A VERY GREEN SKI RESORT

Ethan Sitzman and his ski school class at Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK, Colo (DAY 2) — I feel like a crazy person! We’re 12 in our gang, ranging from a four year-old to two twenty somethings and a grandma who just turned 60. If you think getting your kids out the door to school or day care in the morning is tough, imagine getting them geared up for a day on the snow!

Somehow we manage. It’s chaos but happy chaos with cousins who live across the country and don’t see each other often giggling and playing and rough-housing. We’re ensconced in The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa ( www.westin.com/riverfrontavon) on track to be the first upscale resort in Colorado to be certified “green” by the U.S. Green Building Council. The 215-room resort (we’re staying in a spacious three-bedroom unit) is connected to Beaver Creek Mountain via the new Riverfront Express Gondola. This is great for families who are all experienced skiers or boarders and can then access the lifts.

It’s less convenient for a family like ours that has to take the gondola, and then a shuttle bus to get the kids to ski and snowboard school, making the return trek at the end of the day. The rest of the gang can happily ski back to the gondola on a trail cleverly named “Leave the Beave.” The short gondola ride takes them right back to the Westin, where they hand over their skis and boots to the ski valet.

Downstairs, there is great deck with a heated lap pool and three hot tubs. (In the summer, there’s access from here to a 40 miles riverfront biking trail, fishing, kayaking, hiking and pool-side yoga classes (Riverside Meditation maybe?). The kids love the pool and hot tub.

My daughters and I love the big 23,000 square feet Spa Angele with its mountain inspired treatments (Riverstone massage or wildflower pine polish and soak, maybe Mountain honey body mask)and fitness center with everything from weight machines to a special yoga and spin studio. There are special treatments for pregnant women (maternity bliss!) and couples.

After skiing, families are spread out in front of the big fire place listening to the live music, playing board games, reading (there is a lending library right here). There is an organized kids’ program but we thought it was too pricey and the point of our being here is to be with the kids.

Still, one night we left the kids upstairs with their grandma and indulged in an “adult” plus teens dinner at the 140-seat Restaurant Avondale, owned by well known Vail Valley Chef Thomas Salamunovich, whose menu is organic and focused on slow roasting and braising (the chicken was amazing!) I liked that a hotel restaurant didn’t feel like a hotel restaurant. I liked that it was so casual and welcoming (if the little ones hadn’t been so pooped from skiing, they could have comfortably joined us). There is a terrific bar outside too around fire pits – nice.

The emphasis here is on being green — everything from landscaping with native plants, to recycling stations on every floor, to the use of building materials with recycled content. I’m told there is a partnership with the Gore Range Science School which will offer classes about the mountain environment.

I’ll just have to come back in the summer!

Meanwhile, the emphasis is on fun in the snow. It’s great to see how much the kids progress in just a couple of days. They are so proud of themselves! Greg Willis, the manager of the children’s ski school here at Beaver Creek (www.beavercreek.com) looks around at the beginners area — the mountains that are snow covered, the valley below, and points out that his school enables beginners — kids and adults alike — to have a true alpine experience from the get go. You can also snowshoe at the top of the mountain, I learn, so that you can drink in those same fabulous mountain vistas. Next trip, I promise myself.

There’s another plus to ski school: kids spend time with their peers from across the country and around the world. my 12 year old cousin Max Weinberg’s snowboard class — all middle schoolers — range in age from 12 to 14 and are from San Diego, Naples, Florida, Charleston SC and Stamford CT. “They really help us to learn,” said 13 year-old Max Scurlock. “And it’s very fun!”

By the end of his third day, our Max had progressed to level 5, going down intermediate terrain, even trying a few jumps. His instructor was impressed. So were we.

But no matter his success on the mountain, to me the most important part of this trip was the cousins of all ages and from across the country all playing and laughing together. In the end, that’s what counts.

So does sitting in the sun eating a burger with my three kids. All is right in the world — for an hour anyway.

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