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10-plus ideas for family summer adventures in ski country

Fourth of July at Cowboy Roundup Days, Steamboat Springs

Fourth of July at Cowboy Roundup Days, Steamboat Springs

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Time for a bike ride?

Not so fast! Not if you are going to try mountain-biking, says Rick Sokoloff, the mountain bike program director at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont and co-founder of the Stowe Mountain Bike Club.

It’s a lot different to bike on a mountain trail with uneven terrain, rocks and tree stumps. All the more reason to take a lesson, which is what my husband, Andy Yemma, and our friend, Enesi Domi, 15, did one cloudy morning last summer.

You’ll find increasing mountain-biking options at ski resorts across the country, whatever your level. For example, the Evolution Bike Park in Crested Butte, Colo., has opened a new beginner Hot Dogger trail that lets newbies ride the lift and experience mountain-biking in a nonintimidating fashion — with a wide track, easy rollers and soft berm turns. At Smugglers’ there are balance bikes without pedals for kids as young as 3 to get a feel for mountain-biking.

You’ll also find free kid-friendly activities, (daily Kidtopia fun at Keystone Resort Ready for a glow party, festivals (Telluride, Colo., boasts one just about every weekend), farmer’s markets, mini and disc golf, regular golf, tennis, challenge courses or, of course, the chance to hike, fish and river raft?


Speaking of fishing, check out this blog at trivago.com on the best fishing hotels in America. Meanwhile, trivago’s research shows summer spells savings from East to West. In Vail, Co, according to you can save more $300 per night over winter rates.


Many of those who migrated to mountain towns for winter sports, including my daughter Mel, find they love the summer just as much. Mountain towns go all out for the Fourth of July, too, with parades, concerts and fireworks, even a cowboy roundup in Steamboat Springs, Colo., that has been an Independence Day tradition for more than 100 years.

Another plus: There are great lodging deals significantly less than in winter whether you want a deluxe hotel like the Montage in Deer Valley, the St. Regis Aspen with a free night and resort credit, or the pooch-friendly Topnotch Resort in Vermont where you can work on your tennis game and Stowe Mountain Lodge known for its farm to table food. There are plenty of condos like those from Wyndham Vacation Rentals with plenty of room to spread out and discounts up to 30 percent.

Here are 10 ideas for summer mountain fun. (And for more ideas, check out the Taking the Kids #BestSummer Fun section.) You can:

  1. Learn archery, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding in classes at Sunday River Resort through a satellite L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools program.
  2. Take a new Guided Mountain Bike Tour at Big Sky, Montana, between Bozeman and West Yellowstone where kids too young for mountain-biking will have plenty of fun on the Bungee Trampoline and Jungle Gym Playground or playing mini golf.
  3. Shoot down a mountain on Breckinridge, Colorado’s Gold Runner Alpine Coaster — 2,500 feet of elevated alpine track through forests and above ski runs.
  4. Get bragging rights after mastering Winter Park’s Alpine Slide (Winter Park), Colorado’s longest at 3,000 feet with a 610 foot vertical drop.
  5. Unwind at the new spa at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho, which was founded in 1936 as the country’s first destination ski resort. How about a Sun Stone massage?
  6. Take your pick of outdoor concerts at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater in Park City, Utah or Snowmass, Colo., where families always turn out in force for the free concerts.

    Deer Valley Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater

    Deer Valley Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater

  7. Let your skateboarders lose it at the Town Square Skate Park in Waterville Valley, N.H., across the street from Town Square with features like mini ramps, horseshoe bowl, and all types of quarter pipes. Water Valley, incidentally, offers overnight skateboard camps.
  8. Hold on for what might be the ride of your life down the Olympic Bobsled Course at Whiteface in Lake Placid, N.Y., where you can also watch freestyle aerialists and ski jumpers soar.
  9. Take hot springs to the next level … in addition to Steamboat’s famous Strawberry Park Hot Springs, the family-friendly Old Town Hot Springs allow kids to propel themselves down two 200-foot waterslides into the hot mineral spring feed pools. And make sure to try out the free Saturday night Coca Cola Movie Series in Gondola Square at Steamboat’s base area.
  10. For those who can’t get enough snow, this summer, there’s snow-tubing at the top of Vail Mountain at Adventure Ridge.

At Smugglers’ Notch, Sokoloff said he had helped develop 50 miles of mountain-biking trails around Stowe in recent years — making it a popular destination for experienced mountain bikers. But there wasn’t much available for beginners. That’s why he was glad for the opportunity to develop the program and more trails here near Stowe.

Smugglers’ Notch is family central in summer, with roomy condo accommodations, day care for infants, organized children’s programming, a skate park, four pools and water playground areas, teen center and eco adventures at ArborTrek Smugglers Notch with zipline, a treetop obstacle course and tree climbing adventure.

But first, Mountain Biking 101: You have to be in the moment, focused on what you are doing, says Sokoloff. “You have no room for self-consciousness.”

That’s because mountain-biking is counterintuitive to what you normally would do on a bike. For example, your natural tendency would be to stand up if you thought you were in trouble, but on a mountain bike, you need to lower your center of gravity. Sit down! A lot more work than you’d think, a tired Enesi said after his lesson.

But fun to learn something new with your kids!


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