Road Trip to Colorado Question
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Dafixison
11 days ago
Member since 01/30/2020 🔗
28 posts

Putting away the golf clubs and bring out the skis...giddy with excitement

I haven't able to keep my promise to take the kids skiiing in Colorado for the past couple of years...Thinking hard about taking a road trip to ski the CO resorts over the long Winter break with the family...is it too crazy of an idea to even try such a long road trip?  Has any forum members made this trip before?

We are on the IndyPass so the kids unfortunately have only experienced skiing on the East Coast.  Really want to take them out West, but the cost for flights during the Holidays is a little bit prohibitive.

The19thHole
11 days ago
Member since 06/29/2015 🔗
72 posts
Many times, and with two small kids in tow. We would usually spend one night on the road, typically someplace like Columbia, MO. Should there be weather someplace in the middle of the country, it's easy enough to divert north to I-80 or south to I-40, although those routes obviously take a little longer.
Dafixison
11 days ago
Member since 01/30/2020 🔗
28 posts

That is encouraging.

How long was duration for those trips?  Would an 8-day break be enough to pull this off with enough skiing between the drives?

Leo
11 days ago
Member since 11/15/2005 🔗
307 posts

I'm middle aged now, with three kids of my own.  But the first few times my parents took me and my two brothers out West to ski, we drove from PA.

We would leave Fri after school, make it as far as we could, and drive the rest of the way Saturday.  We would ski a week and be home by Sunday night.  It's a long trip. 

One year we did Crested Butte and that adds a good bit...we hit a bad storm and that was memorable.  I think my Dad was pretty sick of driving by the time we parked at the condo.  And one year we broke down in Kansas -- this was back when cars were less reliable...I think it was the alternator that went if my memory serves me correctly.  Anyway it was Saturday morning and my dad had to beg someone to show up at some podunk Kansas rental car place to rent us a minivan and we transferred all of our stuff including skis and finished the drive.

I wouldn't trade those memories or those ski trips for anything.

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The19thHole
11 days ago
Member since 06/29/2015 🔗
72 posts

Dafixison wrote:

That is encouraging.

How long was duration for those trips?  Would an 8-day break be enough to pull this off with enough skiing between the drives?

 Depends, I guess, on your driving and trip tolerance. My perspective is probably different than most people, as I've done that trip at least a couple of dozen times, and we are hardened to long road trips. I would do it for a long weekend, especially if I could push 15-16 hours the first day out and get into Kansas. Personally, though, I'd rather drive from - say - Richmond to Denver than Richmond to Sugarloaf, Maine, given the insanity of east coast traffic. Denver is a few hours longer, but many, many gray hairs shorter.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
11 days ago
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,871 posts

Dafixison wrote:

Putting away the golf clubs and bring out the skis...giddy with excitement

I haven't able to keep my promise to take the kids skiiing in Colorado for the past couple of years...Thinking hard about taking a road trip to ski the CO resorts over the long Winter break with the family...is it too crazy of an idea to even try such a long road trip?  Has any forum members made this trip before?

We are on the IndyPass so the kids unfortunately have only experienced skiing on the East Coast.  Really want to take them out West, but the cost for flights during the Holidays is a little bit prohibitive.

 Check out Jim Kenney's article about his personal ski history.  He's done the drive from DC to the Rockies a lot.

dcski.com

I have a friend who lives in western NC.  They have relatives in Texas.  Planning a second driving trip with two girls to ski at Wolf Creek in late December.  The first trip was in December 2020 when the girls had virtual school.  So they did classes 6-10am MT and then went skiing.  The family managed to ski 26 days in a row!

I made the drive to Pagosa Springs to ski Wolf Creek for the first time last Decision from Raleigh.  Had a friend helping with the drive most of the way after I picked him up in Nashville (non-stop early morning flight from his home in the midwest).  We're doing it again.  He'll join me in St. Louis this time.

My brother-in-law drove with another father from Chicago to Colorado multiple times when their sons were teens.  In that case they drove through the night and didn't break up the drive with a motel stay.

Note that I used to drive from NC to Lake Placid with my daughter as a tween during the summer every year.  We would do the drive home with no stop because her elementary school started in mid-August.  That's a 800 mile drive.  When she was in boarding school in Lake Placid or Boston, there were times I drove solo during the winter more or less in one day.  I drove 700 miles to Jiminy Peak yesterday.

What long drives have you done with the kids on the east coast?  

marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
11 days ago
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,871 posts

The19thHole wrote:

 Depends, I guess, on your driving and trip tolerance. My perspective is probably different than most people, as I've done that trip at least a couple of dozen times, and we are hardened to long road trips. I would do it for a long weekend, especially if I could push 15-16 hours the first day out and get into Kansas. Personally, though, I'd rather drive from - say - Richmond to Denver than Richmond to Sugarloaf, Maine, given the insanity of east coast traffic. Denver is a few hours longer, but many, many gray hairs shorter.

Agree.  The drive across I-40 or I-70 can be boring but not likely to get stuck in traffic for 20-30 minutes due to an accident or road construction, as is common in the northeast.   The tricky part is planning a trip with enough flexibility for lodging that a delay of a day or so to avoid the worst of a snowstorm during the winter doesn't scramble the entire trip.

What I do is plan for a longer stay at one location, say a week, but the first night or two is set up for motel room(s).  Same on the back end of the trip.  Developed that strategy for ski safaris out west with my primary ski buddy who starts driving from Albuquerque and meets me at an airport, usually SLC or Denver.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
11 days ago
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,871 posts

Dafixison wrote:

That is encouraging.

How long was duration for those trips?  Would an 8-day break be enough to pull this off with enough skiing between the drives?

 Are you trying to use Indy, or are you open to skiing at an independent ski area that doesn't have ski in/out lodging?  Wolf Creek or Monarch could be great fun and wouldn't break the bank for day tickets.  South Fork is tiny but has rental condos/cabins/houses.  Salida is where most people stay to ski Monarch if they aren't local.  You're starting pretty late to look for lodging though.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
11 days ago
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,838 posts

I've made VA to Rockies ski road trips probably 20 times over the years, some with full family of six.  Some with just a few buddies or my son.  Several solo.  Shortest duration was one week, but you have to be in a serious driving mode.  Actually, if you leave Sat morning it's not a bad drive to get to CO by Sunday night.  Ski Mon-Fri.  Start driving east on Friday after skiing, then finish the drive on Sat and Sun - nine days total.  It's about 25 hours drive time Wash DC to Denver.  Two 13 hour days and one night in a motel in between gets it done.  

Example of a nine day trip with my son, not sure if link will work, skied at Aspen and Loveland:  web.archive.org

Another 9 or ten day trip with my entire family:  dcski.com

It helps to have kids that are motivated to endure the trip and also have driving partners.  If you are still hoping to use Indy pass I think Sunlight would be the most worthy destination and they have a small amount of slopeside accommodations .  Glenwood Springs would work for lodging in that area too.  Personally, to justify the long drive I'd want to hit a larger mtn than just Sunlight, so you might also consider visiting one of the more affordable non-Indy mtns such as Loveland, A-Basin or Copper Mtn?? 

Dafixison
10 days ago
Member since 01/30/2020 🔗
28 posts

Thanks for the overwhelmingly useful insights from Everyone.

Looks like this road trip is becoming a reality.  My kids (12yo and 14 yo) are hardened road warriors.  We have made multiple trips to Miami on straight drives to cruise in the past.  Last winter, we hit Jay Peak on two different trips, and a separate trip to Mt Tremblant in Quebec the year before that.

My plan is to ski Sunlight on the Indy Pass for two days to get acclimated to the altitude, then ski at Vail and Breckenridge for the next 2 or 3 days.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
10 days ago (edited 10 days ago)
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,838 posts


I think you have the right crew to enjoy this.  And driving does give you some flexibility.  On one of my favorite trips we got 2-3 feet of snow and stayed an extra couple of days in CO.  My son missed one day of school, but shares memories with me of three of our greatest powder days.  Getting affordable lodging at/near Vail and Breck can be tough.  I've used the Comfort Inn at Avon when I was able to get a decent rate there.  Easy to ski at Beaver Creek from Avon by free bus or walk to free gondola that starts in Avon.  I used the Bivvi hostel in 2020 and used free town bus from there to ski at Breckenridge:  trip report.

PS:  near the end of the above trip report there is a major tip on good & free parking if you're just going to visit Vail for the day and not stay slopeside there!

Dafixison wrote:

Thanks for the overwhelmingly useful insights from Everyone.

Looks like this road trip is becoming a reality.  My kids (12yo and 14 yo) are hardened road warriors.  We have made multiple trips to Miami on straight drives to cruise in the past.  Last winter, we hit Jay Peak on two different trips, and a separate trip to Mt Tremblant in Quebec the year before that.

My plan is to ski Sunlight on the Indy Pass for two days to get acclimated to the altitude, then ski at Vail and Breckenridge for the next 2 or 3 days.

abeski
10 days ago (edited 10 days ago)
Member since 12/8/2021 🔗
25 posts

DOT rule for truckers is 10 hours rest after 11 hours driving/14 hours on duty and rests stops at least every 8 hours.  I wouldn't do much more than that.  If you have two drivers you can go longer and get some naps in but getting a good night's sleep and a shower in a hotel makes the next day go much better.

I would take the more southernly route through Kentucky and Missouri that avoids the toll roads, Chicago, and snowstorms.  Better scenery and roads too.  Beware of the center lane merge-or-die interchanges in West Virginia.  The toll roads around Denver are a rip off for nonresidents so avoid if possible.  PA turnpike is half the cost if you have easy pass. Other than that most tolls dont have a drastically different rate.

Do not stop in Gary, Indiana or East St. Louis, Illionois (St. Louis Missouri has some cool parts though).  Don't go anywhere near Chicago during rush hour.

Sounds like you do a lot of long trips but some general thoughts anyway.  Best way to make good time is to stay on the highway and stop at rest stops if possible.  Skip the sit down lunch and get a nice dinner when you're done.  Get a coffee, get out of the car for a break and or stop driving immediately if you get drowsy.  Not worth it.  I always take a coffee and some sort of chocolate snack to wake me up if I need it.  If you need to you can take just one shoe off and that helps too.  Or drink water, open the window/turn up the cool air and start singing to your music.  Heavy lunches like milkshakes make me drowsy and I avoid.  Night driving is easier, faster and, less trafficked but you miss all the scenery, screw up your sleep schedule, have to be careful to avoid hitting deer or going asleep at the wheel, pit stops are sketchier, and hotel check in/out don't line up neatly.  Don't be the fastest car on the road especially with your east coast plate.  Hotels further from busy interstates, big cities, and major airports have more vacancy, cheaper rates, and less bedbugs.  And a lot of restaurants in the midwest are slow and cash only but a great time.

Two 14hr days to get there is very doable if you're well rested,  especially with a co-driver.  It might be worth it to figure an extra day one of the directions and stop at some of the road trip places along the way like the Gateway Arch, mammoth cave, Indiana sand dunes, or whatever else seems interesting, or to strategically place your rest stops at those points.

Dafixison
10 days ago
Member since 01/30/2020 🔗
28 posts

Thanks for the great tips on the CO resorts and trip planning.

Booked 3 night at the Hampton Inn in Silverthorne to ski the surrounding big resorts.  Still looking for lodging for Sunlight.  Will probably staying at a local resort with the famed hotsprings. 

As for lift tickets, it almost sounds like getting the 3-day Epic Pass without holiday restriction for the trip is the way to go; but I am not too familiar with the Epic Pass and dont know the pros and cons of going with this option.  Monetarily-wise, it makes sense.  I just came back from Mammoth chasing their preseason snow dump that they got last week, and having paid $150+ a day for early season skiing makes me think twice about paying window rates for the CO trip.

wgo
9 days ago
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,477 posts
I am guessing you want to sample a few resorts, but if you wanted to just do 3 days at A-basin, that is a really affordable option - $219 for adults, $179 for 15-18 yr olds, $108 for 6-14 yr olds. Having said that, we will be doing the 3 day epic pass (we did A-basin last year) to mix it up a bit.
Moe Gull
7 days ago
Member since 09/5/2022 🔗
11 posts
The drive is a fun experience I have done it a few times, never with small kids though. Maybe think about renting a Trivato for the trip. Just my opinion but I think Arapahoe Basin is a must-ski and Summit County is a good place in general if you have kids. They might like Copper Mountain because they have the Woodward barn there too. Try to drive into Denver and the mountains during the day because the kids should see what that is like... the Rockies are beautiful in the front range.
Grumpy dad
7 days ago
Member since 11/7/2021 🔗
45 posts

We did a late trip to Snowshoe (late in my little kid eyes) and had a muffler strap break.  It was snowing hard, we stopped in this little town along the way, and nothing was open except a gas station.  We rolled in, and these two big ladies with bloodshot eyes strapped up the muffler and got us on our way.  I still remember that trip many many years later.  It's saddens me as I recently lost my father who also loved to ski with me in the trees at Snowshoe.  

As far as long trips go, I do 12 hour stints with kids well prepared for the trip.  That means luggage in the back / on the roof and the SUV filled with pillows/blankets/snacks and a careful eye on how much water they take in so we arent stopping every hour.    

If I were headed out west, I would do no more than 8 hour rides.  You never know if you run up against something that will turn an 8 hour drive into 12 hours.

And never ever trust google.  Add 20% or more to the time.  You must stop for food, bathroom breaks, and even if you were doing 15 of the speed limit you likely wont reach your destination in the time it says you will.  I do alot of road trips so, this has been my experience.

I also hate to fly.  I hate having to haul my crap through the airport.  Ive had stuff not show up, and then have to go retrieve it at the airport when it eventually shows up (or worry about it when it hasnt).   I also get sick on EVERY air trip I take.  I can cram myself in a crowded bar for 6 hours...but an airplane, for whatever reason, gets me sick.

I also get stopped up when I fly. I dont know why, but sometimes that will make me feel like garbage for a few days.  

Finally, road trips let you experience alot of stuff.  Some good, some bad, some hair raising.  Roads are busier these days, and people more crazy - but there are some good memories on the road.   Some of my best/worst mixed memories have been driving in white out snowstorms with no sight of civilization.  

Do come prepared with food/water and never get into a situation whereas you are lower than 1/4 a tank in areas prone to snowstorms.  Make sure you have things like advil, contact lens care stuff with you up front (not in your baggage) etc.  Having been stuck on a highway for hours, it sucks.  Be prepared to use a tree in the woods (bring TP) or urinate in a bucket. Not joking.  Again, being stuck on a highway sucks. But, it's also a crazy memory. 

Dafixison
7 days ago
Member since 01/30/2020 🔗
28 posts

We will definitely take our time getting to Colorado since we might start our trip on Friday Dec 23 evening.  Not planning to ski until the following Monday so that will give us a nice cushion for the drive and sightseeing.  The kids haven't been to the Rockies so we are just taking our time to acclimate to the altitude and enjoying sceneries.

A big part of our road trips have always been getting good food along the way.  The kids remember the foods that we ate on some of these trip as much as the destination activities of the trip.  Right now, the only place on our list is Joe's BBQ in KC.  Any other worthy food stop along the way?

Will be taking our '22 Subaru Outback Wilderness on this trip.  A little smaller that our usual road trip big SUV but I don't think that I can afford 15gal/mil gas hog on this long trip.  All of the ski equipment and clothing will be in the roof top cargo box, so there should be enough space in the back for everything else.  I am even thinking about bringing along a sleeping mat just in case on of the kids want to fold down half of the back seat and make a little laydown sleeping area in the cargo space (not sure how safe that is while the car is moving though).

I just came back from Mammoth last week chasing that snow dump that they had.  The skiing was great for this early in the season, but my kids weren't there; so it wasnt that fun for me.  I am more excited talking and planning for this road trip.  Thanks All for your great suggestions.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
6 days ago (edited 6 days ago)
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,838 posts

I'm sort of the opposite of GrumpDad.  BTW awesome that he got to ski glades with his dad!  My condolences.

On long trips I like to hit the road early.  The best miles are from 6-11am when all the passengers are hopefully sleeping.  With all the entertainment available on phones the kids should stay occupied with them for many hours.  I'm mostly about burning through the miles, so I can get to the destination quicker.  I did stop once at the St Louis arch when my kids were young and it was a good break.  There is a nice museum in there.  We didn't ride up the arch because we only stopped for 60-90 mins.  I actually enjoy the return drive.  I'm usually sore from a week of skiing and sitting in the car all day feels very soothing :-)

Although I've had to drive a few times through snow in western MD or PA, I've found that it's very rare to have trouble with snowy road conditions between the Appalachians and the Rockies (i.e. east of Denver).  Once in the mtns it can be a different story and you'll want to drive through them during daylight hours if at all possible.  I80 across WY when going to SLC is not super mountainous, but is high plains and can be seriously snowy.

wgo
6 days ago
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,477 posts


 Bit of a tangent, but if you are stopping in St. Louis consider going to the City Museum St. Louis City Museum

Despite the name, not a historical museum. It's basically a renovated old building where an artist made several floors of climbing structures, slides. etc. But that description does not really do it justice.

JimK wrote:

I'm sort of the opposite of GrumpDad.  BTW awesome that he got to ski glades with his dad!  My condolences.

On long trips I like to hit the road early.  The best miles are from 6-11am when all the passengers are hopefully sleeping.  With all the entertainment available on phones the kids should stay occupied with them for many hours.  I'm mostly about burning through the miles, so I can get to the destination quicker.  I did stop once at the St Louis arch when my kids were young and it was a good break.  There is a nice museum in there.  We didn't ride up the arch because we only stopped for 60-90 mins.  I actually enjoy the return drive.  I'm usually sore from a week of skiing and sitting in the car all day feels very soothing :-)

marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
5 days ago
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,871 posts

I'm also an early morning driver.  Did that with my daughter many times when she was 14 or younger.  She'd pretty much be asleep within 20 minutes of the start of the drive.  I'd keep going as long as possible before stopping for a quick lunch.  Usually had a target for the night that included a place for dinner that was either walking distance from the motel or a very short drive.

These days Yelp or TripAdvisor make it much easier to find restaurants that aren't that far from the highway but more interesting than the usual chains.  Although regional chains can be a good place to stop too.

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