Friend time in the ski lift

Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Jay Lloyd's Getaway: Guide to family mountain winters

January 18, 2019 - 6:00 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Caution: Embarking on a path to family snow sports zealotry will be expensive. But it does provide a lifetime sport to be enjoyed by you, your kids and, eventually, theirs. You'll make new friends and find weekend getaways and vacations that shrug off the stress of a plugged-in world. If you're ready for a mountain hideaway and cruising the slopes every winter weekend, holiday and vacation, here's how to start and what to expect while making the price as reasonable as possible.

The hideaway house

Start with a multi-month house rental near a mountain within a comfortable driving distance. The easiest way to find one is check your favorite ski resort website or call. They will have a listing of real estate agents. Some have rental condos at the mountain — ski-in, ski-out. 

They will be fully furnished with all kitchenware, fireplaces and entertainment centers. Owner-rented homes through agents are often negotiable and priced lower. If you have pets, make sure they are allowed. The homes will sleep six to 10 people. 

Our first rental B.K. (before kids) was a three-bedroom home on a lake just 2 miles from Elk Mountain. We split the cost with two other couples — all friends — and rented it for an entire season. 

Mountain home rental
Dave Figenshu

Upsides

The upsides are apparent. You can take the pets. Save on single weekend pricing, and cut the cost of meals by cooking at the house. 

You'll be skiing at one mountain or associated mountains that share a season pass and discounts that come with it. It's another budget bonus. Eliminate that weekend schlepping by keeping all your gear, clothing and personal stuff at the house — no packing — just get in the car and go. Make new friends among neighbors and the "regular" crew at the lodge. The kids can join learning and racing programs. 

Downsides

Since you have a season pass, you might feel restricted to the same mountain every week and want variety without the additional cost. If you have a pet peeve at the mountain, you'll have it every week. If mountains can be said to have a "personality" and the crowd doesn't fit your lifestyle, it could be a problem. 

Know the mountain before making the commitment. Some mountains are isolated in pristine regions. That adds to the attraction. But there are few alternative activities on foul weather days. For the kid's sake, keep it in mind.

Multiple mountains

We took advantage of the Elk Mountain house to make it a stopover on Canadian ski vacations. Friday night stopovers cut 2-1/2 hours off the drive to the Canadian Laurentians. On the way back, an Elk stop provided another day of skiing and a short Sunday drive home. 

Today you can choose a mountain that is part of a multiple-mountain group that shares season passes among its resorts. Prominent in Pennsylvania is Peak Resorts. They operate nearby Jack Frost and Big Boulder, central Pennsylvania's Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail Mountains. But they also own Hunter in New York, Vermont's dynamic Mt. Snow and a trio of mountains in New Hampshire for those long weekends or winter vacations on the same season pass.

Prepared home cooking can be a convenience during a mountain getaway.
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Tips

Shuttles: If your home or condo is on the mountain shuttle route, use it. With young children, a lunch break at the house provides rest time, and the shuttle allows you to avoid the parking lot search when you return.

Meals: We found that preparing one-pot meals — chili, stews, meatballs and sauce — at home and warming them at the mountain house is convenient and cuts cleanup time.

Kid company: Try to bring a friend for each of the youngsters. You'll find that, in the teenage years, it will keep them attached to the sport and to your winter tradition.

Think snow!