them quite challenging which thrilled the kids. Within 5 days of skiing, we saw a huge improvement both in their confidence level and their skill level. Similar to Desperado week, the kids started with the instructor at 9 in the morning, and after 2 runs or so stopped for hot chocolate. Then after another run or so, met us for lunch. Private instructor option did not include the lunch (buying this option was another $30 per kid per day..which is quite exorbitant). After lunch we switched the kids and the instructor was able to take the kids for another 2-3 runs before meeting us by 3pm for the pickup.
Tons of snow

The private instructor route costs quite a bit more (approx $3000 for 5 days), but split between 4 kids it worked out to approx $650 per kid. In our case, I myself a beginner to intermediate skiier was able to ski with the instructor a few times (along with the younger kids) for some one on one instruction which was really helpful. At the end of the trip, I think, both the parents and the kids preferred the private instructor option for two main reasons (1) small group size allowed the instructor to work with the kids on their specific skills and techniques (2) the instructor was able to take the kids to trails which were not on the map, not crowded and more importantly a lot more fun that allowed kids to practice their skills. As a cherry on top, our instructor introduced the kids to a couple of Olympians (ski with silver medalist Billy Kidd, and gold medalist Deb Armstrong) which was a great trip highlight.