Our family takes over Keystone mountain

Hanna ski jumping at Keystone

DAY 8 — Yes, a ski trip can work whether you are five, 19 or 60-at least for our family, at least at Keystone Resort (www.keystoneresort.com) that is the most economical and most kid-centric of Vail’s Colorado resorts.

There really is something for everyone here—even the non-skiers. This morning, my husband Andy, son Matt and daughter Mel—who is turning 19 today—head off for a day of CAT Skiing off piste.  They spent the entire day skiing waist-deep virgin powder (“Colorado Champagne Powder” it’s called).  Mel pronounced it her best birthday present “ever” – and Matt and Andy said they had a great experience, though bone-tired by the end after coming from sea-level to more than 12,000 feet in altitude in one day.

Our little cousin, 5-year old Hannah SItzman—who already is skiing better than most kids her age–heads off for a day skiing intermediate slopes with ski school instructor Rich Moran and two other little skiers. He pronounces is “the best day I’ve had in a month” because the kids were enthusiastic and happy—not a whiner in the group.

Seven years old Ethan Sitzman took his first-ever snowboard lesson. A good skier, he is modeling Shaun White and was up at 6 a.m. because he was so excited.

The non-skiers went off snowshoeing at the Nordic center while my daughter Mel’s friends—they all go to college in Colorado Springs—sought out the steeps and deeps—and the other three teens in the group  had fun on Keystone’s slopes.

I spent the day taking a lesson with Cathy Spierling, one of the coaches who leads the women’s Bettyfest clinics held for two days each month during the ski season. “The biggest thing is women conquering their fears together, cheering each other on.  That doesn’t happen in coed classes,” Spierling says.

Women, she tells me, learn differently than men. Women, she says, tend to underestimate their ability while men overestimate theirs. Men are in a hurry to get down the hill fast; Women want to understand  the technique. “It isn’t about how fast you get down the hill—it is how well you get down the hill,” she says.

I’m relaxed and enjoying myself, not worrying about the gaggle of relatives, whether there is enough food, whether I’m skiing too slowly for the gang. “We’ve all been the slowest one in the group,” Spierling, the mom of a nine year old, assures me.

Moms, she tells me. Should take time for themselves and invest in some instruction. “It is worth the time and the money. You will enjoy your kids’ experience so much more and you’ll be able to enjoy your kids’ successes more.”

I think she’s right. At the end of the ski day, the five year old and seven year old still have some energy left so with their instructors–there is a special mommy, daddy and me post-ski school option.  We head back up the gondola so Ethan can show us what he learned in snowboard class. But first, we have to stop at the truly awesome Snow Castle that just opened this past week. Because there is night skiing here till 8 p.m., the gondola and lifts are still running. Kids of all sizes are slipping and sliding through the tunnels and slides in the fort, posing for pictures on the ice throne. And it doesn’t cost a cent. Kids are smiling. So are parents. We have to pull our little snow bunnies away.

We were 18 for dinner in our condo for chili, rice and cornbread (Andy brought the chili out in frozen packages from Connecticut).  The college kids are playing with the little one, talking about our adventures on the slopes. . It’s what makes family ski trips worth the effort.

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