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Old Oct 19, 11, 9:31 am   #1
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Need Help for one night ski trip and kids' ski lessons

Here's our situation. I'm taking my wife and two boys (5 1/2 and just turning 7) to Denver for the Bears game on Sunday. We fly in on Friday (December 9th) night and I was thinking of staying near a ski resort and introducing my kids to skiing...they both have asked about starting and are fairly athletic, so this seems like a good time.
Anyhow, I'm looking for convenience to the slopes and good lessons more than anything. I'd like to also use points to redeem for a hotel, so the following places are really in play...Hyatt, Marriott (Ritz Carlton), Hilton, or SPG. Was looking at the Sheraton or Westin, and possibly the Ritz Carlton, but I'm not sure how convenient they are for good kids slopes.
Can you recommend a good place?
Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated as I know next to nothing about this area.
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Old Oct 19, 11, 5:28 pm   #2
 
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If you want to have the kids just do a ski lesson, then you may want to consider Echo Mountain (http://www.echomtnpark.com/ski-and-r.../youth-lessons). It doesn't have the charm of the resorts further into the mountains, but at least you won't have to deal with the awful traffic to/from the mountains--not to mention the risk of horrible weather (i.e., Vail Pass is closed) which would prevent you from making it back to Denver in time. For something even a little bit closer, there is Eldora Mountain (http://www.eldora.com/lessons.first.html).

If you do go up into the mountains, I would also add caution and check your kids often for signs of altitude sickness, especially if they've never ventured into this part of the atmosphere before. Even skiing at 7,000 feet may be taxing on them.

I was going to get tickets to the game, as well, but it will be our last ski weekend before two weeks in the Caribbean over Christmas.
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Last edited by pseudoswede; Oct 19, 11 at 5:37 pm..
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Old Oct 19, 11, 8:00 pm   #3
 
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Are you looking to stay in the mountains or do a day trip? pseudoswede's options seem better for a day trip. Good advice on the altitude acclimation though. Drink lots of water.

If you've never been to the area, most of the ski resorts are at least an hour and a half west of downtown Denver. Places like Aspen or Steamboat are closer to 4 hours. Mile High Stadium is right across the interstate from downtown.

If you are looking for a ski-resort type of experience, it may be difficult to redeem points for a property that is extremely convenient to the slopes. At Winter Park and Copper for example, the nearby properties are marketed by the ski resort and don't carry a Marriott or Hyatt flag. Vail has a Marriott property, and I believe Beaver Creek has some higher end stuff too, but those are quite a bit farther from Denver.

I'm partial to the beginner area at Winter Park, where I learned to ski at age 30. I've never participated in the Kids lessons, but the adult Never-Ever lessons were pretty good. If you land in the early evening Friday, I'd drive to Winter Park Friday night (stop at Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs for pizza) and stay the night there. Then Saturday afternoon after skiing, drive back to Denver and use points for your choice of property in downtown Denver. The full service Westin, Marriott, and Hyatts are all pretty comparable. The Sheraton is also fine, but a small step below the others IMO.

Enjoy the trip!
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Old Oct 19, 11, 11:22 pm   #4
 
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I have found, having taken a number of kids (my own and many Girl scouts) skiing for the first time at several different places, that for a kid's first day out it really doesn't matter where you go. The best mountain in the world means nothing on their first day.
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Old Oct 20, 11, 7:04 am   #5
 
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If you're looking for a Hyatt in the mountains near Denver, Hyatt at Beaver Creek (near Vail) is a nice property, right next to the slopes. I'm sure they can arrange ski lessons for your kids.
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Old Oct 20, 11, 7:22 am   #6
 
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I'd throw out two alternatives:

1) Breckenridge. I may be biased, since I work weekends there, but I've generally found that we have the best ski school in the state (though I've had great experiences with the Winter Park staff, as well), and we easily have the best learning terrain in the state (the slopes tend to be well differentiated, making it easy to stay in a 'greens only' or 'blues only' area, without having to worry about making a wrong turn). There's a Marriott owned property at the base of Peak 9 that seems to work as a true Marriott most of the time (rather than more of a vacation property thing).

2) Given the age of your kids, if they've never been skiing/snowboarding before, I'd agree with VickiSoCal to a degree. If they're just on the bunny hill all day, you might as well pick a bunny hill near a preferred hotel (whether that's Vail, Winter Park, Breck, whatever) at a resort you'll enjoy being at.
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Old Oct 20, 11, 9:09 am   #7
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Wow, what great advice and so many alternatives! Let me clarify a few things that I neglected to in the OP.
We are already booked at the Hyatt convention center on Saturday and Sunday night (using a suite upgrade ), so those nights are taken care of.

For a number of reasons, I'd like to get the real mountain experience...mostly b/c my wife is not into skiing, so if I can make her have a good time, we're a lot more likely to come back in the (near) future!

When I look at travel times to Vail/Bachelor gulch, they come up as 132 miles...with the traffic and potential weather, am I really looking at ~4 hours?
Any idea if the Ritz has decent kids skiing nearby?

As I was typing this, I just spoke to a co-worker of mine who lives in Denver (completely forgot about that )...his suggestion was heavily weighted to Breckenridge with Winter Park as a close second...I might consider now staying two nights in the mountains and one at the Hyatt convention center. I don't think there is anything in Breckenridge redeemable for points, so can someone suggest a place in town that is walkable to the slopes and restaurants?

I know I'm kind of all over the map here, and I thank you guys a TON for all your help...my head is swimming with all the options!
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Old Oct 20, 11, 10:47 am   #8
 
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Given that you're driving back to Denver on Saturday, I would simply wait until the evening to drive back (although traffic can be heavy until about 7pm). The biggest bummer is that you'd miss out on the scenic drive up the mountain on Friday night. The wild card is, naturally, the weather, so keep your eyes peeled on the forecast (starting about the Wednesday before you get here).

Have fun!
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Old Oct 20, 11, 11:35 am   #9
 
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To echo the above, driving back from Winter Park, assuming the weather's decent, is fairly tolerable. You miss most of the worst traffic. And from Breck, you can head over Highway 9 into Fairplay, then take 285 back to Denver. It adds some distance, but avoids the potential for getting backed up on the tunnel approach.

I think Breck's your best bet, given your wife, as it's the best 'town' experience short of Vail. Generally, fwiw, Vail's about 2 hours outside of Denver, unless the weather really sucks.

The Marriott in Breck is pretty good, just 'across' from the Breck Brewery, and at the South end of Main Street. The Main Street Station is Hyatt branded, though I don't know how thoroughly, but is also in a fairly good spot. Realistically, assuming your kids are beginners, I'd stick closer to Peak 9's base, as it's right about where they'd get started, and also gives easy access to non-mountain stuff.
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Old Oct 20, 11, 5:21 pm   #10
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Anyone know what hotel is in this video at the bottom of the mountain?

Starting at ~ 2:28 of this video.
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Old Oct 20, 11, 6:54 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by njx9 View Post
. . . And from Breck, you can head over Highway 9 into Fairplay, then take 285 back to Denver. It adds some distance, but avoids the potential for getting backed up on the tunnel approach. . . .
To add a word of caution to the above suggestion, Hwy 285 has a pass or two that can have some black ice in winter weather. I haven't driven it a lot so my knowledge is isolated to a few situations that I have either first or second hand knowledge. Be smart about whatever vehicle you rent and be willing to pull off the road for a while and wait for a sand truck to pass if conditions are poor.
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Old Oct 21, 11, 1:02 pm   #12
 
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To add a word of caution to the above suggestion, Hwy 285 has a pass or two that can have some black ice in winter weather. I haven't driven it a lot so my knowledge is isolated to a few situations that I have either first or second hand knowledge. Be smart about whatever vehicle you rent and be willing to pull off the road for a while and wait for a sand truck to pass if conditions are poor.
Certainly a good suggestion. Driving it every weekend or so, I'd throw out that the only times I've had an issue are when it's extremely windy, the road between Fairplay and Jefferson (and up to Kenosha pass) can turn into a slip and slide. But absolutely worth keeping in mind if there's been recent snow or a melt/freeze.
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Old Oct 31, 11, 3:08 pm   #13
 
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I'd throw out two alternatives:

1) Breckenridge. I may be biased, since I work weekends there, but I've generally found that we have the best ski school in the state (though I've had great experiences with the Winter Park staff, as well), and we easily have the best learning terrain in the state (the slopes tend to be well differentiated, making it easy to stay in a 'greens only' or 'blues only' area, without having to worry about making a wrong turn). There's a Marriott owned property at the base of Peak 9 that seems to work as a true Marriott most of the time (rather than more of a vacation property thing).

2) Given the age of your kids, if they've never been skiing/snowboarding before, I'd agree with VickiSoCal to a degree. If they're just on the bunny hill all day, you might as well pick a bunny hill near a preferred hotel (whether that's Vail, Winter Park, Breck, whatever) at a resort you'll enjoy being at.
I went with the 5-Mountain pass after 2 years at Loveland...I also did the unlimited ski lesson pass - $329 that runs through Nov 22.

OP, have you thought about flying into Eagle, taking the CME to DEN, then flying out of DEN?
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